East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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Escaping the pull of the past

A lot of people I know are re-reading old books. About two hours ago, I caught a vlog from an old friend, about how he’s re-reading some old Terry Brooks, because there’s nothing new that he finds attractive.
he probably read too much fantasy way back when, he said, and today’s offer is only urban fantasy or paranormal romance, and he does not care about that.

And I thought… really?

And do not get me wrong – I am pretty sure much of what’s being translated in my country right now is drivel, but the idea that “there’s nothing new” still makes me cringe.
There is good stuff out there – like, in cartloads.
And of course, as my poor mom used to say, “if you never read it before, it’s new”, and I’m all for reading what we missed in the past, and enjoying it.
But re-reading because there is nothing new?
Sorry, no.

We must resist the pull of the past, because I think that’s a sure sign we are getting old and losing our curiosity and our spirit of adventure. Maybe it’s because as we age, we do not feel like wasting time anymore, and we are scared at the idea of sacrificing a week for a bad book – a week nobody will ever give us back.
But being alive means looking for new things.

So I thought I’d point out a few titles I found very interesting recently.
Just for the sake of discussion.

  • Linda Nagata – Stories of the Puzzle Lands.
    Two novels in a single volume, that put a nice spin on a lot of classic tropes, and might take you by surprise, but in a very pleasant way.
  • Gareth Hanrahan – The Gutter Prayer.
    First in a series, good if you want to find the thrill of those old D&D games, and you like intrigue and urban settings.
  • P.W. Lewis – Kung Fu Fighting Vampire Mermaids.
    You know you are going to read this one just because of the title. And the cover art. But it’s fun, and weird and… weird.
  • Rob J. Hayes – Never Die.
    One of the best books I read this year. Oriental sword & sorcery, great characters, great story.
  • Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda – Monstress.
    This is a comic book, but it’s absolutely amazing.

So there you have it – fantasy is alive and well, and says Hi! to us all.

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Geishas, real women, and Lovecraft Country

It was weird, in a way, watching the sixth episode of Lovecraft Country, last night. One of the two best episodes in what I still feel like an uneven series, fraught with some “typical” HBO problems, Episode Six is set in Korea during the Korean War, and centers on a local girl in love with American movies, and serving as a nurse in an hospital. I won’t say more not to spoil you the fun.

What made the experience surreal was that I had spent part of the day,so to speak, in Korea – first, re-watching the classic Train to Busan for the next episode of the podcast I co-host with my friend Lucy, and secondly because I’ve been reading a very interesting book that puts everything in a different perspective.

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Charles R. Saunders (1946-2020)

I have just learned of the passing away, early last week, of Charles R. Saunders, the author whose Imaro was the first character in a fantasy genre that would come to be known as Sword & Soul, and whose catalog included some of the best fantasy produced in the second half of the 20th century.

I am absolutely devastated – no more than two weeks ago, I was suggesting Charlse Saunders’ books to a contact that was looking for some different take in sword & sorcery – and the recent reprint of the first Imaro book was just what he needed.

For me, Imaro was, with Elric, the first sign that there was life beyond Conan, and I still have my trade paperback of the first volume.

It’s time for a thorough re-read, in remembrance of a great writer.


I want my money back

Today I did something I rarely do – I asked for a refund on my last purchase on Amazon, a 7 bucks ebook I bought because I am interested in the topic but also because I am doing some research for my next writing project (contract signed – I am waiting for the advance … my bank is also waiting for the advance … and my insurance company … and my electricity provider).

So, considering this will be a fun project that could lead to more books being written in the series, I decided to check out what I could find on the main topics, to supplement my own collection.
And I immediately stumbled on this new (2018) Italian-language biography of one of the key historical characters – that happens to be Italian himself. I have a couple of bios already, but this one is really recent, and so I bought the ebook.

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Forbidden Hollywood

Having mentioned the Hays Code in my previous post(*), I thought I’ll suggest you a book on the subject – because we talk about books in this place, right?
And because I like old movies, and I like reading about old movies.

Sponsored by Turner Classic Movies and published by Running Press, Mark A. Vieira’s Forbidden Hollywood is a wide and deep survey of the pre-Code era productions – when Tinseltown was reckless and shameless… or something like that.

As you can see from the cover (don’t get distracted by Harlow’s charms), the book covers the 1931-1934 period, and as you can imagine because of Harlow’s charms on the cover, it’s illustrated with dozens of beautiful black and white photographs. It also has tons of period documents, to give you a nice overview of what was happening, and how it influenced the development of the medium.

This is a great read for lovers of classic movies, and while it’s certainly a great book to have in hard-copy, it can be bought real cheap as an ebook.

Vieira also edited a big selection on film noir, Into the Dark, that is a fun read but is not as good – and the omission of two of my favorite noirs really really baffled me. But it’s a fun read, and it features some stunning stills – once again, it can be bought real cheap as an ebook, and it’s a good, if biased, starting point for anyone interested in learning more about noir movies.

I still love a good black and white movie, and while I wait for them to come up on my streaming services, reading about them is almost as fun.

(*) Well, not, actually – it’s in my NEXT post.
What happened was, the post scheduled for this afternoon was postponed to tomorrow morning because of the sudden death of Diana Rigg taking precedence.
But because my memory is like a sieve, I forgot to reschedule this post.
So here you have it – part two before part one.
Sorry for the inconvenience.