Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Space Rangers (1993)

The first science fiction novel I ever read was Jack Williamson’s The Legion of Space, that my grandmother gave me as a gift on my tenth birthday, and that I probably read fifteen times in the course of the following summer. This to explain that I have a soft spot for old-fashioned space opera of the pulpy kind, and I am not ashamed of this fact: Jack Williamson, Edmond Hamilton, Leigh Brackett and C.L. Moore are still very high in my personal list of favorites, and if you can give me mysterious planets, strange aliens and some kind of space adventurer, I’m fine.

Which leads me to Space Rangers, a very short lived TV series from 1993, that I found by chance – you find the six episodes on Youtube. The quality is not the best, but who knows, you might want to check it out.

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Invoking the Emperor of Dreams

This is going to be an interesting weekend: I have a story I need to complete by Monday, and it’s turning into a headache. Its now 4 am in the morning as I write this (a very Lovecraftian state of affairs, don’t you think?) and I’ve started writing at 8 pm, and not a single word I wrote in these eight hours I did not cancel. repeatedly. And gladly so, because they sucked.

I have the outline, the plot points mapped, the characters and their names and traits and back story, I know what will happen, and how. The twist is there, and the drama and the irony. Everything’s perfect. What sucks, and sucks big time, is the language.

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Unleash the Little Ghost! – The Seventh Curse (1986)

There was a time, in the 1990s, when I watched an awful lot of Hong Kong movies. With the Hong Kong Handover drawing closer and serious critics suddenly discovering John Woo and Tsui Hark, it was quite easy to get a lot of 1980s Golden Harvest and Shaw Brothers flicks. And I really liked some of them, and happily forgot about a lot of others, like, right after the end titles stopped rolling.

One of such forgotten movies came up two days ago in a chat with some friends – having just been reviewed by a popular vlogger – and I said to myself, hey, I saw this one, but I actually can’t remember how it was—let’s see it again!

So, here’s a quick review of that weirdest of things, The Seventh Curse.

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The Beast with Five Fingers

As a Christmas gift, I’ve just received a copy of W.F. Harvey’s collection The Beast with Five Fingers, a massive volume featuring fifty odd-stories by this lesser known British practitioner of supernatural and horror fiction.

A Quaker, Harvey had a degree in medicine and had served as a surgeon during the Great War, and writing was not his main career until his early retirement in 1925, aged 40, due to ill health (his lungs had been damaged during a rescue operation at sea during the war). The Beast with Five Fingers is probably his best-known short story, it was originally pyblished in The New Decameron in 1919, and gave the title to the author’s second collection, published in 1928.
In case you are interested, you can read it in Famous Modern Ghost Stories, a fine collection from the ’20s you can download for free as an ebook on the Project Gutenberg (and that features also Algernon Blackwood, Edgar Allan Poe, Robert W. Chambers and Ambrose Bierce, among many others).

And while I am waiting to find the time to read this beauty, last night I went and watched the movie featuring Peter Lorre that in 1946 was based on the Harvey story, and on a script by Curt Siodmak. And here’s my impressions.

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Leigh Brackett’s Birthday

Today is the birthday of Leigh Brackett, one of the most influential authors in the field of space opera and planetary romance, or if you prefer of sword & planet, a hard boiled writer and screenwriter, and the wife of Edmond Hamilton.

I first discovered Brackett in the mid 80s, with an Italian translation of The Sword of Rhiannon. Only twenty-odd years later I’d find out that the translation was heavily manipulated, but even in that unfaithful version, I was hooked.
The Skaith books followed – in English, the three Ballantine-Del Rey volumes. And then anything else, in whatever form I was able to find.

It is reading Leigh Brackett that I was made aware of the connection between pulp science fiction and hard boiled fiction. Someone observed that all of Brackett’s heroes were, in the end, Humphrey Bogart, even when they walked the alien dust of distant planets. And this is not a bad thing. By coupling the sense of wonder of the Golden Age of Science Fiction with the melancholy and cynicism of hard boiled, Brackett created a universe that had an incredible stopping power, and feel fresh and exciting seventy years on.

But instead of reading my ramblings, check out this article, called Queen of the Martian Mysteries, by the Michael Moorcock.

And afterwards, check out Black Amazon of Mars, and judge by yourself.


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Trigger, by Courtney Alameda

Having happily completed BUSCAFUSCO:  Fun & Games, and while I let it rest for a few hours before I hand it over to the Amazon oompa loompas, I decided to award myself a little diversion. And as far as A Job Well Done treats go, the Tor.com ebooks are absolutely perfect.

In case you missed them, these are stories – in the novelette/novella range – published as ebooks for cheap by the digital branch of Tor Books, purveyors of fine imaginative fiction.
They offer a wide selection of authors and genres within the science fiction/fantasy field, both well established and up-and-coming, and they are both a great, quick, affordable read and an excellent way to remain current with the latest authors and trends in the field.  

So I splurged 83 eurocents and got me a copy of Courtney Alameda’s Trigger, a tough and yet finely nuanced horror tale set in a San Francisco infested by a number of strange creatures.
The Helsing family is charged with commanding the special units of Harkers that hunt down and kill the monsters.
The story mixes horror and action, features a number of easter eggs for horror fans, and delivers a promising worldbuilding. The ebook promises a folow-up to this short piece, in the form of a novel, and I’ll be there to read it as soon as it’s out. 
In the meantime, Trigger is quite fun, and a perfect way to finish a long night of writing and insomnia.   


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Houdini & Doyle

A TV series canceled by Fox after a brief first season of ten episodes. Hadn’t we just left this party?

I have come to discover Houdini & Doyle, the 2016 series killed by Fox after ten episodes, through a circuitous way: I am currently watching, and enjoying, the 1920s whodonnit series Frankie Drake Mysteries, and I was trawling the web in search of details about the series leads.
I am particularly fond of the Mary Shaw character, as portrayed by Rebecca Liddiard, and through her IMDB profile I found a few series that looked promising.

Because after all, an intriguing premise and a star I like are enough for me to give a series a try.

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