Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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A Halloween reading list

Halloween, Halloween… it’s weird when you find yourself doing more posts about Halloween than you will ever do about, say, Christmas or New Year’s Eve.
It’s like Halloween has become the Web’s main festivity.
A festival of ghosts, spooks and dead people.
Seems fitting.

So, why not suggest a reading list for Halloween?
And considering we are cheapskates, why not a list of free ebooks?

Let’s see… Continue reading


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Karavansara Free Library: The Well of the Unicorn

I’m writing a story.
Big deal, you say.
But no, wait, because it’s interesting.
The story is set in some unnamed American town, somewhere in 1948 or maybe 1949. As the story opens, the main character works as a reader for an old lady who’s losing her sight. My character spends three afternoons every week in the old lady’s parlor, reading her aloud from a book.
What book?
The_Well_of_the_UnicornNow, the book is not essential in the story. It’s just a prop, something my character can cling to as the events in her life suddenly start twisting in a whole new direction.
A hardback, then.
A good solid hardback she’ll be able to clutch to her chest like it’s an armor in that single scene right at the beginning.

And so I did a quick check.
I just needed a hardback published in 1948.
And Fletcher Pratt’s The Well of the Unicorn was published in that year.
Bingo.
There is something good, for me, about a young woman reading aloud from The Well of the Unicorn, and then embarking on a life-changing adventure. Continue reading


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Hope & Glory – the criminal mind

Here is where a few topics we discussed in the last few weeks collide and then we download a free ebook.

6778502A reader of mine (thank you!!) just sent me a book – a wonderful copy of The Sherlock Holmes Handbook, by Ransom Riggs.
The volume is a beautiful compact hardbound book, sturdy and very “Victorian looking”, and it covers the whole of the Holmesian lore concerning the Great Detective’s methods, tools and practices.
I am reading it very slowly to make it last, but it’s a perfect complement for a Sherlockian shelf, and it’s also the sort of handy reference one might need to check when writing.
Beautiful, and (hopefully) not too expensive.
I’ll do a full review as soon as I’m finished, but right now on my first impression, I feel like recommending it.
It might also be a good tool for roleplayer playing Victoria settings.
Just saying.

But there is another handbook I’ve been browsing that is worth mentioning.
I used it marginally as part of my research for Hope & Glory, at the very beginning – and maybe because of this I think it is not listed in the suggested reading list in the handbook.  Continue reading


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Hope & Glory – Winston Churchill’s (minimal) contribution

How does it feel to have your grandmother read your book, and tell you…

It clearly shows your lack of experience with women

… Awkward, uh?
And it’s even worse, I guess, when your grandmother is Frances, Duchess of Marlborough, and you are a young army officer who wrote the book on your way to India, and your name is Winston S. Churchill.

ruritania_zenda_1938_by_mbhdesign-d8zcnf3One of the many bits and pieces that went into Hope & Glory is the literary genre (or sub-genre) of Ruritanian Romance, those stories of passion and derring-do set in unlikely small European nations, like Anthony Hope’s Ruritania or George Barr McCutcheon’s Graustark.
And right now I am working on a small sourcebook for Hope & Glory, set in one of these micro-nations that dot the post-Catastrope landscape of Lost Europe, and in particular a place called Valiria – a fantasy name if ever there was one – which is perched on the Pyrenees, between the iced plains of France and the wind-swept steppes of Spain, where the mammoth roam. Continue reading


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Rapiers & Goblins

16653Born in 1949, Teresa Edgerton made her debut in her forties, at the end of the 1980s with the first Celydonn trilogy – also known as the Green Lion Trilogy.
Apparently Edgerton is a regular at Renaissance fairs, a tarot reader and a puppet creator – in addition to having worked as a psychic – and her first novels construct a secondary Dumasian world of alchemy and intrigue.
The three volumes come out for ACE types – which in 1991 published Goblin Moon, a stand-alone novel that is probably Edgerton’s most popular and beloved work.
With its sinister magicians, romantic intrigues, a masked hero that recalls the Scarlet Pimpernel and an urban and eighteenth-century setting, the novel belatedly fits into that interregnum of which I have written in other posts – that period when the fantasy it is popular but not yet imprisoned in a standard scheme designed to please an audience who simply wants some variation on the theme. These are the glorious years in which the market was testing the waters, and on the shelves appear different and exciting works that then, mysteriously, disappeared. Continue reading


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God Stalk and the Fantasy Interregnum

A woman with retractable claws like a cat, fleeing from a territory where an obscure power changes everything that lives, and where everything that dies rises again, hostile and unstoppable. A vast city, in which men and gods live side by side, and once a year the dead gods roam the streets in search of revenge on humanity that has abandoned them. A shadow that stretches slow and inexorable over the world, no longer opposed by those who were charged with preserving the order.

God Stalk, by P.C. Hodgell has been called one of the best fantasy of the last thirty years. Surely it was the best fantasy I happened to read in 2015 – quite the latecomer, considering God Stalk was released in 1982 for Berkley Fantasy.

God-Stalk-P.-C.-Hodgell

It was God Stalk that got me thinking about what I call The Interregnum, that has been a side interest of mine these last three years.
Let me explain. Continue reading


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Vergil and Med Fantasy

51M68AP5CQL._SX303_BO1,204,203,200_The last time we met Avram Davidson we were visiting Scythia-Pannonia-Transbalkania in the company of Doctor Eszterhazy. True, we met him briefly, too briefly, when we crossed paths with Marco Polo, and that was it.
Avram Davidson was an excellent writer, one whose style was his and his alone. He is responsible for some of the most memorable short stories in the history of the genre – like the one in which he describes the life-cycle of bicycles, from larval paperclips to wire coat-hangers, to full bicycles.
It feels deeply unjust that Davidson and his works have somehow fallen off the public’s radar. Granted, Gollancz reprinted some of his best works as cheap ebooks, and Robert Silverberg and Grania Davis curated a collection of his short stories a few years back that should still be available, but it looks like there’s a few of us that remember. Continue reading