East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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The most cynical of anti-romantics

The title is a definition I read somewhere of James Branch Cabell. I have been a fan of J.B. Cabell for over thirty-five years now, thanks to Fritz Leiber. And Cabell is yet another one of those authors that make me say “it would be great to write like he did, but I’d never make it.”

And I have just read a nice piece about Cabell on the DMRBooks Blog and I thought I’d link it here. Deuce Richardson is right when he notes that the younger generations have forgotten Cabell, and what a loss is theirs!

“There were how many dynasties of Pharaohs, each one of whom was absolute lord of the known world, and is to-day forgotten? Among the countless popes who one by one were adored as the regent of Heaven upon earth, how many persons can to-day distinguish? And does not time breed emperors and czars and presidents as plentiful as blackberries, and as little thought of when their season is out? For there is no perpetuity in human endeavor: we strut upon a quicksand: and all that any man may do for good or ill is presently forgotten, because it does not matter.”

James Branch Cabell

And in case you are curious, on The Faded Page you can find free ebooks of four of Cabell’s works, including my own favorite, The High Place, Robert E. Howard’s favorite, Something About Eve, and everybody’s favorite, The Cream of the Jest.

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Monkey Punch, 1937-2019

And the bad news keep coming, so much so that this blog is beginning to look like the obituaries page on some newspaper. I have learned only today of the death, on the 11th of April, of Japanese cartoonist Kazuhiko Katō, better known as Monkey Punch, the author of the 1967 Lipin III manga series on which the animated series and movies (and video games and what else) where later based.

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Gene Wolfe, 1931-2019

We have lost Gene Wolfe, the author of The Book of the New Sun and many other masterful novels and short stories. He was 87.
The Book of the New Sun is one of the books that made me what I am, and an endless source of wonder and surprises – I was about to start my re-read, a tradition I have been carrying out every other year for these last ten years.
This time around, it will have a further meaning.

And for the rest of this year 2019, I will do all I can to get the volumes that I still miss to complete my Gene Wolfe collection.
We have lost a master, I have lost a teacher and an inspiration.

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Artist Explorer

Edwin Lord Weeks (1849-1903) was an American painter, the son of a well-to-do spice merchant. He studied art in Paris and in his life he traveled extensively in Asia and the Middle East, and produced a large number of paintings in what is known as the Orientalist style.
I originally found out about him when I was looking for paintings as documentation for my Hope & Glory game, and was impressed by the incredibly precise portraits and by the vibrant colors of his works.

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The scholar first, the fictionist second

Today marks the 57th anniversary of the death of Harold Lamb, one of the patron saints of Karavansara.
He was a writer of pulp fiction – a lot of his works were published in Adventure – much admired by Robert E. Howard among others, that later became so famous as an author of biographies and historical novels that his lighter and more adventurous side was almost completely forgotten.
He did work with Cecil Be Demille on his The Crusades, as a historical consultant.
It is not the first time I mention him here on Karavansara, and I am sure WordPress will add links at the bottom of this page.

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The end of innocence

Forty years ago today, on the 7th of April 1979, the first episode of Mobile Suit Gundam was broadcast, and it changed the face of animation forever. It would hit Italy one year later – apparently an unauthorized dub that was broadcast late in the afternoon. I was twelve going on thirteen, and it left a lasting impression on me.

At twelve I was already an avid reader of science fiction, and I regularly read popular science magazines. And here, in the first minutes of the first episode, I could see the future – Gerard K. O’Neill space colonies, that according to the magazines that I was reading would be up and running in a decade, portrayed in all their glory. There was proper physics, and they mentioned the Lagrangian points in the orbit. I was speechless, and delighted.

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