East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


The Sistine Chapel with crayons

The moment they ask you to write a fantasy short, roughly 6000-words, taking inspiration from Italo Calvino, you sort of feel like you’re looking up at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel while holding a pack of eight crayons.
And you go, oh, shucks!

But let’s make it a little more interesting – not just any story, inspired by Calvino, but a sword & sorcery number, with action, wit and swordplay.
Inside a shared world.
Do you feel lucky, punk?

I did, and then, I needed the money.
So I went and wrote The Queen of Spades.

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A boy and his shark

MV5BNGU4ZWQ0YWMtMjI2My00YmJmLWFjNDAtM2U1NThlYTAyMzkzXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyODcwODg0OQ@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,388,1000_AL_It was because of my friend Lucy, that is growing restless while we wait for The Meg to hit the screens.
She did a post on an online magazine about shark movies, and she mentioned something that crawled back from my memory like a celluloid ghost – Ti-Koyo e il suo pescecane, a 1962 movie by Folco Quilici, known in the English-speaking world as Tiko and the Shark.
I had very vague recollections of the film, that I saw sometimes in the early ‘70s, when I was 7 or 8 years old.

I checked out Wikipedia for more info about the movie, and found a snippet of the original review, published in 1962 by La Stampa, the daily newspaper of the city where I grew up.

With its fairytale background, the film often has an intoxicating airiness, a pungent kindness; but it could and should become saturated with only the friendship with the shark, as a symbol of an escape from time. Instead, it gives the protagonist the second company of a beautiful little Chinese woman, who for love of the beautiful boy embraces the wild life. This is a coup out of Tarzan; Quilici charged too much the spectacular side of his film proposing a consortium man – woman – shark, really utopian for those who know the true female character. Just like he abused monologues.

The bit about the true female character and its connoisseurs, plus the snub aimed at Tarzan, convinced me that I needed to rewatch the movie, and write a post about it. Continue reading


22 Books, and then a few other

I just went through a nice piece on the Conde Nast Traveler website, called 22 Ambassadors Recommend the One Book to Read Before Visiting Their Country.
It’s the sort of article that’s been designed specifically to make me weep – foreign countries and excellent literature, and 22 books to read!

Screenshot from 2018-03-23 03-56-16And indeed, thankfully there’s a few titles I know, but still there’s a number of books in there that I have instantly put on my list.
Kurban Said’s Ali and Nino, for instance, a 1937 novel about a cross-cultural love story set in Baku, Azerbaijan, as suggested by Azerbaijani ambassador.
Or Treasures of the Thunder Dragon, a portrait of Buthan written by the queen of that Himalayan country.
And what about the Estonian alternate history of The Man Who Spoke Snakish? Continue reading

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The Form of Desire: Zenobia

zenobiaGood old Zenobia.
My personal ancient-history crush.

Julia Aurelia Zenobia was the queen that, proclaiming herself Imperatrix Romanorum, defied the power of Rome and led the ill-fated Palmyrene Rebellion. They went down fighting, and a good fight it was. And we have been taught by captain Mal Reynolds that being on the losing side does not always mean being on the wrong side too.

I like the old girl. Always liked her.
I like that particular period of the Roman history known as the Third Century Crisis, and I like Zenobia, a woman defying an empire. The stuff of great stories. The stuff of legend.

According to Wikipedia…

Zenobia has become a popular name for exotic or regal female characters in many other works

… and they go on listing Hawthorne, Wodehouse, Golding, Heinlein and Robert E. Howard.

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Introducing Acheron Books


Acheron Books is the first publishing house that produces Italian fantasy, science fiction and horror fiction and distributes it worldwide in the English language in e-book format.

Acheron’s distinctive quality is that it selects the best speculative fiction written by Italian authors who take inspiration from the rich Italian historical and folkloristic tradition.

The name “Acheron” represents the meeting of two worlds: Italian fantastic fiction, represented by the Acheron River from Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy and the mysterious Acheron Empire created by Robert E. Howard.

Acheron also means above all transformation and evolution.

This is why we chose as our symbol the Acherontia Atropos moth (one of the species of Death’s-head Hawk moth well known to the fans of “The Silence of the Lambs”): Italian speculative fiction remained closed for decades in national boundaries, and now, thanks to our English translations, it will transform and be available to readers all over the world.

What sets Acheron Books apart? Continue reading