East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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The World Poetry & Forests Day

Today is both the World Poetry Day and The World Forest Day, so it looks like the right time for doing something featuring both verses and forests.


But I’m not so hot on poetry – a few contemporaries, some classic Japanese and Chinese poems, and then of course Poe, John Donne and that other chap, that Shakespeare.
But I found something that in my opinion fits this blog, and my current mood, and is from a great great writer that is not so popular anymore, alas: George Meredith, who gave us The Shaving of Shagpat and, of course, Diana of the Crossways.


He was also a poet, and wrote this, which is called Forest History.
Enjoy, and happy Poetry & Forest day. Continue reading

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Two games for 50th birthday

Like most history and gaming buffs, I have been a long-time fan of Osprey Books, and was quite surprised – and delighted – when they started publishing games too a few years back.
My friend Andrea Sfiligoi of Ganesha Games is one of their authors, which is to me a sort of quality guarantee – if they work with Andrea they are my kind of gaming company.

And right now I’ve found out that this year, barring disasters, I’ll be splurging on a few titles from Osprey Games, because they have quite obviously been designed specifically for me… and one will be out in time for my birthday.

And now it’s true, I don’t honestly know where I’ll be on my next birthday, because there’s still ten weeks to go, and if I’ll be able to afford to buy me games, or if I’ll be living in a shelter for the poor, but what the hell, as Blondie used to sing, Dreaming is free.

And just look at these beauties… Continue reading

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Getting re-acquainted with Yasmini

mundy-271x300I’m working on the final chapters of the Hope & Glory basic handbook, and at the same time I am preparing the new episode of the KaravanCast, and both activities, while taking very different times – no less that three hours of writing per day for the handbook, about ten minutes per day for the podcast – led me to an old acquaintance of mine: Talbot Mundy.

My creed is this: God is a gentleman.
And if God made the Universe, and made it well,
And since our duty is to be like God,
Therefore the things that common mortals do
Are better done; the thoughts the others think
Are better thought, by gentlemen.

Adventure's_Soul_of_a_RegimentMundy was one of the titans of imaginative and adventure fiction, a stalwart of Adventure magazine in its heyday and a distinctively anti-colonialist author.
And Hope & Glory being a universe in which British colonialism in India takes a very different and radical direction away from what history records, Mundy is certainly the most influential author for the project.

Mundy has been compared to Kipling, to Rider Haggard and sometimes to Lamb, even occasionally to Burroughs – but he remains very much his own man.

So I told myself, why not re-read a few Mundy books, and as I am at it, do a podcast on the subject? Continue reading


A Café on the Nile

Now there’s some people we trust instinctively, on some matters.
For instance, if Jim Cornelius over at Frontier Partisans suggests a book, I go and check it out, and put it on my wishlist.
Because, instinct. And trust.
That’s exactly what I did when Jim mentioned Bartle Bull’s A Café on the Nile: the book sounded intriguing, the cover was gorgeous, and I checked out on Amazon and found a very used copy for about a buck.
And it was the best investment of a buck this years.
So I thought I’ll tell you about it… Continue reading

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Tits & Sand: Sinbad the Sailor (1947)

sinbad_the_sailor_1947_posterAfter I published the short piece about Tits & Sand yesterday, I realized I have two movies I absolutely need to talk about: one is Alexander Korda’s The Thief of Baghdad, from 1940, and the other is Sinbad the Sailor, directed by Richard Wallace in 1947. Certainly my two favorite “Arabian fantasies” at the movies.
And as I was nursing my usual insomnia, later in the night, I decided to re-watch the latter, and then … well, here I am writing about it.

“O Masters, O Noble Persons, O Brothers, know you that in the time of the Caliph Harun-Al-Rashid, there lived on the golden shore of Persia a man of adventure called Sinbad the Sailor. Strange and wondrous were the tales told of him and his voyages. But who, shall we surmise, gave him his immortality? Who, more than all other sons of Allah, spread glory to the name of Sinbad? Who else, O Brother, but – Sinbad the Sailor! Know me, O Brothers, for the truth of my words, and by the ears of the Prophet, every word I have spoken is truth!”

On with the show… Continue reading


Kalaripayattu: the oldest martial art

Did I ever tell you that reality surpasses fiction nine times out of ten?
Sure I did.
So now I’m finally pushing the pedal to the metal for the Hope & Glory roleplaying game handbook, and it is my habit, having built the general structure of the book, I’m doing some spot-on research to deepen the background and add some vivid, fun and unexpected detail.
And last night (insomnia, remember?) I was checking a few facts and trying something different for the characters in the game to do.
Hope & Glory started its existence as a steampunk setting but has developed in various extra directions, incorporating scientific romance, lost world novels, pulp and adventure stories, and even part of what those pesky kids call decopunk. And in the first handbook it will have a strong Indian flavor.
So I told myself – why not Indian martial arts?


And it was so that I discovered Kalaripayattu – a martial art that in my eye surpasses fictional analogs hands down. Continue reading


The Dictionary of Imaginary Places

I mentioned it in a comment and I promised a post about it, so why not now?
The Dictionary of Imaginary Places is one of those reference books that are an actual pleasure to read. You can look up an entry when in need, sure, but simply going through it from cover to cover is a delight.

Written by Alberto Manguel and Gianni Guadalupi with tongue firmly in cheek, and first published in 1980, the volume covers imaginary lands from myth and literature, providing a description, an overview and in over 200 cases, a map. The basic model was a tour guide, a massive Baedecker for places that do not exist – and apparently, there is an updated edition that covers Jurassic Park and Hogwarths, but I’ll stick with my 2000 edition.
Opening it at random I find… Continue reading