East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


The politics of sword & sorcery

As a writer and a long-time reader of fantasy I like to take a look sometimes at the state of the genre in the place where I live – in part because it’s a good strategy to keep an eye on the market, in part because this is, after all, my tribe, and I like to see what the tribesmen are doing.

Being irremediably old, I have no problem mentioning the fact I find the current over-excitement of a juvenile part of the public for what Ian McShane called Tits & Dragons somewhat tiring. When somebody pops up and tells me they like Robert E. Howard for the relentless violence, the explicit sex scenes and the obscenities peppering the dialogues, I despair about the state of the genre and for literacy in general.

But together with the fixation for “fantasy of hard knocks” – basically an alibi for writers to write to the minimum common denominator – there is a new trend that is not new but is positively scary: the derailment of fantasy on the part of politics.

Continue reading


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.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

The 2018 Christmas Book Haul, a gallery

Is there anything better than receiving a few Amazon Gift Credits for Christmas? Well, yes, there’s the fact that a few publishers are doing a massive holiday sale on their ebooks. And so one can indulge in that most decadent of pleasures–browse the Amazon shelves and just throw stuff in the shopping basket, without a care in the world.
Add the books that friends and family give you for Christmas, and you end up with a HUGE book haul.

So, why not put up a gallery?

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Plans and changes thereof

The old song Nothing Ever Goes as Planned by Styx should become my theme tune.
As I think I mentioned elsewhere, I have been writing like mad and I still am – lots of deadlines, lots of bills to pay.
And last night I finally decided that it’s thumbs down for Counterspinner, my hard-SF novella aimed at Tor.com.
The story is solid, and I like the way it’s shaping up, but quite simply I will not make it in time for the narrow submission window available.
Whichis a damn pity, but it is important to recognize one’s own limits.
I will still write it, but not now.

And on the other hand, renouncing an opportunity like an unagented submission for Tor.com is simply crazy.
But… Continue reading

Leave a comment

A visit to Goblin Tower

Goblin_towerThe Goblin Tower is a 1968 novel by Lyon Sprague de Camp, first in the series known as the Reluctant King.
The novel follows the adventures of the reluctant King Jorian, in fact an engineer and watchmaker, that by chance finds himself in the shoes of the king of Xylar. But tradition has it that the career of the king of Xylar has an expiration date – expiration being the proper word, as it ends on the hangman’s stock.
The frantic activity of our hero to abandon the title, the throne, and the country, before his position becomes too compromising sets the pace of the story. It is not that abroad things are any better, since all the nations of the continent are prey to a political and social eccentricity that slips into the grotesque.
And in the utterly lethal. Continue reading

Leave a comment

A Handful of Men

9781504047128_p0_v1_s192x300Last night I invested 2.99 bucks in an ebook bundle on Amazon. I was celebrating the sale of my pitch for my new monster novel, and felt like splurging.
So I bought myself the complete A Handful of Men by Dave Duncan. Four novels, over 1500 pages.
Born in 1933, Scottish-born Canadian author Duncan started publishing in the mid’80s, a fact that I have also found inspiring and reassuring – he started “old”, but he’s been able to line up over fifty novels, and collect a few awards.
It can be done.
Also, he is a geologist – just like me.
It can be done by geologists. Continue reading