East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


Making changes (still writing -related)

After the bout of bad health I suffered through early this year, I decided to make a few changes. After all, my life has changed: I was a researcher working in a lab, a teacher moving between universities, now I am a writer spending most of his time sitting in the dark in a room full of books, typing.
So, different life, different problems, time to make some changes.

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Stuff in the mail and an ice-cold chinotto

Hey, you might say, were you not supposed to take the day off and wonder the sun-baked streets of Nizza Monferrato?
Well, I am – just got home for a few minutes to drop the shopping bags and put some things in the refrigerator.

But it was a good thing that I took a moment to come back home, because I found my contributor copy of DreamForge Magazine #2 (the one that features my short story “Sapiens”) waiting for me in the mailbox…

… plus the galleys for an anthology that should come out in August and carries a story of mine…

… and the final editor’s rev of another story that should get out in a few weeks in another anthology.

Also, a letter by the editor that received my Sherlock Holmes pastiche, and that will give me his opinion in September.

So what can I say, it’s good to be home.
I’ll drink an ice-cold chinotto (a somewhat retro drink, if you will) to that, and then get back to Nizza, where my brother roams alone at the moment.

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Me, Steve Perry, Fritz Leiber and why I won’t write about kids on bikes in the 80s

This is a weird post (maybe the title could have forewarned you) and it is a part of something larger I’ve been trying to put into words these last few months. It has to do with marketing, platforms and brands, and writing for a living – indeed, it is the sort of post I usually write once or twice a month for my Patrons, under the header of Nuts & Bolts.
But I’m doing it open because… well, because.

We were discussing nostalgia and exploitation, yesterday, with some friends that have been binge-watching the third season of Stranger Things. The series has been called exploitative and manipulative by some. It ticks all the right boxes, and it settles in a general trend that builds commercial success on the nostalgia for the ’80s by people that are too young to actually remember them.

And as we were talking, a song started playing in my mind…

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Discussing mummy resurrection practices on the devil’s radio

One of the things that will never cease to surprise me about living in a small community, is the way in which news and (mostly) gossip travel fast.
Maybe that’s the reason why you can’t get high-speed internet connections here: they are superfluous, as gossip travels faster than your average fiberoptic cable, and does not need servers of platforms except for the bench outside of the local bar, and the doctor’s waiting room.

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Hating John Watson

In five days I need to deliver the final draft of a Sherlock Holmes pastiche that I pitched a while back and the editor wants to see finished. It’s a big opportunity – to break in a new market, to make some money, to reach new readers and to please an editor I hope will buy more stories of mine.
In the last three weeks I wrote five different versions of the story, and scrapped each and every one.

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Feeling good and listening to music, any music

This morning one of my favorite singers messaged me on Instagram to thank me for presenting her first record as part of my series, The Earphones Diaries.
It made me incredibly happy, and offered me an opportunity to exercise my French as I replied. It was also a signal that the Diaries are now standing on their own legs, and my posts are being amply circulated.

I started the Diaries because I realized I was listening to a lot of records and felt like it would be fun to talk about the music I was listening. I thought someone might be interested in finding out something different, or comparing notes, or just having a good time.
I always post Spotify links so everybody’ll be able to check out what I’m writing about.
To this day I’ve posted 13 records, from 1970s classic rock to jazz and classical and strange things in between. I had a few interesting music-related chats on Facebook, and ample gratification on Instagram.

Now this is interesting, because no matter what sort of music you like or you listen to, the moment you talk about it in public, someone will come along and tell you why your musical tastes are rubbish.

Like jazz? You should listen to heavy metal instead.
You listen to folk songs? What about opera? Opera’s a lot better than folk.
You like Elizabethan consort music? It’s crap, Pink Floyd’s what you should be listening.
You really dig Japanese rock songs with zen Buddhist lyrics? Why waste your time with stuff like that when you could listen to… fill in the blank.

I’ve come to think that music – much more than books, comics or movies – is so important to some of us in defining who we are, that people feel the urge to correct other people’s “errors”.
And some can really be insufferable when they do.

I’m trying to keep my musical posts light and my selection of music as natural as possible. I get suspicious of my own motives when I go “Hmmm, this one would be right for the Diaries.”
I don’t want to post about the right records – I want to post about what I am currently listening because I feel like listening to that specific record, band, genre.
It’s once again a form of exploration, and I’m not following a plan.

But hey, The Earphones Diaries are working.
I’m having fun.
Way to go.

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Tropical diseases, Egyptian curses, colonial traditions and Sherlock Holmes

I skipped a post yesterday: first I was busy doing a supermarket run and stocking my freezer with ice cream as a defense against the heat (36°C and 74% humidity as I write this), and then I scrapped the Holmes story I have been working on these last two weeks and started it over.
So I spent part of the afternoon and night of yesterday checking out books about Egyptian magic, and old Victorian books about tropical diseases.

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