East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

A morning among the rude mechanicals

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I took the morning off. My brother was to see the doctor, and I went along, basically to enjoy the air conditioning in the doc’s waiting room. I brought my Kindle along (about which, more later) and settled in one of the wonderfully uncomfortable chairs.
The air conditioning was on to Alaskan Winter levels – I guess the doctor is trying to increase his workload by causing his patients pneumonia or, who knows, maybe decrease his workload by offing the weakest.
And I had the opportunity of spending two hours surrounded by the nice villagers.

Villagers that are firmly convinced we were better off when we were not part of the European Union. Never mind that we co-founded the European Union and that before that we were in World War 2: none of these twats was alive during wartime, and they all grew up as part of the EU, enjoying all the perks, but don’t seem to know it.
Things were better before the Euro, one said.
Now the fun bit is, once one of the aforementioned twats comes up with this idea, a sort of twisted game of once-upmanship begins: things were better when Berlusconi was in charge, a middle-aged lady says; things were better when the Christian Democrats were in charge, says an old man; things were better when Mussolini was in charge, and this comes from a thirty-something hipster whose father was probably not even born yet during the Regime, and that obviously never was close enough a history book to read it.
Thank goodness my brother was out of the doctor’s office at that point, before we heard Emperor Claudius or Julius Caesar being praised as the last good rulers of this country.
But there was still time enough, while my brother did some paperwork, to blame this sad state of affairs on Them – no, not the giant ants in the ’50s movie, but anyone not born within one mile of the main square, and most of all the dread “Africans” and “East Europeans” – the guys that work in the vineyards for twelve hours a day, being paid only eight – four euro per hour.

Is there something good in all of this?
First, a healthy dose of hatred for your neighbors helps spending most of your time indoors without any misgivings.
Second, we too often forgot the simple, commonplace, everyday horror of our neighbor’s true feelings, and what passes for community ties in small villages.
Third, the strange, and somewhat morbid thing is, when you are a writer you take notes, and make plans for future stories, and wonder passingly how many hours did Stephen King spend in his doctor’s waiting room to come up with Salem’s Lot or IT.

But we can’t deny it, the country is shifting to the right, and the worst kind of right by the look of it, and you might wonder – what has this to do with fantasy writing, apart from providing story fodder and good secondary characters to feed to the cannibal zombie pygmies?

Well, turns out fantasy is often a good miner’s canary for such stuff – for some strange reason, every time such hateful ideologies raise their head, they make a play for comics and fantasy fiction.
Probably as a tool to hook the younger generations.

Once at home, I chanced upon an appalling short article about fantasy fiction written with the tones – and the ideas – of an old Regime newsreel, blaming on “spineless critics” the “poor state of fantasy”. But have no fear, you masses of readers oppressed by modernism – or postmodernism, or both – because the Savior is here – the author of the piece, no less!
The man who single-handedly brought back sword & sorcery to the Land of Our Fathers (to wit, Italy).
Enough of women and fags and bloody ferners writing the sacred new mythology that is fantasy fiction – it’s time for real men to don the loincloth again, and act Cimmerian, going back to our cultural identity as described by Julius Evola and Rober E. Howard.
Or something.
I was laughing so loud by that time, I did not even have the strength to be angry, or scared.

For some strange reasons, these guys venerate on one hand the myth of the barbarian warrior, and on the other the myth of the Roman Empire, curiously overlooking that fact that the two were at each other’s throats for decades, and basically represented opposite worldviews.
Bob Howard knew it, these fans of his don’t.

In all of this, my only lifeline was a book I had on my Kindle, and that helped me keep the darkness at bay throughout the morning: incidentally, it is called Lifelines and Deadlines, and it is a nice collection of reviews and articles about fantastic fiction, written by James Lovegrove, a fine British author showing here – with no apparent effort and without any hint of stentorian prose – that fantasy is alive and well out there, and intelligence thrives.
A breath of fresh air.
The book is highly recommended.
It saved my sanity, this morning.

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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