Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Dark Schneider is back: Netflix’s Bastard!!

I admit I was worried.
Bastard!! was one of the anime/manga series that I remembered from the ’90s – over the top, seriously silly, filled with bouncing breasts and juvenile humor, together with a setting straight out of AD&D and a plot that was basically an excuse to show more violence and, yes, more toned thighs and bouncy breasts. The brainchild of a guy that was a self-admitted fan of heavy metal music and roleplaying games, it was the quintessential late ’80s/early ’90s … thing.
And it was all right.

But now?
We are in 2022, and Bastard!! is back, and on Netflix.
And I heard a few people worrying about the dread effects of political correctness and “wokeness” (I heard grown men cry because in one snippet of preview they caught sight of two women kissing), but I was much more worried about the fad for “grimdark” – after all, with a main character that’s called Dark Schneider, and a tagline that reads “Heavy Metal Dark Fantasy”, Bastard!! is the sort of anime that could easily get the grimdark treatment, for the viewing pleasure of all the sociopaths out there.

So yes, I was worried.
And I was not happy at all with the Italian dubbing, so I dropped the series after about 5 minutes.

But I was able to finally get an English dub (not my first choice, I prefer subs myself), and while Dark Schneider still sounds too damn youthful for my tastes – and the dub fails to capture the surprisingly and hilarious vulgar Japanese of the original – I finally sat down and watched the series.

For the uninitiated, Bastard!! (the two exclamation points are required) is a sword & sorcery series set in a post-apocalyptic world that’s regressed to medieval level. The four kingdoms are being menaced by a dark army hell bent on resurrecting an ancient goddess, and the only hope for humanity is Dark Schneider, a centuries old evil wizard that was once the leader of the dark army – but has been trapped inside a kid’s body these last 15 years.

The series follows Dark Schneider’s exploits after he’s been brought back – and he has to face his former allies to protect the few people he’s come to care for.

And I am happy to report that the new incarnation of Bastard!! is still a lot of fun, it is still incredibly silly, and nicely padded with bouncy breasts and juvenile humor. It is violent, stupid and inappropriate, but it is happily free of angsty grimdark trappings. Bastard!! winks and laughs out loud too much to be grimdark. It does indeed look like something that reached us from, say 1991 via some rip in space-time.
It is also pretty close to the original comics as I remember them from thirty years ago.
The character design is very ’90s, but the animation’s better – and we get new music on the soundtrack.

All in all, silly entertainment – not the sort that shakes the pillars of civilization or changes the life of the viewer, but in this time, in which TV is trying to feed us fake memories of how it was to play AD&D in the ’80s, it is good to find a show that actually captures with surprising accuracy the mix of cliché, silliness, wanton destruction, inappropriate jokes and loud music that characterized those saturday afternoons, so many years ago.


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A big summer reads bundle

Humble Bundle teamed up with Aconyte Books (my publisher!) to offer a big bundle of gaming-related fiction – horror from the Arkham Horror universe, fantasy from both The Descent and Legend of Five Rings, science fiction from Twilight Imperium and many others.

22 books for less than 20 bucks, and part of the money goes to Worldreader, a charity helping children getting into reading.
The books are in pdf and epub format, DRM-free.
It’s an excellent value for money offer, and you do some good too.

The bundle includes The Devourer Below, the Arkham Horror collection that features my short story All my friends are monster, currently a finalist in the Scribe Awards.

Check it out, if you feel like. The offer is open for 20 days starting today.


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And the first review is in…

The Raiders of Bloodwood hits the digital shelves next week (the paperback will be out in September), and already the book received a rave review on Goodreads – five stars and all.
This is the power of the ARCs.

Mana’s storytelling is wonderful, they create both tension and suspense in equal measures to engage and keep us hooked. The characters while not all my favourites were all likeable in their own ways and had some interesting arcs throughout. I was personally biased to Brix but anyone who knows me probably saw that coming.

You can find the whole thing here.

And yes, I always knew Brixida ‘Brix’ Lovell was a winner.

What I did not know – nor could I imagine, or hope for – was that one day my work would be compared to Dragonlance – quite a compliment, for a gaming-related novel.

In the next few days, if anyone’s interested, I’ll do a number of posts on the book, the characters, my experiences writing it and all that.

In the meanwhile, we wait for the other ARC reviews to drop.
There will be negative reviews – it can’t be avoided, because we cannot please everyone, and the only perfection is in the talk of those that talk about it, but don’t do it.
But we’ll see the bad reviews when they come.
Right now, I am quite happy.


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Sherlock Holmes, Thomas Carnacki and friends

Just a quick post to share the news that two stories of mine are out in two volumes edited by John Linwood Grant for Belanger Books.

The haunting of Fox Lanes is one of the 18 stories in The Book of Carnacki the Ghost Finder, a collection of Carnacki apocrypha.

And in the third volume of the (at the moment) four-volume series Sherlock Holmes & the Occult Detectives, I bring back occult detective and adventuress miss Valerie Trelawney (as seen in The case of the Manchester Mummies) for a second outing in The adventure of the Stealer of Souls. Who would have imagined that a character I invented when I was in high school would appear in two stories published internationally forty years later!

Incidentally, thanks to Belanger Books, I have so far written stories about Holmes, Carnacki and colonel Sebastian Moran. Not bad, if I do say so myself.