East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


Karavansara Free Library: Robert Byron

A few days back I asked for opinions about the contents of this blog. I have been asked to do more posts about games, and about travelers and explorers.
And I say, why not?

So here’s a post about a writer and world-traveler I discovered during my second year in university, and he remains a favorite of mine. His books have contributed to fuel my interest for the Silk Road and the adventures and experiences of travelers in the years between the two Wars.
And you can get his books for free, so I think I’ll give you a brief introduction, and then let you enjoy the guy’s writing. Continue reading


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.
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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Karavansara Free Library: Arnold Wright (and Hope & Glory)

The Internet Archive is a treasure trove. Right now my browser informs me it is undergoing maintenance, but when it’s up (it should be up briefly), you can listen to Old Radio shows, you can peruse pulp magazines, and you can find a number of excellent resources for your writing and your games.

For instance, let’s consider the catalog of books by Arnold Wright, former journalist of the Times of India and then London editor of the Yorkshire post, who made a nice career for himself as an author of reference books about the East. Continue reading

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Hope & Glory – the Astral Plane

masterOne of the things I wanted in Hope & Glory was to offer my players a science fiction game. Much as I loved Castle Falkenstein, I did not want to insert fantasy races and magic in my setting.
Hope & Glory was designed to be a hard science fiction setting, but with a twist: this being a Victorian-ish setting, it would stick to 19th century science.
If it was considered science in the 19th century, we would treat it like real science, and go with it.
So yes, basically I cheated. Continue reading

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Change the world with music

No, this is not a post about some 1970s disco extravaganza.
75168In a post about the late Robert F. Young a few days back I mentioned his influence on a Japanese anime called RahXephon.
I was first interested in the thing when it was described to me as Evangelion’s smarter brother.

Confessions of an Anime viewer: I was never able to get Neon Genesis Evangelion. I know it was a huge success and a smash hit and all that, but I tried it and I did not like it.
The fact that there were at the time self-styled otakus shouting ceaselessly about how the series was better than anything that had gone before and anything that would come afterwards sort of cooled my already not-very-hot enthusiasm.

But RahXephon came with that comment, the reference to Robert F. Young’s masterful short story The Dandelion Girl and the discovery that it was somehow related to Churchward’s work about the lost continent of Mu.

So I gave it a try, and while I still have some misgivings, I’ll admit I was positively impressed. I do not normally cover anime on this blog, but once in a while, during the Silly Season… why not? Continue reading

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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