East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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One night at the (Vampire) Circus

Having milked Dracula for all it was worth, in the early ’70s Hammer Films turned their gaze to other vampires and, taking advantage of the more relaxed censorship rules, created what is called the Karnstein Trilogy, very loosely based on Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu Carmilla (that you can find here as a free download in case you missed it).
The three movies in the cycle are The Vampire Lovers (1970), Lust for a Vampire (1971) and Twins of Evil (1971), and are considered classics – and I will have to write about them sooner or later.
The Karnstein vampires are different from their Transylvanian counterparts, being generally female, much more inclined to nudity and most importantly being able to go about in open daylight.
The Karnstein vampires would make two more appearances in the Hammer Films catalog: once in Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter, in 1974 and before that, a band of Karnstein vampires in all but name brought madness and death to a small Serbian Village in Vampire Circus (1972).

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Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

No, this is not about the Jimmy Buffett song, or album.
It’s about something I realized last night, after spending 1.98 euro on two historical novels – I’ve been reading more historical novel than usual this last year, and while my science fiction reading remained steady, it’s fantasy that is taking a dip. Given the choice, I’d rather go for an historical novel, or a history essay than for a fantasy book.

So I started to wonder why, and came to the conclusion that I have three factors to blame…

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It's not fantasy

I just found out my old paperback copy of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Italian edition published by Rusconi, which I bought in 1983 or 1984, goes for up to 150 bucks, second-hand, online.
I could give it a thought, really.

Apparently all the old editions of Tolkien’s doorstop novel are being called back and destroyed, or so it seems, as part of a complicated copyright infringement lawsuit that also branches out in a legal battle about slander and what not.
The crux of the problem: the current Italian publisher of Tolkien commissioned a new translation, and all hell broke loose. The old translation’s been accused of being inaccurate, the new translation’s been mocked for some choices and some have talked of twisting Tolkien’s word for the sake of political correctness. Then the current translator said the old translation featured “five hundred mistakes per page”, which was at least quite rude, and the old translator passed the thing to her lawyers.
It’s a mess, and the fans are going berserk.
In the meantime, the old versions are being pulped, or so it seems. Only the new translation will exist from now on.

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Gone but not forgotten: Christopher Fowler's The Book of Forgotten Authors

When was the last time that, against all good sense and sanity, you spent a whole night up to read a new book from cover to cover? Wrapped in a blanket, drinking hot tea, while the countryside outside was silent and mist-shrouded under the moon, it happened to me last night, and I am now typing this before I crawl in bed, my day’s schedule completely scrambled, but who cares.

Yesterday (my goodness, it was only yesterday!) I received as a gift an ebook copy of Christopher Fowler’s The Book of Forgotten Authors, and as it usually happens, I checked the first pages, just to see how it felt. I was preparing dinner, and I was in fact putting the soup up on the stove.
I went through the foreword, and them, after dinner, I said to myself I’d check a few pages.
And now here I am, bleary-eyed, the book finished, and the certain knowledge that it will have a terrible influence on my 2020.

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Last night I pulled out two things from my shelf – my copy of the Hammer movie Vampire Circus (1971) and my copy of J. Gordon Melton’s The Vampire Book, a massive encyclopedia of the undead that is part of my somewhat extensive collection of non-fiction books on the subject. I was quite surprised when I discovered The Vampire Book was published in 1994 – is it really been that long?
This led me to reflect on the reason for my general dislike for vampires in the last few years – the Vampire roleplaying game, that first came out in 1992. Suddenly vampires where hot in the ’90s, and as it usually happens, the surge of recent converts to the new faith caused me to look somewhere else for my thrills.

Me, I was a Ravenloft sort of guy, or even better a Warhammer Fantasy RPG sort of guy, when it came to roleplaying vampires.
Even better – a Chill sort of guy.

As for stories…

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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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I never wrote a vampire story

It’s something I realized a few nights back, while watching the new BBC adaptation of Dracula.
It was the classic realization thing in three movements, like a symphony, that’s often mentioned in writing handbooks:
first movement – damn, I can write better stories that this!
second movement – hey, I actually never wrote a vampire story! Never, in all these years…
third movement – opens a new folder and a new file in Scrivener.

Which of course leads to the question… why not?

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