East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

One day inside a book?


I was looking for a good idea for a post, today after lunch, and then my friend Claire came to the rescue.

“Imagine you can spend a day inside a book,” was the prompt – one of those things going around on Facebook, you know, that a friend passed on to me. “What would you choose?”

Now that looks like the sort of easy thing that could land me a post in ten minutes!


But then I started thinking – if not along the same lines tha Claire follows in her own post, along pretty similar tracks.
One day inside a book?

My first idea was The Prisoner of Zenda, followed suit by a weekend on Barsoom, or maybe in Pellucidar.
On the other hand, taking the right precautions, it would be fun to walk the streets of Nexus from Gene Wolfe’s Urth books, or spend a suitably decadent night in far Zothique. Or Lankhmar!
Not the Hyborian world… to visit Hyboria it would take at least two weeks. And no less than a month to visit the Gean Reach1.


Then something came back to me, echoing through the (mostly empty) halls of my mind from the dim and distant past.
It went like this…

“I heard the sunrise music,” Gordon said, “that the crystal peaks make above Throon when Canopus comes to warm them. I feasted with the star-kings in the Hall of Stars. And at the end, I led the fleets of the Empire against our enemies, the men from the League of Dark Worlds. I saw the ships die like swarming fireflies off the shores of the Hercules Cluster . . . .”
He did not turn to see how Keogh was taking all this. He had started and he would not stop, and in his voice there was pride and longing and the anguish of loss.
“I’ve shot the Orion Nebula. I’ve been into the Cloud, where the drowned suns burn in a haze of darkness. I’ve killed men, Doctor. And in that last battle, I—”
He stopped and shook his head, turning abruptly away from the window.
“Never mind that now. But there was more. A lot more. A whole universe, a language, names, people, costumes, places, details. Could I have imagined all that?”
He looked at Keogh. Desperately.
Keogh said, “Were you happy in that universe?”
Gordon thought about that, his square, honest face creased in a careful frown. “Most of the time I was frightened. Things were . . .” He made a gesture vaguely indicating great troubles. “I was in constant danger. But . . . yes, I guess I was happy there.”

And I was happy there, too.
So, just give me one day in Edmond Hamilton’s Star Kings universe, and I’ll be happy. Then you’ll have to send someone there to catch me and bring me back, of course, but that would be your problem.

  1. yes, it’s mostly places, for me, not stories. I don’t want to be John Carter, or Severian, or Conan, or Fafhrd… I want to visit the same places. Adventures will ensue by default. 

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

2 thoughts on “One day inside a book?

  1. I’d like to visit the London dreamt by the hashees-eater in a Lord Dunsany’ story: “Its houses are of ebony and cedar which they roof with thin copper plates that the hand of Time turns green. They have golden balconies in which amethysts are where they sit and watch the sunset. Musicians in the gloaming steal softly along the ways; unheard their feet fall on the white sea-sand with which those ways are strewn, and in the darkness suddenly they play on dulcimers and instruments with strings. Then are there murmurs in the balconies praising their skill, then are there bracelets cast down to them for reward and golden necklaces and even pearls”.


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