Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Pandora in Krasnojarsk

For my next story, that will be part of the Seven Lives Project, I have put together a handful of pieces, like cards in a solitaire, or pieces of a puzzle. I will start writing the story tomorrow, and work on it for the whole week, and once it’s ready (hoping it’s ready in a week) I will translate it in Italian, and post it to my patrons.
This, at least, is a plan.

But right now, these are all the pieces I have…

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Karavansara U. – first courses

When you have a good idea (or one you think is a good idea), you better put it in practice as soon as possible. Hesitation is a trap. So, I mentioned my idea to present a selection of courses the readers of Karavansara might be interested in taking, using online platforms.

The rules of thumb (we can’t really call them by-laws) of the Karavansara University are quite simple:

  • free online courses
  • related to the topics we usually cover on this blog: adventure & historical fiction, fantasy & pulp, history, the East, the Silk Road, and the whole wide world

And with this in mind, here’s a first selection of five courses that might kindle your curiosity…

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A night out with Johnny Hawke

I first became aware of David Stuart Davies through his Holmes books and his work as editor on the mystery and supernatural anthologies for Wordsworth. I particularly liked Sherlock Holmes and the Hentzau Affair, a fun pastiche that crosses the Baker Street Detective with the Prisoner of Zenda.
If you read this blog, you understand how I find that mix irresistible.

But there’s another series of books by Davies that always intrigued me, and that’s the one that goes by the name of Johnny One Eye – and in the past two nights I’ve had the opportunity of reading Johnny’s first outing, Forests of the Night.

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Tea-time with Frankie Drake

I’m sticking to my idea of dropping out of Facebook between 5 and 6.30 PM, and my levels of stress are dropping fast. Just give a wide berth to the socials as people get out of work and pour their frustration online, that’s the trick.

During these 90 minutes of freedom, I’m checking my mail, listening to some music, and maybe watching some TV show. I went through YouTube’s Origin in a week, and right now I’ve found another thing that keeps me happy while I detox from the socials: it’s called Frankie Drake Mysteries, and it’s just my cup of tea.

Which is quite fitting, considering I’m watching it at tea-time, or thereabouts.

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Clio’s Days Off

An interesting question was raised a few days back from my friend Giulia, that manages the Liberi di Scrivere lit blog (only in Italian, sorry).
The question was, more or less

how much leeway do we have when writing historical fiction?

Meaning, how much can we change, distort, manipulate or basically rewrite historical fact to fit our narrative?

Now, I’m sure my friend Claire covered this subject somewhere on her Scribblings blog (and if she did not, she should), and Giulia’s question received lots of answers, some I liked, some I liked a lot less.
And right now I’d like to expand on my answer, that did go more or less like this: Continue reading


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On the joys of being an avid reader

92324624c6d8489f3ea8c99ff0865f30There was a time when I was a genre reader.
A single genre reader.
Which means I read mostly genre fiction, and mostly a certain genre of fiction – to wit, science fiction and fantasy (in their broader sense).

This changed, dramatically, when I was about eighteen years old.
There was no great epiphany, no great watershed moment, no single book I can nail as the one that opened the floodgates, but basically, when I was eighteen or thereabouts, I simply found out that I loved reading.
I loved stories, I loved the possibility of exploring different places, different characters, different situations.
Who cares about genre labels? Continue reading


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Tracks in the Snowy Forest

41msnsIInOL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_I’ll ramble a bit, if you don’t mind.
I’ve been looking for Tracks in the Snowy Forest for a while, now, without any luck.
I read a lot about it, summaries, criticism… but I still miss the real thing.
The book, written by Chinese author Qu Bo and published in 1957, was apparently published in English in 1962 – and never reprinted1. Alas, I can’t read Chinese.
The book – a thick affair over 500 pages long – is a historical novel. Or maybe not.
Based on true fact – to wit, the operations of a small unit of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army against warlords and bandit chieftains in North-Eastern China in 1946-1947 – it is nonetheless a novel, a work of fiction, and it was published ten years after the events. The author Qu Bo, took part in that PLA campaign, and the story is therefore based on his first-hand experiences.
Does it count as historical fiction?
Or is it something else – fictionalized autobiography?
Non-fiction novel?
I don’t know.

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