Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Odds & Ends #10

I have just posted the tenth Odds and Ends to my Five Bucks Brigade patrons. This week, a biography of Julius Caesar written by one of the fathers of spy fiction, a treasure trove of curious facts on films courtesy of the BBC, two stories by Algernon Blackwood… narrated by Algernon Blackwood, a big pile of cookbooks and a recipe app.
Plus a few free ebooks.
Because it’s good to be my Patrons.


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Stranded on a mysterious island

Tell me if this sounds familiar: a bunch of strangers from all walks of life are thrown together by mysterious events and find themselves stranded on a mysterious volcanic island. They are not alone, there’s monsters and other survivors in the trees, and an underground compound filled with strange tech, a self-destruct mechanism and what else. The main characters have different skills and backgrounds – there’s a doctor, a criminal, a fat nerdy guy, a bald savvy guy, a sportsman, a businessman etc – and they have to find a way to work together to survive, solve the mystery of the island and go back home. We get flashbacks of the characters’ previous lives, and the first season ends on a massive cliffhanger.

And it’s not Lost.
It’s a strange, derivative but cool animated series produced in China, and based on a comic book. It’s called Mi Yu Xing Zhe, or Uncharted Walker in English. It was aired early in 2018 and it is not half bad.

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Boobs

I was never big on superhero comics. Back when I was a kid I retrieved a big stack of Nembo Kid that had belonged to my uncle, from the attic in my grandmother’s house. For the uninitiated, Nembo Kid was the Italian name of Superman in the ’50s – and the magazine printed a number of stories featuring Superman (and various Superboy and Supergirl stories), Batman and the Flash. I was seven or eight, it was good fun.

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Precious books

I’ve been asked, on Twitter of all places, about my most precious book. I gave a quick-and-easy answer, because it was a game and Twitter is not a place for complex discussions, but I also thought it would be a good idea for a post on Karavansara.

And the point is, of course, defining “precious”.
Are we talking about the monetary value of the thing, or are we talking something more subtle, like personal value, affection, memories?
Let me see…

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Algernon Blackwood

Today marks the 150th birthday of British writer Algernon Blackwood, one of the great authors of supernatural fiction, whose work influenced the likes of William HopeHodgson, H.P. Lovecraft, C.A. Smith, Ramsey Campbell and many others.

Born in 1869, Blackwood was a member of the Golden Dawn, and had a versed interest in matters mystical and supernatural

My fundamental interest, I suppose, is signs and proofs of other powers that lie hidden in us all; the extension, in other words, of human faculty. So many of my stories, therefore, deal with extension of consciousness; speculative and imaginative treatment of possibilities outside our normal range of consciousness…. Also, all that happens in our universe is natural; under Law; but an extension of our so limited normal consciousness can reveal new, extra-ordinary powers etc., and the word “supernatural” seems the best word for treating these in fiction. I believe it possible for our consciousness to change and grow, and that with this change we may become aware of a new universe. A “change” in consciousness, in its type, I mean, is something more than a mere extension of what we already possess and know.

Algernon Blackwood

Today, Algernon Blackwood is remembered chiefly for his short story The Willows, that is considered a classic of weird fiction, The Wendigo, that is the definitive story about this creature from Native American folklore, and for the John Silence stories featuring an early occult detective.
All these, and a lot more, can be found on the pages of Project Gutenberg.

To me, Blackwood will forever remain the author of The Valley of the Beasts, another story based on Native American folklore and one that caused me quite a scare when I was about ten or eleven years old.

Blackwood died in 1951, and here is something from 1949, when he related one of his strange stories, on film. Enjoy!
(and lookout – as the opening card says, this is for adult audiences)


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The formula

This morning I spent a few minuted talking with a friend and colleague about a book he has abandoned halfway through and about which I never went beyond the Amazon preview. In about of self-assuredness, I mentioned the fact that a book like that I can write in two weekends. Which was not meant literally, but close to it. Let’s say I can crank out ten thousand words a day – two weekends, starting on Friday evening, would mean 50.000/60.000 words in two weekends.
Nice and smooth.

I mentioned this to another friend, about half an hour ago – she’s writing a series, and she was taking a break, and we exchanged a few messages. The point of the discussion was – the time-consuming part is not typing (and she’s a much faster typist than I am), but coming up with good ideas.
Ideas about plot twists, character traits and interactions, ideas about dialogue.
Good ideas and the research to stimulate and back them are the critical point, and they are time consuming.

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The Mako Mori test

The Bechdel Test has been used in these last few years as an index of the degree … something.
Basically to pass the Bechdel test, a story (originally a movie, but it works for any narrative) must feature two female character, both with a name, that share a dialogue in which they do not talk about a man.
It’s been pointed out that the Bechdel test – that originally started as a joke in a satirical comic strip – is a useful tool to spot gender inequality, but beyond that, it’s very much a matter of hand-waving.

A story can pass the Bechdel and still be a pile of drivel, while a story can fail it spectacularly and still be a good, solid, fun and significant story.
Case in point?
Debbie does Dallas passes the Bechdel, Fistful of Dollars does not.
Ouch.

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