East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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Triple treat: At the Table of Wolves

If you are reading my blog you know there are a number of things that interest me: pulp fiction old and new, adventure, science fiction and fantasy, history, occasionally comics, caper movies, espionage…
“The kid has too many interests,” as the teachers used to write in their final evaluation … indeed, I was in the third year of university when a teacher levelled at me the old “too many interests” mark of infamy.

But it has worked out fine so far, and sometimes a number of interests of mine collide, and it’s a lot of fun. Case in point, Kay Kenyon’s 2017 novel At the table of wolves, that I have kept on my nightstand for a few months now, and finally started reading seriously at the start of the week, going through it at a fair clip.

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Just let me write this blues away: 2000 words

I have just churned out 2000 words out of nowhere, in a single sitting. One hour. My hands hurt, I need a cool drink, but now here I have the first half of a short story that’s absolutely unwanted, and that will never find a home. It’s a free writing exercise, the sort of thing that happens when I say frell it all, let me just write!
It’s also sort of a prequel of my novella Parabellum Serenade, that I’ll (hopefully) will self-publish this autumn.

It’s a war story, set in an alternate timeline in which the Great War spun out of control as the Bolshevik Revolition spilled into the West, and the resulting mess of revolts and military coups intersected the great epidemic of Spanish Flu, and then things went down the drain.
Someone might label it Dieselpunk, or whatever.

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Fighting the Kaiser in the American South-West

Alternate history.
I like that a lot – you get the best of both worlds, a solid historical background, and a fun science fiction/fantasy/what if angle and plot.
I did write a few alternate histories in my time, and of course Hope & Glory is a huge alternate history universe.
So yes, I like that.

And while I don’t read that much alternate history anymore, I am in the habit of keeping a few books as an emergency stash for bad moments, and one, in one of my surprise book boxes, happened to be an alternate history book.
And I’m having a go at it.

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The end of the Empire

british_empire_board_game_boxMy course on the British Empire and its Controversies, held by the teachers and researchers of Exeter University and hosted by Futurelearn ends this week.

It’s been a great learning experience – fun, thought-provoking and all-around satisfying.
As part of the last installment, I have to write a 300-words-minimum essay.

“We’d like you to write a minimum of 300 words about what you think the legacy of the British Empire has been.”

And I thought… why not start and think about it and jot down some notes here? Continue reading


Translating myself – slowly

220px-Robert_E._Howard_in_1923Back in 2009 I planned, almost completed and partially published a cycle of three alternate history stories centered on the character of Robert E. Howard, with H.P. Lovecraft as a co-star.

In The Ballad of Bobbie Howard, I imagined a universe in which both the author of Conan and the Providence Recluse are women.

Then, in The Shape of Things to Come (yes, I know, not very original, as a title), I imagined a universe in which both Howard and Lovecraft surviving their early demises, and living a long and productive life – REH as a Hollywood screenwriter and HPL as the director of Weird Tales.

Finally, in Lone Star, I wrote about a balkanizad post-depression America, in which Texas rebels led by Howard face their final showdown against the troops of President Lovecraft, leader of the pretty fascistic Eastern Coalition. Continue reading


Free Ebook

In 2006 I wrote a novella, called Gli Anni del Tuono (The Years of Thunder) – Renaissance warfare in a world in which Frederic II had developed mecha or, if you like, mobile suits.
In the 16th century, chivalry means being a good mathematician and engineer, riding a fulminate-powered big robot in battle, surrounded by your peers.
But not all campaigns turn out for the best, and back at home, the serfs are restless.

thunder cover titleThe story – heavily influenced by a great “what if” article by Matthew Rossi – was published the following year in Alia Italia, a short story anthology published in Turin by Coop-Studi.
My piece – which received good reviews – was graced by a beautiful painting by my friend Dalmazio Frau, a fine artist and a well-respected illustrator.

Two years later, together with other Alia conspirators, we were offered the opportunity of having some of our works read by the editors of a Chinese SF magazine.
We picked what we thought was our best work, and I translated the stories in English.
I re-edited my Renaissance mecha story, and changed the title to Clad in Steel and Thunder, which I thought was rather fitting.

As it normally happens (I guess) when an author translates his own work, translation also meant editing.

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