East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


Vampirella: Blood Invasion – a short review

I mentioned it yesterday, and I read it last night and today as I sat around a doctor’s waiting room – Vampirella: Blood Invasion, the first Vampirella novel written by Nancy A. Collins and published by the fiction branch of Dynamite publishing is a very fast read, and a fun one.

For the uninitiated, Vampirella is a character created fifty years ago as a host for a series of anthology magazines, that later evolved into an indie comic-book character in her own right, with her own universe, recurring characters, timeline and everything.
Often dismissed as a vampiric rip-off of Barbarella, and criticized by its open sexiness, the raven-haired and very scantly clad vampiress is a lot more than just a pin-up. She has in fact quite a nice track record, as comics characters go, with some great story arcs through the decades, and some excellent art and writing by some of the industry’s best names.

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The first book of 2020

Last night I splurged 8 of my hard-earned dollars to acquire the first two tiers of the latest Humble Bundle, called 2020 New year, New You – a grab bag of titles on a variety of topics, good as fuel for new year’s personal resolutions – self-help books (from time saving to meditation to retirement plans) and cookbooks (a book of slow cooker recipes!), writing handbooks and a thesaurus, books about bucket lists and other wonders. These sort of bundles usually capture my fancy, because they feel like going through a bookstore filling a basket with stuff that makes me go “wow, that’s interesting!”
My 8 bucks contributed to help a charity (in this case, Every Child a Reader), and bought me 16 very different books.
I was particularly interested in the cookbooks, in the memoir by a former undercover detective, and in the writing handbooks.
The first I started was therefore David Morrell’s The Successful Novelist.

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The first writer that really scared me: Algernon Blackwood

Some things stick in our minds for decades.
I was eleven years old or thereabouts when I got my copy of the Italian version of Alfred Hitchcock’s Ghost Gallery, a collection of horror stories (not all of them dealing with ghosts) aimed at a younger audience. Having been raised on Scooby Doo, and an avid reader of The Three Investigators, the idea of a collection of ghost stories was pretty exciting – and I got the book for Christmas that year. It was 1978.

Now this was a case of wrong expectations – the spooky stories in the book were none like Scooby Doo or the Three Investigators, and if a couple were quite humorous, like the three entries from Robert Arthur, none of these stories had the rational solution and the real culprit behind the haunting being shown for a very human bad guy.
This was, probably for the first time in my life, the Real Thing.
These were scary stories.

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Quiet, rest and some Flat Earth

It’s the 23rd of December.
I have mailed my latest novella to my Patrons, and sent an ebook to a friend as a better substitute for a greeting card. The pantry is stocked, the menus decided for the next days. All the bills have been paid (well, OK, most of them), and there’s money (not much) in the bank. I’ve even bought a sack of treats for the feral cats that will come and sleep in the big box we’ve placed outside.
Now I can sit back and relax for a few days.
Read a good book, or three.

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Michael Moorcock at 80

Today is the 80th birthday of British writer Michael Moorcock, and it seems right to write a post about him and his books and the pleasure, insight and fun, and inspiration they have provided me these last 40 years.
This will not be a critical assessment or whatever, but just a personal patchwork of strange memories. I’ll also list a few of my favorite books of his, but no more than a dozen.

Let’s begin.

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1300 Mondays

In the opening chapter of his The Doorstep Mile(that once again, is highly recommended) adventurer Alastair Humphreys writes:

I have fewer than 2000 Mondays left to live. I want to make the most of them, not just tick them off.

This gave me pause.
How many Mondays do I have left?, I wondered.
I made some quick calculation, based on my family data.
Both my grandfathers died in their early seventies.
My father died at seventy-six.
On my mother’s side we tend to be more long lived – we usually get in our ’90s if cancer does not get at us earlier.
I am 52, so… how many Mondays?

Less than 1300 is a good estimate.
What am I going to do with them?

Humphreys’ idea, presented in his book, is to try and do something that makes me happy. Even something small.
Something that does not drastically change my life overtime, but that in due time will make me able to enjoy a lot more those 1300 Mondays, and all the other days.

I am working on it.
Now I have a deadline.


John Brunner's Traveller in Black

For many years the John Brunner stories featuring The Traveller in Black were very high in my Need to Read list. John Brunner was more famous as a writer of science fiction than as a fantasist, and he wrote some of my favorite SF novels (in particular, The Squares of the City and The Productions of Time). I often read about the series, and there was an edition in my country in 1996 – but I actually never saw a copy of that one, and I always considered missing these stories as a grave hole in my CV as a fantasy reader and writer.

So I was quite happy when a gift from one of my Patrons brought to my Kindle The Compleat Traveller in Black, a volume that collects the five stories of the cycle: “Imprint of Chaos“, “Break the Door of Hell“, “The Wager Lost by Winning“, “The Dread Empire“, and “The Things That Are Gods“.

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