Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Atlantis, Lemuria and Mu

Lost continents are a lot of fun, and have been used as the venue for sword & sorcery adventures since the the every beginning. Robert E. Howard’s Kull was an Atlantean barbarian, and Conan plied his trade after the sinking of Atlantis, and I really always had a soft spot for Henry Kuttner’s Elak of Atlantis, hero of a short series of stories I first read in the mid ’80s. And of course Lin Carter’s Thongor roamed Lemuria and environs, lands crowded with sorcerers, strange technology and dinosaurs.

In the recent evenings, I’ve had a lot of fun with Heroes of Atlantis & Lemuria, recently published by DMR Books.

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Five books that got me started

Over at her place, my friend Jessica Bakkers posted a list of the six books that made her what she is, as a writer. Great idea. It’s fun, it’s easy to put together in the form of a post, and we are always ready to learn more about the writers we follow, and maybe find out a few new books to read.
So, why not steal Jessica’s idea?

Now, I actually already did something similar, a while back, listing the authors that had most influenced me. The ones I wish I was as good as. A shortened list, one that I could (and maybe will) expand.
But let’s look at this thing from another angle.

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Leigh Brackett’s Birthday

Today is the birthday of Leigh Brackett, one of the most influential authors in the field of space opera and planetary romance, or if you prefer of sword & planet, a hard boiled writer and screenwriter, and the wife of Edmond Hamilton.

I first discovered Brackett in the mid 80s, with an Italian translation of The Sword of Rhiannon. Only twenty-odd years later I’d find out that the translation was heavily manipulated, but even in that unfaithful version, I was hooked.
The Skaith books followed – in English, the three Ballantine-Del Rey volumes. And then anything else, in whatever form I was able to find.

It is reading Leigh Brackett that I was made aware of the connection between pulp science fiction and hard boiled fiction. Someone observed that all of Brackett’s heroes were, in the end, Humphrey Bogart, even when they walked the alien dust of distant planets. And this is not a bad thing. By coupling the sense of wonder of the Golden Age of Science Fiction with the melancholy and cynicism of hard boiled, Brackett created a universe that had an incredible stopping power, and feel fresh and exciting seventy years on.

But instead of reading my ramblings, check out this article, called Queen of the Martian Mysteries, by the Michael Moorcock.

And afterwards, check out Black Amazon of Mars, and judge by yourself.


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Women’s Day and book suggestions

maudfealyHere we go.
It’s the International Woman’s Day, and I thought… why not do a post about women authors I love?
A post about those authors whose books have influenced my writing, setting a very high standard and making me go

“That’s what I want to write! That’s the way I want to write it!”

I did a post, a long time ago, about non-fiction women writers whose influence I felt and still feel.
This time, let’s go for fantasy and science fiction – a limited list, only five names, the ones that are at the top of my list, and without my disrespect for all the fine writers I’ll leave out.
Here’s my top five, in no particular order… Continue reading


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Hatari!, 1962

Hatari_(movie_poster)What with the death of Elsa Martinelli and all that, I went and re-watched Howard Hawks’ Hatari!, a movie shot in 1962, partially in Africa, and scripted by the great Leigh Brackett, featuring John Wayne, Red Buttons, Hardy Kruger and the above-mentioned Elsa Martinelli.
Ass to that the soundtrack, composed by Henry Mancini, and you have the perfect recipe for a big hit.
And indeed, in 1962, Hatari! was the eight highest grossing movie in the US.

I never liked Hatari!
Yes, the African wildlife scenes are gorgeous, the action is breathtaking and – bear with me as I repeat myself like a broken record – Martinelli is breathtaking.
But the movie is… bah.
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I’m writing a planetary romance (so there!)

brackettI think I mentioned in the past how much I like Leigh Brackett’s stories.
I loved the Skaith books, and I actually read Bracket’s The Sword of Rhiannon well before I discovered Edgar Rice Burrough’s Marian novels.
You can find a few of Brackett’s stories for free download out there, and I’ll provide links at the end of this post, but the reason I’m writing this is because I’m putting together a 5000-words story I plan to submit to a magazine next month. It’s going to be a planetary romance sort of thing, and it will be set on Mars, and so last night I went to the shelf and took down Sea Kings of Mars1 for a quick recap.
To soak-up Bracket’s language, if you will, to see if I can learn her secrets (wishful thinking). Continue reading