Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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The man who sculpted Cthulhu: Stephen Hickman (1949-2021)

I first became aware of Stephen Hickman’s work when I saw the Cthulhu idol the artist sculpted, and that has become to many the definitive look of Big C. In fact, Hickman’s work had been under my eyes for ages, starting with the Dragaera covers he did for Steven Brust, to illustrations for Tolkien and Conan comics and an iconic Harlan Ellison cover.

As a person severely impaired from a graphical point of view, I am forever fascinated by the ability some people have to express themselves through shapes and colors.
Stephen Hickman, who passed away this week, was a great artist and a visual storyteller.
Here is a small gallery of his works (click on the images to enlarge).


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Trying a different approach

I’m trying something different for my next story, and I thought I’d tell you about it because… ah, because as usual, doing these things in public forces me to go through with them, can’t make any excuse and waste my time watching Youtube videos and stuff.

So, I am about to write a fantasy story set in a world without gods, in which magic is devastatingly dangerous, and in which life conditions are harsh.
Really harsh.
Blunder-and-you’re-dead kind of harsh.

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What we learned in Lankhmar and Shadizar (and other places)

About two years back – if memory serves – when a lot of kids started manifesting and asking for better environmental policies and immediate action, someone observed that it wasn’t surprising if a generation that had grown up with fantasy novels in which kids confronted authoritarian governments now wanted to take direct action to right what they perceived as wrongs.

And indeed, I have always said, when talking about the positive effects of roleplaying games, that you can’t spend one afternoon every week, for years, playing a hero, without some of the principles rubbing off on you.
Yes, we’ve all played rogues and adventurers, but in the end we were the good guys and – if the master was worth their keep – we never went off the rails.

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Escaping the pull of the past

A lot of people I know are re-reading old books. About two hours ago, I caught a vlog from an old friend, about how he’s re-reading some old Terry Brooks, because there’s nothing new that he finds attractive.
he probably read too much fantasy way back when, he said, and today’s offer is only urban fantasy or paranormal romance, and he does not care about that.

And I thought… really?

And do not get me wrong – I am pretty sure much of what’s being translated in my country right now is drivel, but the idea that “there’s nothing new” still makes me cringe.
There is good stuff out there – like, in cartloads.
And of course, as my poor mom used to say, “if you never read it before, it’s new”, and I’m all for reading what we missed in the past, and enjoying it.
But re-reading because there is nothing new?
Sorry, no.

We must resist the pull of the past, because I think that’s a sure sign we are getting old and losing our curiosity and our spirit of adventure. Maybe it’s because as we age, we do not feel like wasting time anymore, and we are scared at the idea of sacrificing a week for a bad book – a week nobody will ever give us back.
But being alive means looking for new things.

So I thought I’d point out a few titles I found very interesting recently.
Just for the sake of discussion.

  • Linda Nagata – Stories of the Puzzle Lands.
    Two novels in a single volume, that put a nice spin on a lot of classic tropes, and might take you by surprise, but in a very pleasant way.
  • Gareth Hanrahan – The Gutter Prayer.
    First in a series, good if you want to find the thrill of those old D&D games, and you like intrigue and urban settings.
  • P.W. Lewis – Kung Fu Fighting Vampire Mermaids.
    You know you are going to read this one just because of the title. And the cover art. But it’s fun, and weird and… weird.
  • Rob J. Hayes – Never Die.
    One of the best books I read this year. Oriental sword & sorcery, great characters, great story.
  • Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda – Monstress.
    This is a comic book, but it’s absolutely amazing.

So there you have it – fantasy is alive and well, and says Hi! to us all.


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My very own canon

There’s been a lot of talking about “the canon”, after the recent meltdown at the Hugo Ceremony. You know, this idea that there is a big fat backlong of science fiction and fantasy books you just have to read to “get into” the genre. Books that act as gateway, and form the backbone of our genre of election.

The problem with all canons is that they tend to fossilize, and also can exert a sort of gravitational pull. There’s “canons” for everything, from jazz and rock’n’roll to movies to recipes and comic books.

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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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Lunch break at the Outpost

Today was another good day – I mailed a translation and a chunk of gaming-related material, and then I did some improvisational cooking to put together some lunch. As I was eating, I checked out the first two episodes of a series I did not know, called The Outpost.

Let’s pilfer the summary from Wikipedia:

The Outpost follows Talon (Jessica Green), the lone survivor of a race called ‘Blackbloods’. Years after her entire village is destroyed by a gang of brutal mercenaries, Talon travels to a lawless fortress on the edge of the civilized world, as she tracks the killers of her family. On her journey to this outpost, Talon discovers she possesses a mysterious supernatural power that she must learn to control in order to save herself, and defend the world against a fanatical religious dictator.

Oh, my…

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