East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


Historical accuracy

My friend Shanmei is writing another historical mystery (we talked about her first mystery story here).
The book is set on the route between Italy and China at the turn of the century, and is loosely based on her grand-grandfather’s diaries and letters.
Looks good.
A few days back, Shanmei asked her readers what level of historical accuracy they think is needed for an historical mystery like the one she’s writing.

9-7And of course, that’s the sort of question one should never ask – the writer decides, and takes responsibility – but some of the answers she received got me thinking.
They were, more or less…

A high level of historical accuracy tells me the writer worked hard.

That is, of course, rubbish.
But an interesting kind of rubbish, so let’s examine in closely. Continue reading


Visit Mordavia for less than 10 bucks

177744Halloween draws near, and you have still 19 days and a handful of hours, at the moment I’m writing this, to get hold of the Leagues of Gothic Horror bundle at Bundle of Holding.
For about ten bucks you can get the basic set-up including the Leagues of Adventure roleplaying game handbook, and the two books, Leagues of Gothic Horror and Mordavia: Land of Horror, that will allow you to play a solid game of Hammer-style horror.
No emo vamps here, no horny werewolves… just the good old game of the sharp stake and the silver blade. Can it get any better? Continue reading

Leave a comment

Sunday afternoon on the Nile

Having taken the afternoon off to read something, I was pleased to discover that not only the cars in the race are quite noisy, but all the neighborhood dogs feel compelled to bark their hearts out at each passing vehicle.
I therefore changed my plans, took out my headphones, and watched the first episode of Joanna Lumley’s Nile, a 2010 series of documentaries in which the British actress followed the Nile to its source.

w purdey1

Now British TV has this thing about celebrities traveling the world – and I enjoyed in the past the Michael Palin globetrotting adventures. Of course I’ve been a fan of Lumley ever since she was Purdey in The New Avengers – adolescent crush and all that.
And this trip along the Nile looked just like my sort of thing. Continue reading


The new Magnum

So I went and watched the first episode of the new Magnum PI TV series. The reboot of the old one, the one with Tom Selleck. And I thought I’d write a review.
But first, two observations.

Observation the first: I was 14 when the original series was broadcast for the first time in my country. A lot was made of the location and the Ferrari, so much so that I actually skipped the first few episodes. I was a Rockford Files fan, and I did not care for a billionaire detective. And we had Hart to Hart covering that angle, right? Only later I found out about the car and the villa being on loan, and considering the enthusiastic reaction of my friends, I gave it a look, and liked it a lot.


Observation the second: I can’t stand those people that whine ceaselessly when a remake or a reboot is made about some old series they liked. The recent hubbub about the new She-Ra cartoons was embarrassing. Get a life, and give the new stuff a chance before you start tearing your hair off, that’s what I say. It’s OK not to like a remake or a reboot, but first look at it. Not at the trailers, not at the production stills. Judge the product based on the frigging product.

So I went and I checked out the new Magnum PI.
And I did not like it.
I’ll try to discuss why, now. Continue reading


Alligators ripped my flesh

201010061935As of last night I have a long gash on the inside of my thigh. The sort of scar I’ll show off proudly and attribute to a session of alligator wrestling, or something equally exotic and pulpy.
Like, that time I fought-off a horde of rabid mandrills, or something.
To further my author platform, you know…

In fact I was walking in my extra-cluttered bedroom, last night, on my way from the bathroom, when I was attacked by a wild Persian carpet, that was waiting in the dark to carry out its homicidal designs.
I stumbled on the carpet corner and fell, and crashed in a low IKEA table. The gash is the result of the IKEA table corner biting into my leg.

I was lucky. My room is so crowded with piles of books everywhere, that I landed on a nice thick padding of paperbacks. A few curses and some peroxide later, I spent part of the night picking up and piling up the books again.
I am happy to report that no humans nor books (nor alligators nor mandrills) were damaged permanently in the accident.


Hope & Glory review and a bit about utopia

THE world is undergoing immense changes. Never before have the conditions of life changed so swiftly and enormously as they have changed for mankind in the last fifty years. We have been carried along—with no means of measuring the increasing swiftness in the succession of events. We are only now beginning to realize the force and strength of the storm of change that has come upon us.(H.G. Wells, The Open Conspiracy, 1928)

40651289_1844226848964225_7031900626594299904_nThe first full review of Hope & Glory is in and it is just great – you can read it here, on the Ars Rolica blog. It’s in Spanish, but as usual Google Translate is your friend.

The review really made me happy and I was particularly happy of the fact that the reviewer started out cautious and a little diffident, but finally was captivated by the setting.

All the elements are perfectly interwoven with each other and, as I said before, once that initial caution is saved, it is very easy to get carried away by the exciting combination of genres that Hope & Glory presents.

… and I thought, we made it!

I am extremely grateful to Ars Rolica for their great and in-depth review of our game; I am sure I can speak for my long-suffering partner in this adventure – Umberto Pignatelli, that had to put order and numbers on my somewhat sprawling world – and the guys that did art and graphics. Thank you, Ars Rolica!

There was also a bit that caused me to pause, and laugh, and then an idea for a post, and here I am… Continue reading

Leave a comment

My favorite elves

Roleplaying games are fun, and have two interesting side effects:

Side effect the first: they are good for learning a foreign language: my brother learned English through Dungeons & Dragons, and the little French I know I learned from the Sans Detour French edition of Call of Cthulhu. We talked about that already.

ElfquestSide effect the second: they are a great tool for discovering new books to read and (sometimes) new movies to watch. There is the old Appendix N in Dungeons & Dragons, of course, and the bibliographies of games such as GURPS Transhuman Space, Eclipse Phase and Trinity, that make for an excellent introduction to some of the best science fiction and science non-fiction, but there are also games based on literary works. The already mentioned Call of Cthulhu led a number of people to discover the works of H.P. Lovecraft and Supernatural Horror, and the Elric/Stormbringer games were probably a gateway to the works of Michael Moorcock for a whole generation.
In my case, one of the best things I discovered through roleplaying games was ElfQuest. Because I played the game before I read the comics.
So sue me. Continue reading