Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Fly me to the moon

I had mentioned this already in the past, but today I got an update, and so you get an update too.
The two volumes of the Unbreakable Ink anthology, edited by Shebat Legion, and featuring two stories of mine, will be part of the Lunar Codex project.

The purpose of the project is to create three time capsules on the surface of the moon, containing a selection of creative works from our home world.

As an arts and culture project, The Lunar Codex has been called the most expansive, international, and diverse collection of contemporary culture launched to the Moon. Significantly, it is the first project to launch the works of women artists to the lunar surface. It is also the first project, to our knowledge, to place film and music on the Moon. 

A long time reader (and sometimes writer) of science fiction, this is an old dream that comes true – from the time I spent my Sunday evenings watching Space 1999 on a small Zenith black and white TV. Granted, 1999 is long gone, and it will only be two stories of mine that get on the dusty surface of the moon, but what the heck, they will be there, and I will be too, and forever.

So, should you happen to be around the Lunar South Pole in the future, you’ll be able to check my stories, and every other story in the anthologies collection.
Or you can go on Amazon, and buy them here on Earth.

And now, a little music…


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Here we go again

What a weird start of this new year.
I was working on two major projects (and a few minor ones) and then my PC died, had to get a new one, set it up, recover my stuff…
I went through a bout of bad health, and then the war began – reasonably far from my country, but still we are feeling the aftershocks: friends who lost everything, people who live in feat, and people being killed.
Nothing new in human history, but still something that caused a moment of complete disconnect.

And in all honesty it feels extremely selfish and superficial, in a moment like this, to update one’s blog, writing about stories and personal projects, and all that.
Does anybody care?

But still, both the big projects were delivered with a minimum of fuss, and I am starting to work on a new story as I wait for the contract to be finalized.
And so I was doing a bit or research, and found this thing, and thought I’d share it here.
As a token to my intention of picking up posting again.

And yes, I am about to write a new story set in Shanghai…


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While I was away: Richard L. Tierney

I am back online, having scrapped one PC and set up a new one – with the usual corollary of backups, lost passwords and money I would have rather not spent.

And while I was offline, working on my system, I received the news of the passing of author Richard L. Tierney, at the age of 86.
I had discovered Tierney with a book by Fedogan & Bremmer called The House of the Toad – a solid entry in the Cthulhu Mythos catalogue. If that book was what put Tierney on my radar, it was the collection The Scroll of Thoth that turned me into a fan – because in Tierney’s stories about Simon of Gitta I found everything I liked in my sword & sorcery: a historical setting, a cast of intriguing characters, a modicum of Yog-Sothotheries, and a first class style of writing. What else could anyone ask?

Indeed, I usually mention the stories in that old Chaosium anthology as one of the main influences on my own sword & sorcery stories.

Through the years, Tierney became one of those writers whose work I was always on the lookout for, but that seemed to appear only in small press/limited editions, hard to find volumes.

In the last two years, the reprinting of the Simon of Gitta stories in the volume Sorcery against Caesar, and of the massive novel Drums of Chaos had been a welcome opportunity to spread the knowledge of this writer, by giving away ebooks as gifts to my friends.

Richard L. Tierney’s passing hit me like the loss of a loved uncle, the sort that you see only occasionally, but whose appearance is always a welcome occasion.
He will be sorely missed.


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Nefarious

I’ve just got my contributor copy of The Nefarious Villains of Sherlock Holmes, edited by David Marcum for Belanger Books. The volume includes my story “The Tiger and the Bear”, featuring Sebastian Moran.

As for the photo, I can quote the late Leonard Cohen and point out “I don’t usually look this good, or this bad (depending on your politics)”.


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52 Books, #3 – Queens Walk in the Dusk

Queens walk in the dusk
Thomas Burnett Swann, 1977

What an unusual book!

Thomas Burnett Swann was a critic, a poet and a writer of fantasy. He used classic mythology and history in his stories, and Queen walks in the dusk, while the first of the Latium Trilogy dealing with the origin of Rome, was in fact is last book, published posthumously – Swann died in 1976.

Swann’s name had been on my radar for ages – mentioned in articles and essays, sometimes compared to Jack Vance for his prose. That’s high praise indeed, and reason enough to check this guy out. It was a while now I wanted to read his books, and I decided to start from this one. And I was impressed, baffled, and utterly fascinated.

Queens walk in the dusk is a retelling of the story of Dido and Aeneas. I understand that to English-speaking readers, the story is familiar, if at all, through Henry Purcell’s opera, but to us in Italy, it is part of the school curriculum, and as such we know it well, and hate it (because we often hate what is imposed on us by school programs).
So there is this sense of deja-vu, in the story Swann is telling us.
But the strangeness and the charm of this book is not in the story itself – that is good, mind you – but in the style.

The world in which the story is set is the one of the ancient Greeks and Romans – a world peopled with monsters and gods that enter the everyday lives of the inhabitants, a world in which you can hold a conversation with a ship’s spirit. The sense of wonder of this state of affairs lays not in the extraordinary, but in its commonplace status. This is a wonderful world because everywhere is magic, and power. It is also quite cosmopolitan, the characters being aware not only of the various kingdoms and peoples of the Mediterranean, but also of far-away India (we visit an elephant town in Africa in which Ganesha is worshiped by the elephant population).
And the story is told in such a world in a way that reminds one of the ancient epics – not for its bombast, but for its straightforward manner in which wonders and magic are presented, and for its economy.
Dido loves Glaucus. He is killed by her brother Pygmalion.
She flees Thyre, stealing half the fleet, and builds Carthage.
Aeneas flees the burning Troy and seven years later lands on the coast of Carthage.
All this, in thirty, forty pages. Not a word is wasted, and yet at the same time the language is rich, with a tempo that recalls a ballad or an oral tradition more than a book, a modern novel.
The thoughts and the actions of the characters are thoughts and actions from the ancient world, guided and informed by different mores, and a different morality. This makes some situations particularly grating – Ascanius, Aeneas’ ten-years-old son is appalling in his role as a sex-obsessed smartass who tries in the bluntest of ways to get his dad a woman to replace his dead mother. But the character is historically realistic and true to the version in the Aeneid – and let’s admit it, we hated the little runt even in Virgil’s original, back in high school.

And yet, for all of these classically-derived elements, Queens walk in the dusk is a thoroughly modern tale, and one that gives us characters with complex and fully-developed psychologies.

The final result is strange, but highly entertaining and quite good.
I will read more of Thomas Burnett Swann’s novels, and I fully understand why, while many seem to have forgotten him, those that remember his work cherish it and consider it a classic.

(WAIT! What happened to Book #2?!
Apparently, WordPress decided to lose the programmed post – I will reload it in a few days. Sorry for the inconvenience)