East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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The Blazing World

A weird one today for the Karavansara Free Library.
I found out about Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in a piece on the BBC website – trust the beeb to expand our horizons.


Margaret Cavendish was born in 1623, and is listed in Wikipedia as

aristocrat, philosopher, poet, scientist, fiction-writer, and playwright

Not bad, uh? Continue reading


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The Magic Island (1929)

You realize that you are on to something when the book you need to check out for your next non-fiction article was written by a cannibal that tried to kill Hitler with a voodoo ritual.

William Buehler Seabrook was a writer and reporter, an explorer, an occultist, occasionally a cannibal. He served in the Great War and was gassed in action.
While visiting Africa he developed an interest in cannibalism, that led him to acquire a number of medical samples and cook them to try and see what they tasted like. This was in the ’20s.
Then, in ’29, he visited Haiti – that at the time was being controlled by the US, that had invaded it in 1914 – and “discovered” voodoo. Continue reading

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Night of the Demon (1957)

It has been written since the beginning of time, even unto these ancient stones, that evil supernatural creatures exist in a world of darkness. And it is also said man using the magic power of the ancient runic symbols can call forth these powers of darkness, the demons of Hell.


The real problem with Night of the Demon (aka Curse of the Demon, originally supposed to be called The Haunted) is, of course, the demon. Director Jacques Tourneur of Cat People fame was all against it, but the producer apparently ignored the director’s choice, and had the scenes with the demon that bookend the movie shot by a second unit.

The demon looks cheap and fake and borders on laugh-out-loud ridiculous, and it’s a pity, because without it Night of the Demon would be an otherwise impeccable horror movie.
As things stand, it’s still one of the best horror thrillers ever produced.
Continue reading


Insomnia – Five Books

If you can’t beat them, join them.
Isn’t that what they say?
My insomnia rages on. I sleep (badly) by day and I am wide awake through the night.
I work, I write, I watch old movies, I read books, and wonder what will become of me. Who knows, maybe that last bit is the reason why I am suffering from insomnia, who knows.
But anyway, I thought about doing something about it, and I decided to write about it. Big surprise, uh?melatonin on the rocks

I’ll start with blog posts, and then see where that takes me. I could setup a minimalist blog on some ultralight platform. Or do a podcast. A small, minimalist podcast.
I’d call it Melatonin On the Rocks.
A podcast that goes on air only when I can’t sleep.
Or I could set-up a live hangout every time I can’t sleep.
Or something.
This post is sort of a prototype.
A test run. Continue reading

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The man who invented the periscope

Photo_of_Morgan_RobertsonMorgan Andrew Robertson said he had invented the periscope. He had written a story, called The Submarine Destroyer, in 1905, which featured a submarine provided with a telescoping periscope, and called it a periscope, so he claimed he had invented the thing.
A former jeweler that had to find another job due to a loss of eyesight, Robertson mostly wrote sea stories, being the son of a Great Lakes captain and having spent ten years in the Merchant Marines (he had ran away from home at the age of 16, in 1877).

He mostly wrote short stories and novellas, that he sold to the story magazines that came before the pulps. He started writing, apparently, after reading some rather bad sea stories and going “What the heck! I can do better than that!”

He never made much money with his writing, but he sort of did better than that. Continue reading

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Dian of the Lost World

FFM194904-sterne-stevensWriting about Garr the Cunning (yes, the story is still in the works) was a good opportunity to refresh my caveman pulp readings.
Manly Wade Wellman’s Hok the Mighty, of course, and Burrough’s Cave Girl and assorted Pellucidar titles, but also a a few books that had so far slipped under my radar.
I was particularly pleased – and vaguely disappointed – discovering Dian of the Lost Land, a lost world novel first published in the 1920s, and variously reprinted, most famously in the April 1949 issue of Famous Fantastic Mysteries, with a cover by Lawrence Sterne Stevens that certainly sold a few extra copies. Continue reading

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Ida Pfeiffer

When I was but a little child, I had already a strong desire to see the world. Whenever I met a travelling-carriage, I would stop involuntarily, and gaze after it until it had disappeared; I used even to envy the postilion, for I thought he also must have accomplished the whole long journey.

download (1)I must thank my friend Angelo Benuzzi for introducing me to the remarkable Ida Laura Pfeiffer.
Born in 1797, Ida was an Austrian merchant’s daughter, and as noted in the opening quote, she had a great curiosity for the world and a yearning for travel – the fact that, contrary to the customs of the time, she was given “a boy’s education” probably had something to do with her desire to travel.
She had been in Palestine with her father when she was five, but she started to travel seriously much later, when she was 45. Continue reading