Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


Leave a comment

Re-reading Conan (for starters)

In 2022 I launched an Italian-language podcast called Chiodi Rossi (Red Nails), together with my friend Germano – who is a fine writer and an excellent editor, and a fellow Howard fan.
We started every two week, reviewing and discussing a classic… well, “classic” 1980s fantasy movie – and we started with John Milius’ Conan the Barbarian.

The podcast was well received, and we have somewhat widened our scope – we did a couple movie trailer reviews, we covered the eight episodes of the Amazon Prime series The Rings of Power. Our listeners were reasonably happy with what we did, so we are experimenting further.

And so we said, OK, we are both writers – but discussing our own writing would be in poor taste. Why not discuss the stories that we like from the authors that we love, within the sword & sorcery and fantasy genre?

As a test run, we’ll do an episode about four of Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories – having selected two each. We will re-read them, and take notes, and then talk, and record, and inflict the result on our unsuspecting listeners.

The four stories we selected are

  • The Tower of the Elephant
  • Shadows in the Moonlight
  • People of the Black Circle
  • Red Nails

As I mentioned, the podcast is in Italian*, but I’d love to do something for the blog here – maybe a single post on the four stories, maybe a post each.
And then, maybe, do it again with other Conan stories, or other non-Conan stories from Howard, or with stories from other classic authors.
Watch this space.

(* – i can add that I’d love to do an English-language podcast, but first, my spoken English is VERY rusty, and second, in the past I have found out that I am no good when I have to carry a whole episode by myself… but who knows…?)


Leave a comment

Aliette de Bodard’s The Red Scholar’s Wake is out, and there’s space pirates in it

It is not often that I have the opportunity to give a shout out for a colleague’s new book.

Multi-award winner Aliette de Bodard has a new book out, called The Red Scholar’s Wake, and she had art especially created for the novel, and is revealing it today.

Here is an example

If you want o learn more about the book, here is the back cover blurb:

‘So romantic I may simply perish’ Tasha Suri, award-winning author of THE JASMINE THRONE

LESBIAN SPACE PIRATES. Enough said.’ Katee Robert, NYT bestselling author of NEON GODS

Xích Si: bot maker, data analyst, mother, scavenger. But those days are over now-her ship has just been captured by the Red Banner pirate fleet, famous for their double-dealing and cruelty. Xích Si expects to be tortured to death-only for the pirates’ enigmatic leader, Rice Fish, to arrive with a different and shocking proposition: an arranged marriage between Xích Si and herself. 

Rice Fish: sentient ship, leader of the infamous Red Banner pirate fleet, wife of the Red Scholar. Or at least, she was the latter before her wife died under suspicious circumstances. Now isolated and alone, Rice Fish wants Xích Si’s help to find out who struck against them and why. Marrying Xích Si means Rice Fish can offer Xích Si protection, in exchange for Xích Si’s technical fluency: a business arrangement with nothing more to it. 

But as the investigation goes on, Rice Fish and Xích Si find themselves falling for each other. As the interstellar war against piracy intensifies and the five fleets start fighting each other, they will have to make a stand-and to decide what kind of future they have together…

An exciting space opera and a beautiful romance, from an exceptional SF author.

And the covers.

Check it out.


2 Comments

Douglas Barbour Award

I’ve been pushing uphill for weeks now, entangled in a number of projects.
But last night I got a big surprise – the anthology Water: Selkies, Sirens & Sea Monsters, edited by Rhonda Parrish, was awarded the Douglas Barbour Award for the Speculative Fiction Book of the Year by the Book Publishers Association of Alberta (BPAA).

The book includes a short story of mine – The Man that Speared Octopodes.
A small aquatic horror number.
I am proud to have contributed in a minimal part to the success of this anthology.


2 Comments

Dinosaurs of Summer: Unknown Island, 1948

This could be dismissed as a cut-rate King Kong rip-off – but it’s the last weekend of August, I am done writing for this week, and so, why not have some cheap fun with an old movie?

Unknown Island is a 1948 movie featuring, among others, Virginia Grey – a B-movie actress who appeared in dozens of movies in the 40s – Troy Denning, that some might remember as one of the guy in Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Ray Crash Corrigan, a famous stuntman and ape-suited actor, here portraying a giant Ground sloth.
This is quality entertainment.

The plot is pretty straightforward – US pilot Ted Osborne flew over an island in the South Pacific and spotted some dinosaurs; now, after the end of the war, he gets his rich fiancee Carol Lane to bankroll an expeditions to the island. They hire a very unsavory captain Tarnowski (you know he’s a scumbag because he’s got an Eastern European name) and take along a former USMC captain, John Fairbanks, that was stranded on the island and came back to civilization with a strong case of PTSD he’s been keeping at bay with alcohol.
They get to the island, and then everything goes pear-shaped.

And we’re here for it.

As it usually happens in these films, we get a wild mix of prehistoric fauna – a brontosauros, a dimetrodon, a ceratosaurus, plus the aforementioned giant sloth.
Not scientifically plausible, but we’re here for adventure, not for a lecture in paleontology.
And a modicum of adventure we get – featuring mutinous crews, the sleazy captain, and the confrontation between the USAF and the USMC for the heart of Carol Lane.
And really, Virginia Grey is beautiful.

So, yes, it’s cheap, it’s silly, the special effects are dubious, the characterization is superficial.
But there’s dinosaurs in it, and that’s good enough.

Unknown Island fell into the public domain for a bureaucratic twitch, and can be found in a variety of venues, including Youtube.

While the badge on the video says this is a colorized version, the movie was actually shot in color.