East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Return to the stars

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Yesterday a story I had submitted for an anthology in November bounced back. Very kind letter from the editor, but alas, my story did not cut it. A pity, but it’s part of the game.
I asked my friend Marina to go through it, and then sent it along to another publisher. A British magazine, this time.
We’ll see what happens.

In the meantime I am writing two stories for two other submissions, the calls closing with the end of this month, and it’s been a strange sensation, because for the first time in almost five years I am back at writing my first love.

In the last three years, as writing became my only source of income, I have written basically anything as long as there’s a market: sword & sorcery & crime thrillers, Lovecraftian horror and time travel stories…

But back when I was a kid, thirty-five years ago, what I wanted to write was space opera.
I had started reading science fiction with Jack Williamson’s The Legion of Space, with Edmond Hamilton’s Star Kings and the Morgan Chane books, and with Leigh Brackett’s Eric John Stark novels. I went through anything I could find by Jack Vance in one summer.

And the first thing I wrote and had somebody read, really, was a space opera story, called Castaway.
It was not very original, and it was not very good, but it marked the first time when I wrote a story, typing on my mother’s old Olivetti, and then handed it to someone to read. It did the turns of my schoolmates, and a few liked it – or were kind enough to say they did like it.

In my apprentice years (let’s call them like that) I wrote a lot of space opera. Authors like C.J. Cherryh, David Drake and Peter F. Hamilton showed me a different way of doing things, but I kept writing about far off planets, space battles and what not.
The last thing I wrote in the genre was a series of stories set on Mars in a steampunkish universe in which, the Italian unification of 1861 failed, Italian refugees have swarmed on the Red Planet. It was 2007, if I remember correctly.

So now I am writing two very different space operas, back to back – one old-fashioned and full of aliens, and colors and strange exotic locations, and of course with a Terran privateer captain, and intrigue, and what else, and the other more current, with Einstein-Rosen gates, and tough, competent characters in a wide, hostile universe.
Can I recapture the spirit of those years long gone?
I’m having a ball, writing each story without an exact plan.
No outline, no character profiles.
Just a chain of ideas, A-B-C… and a lot of weird names.

I hope to have at least one of the stories ready by the weekend, and then I’ll submit it. It will be a fun run anyway.

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.

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