East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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The long and short of it

The Shortlist for the BSFA Award‘s been published, and I am not in it.
Ah, what a pity.
But this was my first, if marginal, nomination for an international professional award, and it was great as long as it lasted. It means I’m doing something right, sometimes.
For the rest, as the Buddha said, expectations are the root of suffering, and indeed I held no expectations – for this reason I say that not making the Shortlist is a pity, but actually not a disappointment.

On the plus side, the interview I gave one month ago to the local newspaper and apparently was lost or otherwise disappeared and vanished, will now probably resurface. And they’ll get my name right this time.

Back to writing.

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What a week!

Sometimes life gets better than fiction – and mind you, I write thrillers, fantasy and horror, stuff featuring pigmy zombie cannibals, so that “better” must be taken with a grain of salt.
A big grain of salt.

Last summer, while the pandemic was all the rage and the nation was going in and out of lockdown, some of my power bills got lost – never delivered, for some reason or other. I tried to get in touch with my power company, and got dead letter on the whole front – no reply to my mails, perpetual muzak on the phone.
I worried, but not that much – I mean, services companies always find a way to get their money, right?
So I waited for a signal.
I paid the bills as they came, and waited for developments.

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Four Weeks/One New Skill: Three balls juggling

So apparently my knitting needles will arrive tomorrow, while my yarn is still missing-in-action, lost somewhere in the wild – and this means I won’t be able to start my knitting (self) challenge in the month of February. But still I do not want to waste this perfect month – four weeks starting on a monday.
Sop I had to find a plan B.

And because my brother will not allow me to practice the blues harp while he’s working six feet away from where I sit, and because Texas Hold’em, while a fascinating subject, would have meant reading a book and then spend time playing against a computer, I decided to go with three-balls juggling.

The reasons:

  • it sounds like a reasonable pursuit
  • and something I can do in four weeks
  • I do have a set of juggling balls hereon my shelf
  • instruction can be found for free on the internet
  • it’s a physical pursuit that is good for the brain
  • it might turn into a last ditch way to make a buck should I lose everything
  • (but hopefully it won’t come to that)

And so here we go.
Today I started by tossing and catching a single ball in my right hand, and then in my left. Not exactly rocket science, but what the heck, one needs to start somewhere, and this is the kind of exercise you can do while watching a movie.

But anyway – the February Four Weeks/One New Skill is on.
And it’s generally pretty fun.

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Something for the weekend, again

I am feeling the cold a lot, this year – it must be the advancing age creeping on me. And because it is the weekend again, I will wrap myself in a bunch of blankets, put the electric kettle on, and spend two days drinking tea and taking it easy.

On the plate for this weekend I have a re-watch of the 1980… ehm, classic Humanoids from the Deep, and a re-read of E.M. Forster’s fundamental critical work, Aspects of the Novel.
Because the thick, I guess, is balancing the high and the low.
That, and staying warm.

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One day in Ancient China

Back when I was in high school, a series of paperbacks was published in Italy, called “Daily life in…” – that would describe the daily life in Kublai Kahn’s court, or Napoleon’s France, or Peter the Great’s Russia. Small, black books with grim yellowed pages, these were the translations of a series of books originally published in France, and if you had an interest in ground-level history, so to speak, they were all that was available on a high-school student’s budget. I have a few here in a box somewhere. One of them is about Tang China.

And really, much as fun can be had from military history books and biographies, I still like the small-scale, day-to-day, man-on-the-street history: what they ate and what entertainment they enjoyed, what their lifestyle was like. It’s fun, and often one finds ideas for stories, and suggest world-building strategies.

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More options for February

I am going on with my plan to spend February (also) learning a new skill – because I think it’s fun, and because should it work, I could start collecting new skills, one month after the other. After all, that was what I always was about ever since I was a kid: my mother used to tell me to spend my summer vacations “doing something useful”, and I learned conjuring (the stage magic kind), tarot-reading, playing the flute and some french, some Spanish, some Japanese.
I guess she was hoping I’d find small jobs or stuff like that, like she would do when s he was a teenager – but she was a teenager in the ’50s, I was a teenager in the ’80s: the whole part time jobs ecology had changed, and all I was able to find was a contract job as a scarecrow…
But I always loved learning new stuff.

So, I made a list a few days back (WordPress will probably link the post below), I got some feedback, and it looks like knitting, harmonica-playing and juggling are the three top contenders. Of the three, my brother is averse to the harmonica (“it will feel like we’re in some kind of prison”), and juggling is better done in the open, so knitting is really looking like my choice – or at least, that was the state of affairs until Humble Bundle launched their latest book bundle, that is huge and is called Start Something New.

And I was not kidding about the bundle being huge. Drop one buck, and you’ll get seven volumes – cookbooks, a knitting encyclopedia (aha!) a book about redesigning your life, a Texas Hold’em guidebook…

But you can go up to over 20 bucks, and land a staggering collection of 61 books, each one covering a different skill.

And so yes, I put down a few bucks – knowing the money will go to a charity – and now I’ve increased my options. Texas Hold’em looks interesting, but I could also devote the four weeks of February to Feng Shui or book-binding, or some kind of creative, artistic craft.

But no matter what, I have now one week to decide – and then I’ll have a week to get all the necessary equipment to start my adventure in February.

Ideas, suggestions, odds and ends are welcome – just use the comments.


Sword & Sorcery movies

I happen to be on a Sword & Sorcery roll. Big deal, you say, as if it was the first time. But really, in part this is because for Christmas I got the last volume in Glen Cook’s Dread Empire series, and so I’m finally setting out to read the whole bunch of novels in chronological order, starting with A Fortress in Shadow. In part it’s because another gift I got in my sock for the Befana festival is P.J. Thorndyke’s Barbarians at the Gates of Hollywood, this being a fun and opinionated survey of the golden age of sword & sorcery movies, to wit, the 1980s.

And as I was reading Thorndyke’s book, it happened – as it usually does – that I started feeling like re-watching these old flicks. because no one will be surprised to learn I saw each one of them at least once, and many of them (yes, I’m looking at you, Beastmaster) repeatedly, in many long summer nights, when sleep would not come, and a silly movie and a cup of ice cream was all that stood between my sanity and heat-induced madness.

And of course I’ve been watching a lot of movies since I started co-hosting the Paura & Delirio podcast with my friend Lucy – at least one movie per week, often watching it twice; more when we do our specials, like the one we did on New Year’s Eve about the Hammer Karnstein Trilogy, and what we’ll soon do with the two Nosferatu movies – Murnau’s and Herzog’s.

So the question is – do I have the time, between Cook’s book, my writing projects, my planning and building a vegetable garden and the idea of acquiring a new skill in February… do I have the time for these old sword & sorcery films? Say one per week, following P.J. Thorndyke’s excellent guide?

And, should I do it … what next?
I could blog about them, of course.
And maybe do something more – a film or two will maybe find a place in Paura & Delirio – because of the contiguity between sword & sorcery and horror/weird fiction.
But what of the rest?

I’ll have to find an idea.
But right now, I’ll have to go dig in the box of old DVDs for the titles in my viewing list that are not on VHS.
This is going to be fun…