Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Modesty

Today is Monica Vitti’s 88th birthday, and I decided to celebrate by watching again the 1966 movie Modesty Blaise, based on Peter O’Donnell’s character of the same name.
Now two things I need to make clear: I always loved Monica Vitti, and I always found the Modesty Blaise movie hard to digest.

Monica Vitti

And it is weird, because we are talking a film directed by a giant of British cinema, Joseph Losey, and featuring a cast that includes not only Monica Vitti, but also Terence Stamp, Dirk Bogarde, Harry Andrews and Clive Revill. The problems are others. First, much as Monica Vitti’s voice has always been one of her assets, her accent stops very soon being exotic, and turns out to be just irritating (but that’s just me). Much more important, to me, is the general campiness of the set-up. Now the Modesty Blaise comics and novels were never high literature, but the movie does at time try too hard.

But hey, celebration day, so on we go with Modesty Blaise, 1966.
Or not.

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The need for secret histories

As I am writing this, huge crowds have gathered in Lucca for what is the largest event in Europe centered on Comics and Games. For the long Halloween weekend, hundreds of thousands of visitors will crowd the narrow alleys of medieval Lucca, prowling the stands of publishers big and small, meeting artists and authors, trying new videogames, ogling cosplayers, and suffering the bad weather, the crowd and the noise.
Then they will come home, will arrange all that they bought on their beds or on their living room floor, and take a picture, that they will post on their socials, showing the world their “loot”.
Which is curious, because looting implies taking without paying, while the merchandise on display in these photographs cost a nice chunk of money – to which one must add the travel expenses, the lodging and food.

But these are the rituals of those that, in my country, call themselves “i nerd che hanno vinto” – the nerds that won.
And this, I think, is revealing – because we had a name, for people crowding conventions, that we used for decades before the nerds won whatever it is they did. We called it the fandom.
The fact that these shopaholics do not identify as fandom, but as a quite different tribe, the nerds that won, is telling.

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Halloween in an old village

It’s the 31st of October, early afternoon. I’ve just put the chicken and potatoes in the slow cooker, and acknowledged the fact that a story I had submitted in June was rejected. It’s OK. This month I submitted 13 stories, more than reaching my quota.
The sky is battle-cruiser grey, and there is a faint mist that will probably get thicker as the day progresses.

I am taking a couple of days off. There’s a story I should finish but I’ll never make it in time for the deadline. Pity.
The last few weeks have been complicated, and now that the worst part is over, I can slow down a bit and have some fun.

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Fear of the Unknown

Yes, I know, this is not an overly original title, and we all have heard or read that classic H.P. Lovecraft quote, from his Supernatural Horror in Literature. They even made a documentary film with that title.
And in case you missed it, the quote is…

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown”

H.P. Lovecraft

But I have another quote for you, and it’s as follow…

“I don’t see why I should read this book you mention. I read [Asimov/Heinlein/Tolkien/Howard/King/Lovecraft] back in 19**, and I don’t need to read anything else in the genre, because nothing’s better than that.”

A lot of SF/Fantasy/Horror fans I know

This came up today when I was talking with an old friend, and we wondered why people that should be all for the future, and discovery, adventure and running risks, turns out to be so averse to trying something new.

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Just kids having fun

You really can’t take a moment off.
Back online, and people are bickering on facebook.
Big news, uh?
Only in this case is something that touches upon my job (for what it is), my livelihood (ditto), and something I like very much, and therefore I consider “my own”.

Now, I have mentioned in the past how Italian politics have been trying to polarize popular culture since at least the fifties – from music mags labelling prog rock as right wing and singer-songwriters as left wing, to the old classic SF is left, fantasy is right, to the opening of “Hobbit Camps” where like-minded individuals could debate the merits of J.R.R. Tolkien, Julius Evola and Mussolini.
It would be silly, and ridiculous, were it not that it creeps into the general perception, it becomes a filter, and you are labelled as a jackbooted right-winger because you listen to Jethro Tull, or a crazed communist because you read Arthur C. Clarke.
The first reaction is laughing, then you realize these people are skewing the general public’s perception of reality. That is always bad.

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