Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Weird in Manila: Trese (2021)

I went into Trese, the new animated series from Nettflix, practically blind. OK, a paranormal detective story set in contemporary Manila and based on the folklore of the Philippines. But that was all.
I had seen the trailer, and I was intrigued.

I was a bit dubious because it is presented as an “anime”, but it is not a Japanese product, it was made in the Philippines. You don’t call it New Orleans Jazz if they make in in Sweden, don’t you?
Wikipedia adjusts this by describing the series as “anime-inspired”. OK.
But apart from that, I was curious.

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A (Mary) Gentle thing: The logistics of Carthage

Rats and Gargoyles by Mary Gentle, is one of my favorite novels of all time, and Mary Gentle has always been on the list of authors from whom I hope, one day, to learn something.
What I find particularly appealing about Gentle’s work is the idea that the reader should do their job: think, connect the dots, fill in the blanks. This is part of what makes the Gentle so “difficult” but also, I believe, so rewarding for those who have the courage to face the reading.

In the past few days I received as a gift a copy of Cartomancy, the volume that brings together all the short fiction by the author (excluding the stories of the White Crow series, which are found in a separate volume). It is one of the many collections of short stories that came to me for my birthday – and I thought … why not do a series of posts, a piece on each short story?
And why not start with the stories in Cartomancy?

(also, this is a the first in a series of posts that I will do on my Patreon, both in Italian and English – this one is freely available here too, and on my Patreon page)

Let’s try.

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The rule of cool is not enough

I did not want to write this post.
No, really!
I have better things to do and barely the energy to do them, why then…?
Ah!
Let me get this from the start…

I have watched Army of the Dead.
It’s currently on Netflix, and the whole world and their sister watched it – Zack Snyder’s own take on the zombie apocalypse, featuring David Bautista, and poised to become the start of a new cinematic universe.
An action-adventure movie, more than a horror – that’s what I was expecting, and I was cool with that.
I like action-adventure movies.
And believe me, my expectations were really low.

It was a joyless experience, as somebody already said.
One that made me re-evaluate a lot of other movies – compared to this, the silly fluff of Monster Hunter feels like John Milius working on a script from Karl Edward Wagner.

And I am sure you’ve read the reviews – both those that praise Snyder as god’s gift to the filmic arts, and those that say this is a load of rubbish wrapped in an out-of-focus aesthetic and spiked with dubious morality.
And I stand firmly in the second camp, and yet…

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Reading Tanith Lee

It’s the sixth anniversary of the death of Tanith Lee, one of my favorite writers, and one I have a long history with. As I think I have often mentioned in the past, The Birthgrave was the second book I ever read in English, back in 1984. It was the one that got me hooked to reading in the original language, and it made me a Tanith Lee fan. It also dispelled this strange prejudice – that was at the time common in the Italian fantasy community – that Lee was bad, a writer of limited scope and poor ideas, a talentless hack and, worst still, a woman.
“She’s almost as bad as Michael Moorcock, and she’s an ultra-feminist!” a reviewer wrote.
Because thus was in ancient times.

Through the years I have read a lot of Lee’s work, and in the last few weeks I went on a shopping spree (my birthday’s coming, remember?) and started filling the gaps: the books I missed completely, and the books I read forty years ago in wobbly Italian translations, and now I feel like revisiting.
Ebooks are a boon, in this case.

So I got me a copy of Cyrion, a collection of fun sword & sorcery shorts I had given a wide berth to when it had been published in Italian, that ofer an interesting take on a somewhat Mediterranean/Middle Eastern fantasy. Cyrion’s adventures will serve me as a warm-up before I dive into the sword & sorcery collection Empress of Dreams, that has been recently published and collects Lee’s other sword & sorcery tales.
The title of the second collection is particularly apt, as it recalls C.A. Smith, sometimes called the Emperor of Dreams, and Tanith Lee S&S stories are somewhat similar, in tone and spirit, to Smith’s.

Then I’ve got me a copy of Companions on the Road, my old Italian edition being buried in a box here somewhere. I admit I remember very little of the book – I read it after the two-book series Don’t Bite the Sun/Drinking Sapphire Wine (still one of my faves from Lee), and the sudden shift to fantasy had left me cold and not very interested. And as I am at it, I might also re-read those two other novels.

Then, a collection of Indian fantasies (or science-fantasies), Tamastara, that I had completely missed at the time of publication. This one promises to be a nice change of pace – and I’m always interested in non-Western fantasies.

And finally, I got a copy of Dreams of Dark and Light, a hefty collection of science-fiction and fantasy short stories.

Tanith Lee had an unique voice, and an extreme versatility, and is one of the writers one should read to learn how it’s done. It will be a pleasure spending my summer nights reading her stories.


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Roleplaying and sign language

A very quick heads-up about Inspirisles, a fantasy roleplaying game based on Arthurian legends and Celtic mythology and aimed at a very wide spectrum of players – meaning, small kids can play it too, and have fun with it.
The game is also interesting in the fact that it teaches sign language, which is used as a game tool in-system.
The game was financed via a Kickstarter, and is currently available as a Pay What You Want on DriveThruRPG, with a suggested price of 0.00 – that is, unless you want to drop a few bucks for the creators, you can have it for free.

You might want to check it out.


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Birthday book haul, a preview: going Baroque

At the end of May I am in the habit of celebrating my birthday – because life cycles, growing older and wiser, that sort of stuff.
I usually celebrate with a fine dinner (details as soon as we’ve settled for a menu), and by spending an inordinate amount of money in books and ebooks.
This year I started early, because special offers and massive discounts don’t wait for the aforementioned cycles.
So yes, it’s still two weeks away, but I went and bought a few ebooks “for my birthday”.

And right now I’ve just finished cleaning up and setting straight my old Kindle reader, because one of the birthday books is the complete Baroque Cycle, by Neal Stephenson.
All the 3500 pages of it.

Neal Stephenson and Peter F. Hamilton are, to me, the best reason to invest in an e-reader: the guys write great books, but also, alas, BIG books. They don’t seem to be able to keep it under 1000 pages.
This means their books, while being a lot of fun, are also heavy, expensive, and require a lot of shelf space.
And believe me, I’ve fallen asleep while reading Hamilton’s Great North Road, and it hurt.

So, I spent an hour looking for online how-tos and stuff, and breathed new life in my old Kindle, and then loaded the 4 mega file of the Baroque books.
It will be a pleasant summer night read.


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Time to take a break

I am terribly tired.
The sudden heatwave that hit us was just the last straw – already I was fatigued, and my patience with humanity was growing thin.
It’s time to take a break.

In the last few weeks I’ve not updated these pages too often, and in the next few days I’ll just drop all my social media activities – except for the bare essentials – because quite frankly, right now it is just tiresome, painful and frustrating.
I’ll get me a good book (I have a few dozens here waiting), and I’ll just read, write, eat and sleep.

If you don’t see me around, do not worry.
I’m just trying to recharge my batteries.