East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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Two games for 50th birthday

Like most history and gaming buffs, I have been a long-time fan of Osprey Books, and was quite surprised – and delighted – when they started publishing games too a few years back.
My friend Andrea Sfiligoi of Ganesha Games is one of their authors, which is to me a sort of quality guarantee – if they work with Andrea they are my kind of gaming company.

And right now I’ve found out that this year, barring disasters, I’ll be splurging on a few titles from Osprey Games, because they have quite obviously been designed specifically for me… and one will be out in time for my birthday.

And now it’s true, I don’t honestly know where I’ll be on my next birthday, because there’s still ten weeks to go, and if I’ll be able to afford to buy me games, or if I’ll be living in a shelter for the poor, but what the hell, as Blondie used to sing, Dreaming is free.

And just look at these beauties… Continue reading


India’s Illuminati: The Nine Unknown Men

Strange – or not so strange – connections.
I was going through the Talbot Mundy catalog and, leaving Yasmini behind for a moment, I checked out The Nine Unknown, one of Mundy’s most Theosophical novels, originally published in 1923 in Adventure magazine.


And I mentioned it with my brother, who is the serious Orientalist in our home, and thus I found out that the Nine Unknown Men are not something the Theosophists or Mundy cooked up, but are actually part of the real history of India. Continue reading

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80 years with and without Lovecraft

Today is the 80th anniversary of H.P. Lovecraft’s death.
I think I read all of the Gentleman’s stories, multiple times, and I liked them quite a bit.
I discovered HPL in high school, when I was reading all the fantasy and SF and horror (but not much horror) I could lay my hands on. Then I re-read it while in university, back when all of a sudden HPL was starting to make the news, to be critically appreciated. And I still read some of his better stories now and then, for nostalgia’s sake.
Now, according to a sort of scientific study I did with my old friend Fabrizio, the Lovecraftian reader’s evolution goes through three phases: Continue reading


Mapping India

As I think I mentioned I’m working on the last parts of the Hope & Glory handbook, and I’m checking out my resources and trying to turn two boxes of loose sheets, post-it notes and scrawled ideas into 45.000 words of highly playable gaming material.

Now, geography is important – and as the first Hope & Glory book will focus on the Anglo-Indian Raj, a good solid overview of the Indian sub-continent might be appreciated by the players.
And here’s the rub.

Selection_570Because Gordon Johnson’s Cultural Atlas of India is a wonderful read, but when it comes to the breakdown of the Indian sub continent into smaller chunks, of course uses the current political division – and it’s not just a matter of calling Uttar Pradesh what once was the United Provinces.
There’s lots of information in here, but it’s information about today’s India.
And what I need is India in 1850.
The best book I was able to find is the John Murray 1859 edition of A Handbook of India: being an account of the Three Presidencies and of the Overland Route; intended as a guide for Travelers, Officers and Civilians that is as lightweight, as amusing and as easily accessible as the title suggests. Continue reading

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PC problems

Like some guys say, when it rains, it pours – last night my PC caused me a bad panic attack, as it simply went dead dead dead on me.

I was able to backup all the essential data using an old laptop and a wonderful thingie, a cable that allows me to access a HD as if it were a USB drive, and after much cursing and a few hours spent copying data… my PC started up again.

But it’s not a good sign.
So, should I disappear all of a sudden for a few days, you’ll know it’s because the PC died, and I don’t have the money to buy a new one or have the old one fixed.

In the meantime, I’ll haver to write faster.
More work done, more money paid, maybe a second-hand coal-powered PC on the shopping list in case of emergency.

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Getting re-acquainted with Yasmini

mundy-271x300I’m working on the final chapters of the Hope & Glory basic handbook, and at the same time I am preparing the new episode of the KaravanCast, and both activities, while taking very different times – no less that three hours of writing per day for the handbook, about ten minutes per day for the podcast – led me to an old acquaintance of mine: Talbot Mundy.

My creed is this: God is a gentleman.
And if God made the Universe, and made it well,
And since our duty is to be like God,
Therefore the things that common mortals do
Are better done; the thoughts the others think
Are better thought, by gentlemen.

Adventure's_Soul_of_a_RegimentMundy was one of the titans of imaginative and adventure fiction, a stalwart of Adventure magazine in its heyday and a distinctively anti-colonialist author.
And Hope & Glory being a universe in which British colonialism in India takes a very different and radical direction away from what history records, Mundy is certainly the most influential author for the project.

Mundy has been compared to Kipling, to Rider Haggard and sometimes to Lamb, even occasionally to Burroughs – but he remains very much his own man.

So I told myself, why not re-read a few Mundy books, and as I am at it, do a podcast on the subject? Continue reading


Pulp & Politics: Blake’s 7

The joys of Youtube.
I’ve spent the last few nights watching old episodes of the BBC’s Blake’s 7, a space opera series that aired between 1978 and 1981, and that was never distributed in my country.
And I must say I’m positively impressed.


Because it’s an old show, and produced on a very short and frail shoestring budget, but what the heck, it’s good fun and great storytelling. Continue reading