Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Ursula K. Le Guin’s anniversary

There’s another anniversary going, and that’s the death of Ursula K. Le Guin, one of the great literary giants to grace the field of science fiction and fantasy.
I always preferred her non-fiction to her fiction, and I decided to remember her by spending the evening reading her collection of essays, Dreams must explain themselves, and before that, while I was making dinner, I found out and enjoyed very much Learning From Le Guin, a long, fascinating lecture by Kim Stanley Robinson.

Check the video out.
It is always great to be able to learn from the greatest.


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Robert E. Howard Did More Than Just Create Conan

A worthy read…

Read at Joe's

rehfence REH in a pensive mood

Today marks the 107th anniversary of the birth of Robert E. Howard, the quintessential American pulp author best-known for creating Conan the Barbarian.

REH, as he known to fans, had an incredibly prolific and all-too-short career lasting from roughly 1929-’36. His powerful, evocative writing has always been an influence on my own writing, almost as much as H.P. Lovecraft. Like Lovecraft, Howard had a talent for painting lush, detailed scenes in only a few evocative words — although literary critics like S.T. Joshi dismissed REH’s prose as “subliterary hackwork that does not even begin to approach genuine literature.”

But, hey, Howard did much more than unleash a barbarian on pop culture. He helped shape modern pop culture by fathering the “sword and sorcery” subgenre of fantasy and contributing to Lovecraft’s horror mythos. Howard came up with a number of other vivid characters…

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Robert E. Howard at 113

Two-Guns Bob is being celebrated by the knuckleheads in this 113th birthday of his – they talk of blood-dripping blades and big-boobed wenches, of colorful curses, sex and violence, and simple-mindedly describe him as a purveyor of simple-minded trash, because that’s what they are all about.
That’s the new narrative hereabouts, and they say you can’t fight them, because they are many, and now they own the field, their trash is the new truth, because they can repeat it long enough.
I say screw them.
So here’s a poem by Robert E. Howard, born on this day in 1906, a fine writer and an intelligent man, that sometimes wrote rubbish, but even then, with flair.
Because here in Karavansara we remember, and care.

Dreams of Nineveh

Silver bridge in a broken sky,
   Golden fruit on a withered bough,
Red-lipped slaves that the ancients buy—
   What are the dreams of Nineveh now?

Ghostly hoofs in the brooding night
   Beat the bowl of the velvet stars.
Shadows of spears when the moon is white
   Cross the sands with ebony bars.

But not the shadows that brood her fall
   May check the sweep of the desert fire,
Nor a dead man lift up a crumbling wall,
   Nor a spectre steady a falling spire.

Death fires rise in the desert sky
   Where the armies of Sargon reeled;
And though her people still sell and buy,
   Nineveh’s doom is set and sealed.

Silver mast with a silken sail,
   Sapphire seas ‘neath a purple prow,
Hawk-eyed tribes on the desert trail—
   What are the dreams of Nineveh now?

In case you’re interested, the poems of Robert E. Howard can be found here, courtesy of WikiSource.


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Space Rangers (1993)

The first science fiction novel I ever read was Jack Williamson’s The Legion of Space, that my grandmother gave me as a gift on my tenth birthday, and that I probably read fifteen times in the course of the following summer. This to explain that I have a soft spot for old-fashioned space opera of the pulpy kind, and I am not ashamed of this fact: Jack Williamson, Edmond Hamilton, Leigh Brackett and C.L. Moore are still very high in my personal list of favorites, and if you can give me mysterious planets, strange aliens and some kind of space adventurer, I’m fine.

Which leads me to Space Rangers, a very short lived TV series from 1993, that I found by chance – you find the six episodes on Youtube. The quality is not the best, but who knows, you might want to check it out.

Continue reading


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Abraham Merrit’s Birthday

Truth to be told, it was yesterday, but better late than never, right?
Merritt was one of the great fantasists of the first half of the 20th century, and he had an incredible influence on his contemporaries (the Weird Tales generation).
Highly imaginative and wildly eccentric, he produces a number of works that are highly recommended.

Virgil Finlay, The Ship of Ishtar

And today, remembering his birth, why not check out my favorite Merritt work, The Ship of Ishtar?
It was originally published on the Argosy All-Story magazine in six episodes, in 1924. You can find it for free on the Gutenberg Project of Australia.

Virgil Finlay, The Ship of Ishtar

Virgil Finlay did some beautiful illustration for the story in 1949, and here are three examples.

Virgil Finlay, The Ship of Ishtar


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Roderick Usher

A few days back I was asked who’s this “Roderick Usher” that’s mentioned passingly in one of my BUSCAFUSCO stories.
I was also told that I shouldn’t put obscure references in my stories, because the readers like to know who’s we’re talking about.

I was quite taken aback, but, considering yesterday was Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday, here’s The Fall of the House of Usher, animated, and narrated by Christopher Lee.


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Titles

Two thousand words into a four thousand words story that will turn into a six thousand words story, I have a title for the thing but not for the series that this story is part of. This is the sort of problems that writers face, and there’s nothing about it in the handbooks.

There’s a lot of things you need to do when you write that the handbooks don’t cover: finding a title for the story and/or the series, writing a blurb…

The story i s called Weekend in Monaco, like one of the Rippingtons songs I’ve been playing in the background while writing. The fact that the story is set in Monaco is also significant.
This will be the first in a series and the first in a new bold experiment etc etc.
I have the characters, the premise, the action and twelve – count them, twelve! – stories already outlined.
But what do I call the series?
I might in the end just go for the name of the main characters, and call it Gastrell & Molinot.
But I’d like to do something a little more… umph.
Oh, well, first let’s write the stories, and see if they work with the public…