East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


The first submission of the year

I have just mailed off to the editor the first submission of the year, a 3100 words story called The Melancholy of Princess Bilkis – a Tale of Zothique. As I have mentioned in a previous post, this is for me the opportunity to publish a story in celebration of Clark Ashton Smith, an author I greatly admire.

I wrote the whole story last night, starting at 1 am and finishing at 7 am. As soon as I finished my story, LibreOffice, which I used for the final edit and revision, froze three times in ten minutes, each time forcing me to recover the text and start anew. And then my PC hung, and restarted itself.

Let’s consider these hangups a sign that my story is good, and will probably sell, and the ghosts that haunt my house once again tried to make my life a little harder.

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Invoking the Emperor of Dreams

This is going to be an interesting weekend: I have a story I need to complete by Monday, and it’s turning into a headache. Its now 4 am in the morning as I write this (a very Lovecraftian state of affairs, don’t you think?) and I’ve started writing at 8 pm, and not a single word I wrote in these eight hours I did not cancel. repeatedly. And gladly so, because they sucked.

I have the outline, the plot points mapped, the characters and their names and traits and back story, I know what will happen, and how. The twist is there, and the drama and the irony. Everything’s perfect. What sucks, and sucks big time, is the language.

Continue reading


The Emperor of Dreams

Poet, author and artist Clark Ashton Smith was born on the 13th of January 1893, in a place called Long Valley Caldera, California.
An appreciated poet with a strong surreal and arabesque vein, he started writing and publishing weird fiction on H.P. Lovecraft’s suggestion, because he wasn’t making a living as a poet. His fiction is generally much more colorfuil and a lot sexier than HPL’s, and his macabre stories often feature a wry sense of humor.


You can find a good selection of CAS’ works in a site devoted to the author, The Eldritch Dark. Continue reading


Clark Ashton Smith on Fantasy

Clark Ashton Smith

Clark Ashton Smith (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been perusing the wondrous halls of The Eldritch Dark, a website devoted to the writings of Clark Ashton Smith.
Sometimes I like to go back to Smith’s fantasies, as his voice and his approach to prose – while impossible to equal – are a great source of inspiration.
The Eldritch Dark collects the stories and poetry by Smith, but also an ample selection of his letters and essays.
The following is a short recap of the author’s position regarding the narrative of the imagination.
It is well worth reading. Continue reading


Shadufs, prodigal sons, cuckolds and other anachronisms

anachronismLanguage in historical and pseudo-historical stories.
We talked about it back when The Great Swape/Shaduf Debate took place, and I also discussed briefly Ancient Profanities, Their Use and Abuse*.

I tend to give a modicum of attention to the words I use and the way my characters speak.
And I realize their speech patterns and usages are anachronistic.
Nennius Britannicus’ men speak like soldiers in a Viet-Nam movie – “C’mon boss, don’t be so square!”
Amunet’s speech patters vary with her mood – the more melancholy or worried or distracted she gets, the less polished her wording becomes – she says “Dunno” instead of “I don’t know” if she’s got something else on her mind.
Aculeo drops a lot of stuff – pronouns, particles, adverbs, he uses fewer words the more the situation’s heated and urgent – “You right, wench?”; but he can be articulated when he wants to play Amunet, for instance, “I guess I should be impressed by this Aegyptian whatchamacallit you did, right?” Continue reading


Stories from the deep future

echoesI’m having lots of fun reading Echoes of the Goddess, Tales of Terror and Wonder from the End of Time, a great collection of stories by Darrell Schweitzer, set in the same universe of the author’s popular and highly respected 1982 novel, The Shattered Goddess.

The eleven stories in the volume – which is available as an inexpensive ebook through Amazon – are set in a distant, decadent future, after a catastrophe of theological proportions (narrated in the novel mentioned above).
The setting and the mood recall Clark Ashton Smith’s Zothique and Jack Vance’s Dying Earth – the so called dying earth/end of times subgenre.

Now I am particularly interested in this subgenre, and I’m highly impressed by Schweitzer’s prose – the quality of the storytelling is such, that even a deceivingly light plot becomes multi-layered and highly satisfactory.
There is style and substance.
This is fantasy fiction, but a style of fantasy fiction and swords & sorcery that goes back to the roots of the genre, back to the pages of Weird Tales.
And yet, it is not just a nostalgia trip or a form of narrative archaeology.

The book was released by Wildside Press in february 2013, and is highly recommended.