Friday, September 24, 2010

Tim Powers: Not So Strange Itineraries

I spent nine days in Southern California -- Orange County, specifically1 -- returning home in the early evening on Saturday, September 18. What with preparing for the trip, the trip itself, and then the necessary catching-up on business projects upon my return, well, that's why little has been heard from me for these past three weeks.

A wee bit of background (and I'll try not to bore you) on why I was in SoCal for those nine days: My mother had her knee replaced eighteen years ago. That knee had deteriorated, and it finally gave out on her about two and a half months ago. The knee was reset in the hospital, then my mother was carted off the next day to a rehab facility for two weeks (where I visited her during one of those weeks, as I previously reported in this blog). Unfortunately, four weeks later, the knee dislocated again, so the mum underwent full knee replacement surgery. The surgery went well, and she is now recovering in that same rehab facility yet again. I arrived just prior to her surgery on Friday, September 10, and stayed through the following week.

The rehab facility is on Old Tustin Avenue in Santa Ana -- just across the street and about a half-block away from Benjie's, a New York-style deli, and one of only two such delis (the other being Katella Deli in Los Alamitos) in the OC.

I have only eaten at Benjie's once before, and promised myself that I would make it back there for dinner at least once before departing SoCal this time around. I had three evenings from which to chose: Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday (September 15-17). I chose that Wednesday evening because, to put it bluntly, I was starving. By the time I had dinner at 7:00pm, it had been eleven hours since I had last eaten -- and you must be starving in order to consume completely one of Benjie's humongous "hot corned beef on rye" sandwiches.

The Stress of Her Regard So the waitress seats me, and I'm not paying much attention to the surrounding environment: I'm tired (sat with the mum in the rehab facility for eight straight hours), I'm hungry, I need to use the facilities, especially to wash my face and hands.

A short while later, my dinner is served. About the time that I've eaten nearly half the sandwich -- which, by the way, was wonderful -- motion to my left catches my eye. I automatically turn my head to look, and to my surprise, I recognize Tim Powers walking down the aisle toward the front of the restaurant.

I'm sitting in a booth; in the aisle next to mine (to my left), one booth back I now see Serena Powers, Tim's wife. When I had been seated, Tim's back was toward me, and he was sitting across from his wife, thus blocking my view of her.

So I waited for Tim to return, and then I stood and greeted him in the aisle before he reached his seat. Tim recognized me, but I was out of context and thus I had to remind him of where we had last seen one another, when we had last worked together.

Tachyon Publications released the long-out-of-print The Stress of Her Regard in August 2008. Toward the end of 2007 through February 2008, I scanned in that entire book -- 180,000 words! -- cleaned up said scan, and then copyedited the manuscript. The book that I had scanned had an inordinate number of typos and formatting errors, all of which I hope I caught. Tim also provided a dozen or so changes that he wanted included as well in this new edition, so I would say that the Tachyon Publications edition of The Stress of Her Regard is undoubtedly the author's preferred text. Tim did tell me that I did a "great job" on the book, so I'll simply take his word for it.
Strange Itineraries

A few months later, at BayCon 2008 -- in which Tim Powers was the Writer Guest of Honor -- we participated in a panel discussion2 entitled "Is the Short Story Dead?" on Friday, May 23, at 4:00pm (along with panelists Irene Radford and Tony Todaro). And as I'm sure you have surmised already, we all agreed that the short story is indeed not dead! In fact, even in 2008, the genre saw an increase in online magazines as well as an increase in anthologies, and though some  'zines (online and print) have ceased publication since then, there have been others to take their place.

Prior to these events in 2008, I copyedited Tim's short story collection, Strange Itineraries, also from Tachyon Publications. I completed work on this book in February 2005, and it was published in July of that year.

As I said, I could have chosen any one of three evenings to eat at Benjie's; but I chose that evening, Wednesday, which just happened to be the evening that Tim and Serena Powers were having dinner at the same restaurant. (They were also with a third person whom I didn't recognize.) It's just another example of how very small the SF/F community really is. I live in San Jose in Northern California, Tim lives in San Bernardino in Southern California, and there we were at the same restaurant in Santa Ana on this one particular Wednesday evening.


1 Orange County is one of my least favorite places. Though I spent a number of years growing up there (age thirteen through high school graduation), I got the hell out as soon as I could. I returned for a few years simply because of the booming job market, but then left (forever) when I was offered a job in Silicon Valley. Over the past twenty-five or so years, I visit the OC at most once a year, unless a family emergency or a business opportunity (e.g. the 2006 L.A. WorldCon in Anaheim) demands my presence otherwise.

2 Note to Tim Powers fans: Tim is a doodler! When he sits on a convention panel, and there is a notepad in front of him (typically one provided by the hotel), he will doodle. Page after page of doodles, on as many pages as the notepad has. And best of all, he always leaves the notepad on the table at the end of the panel discussion. So, feel free to snag said notepad once Tim leaves the table. You won't find any doodles as elaborate (or colored) as the one below, but this will give you an idea of what you can expect:

This sketch, entitled "Blackbeard Angry," appears on the half title page of my first edition copy of On Stranger Tides (Ace Books, 1987). Tim did the sketch itself at the 1998 World Fantasy Convention, Halloween weekend, in Monterey, California.  Upon completing the sketch, Tim told me that he would have colored it had he had some colored pencils. So, the following year, at the World Fantasy Con in Providence, Rhode Island, I accommodated Tim by providing him with a set of colored pencils! The colors in this scan, unfortunately, don't appear as bright and bold as they actually are.

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  1. Benjie's is an old favourite haunt of my family...we go there still occasionally, especially when we need a rugelach or hamantaschen fix! But our real favourite used to be Lindel' longer there, but quite the old-school deli of a sort you no longer see.

  2. Hi, Rina,

    When my family first moved to LA, we lived near the Wilshire district and the La Brea Tar Pits. If I recall correctly, the deli that was in that area was called Lindel's. Is this the one you are referring to? I don't recall a Lindel's in Orange County.

    - marty