East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


From Lemuria to Opar

I am putting the finishing touches on a 12.000 words novella in what I, being old-fashioned (or just plain old) would call the science fantasy subgenre. It’s something long overdue, that I promised to my Patrons a lifetime ago, and that was caught up in too many complications to write here about.
But now here it is. I have a cover, and I am going through a bout of rewriting – which means the story might end up being longer than planned. I hope nobody will complain.

The novella is basically sword & sorcery with a thin patina of science – I took some inspiration from the Recent Dryas Impact Event and some theories about the extinction of the Clovis culture in the Americas, and then threw in a few neanderthals, a few sabretooth tigers (because I like sabretooth tigers), and some evil “Atlantean” ubermensch.
The idea was to tell a story about a primitive man versus a much more advanced but decadent culture.
Being a paleontologist, I had to censor my internal censor – this is fantasy, not a textbook!

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Back to Lemuria with Varla of Valkarth

51ys2qfwzqlSometimes words are complicated.
For instance, I had a hoot reading Varla of Valkarth by Glen M. Usher and Steve Lines, published by Rainfall Books.
It’s a fun story – the first in a series – set in Lemuria, and directly referencing, from the cover on, the old stories about Thongor, Lin carter’s barbarian swordsman.
The old Thongor stories were not highly sophisticated, but were fast, furious and fun, and Varla of Valkarth follows in Thongor’s footsteps: it’s good unsophisticated fun.
And I realize that unsophisticated sounds like a negative word, but really it is not – not in this case, at least Continue reading

Leave a comment

Return to Zanthodon

ZNTHDNVVJN1980In May 2013 I did a post on Lin Carter’s Zanthodon novels, which I discovered when I was in high-school, back when the dinosaurs ruled the earth.

Last month, Wildside Press reprinted the five Zanthodon novels as a single, massive ebook that goes for about one buck, aptly called The Zanthodon MEGAPACK TM: The Complete 5-Book Series.

And yes, I bought a copy.
My DAW Books original paperbacks are stashed somewhere in a box, and the one-volume collection on my kindle reader is a nice, cheap replacement. Continue reading


I remember Zanthodon

“…there are still lost lands in the remote corners of the earth where fantastic monsters roam, where chaste and beautiful women remain to be rescued from sneering villains, and where adventure and peril and heroism thrive amid exotic and bizarre scenery.”


I was just sweet sixteen…
Well, no, I was a tad younger, actually, when I found, on a shelf of my favourite bookstore, an old copy of Lin Carter’s Journey to the Underground World, published by DAW book.
A very small pocket-sized paperback, the pages crispy with age, and a cover with… well, with a pterodactyl carrying away a busty blonde.

Now, I do not know if it’s still like this out there, or if it was ever like this anywhere else back then, but when I was a kid of ten or thereabouts, the general practice was, they handed you a thick Jules Verne book, maybe for Christmas, or for your birthday – because you were a kid, and kids “just love” adventure stories.

OK, so let me tell you – there’s nothing worse, when you are a kid of ten/twelve in the seventies, to be handed a 1950s translation of Journey to the Center of the Earth.
It’s boring.

So I went through Verne’s Center of the Earth as a kid, being bored silly, when I found out there were actual real books with Tarzan in them.
Tarzan, the guy from the movies.
Only, I found out, much better than in the movies.

Having read a few Tarzans, I started looking for something I really thought should be a smash – At the Earth’s Core, from the same guy that did Tarzan, but… wow, with dinosaurs! And adventure! And babes!

But the novel was not translated in Italian, so I put it on my list for my project of starting and reading in English.

And then, I found Zanthodon.

ZNTHDNVVJN1980Lin Carter’s Zanthodon books – the first in the series being the afore mentioned pterodactyl-with-blonde book – are a pastiche of Burrough’s Pellucidar series.
And they are fun.
They are, probably, the best stuff Carter wrote – I love the John Dark novels, I enjoyed his Lemurian tales, but Zanthodon is more tongue-in-cheek, more happy-go-lucky in its approach to the exotic adventure, more modern, and fun.
In an classic Burroughsian twist, Eric Carstairs journeys by drilling-mole to a huge cave beneath the Sahara, where the classic cast of babes and dinos awaits.
His sidekick is eccentric Professor Percival Penthesileia Potter.
You can guess the rest.
Carter follows the Burroughs standard plot closely – but provides us with a highly psaeudo-scientific rationale for the existance of his subterranean worls, which is actually slightly more plausible than the classic Hollow earth scenario.

Blimey, it was fun!

A few months later, I left Zanthodon for Pellucidar, having found a copy of teh Signet edition of the first book.
But Carter’s slightly parodic and yet not-ridiculous-at-all approach to his stories and characters remained with me a long time.

Right now, I’m going through my Pellucidar and Caprona books, and I’ll probably post some ideas here.
But before I start, I wanted to pay homage to Lin carter’s Underground World.
It was great fun.