Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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The nomad barter list

I stumbled on a conversation, last night, in a forum for nomad workers.
In case you missed it, cybernomadism or nomad working are the names usually given to those that have a location independent job or cybercommute while traveling around.
I was a small-scale nomad worker in the first decade of the 21st century, when I moved between universities to peddle my post-grad and post-doc courses, while working via the web with various clients and colleagues.

Anyway, last night’s discussion was on the following: what skills can you trade on the road?
In other words, what knowledge would you be able to barter for food, lodging, services or what else. Continue reading

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Lessons learned, stories told

So, now is the time for the sort of post that goes things that I have learned writing a short srtory in one day.
My guru tells me this is the sort of post that brings readers like, in cartloads, and so here we go.

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The first thing one learns in this kind of exercise is I can still make it!
Which is very good because if we do not boost our enthusiasm ourselves, nobody will.
This time I did it as a game, but the ability to stick to the story and bring it to a (satisfactory? One hopes so) conclusion, is vital.
Deadlines are a thing. Continue reading


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Dancing with the Pharaohs

This is a bit of a ranty post, so bear with me.
OK, I have often written about the Turin Egyptian Museum, the second largest collection of Egyptian antiques in the world, the place where I used to hang out with my friend back when I was in school.

pharaoh zumba

Today, the news that the Museum hosted a night of Zumba fitness dance hit me like a ton of bricks.
OK, I thought, the guys are kidding.
No, they were not. Continue reading


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The dark side of storytelling

This one is going to be a little rambling, so please bear with me.

I’ll start by saying that I hate gossip.
In real life, I mean.
No problem with gossipy characters in stories, but let us say that I’ve been the object of gossip campaigns in the past that caused a lot of grief, to me and others, so there, hatred is an empty feeling, but I do hate gossip, and gossip-mongers.

gossip

Now, I always considered gossip a form of sick entertainment – and indeed it is rife in all those places you see listed in notices at the start of DVD movies: schools, prisons, air bases, cruise ships, Antarctic ice stations…
Any place where you can’t legally show a rented DVD but in which you can legitimately set a slasher horror movie, is where you’ll find gossip thriving.
It’s a thing worth considering. Continue reading


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Doctor Mana’s Pocket Guide to Talent for Writers

work-ethic-quotesLast night I got caught up in a discussion about talent.
I find the subject as fascinating as useless.
I usually tend to stay clear of people claiming to possess talent, or to be somehow indentured to it.

To me, talent is like Luminiferous ether.
Quoth Wikipedia:

Ether, or luminiferous Ether, was the hypothetical substance through which electromagnetic waves travel. It was proposed by the greek philosopher Aristotle and used by several optical theories as a way to allow propagation of light, which was believed to be impossible in “empty” space.

So here follows my own little collection of talent-related quotes.
Enjoy. Continue reading


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Rough & Cheap

I’ve just left a conversation in which the works of Robert E. Howard, and his Conan stories in particular were described as rough and cheap.
Now, I beg to differ.
Granted, at his worst Howard was basically a competent storyteller, compensating with darkness and pathos his lack of a good story. But at his best, Howard’s Conan was not cheap, and was not rough.

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Being notoriously incapable of letting a matter rest when it peeves me, I’ll summarize my points here. Continue reading


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The Road of Kings: Conan and Italian Opera (probably)

Sometimes good ideas are not.
Foreign-sounding names for characters, for instance.
Apart from the vaguely Welsh/Gaelic/Tolkienoid elves and the alphabet soup of Lovecraftian monsters (of which my favorite, if apocryphal, remains “Shuub-Wankalot”), a name can make or break a character.
A basic trick I was taught long ago when naming secondary characters in my fantasy stories is to select a geographic area that somehow has the same feel of the place from which my character comes, get a map, jot down a few place names, and then tweak them a little, moving vocals around or cutting and pasting names.
Et voilà, instant names for characters.

The method can backfire spectacularly – in the 1959 version of Journey to the Center of the Earth we meet Frau Göteborg, as portrayed by gorgeous Arlene Dahl; the scriptwriters thought that, if London and Washington are legit family names for Brits and Yanks, then Swedish ladies could be called Göteborg, the second largest city in Sweden. They were wrong.
Much hilarity ensued when the movie was distributed in Sweden.

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The name is Goteborg, Frau Goteborg.

But there’s an even more spectacular example of “foreign” sounding names backfiring. A case in which a fine, no indeed an excellent writer, played fast and loose with naming conventions, and probably having listened to a few opera records too many, created a surreal experience for some of his readers.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, Karl Edward Wagner’s Conan and the Road of Kings. Continue reading