Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Egyptomania goes to the movies, a review

Last year I was paid 50 bucks by an Italian magazine to review books not available on the Italian market and related to the Horror genre1. I did it, and the reviews were so successful that my 50 bucks gig was not renewed for the second year – it was not worth the investment.

Now, my contract having been dead for over six months, I thought I’ll reprise here some of those reviews, expanding and revising the text.
Screenshot from 2018-08-22 13-13-12If you like them, you might consider buying me a coffee or supporting me on Patreon. Unless you did already, in which case, thank you.
Should there be any interest, I will go on with new reviews using the same format.
Let me know what you think in the comments, please.

For starters, here’s a bit about a very interesting non fiction book, called Egyptomania goes to the Movies . Continue reading


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Arthur Conan Doyle’s Mummies

It is Arthur Conan Doyle’s birthday!
The man that gave us Sherlock Holmes and Professor Challenger deserves a little celebration, and what better way to celebrate a storyteller than through his stories?
So here we go – a Ladybird Horror Classic, The Mummy, based on ACD’s own Lot n. 249.
Enjoy!

And here you can get the original, as an illustrated PDF, as published by Harper’s Magazine.

 


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Building a better Lost World

It’s been pointed out to me that it’s damn hard finding a paleontologist these days, not to mention a paleontologist versed in science fiction.
I never thought of myself as a rare commodity before.
And as luck would have it, right now I am revising The House of the Gods, my novel of a lost world in the Amazon Forest, filled with dinosaurs and action.
In ten days I’ll send the final draft to my publisher, and then we’ll see.

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But in the meantime, why not do a little paleontology/science fiction post about my preparation work for the novel?
I’m a rare commodity, but I can be had – for a price. Continue reading


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Other People’s Pulps: That Carruthers chap

… and then they ask you where your ideas come from.
I was looking up M. Y. Halidom last night.
Halidom was the alias of one Alexander Huth, that published a number of supernatural tales and novels in the late 19th and early 20th century.
I learned of his existence when I found out about the three volumes of Tales of the Wonder Club, a collection of “club stories” about a bunch of individuals that meet in a pub (the quaintly-named “Ye Headless Lady”) to trade strange and chilling stories.

A small clique or brotherhood, known as “The Wonder Club,” had been nightly in the habit of assembling here for years, and this served to bring grist to the mill. Some of the eminent men from the neighbouring village, among whom were the doctor, the lawyer, an antiquary, an analytical chemist, and others, had formed among themselves a club, which was to consist only of very choice spirits, like themselves, and if any guest were introduced among them, it was only to be with a letter of introduction and the full consent of all parties. By these strict rules they hoped to keep the club select. A room at the inn was set apart for them, into which no one not belonging to the club ever presumed to enter, unless it was the landlord, who would be called every now and then to[7] replenish the bowl, and whom sometimes the guests of the club would “draw out,” as it was whispered in the village that the landlord of the “Headless Lady” knew a rare lot of stories, he did; also how to tell ’em, too, my word! but these he generally reserved for his more intimate customers. One strict law of the club that we have not yet mentioned was that no guest invited was to be a “business man.”

The set-up is strikingly similar to Ike Asimov’s Black Widowers stories, but here the slant is towards the weird, the horrific and the supernatural. With a bit of humor thrown in for good measure.
And to make things more fun for collectors, Huth that was Halidom published the first book of the series under another alias, Dryasdust.

Interested parties can find an illustrated edition of the three volumes of Tales from the Wonder Club on the Project Gutenberg.
I will probably post on each of the three volumes separately. Continue reading


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The Haunting of Pemberley House

pemberley-coversmallThere was only one man who could write a pulp homage to gothic romance, dragging in references from Jane Austen to Edgar Rice Burroughs, from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to Lester Dent, and beyond, while making it deliciously naughty.
And that man was, of course, the late lamented Philip José Farmer.
The Evil in Pemberley House by Farmer and Win Scott Eckert – who completed the novel based on Farmer’s outline and notes – is exactly that: a P.J. Farmer tour de force featuring subtle (and not-so-subtle) references and tongue-in-cheek plot twists, feeding both the old master and his readers’ obsession for the pulps and the icons of popular literature.

The plot in brief: Pat Wildman, daughter of world famous adventurer/crimefighter Doc Wildman, moves to England after the loss of her parents. She has inherited old Pemberley House, with its ghosts and its curses, and carries a number of unresolved issues herself.
But what is happening really in Pemberley House, and what connections have the events that Pat is witnessing with the history of her family? Continue reading


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The Peerless Peer

512ih9vpftL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_What with yesterday being the Wold Newton Event anniversary and all that, I spent my Sunday afternoon re-reading Philip José Farmer‘s The Peerless Peer.
And a rip-roaring read it was.

Now, in all honesty, The Peerless Peer is probably not the best of Farmer’s novels, but it is certainly a lot of fun.

In a nutshell: in 1916, the murder of a researcher in Egypt forces Mycroft Holmes to enlist the services of his brother Sherlock and of Dr Watson.
But Holmes alone can’t tackle the problem, and once in Africa, he will join forces with a notorious “eccentric” British peer. One that lives in a tree house he shares with an ape… Continue reading


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The (pulp) Lost World

There’s precious little pulp on TV these days – and in the past it was not better.
But sometimes I get lucky.

936full-the-lost-world-photoSummer has brought back to the Italian airwaves The Lost World, and I am a happy viewer again.

Now, I know many that do not like the series – not to the point of despising it, but let’s say it is not high in their appreciation where fantasy shows are concerned.
I’ll get to the main objection I registered later, because it is interesting.

Now, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World (that’s the complete title) is an Australian/Canadian show which takes its lead from the classic novel, and soon ditches most of the Conan Doyle plot and develops as a dinosaur-infested, lost-civilizations-laced, weird-science-loaded feast of pulpy goodness.

The basic premise – a band of heroes gets trapped on a plateau in South America, a lost world filled with… yeah, dinosaurs, monsters, lost cities, mysterious strangers, weird civilizations, relics from other times, crashed aliens, magic…
There’s even an access to the Hollow Earth!

The writing is fairly good, the effects are cheap but fun, the cast is competent, and adequate to the over-the-top premises of many an episode.
The main characters are a fine sample of pulp clichés…

. omni-competent scientist
. fearless big game hunter
. two fisted journalist
. unreliable femme fatale*
. fierce jungle queen*

Earlier seasons feature a second scientist character (as per original novel), sparking scientific and philosophical debate, acting avuncular and more importantly allowing the screenwriters to split the team.

And I’d welcome such a team at my gaming table, as it is the kind of ensemble which just sparks off stories: such a bunch of individuals would turn a jaunt down at the supermarket for snacks into an adventure.

tumblr_menwbumk7U1qzr8nao1_500Some of the recurring elements in the series are also highly entertaining.
There’s a civilization of lizard-men mimicking the Roman Empire.
There’s the afore-mentioned access to the Hollow Earth.
There’s the growing idea (actually turned into a solid plot element in the later seasons of the series) that the lost world plateau is sort of a time-distortion crossroads.

And then there’s everything else – including the kitchen sink.
Which is where many friends of mine start groaning.
There’s too much stuff, they say.
C’mon – dinosaurs today, aliens last week, yet another lost civilization next week…
How comes the science guy is able to build almost any kind of gadget, and yet he can’t telegraph home for rescue?
How comes they never run out of ammo?
How comes the women are always gorgeous, the guys alway handsome and athletic?

And yet, that is exactly what I like – because it’s in line with the classics.
Well, my kind of classics, anyway.
If it was good enough for Tarzan, or Doc Savage, why shouldn’t it be fine for a team of adventurers trapped on a plateau in South America, surrounded by dinos and weirdness?
Are we really counting shots and dissecting dinosaurs for plausibility?

All in all, to me, The Lost World remains a competent, fun, lightweight fantasy show – with some hidden gems lost among the many episodes.
Maybe it’s a guilty pleasure – but it is a pleasure indeed.

NOTE
* Yes, I know there’s no femme fatales or jungle queens in Conan Doyle. There should be.

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