Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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The (Japanese) Black Cat

Let’s get back to our usual topics – strange stories and the East and adventure and flashing swords.
I’ve been spending a lot of time, this weekend, doing some background research for my current “mainstream” project – basically listening to music and watching documentaries about Japan, to catch a sense of place, because my story will have a Japanese side.
As it usually happens, research is changing and stretching the original concepts, and writing will be a fine game of balancing the original plot and the new elements.
It’s going to be fun, hopefully.

But all this also caused me to think back at the strange connection there is between my generation, here in Italy, and Japan. We were the ones that were in their early teens when the big anime invasion began (with stuff like captain Harlock and Mazinger Z), but I always thought there’s something deeper.
Samurai movies, and old documentaries.
For instance – I was in primary school when I caught on the telly Kaneto Shindo’s Kuroneko – the movie had been presented a few years before at the Cannes Movie Festival before it was cancelled because of the 1968 riots, and was being used to test the video walls in Turin during the Technology Fair.

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Basically, if you lived in Turin in the early 1970s, during the Fair you caught extra movies in the morning, movies that were broadcast locally. Continue reading


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Very short stories

Short stories are tough.
There is this sort of… not really a debate, more like a feud, between those that Novels are proper literature, short stories are for losers and those that short stories are the true distillation of talent, any hack can write a 1000-pages trilogy given enough time and coffee.
Both are wrong, of course, and both are right, because the fact is, it’s not a binary system – there’s a whole lot of shades and issues there.

I write mostly short stories and novellas.
I feel comfortable with the word-count, and they make for reasonably fast writing, meaning I can sell them quick and keep the creditors at bay.
Sometimes I write longer stuff.
All formats have their pros and cons.
My favorite word-count is probably within the 8.000-to-12.000 words range. Shorter, I usually feel cramped, longer, I usually need a lot of time and planning and things get somewhat rambling. Continue reading


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In Cuba, during the war

It can be argued that Ernest Hemingway was one of those authors that turned their own life into a story they were writing and selling.
Whether it was a conscious effort or an unplanned consequence of a number of circumstances I cannot say, but it’s certain that “Hemingway” was not just a set of books, but also a style, an attitude, a lifestyle.
A brand and a platform, modern marketeers might say.
Look at all those photographs.
We don’t have as many shots of, say, Raymond Chandler or Dorothy Parker, they are not so widely circulated.

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It is not surprising then if Ernest Hemingway became the subject of other people’s fiction. Continue reading