East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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Circle of Iron/The Silent Flute (1978)

My friend Dalmazio reminded me yesterday of a movie that I re-watch usually once a year, and that would fit my highly hypothetical guide to sword & sorcery movies, despite the fact that it does not feature any sword that I can remember, nor is the sorcery so prominent.
The movie is called Circle of Iron, but is also known as The Silent Flute, and was originally written by Bruce Lee, that would have starred it.
The movie was planned for 1969, and should have featured James Coburn (who also had a hand in the original story) as a co-star, but then the project fizzed.

It was produced nine years later, with David carradine in the role that should have been Lee’s, and Jeff Cooper in the role that had been imagined for James Coburn or Steve McQueen.

The first mystical martial arts adventure… well, it is a way to put it. Continue reading

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ToHorror Film Fest 2016

The Turin Horror Film Festival, a long-standing and well-respected showcase for scary movies, will take place in the second week of October.



The big news (for me, at least) is that this year I will be part of the jury, in the Shorts section.
Short films is usually where new talent and raw ideas get tested, and I am very excited at the prospect of spending a week watching some of the best short horror movies around.
I’ll keep you posted!

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A girl and a gun, a sword and a sorceress

Igirlgunn my search for a workable definition of sword & sorcery (but it’s more complicated than that) I landed in what is, apparently, a pretty far-away place: David N. Meyer’s A Girl and a Gun: the complete guide to Film Noir on Video.
Published in 1998 by Avon Books, Meyer’s delightful book was essential in building my noir movie collection, and in helping me discover a lot of movies I would otherwise have missed.
And sure, books like The Encyclopedia of Film Noir by Alain Silver (and a lot of other books by Silver and his associates) are more in-depth and technical, but as a fast and easy gateway to noir, Meyer’s almost 20-years-old book remains unsurpassed.

Now, I thought of Meyer’s book because Meyer’s book defines noir through example – and that’s what I usually do with my friends and colleagues when we try and define sword & sorcery. We may start with a working definition or a bit of history (just as Meyer does), but then we end up listing movies and books. Continue reading


Any cold iron

An interesting discussion started last day with a friend of mine, a fine author, about what the Italian equivalent is of cold iron – as cold iron is well known as a tool against spirits, witches and demons.
The sort of thing that writers tend to notice, and file for later.
And it turns out there is no equivalent of cold iron because, basically, cold iron is plain old iron, but sharpened.


Francis Grose’s 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue defines cold iron as “A sword, or any other weapon for cutting or stabbing.”

… says Wikipedia.
And Kipling, of course, used the expression to mean “weapon”. Continue reading

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Second-hand bad dreams

Last night my subconscious decided to treat me – for the second time in a week – to one of my recurrent bad dreams, and I dreamed about being called up for my compulsory military service, despite having already served my country twenty years ago.

A sad, boring dream – not really a nightmare because it was not scary, but simply exasperating – in which I spent my time running around carrying a thick folder of documents roving that I had already served – to no avail. I ended up in a uniform, surrounded by people much younger than me, in a strange air base somewhere1.

ea7eba8e424d801098463e7e644bbafaIt usually happens when I am under stress – either I get recalled in the armed forces, or I have to take my high school graduation exam once again.
Which is funny, because I don’t dream about my B.Sc. or my Ph.D. exams – but the high school exam gets a rerun at least once a year… in my dreams.
Or maybe it’s because I sleep with my windows open.

And it turns out that doing the military service all over again, or taking the high school finals again are the two most common bad dreams/nightmares for most males in the Western World – only, those countries that have no compulsory military service get more reruns of the high-school finals.
Which I find interesting, because I always thought of my high school graduation exam as a sort of rite of passage – not a true exam, not a true test of my knowledge, but just a final act of bullying to see if I could stand it.
I could.
But still get bad dreams.
Weird, uh?
Andthey are not even good enough to use as inspiration for a story.

  1. incidentally, I saw it happen: a guy that had been in the Air Force three years, and was a Lieutenant, received the call for his compulsory service. he presented himself in uniform at the preliminary visit, causing some embarrassment. 

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Weekend on Titan

Next up on my reading list is Michael Carroll’s On the Shores of Titan’s Farthest Sea.
This science fiction mystery was published by Springer, in their line of science fiction by real scientists books, Carroll is a well respected scientific artist and science popularizer, and I’ve been intrigued by the description ever since I first read it.

Titan is practically a planet in its own right, with a diameter similar to that of Mercury, methane rainstorms, organic soot and ethane seas. All of the most detailed knowledge on the moon’s geology, volcanology, meteorology, marine sciences and chemistry are gathered together here to paint a factually accurate hypothetical future of early human colonization on this strange world.

The views from Titan’s Mayda Outpost are spectacular, but all is not well at the moon’s remote science base. On the shore of a methane sea beneath glowering skies, atmospherics researcher Abigail Marco finds herself in the middle of murder, piracy and colleagues who seem to be seeing sea monsters and dead people from the past. On the Shores of Titan’s Farthest Sea provides thrills, excitement and mystery – couched in the latest science – on one of the Solar System’s most bizarre worlds, Saturn’s huge moon Titan.

titanNow, curiously enough – or maybe not – two years ago I had pitched a very similar plot for a novel set on Titan to my Italian publisher, Acheron Books.
The pitch was rejected – but do not cry, dear readers: another plot idea I had pitched at the same time was picked up and the resulting novel will be published in 2017.
And yet I still long for the methane seas of old Titan.
And as luck would have it, two days ago another publisher contacted me and offered a slot in their forthcoming anthology.
It would be for the Italian market, but why not jump at the opportunity of finally writing a Titan-based story for them?
I was thinking about something along the lines of Methane Pirate Queen of Titan – or something.
So yes, reading Michael Carroll’s book will be both leisure and research.
I’ll keep you posted.