Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


2 Comments

Storm Constantine (1956-2021)

I have just learned about the death of British fantasy writer Storm Constantine, popular for her Wraethtu stories and for her collaboration with Michael Moorcock on Silverheart. A strikingly original writer, I first encountered her work back in 1992, when I discovered the trade paperbacks of her first trilogy – The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit, The Bewitchments of Love and Hate, The Fulfillments of Fate and Desire.
In a beautiful style reminiscent of some of Tanith Lee’s works, the Wraethtu Chronicles were ahead of their time, in tracing the future history of humanity’s slow but inescapable replacement by a new species of hermaphroditic beings, the titular Wraethtu.

The stories were rich of atmosphere and tackled a variety of ideas and situations not often seen in commercial fantasy – which probably explains why Constantine’s novels developed a sort of cult following.

Constantine would later expand the series (that also came to include a roleplaying game), exploring further aspects of her future history, finally launching a publishing house devoted to her works (including expanded versions of her earlier books) and those of other writers she supported.
She published other series – most notably the Grigori sequence – and she also wrote a number of essays on magic, including a few spellbooks.

Often described as a writer of “shadow fantasy”, Storm Constantine was an impressive writer, both for her bold ideas and her sophisticate style, and she was also that rarest of creatures, a fantasy writer that would have been perfectly at home in one of her imaginary worlds.
She’ll be sorely missed.


Leave a comment

Back in the saddle: the return of the Horseclans

Back when dinosaurs ruled the Earth – i.e., the early ’80s – I was for a while a member of a science fiction and fantasy fans club. Apart from regular meetings that I was not able to attend, because they were held 500 kms from where I lived, and I was fifteen, and broke, I received a bi-monthly magazine that featured stories, art, articles and reviews.
The most interesting part for me were the reviews – especially the three or four pages devoted to a roundup of what noteworthy titles had been recently published in the USA. The plots, the titles and the covers were the stuff that dreams were made of.

Continue reading


8 Comments

Five reasons for reading Fritz Leiber

Mondadori, the major Italian publishing group, will hit the shelves this week with a massive 1300-pages volume featuring all the Lankhmar stories written by Fritz Leiber.
To celebrate this, I did a piece on MELANGE, the independent magazine of fantasy and culture – and because I was asked by some friends that do not read Italian, I’ve translated the piece, and I’m posting it here.
Enjoy.

Continue reading


4 Comments

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.


4 Comments

You must be a f#cking moron or, how I liked the Sword of Shannara

In my long and somewhat undistinguished life so far, only three times I have been called “a f#cking moron” because of my tastes (or lack thereof) in matters of music and literature. And before you ask, yes, I have a very long memory for certain things.

  • The first time was when I candidly admitted that I’d rather listen to J.S. Bach than to W.A. Mozart.
  • The second time was when I expressed my preference for Jefferson Airplane over Pink Floyd.
  • The third time was when I said I had actually liked The Sword of Shannara.

And this being Karavansara, you will guess what I am going to talk about next.

Continue reading


2 Comments

Quarantine reads: Cherryh and Hodgell, and Block

I decided I will devote some time in this quarantine period to read three series that have been on my radar for ages, now, and I have always kept for later – one of them, indeed, comes from one of my emergency boxes, the stashes of paperbacks I sometimes buy (especially when I find a good special offer) and save for the hard times.
Well, the hard times are here, so here we go.

I normally don’t like series anymore – as I grow old, I found out I prefer standalone novels, novellas, or series of short stories. But these cases are different. These are three series of which I have already read the first volume, and they are the work of three authors I greatly admire – so, no risk there, right?

Continue reading


2 Comments

The many children of Conan

As sometimes happens, the mailman delivered this morning a packet that caused me to change my plans for the rest of the day – or the next two days probably. The packet being an Amazon bubble-wrap envelope containing a copy of Brian Murphy’s Flame and Crimson: a History of Sword-and-Sorcery, published in 2019 by Pulp Hero Press (as far as I know there is no ebook edition).

Continue reading