East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Quiet, rest and some Flat Earth

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It’s the 23rd of December.
I have mailed my latest novella to my Patrons, and sent an ebook to a friend as a better substitute for a greeting card. The pantry is stocked, the menus decided for the next days. All the bills have been paid (well, OK, most of them), and there’s money (not much) in the bank. I’ve even bought a sack of treats for the feral cats that will come and sleep in the big box we’ve placed outside.
Now I can sit back and relax for a few days.
Read a good book, or three.

And for starters, as I keep exploring the Fantasy Interregnum and reading old classics I missed or read in bad translation, today I’m settling down with Tanith Lee’s Night’s Master, the first volume in the Tales from the Flat Earth series.
The book comprises three novellas, and was published in 1978.
It was nominated for the World Fantasy Award, and it’s nothing short of incredible.

Clearly inspired to Eastern models – the Arabian Nights, first and foremost, but also the Indian legend cycles, with more than a dash of Beckford’s Vathek – this is a leisurely exploration of a square, flat world floating over an Underearth peopled with demons. It’s a world in which supernatural entities play with the lives of men, and in which beautiful haunting vistas are the venue for strange stories of madness and desire, loss and redemption.

Tanith Lee’s use of language is masterful – she was, after all, a poet and not just an author of fantasy – and considering this was published forty years ago, the book is stylistically and thematically surprising.
This is fantasy used to explore feelings and moods, and while not probably the right cup of tea for lovers of muscular, Hyborian-esque adventure, it would certainly strike a chord with fans of Clark Ashton Smith.
But it is, in fact, Smith with all the dial turned up to 11.

My Italian copy is buried somewhere in a box and I can’t find it straight away, and this is really a pity, because I am quite certain this I am reading now is not the book I read back then.

This is quite a nice way to start this brief vacation.

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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