East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


In London with Jerry Cornelius

On the 7th of January 1992 I landed in London, nursing a bronchitis and a few lines of fever. I rode a taxi to my hotel, then went looking for a place to eat a bite. Along the road to a pub, I stopped in a bookshop and bought two books by Michael Moorcock: Mother London and one of the Jerry Cornelius books. Both had the dome of St Paul on the cover. I still think those two books set the tone and the rhythm of my year spent in London.

Now I’ve been commissioned an article about Michael Moorcock. It’s a pro bono job, and I’ve been given total control on the subject, the word-count, the style. And I’m thinking I will do a piece about London in the works of Michael Moorcock.

And what better occasion to finally get me a copy of Modern Times 2.0, a Jerry Cornelius adventure which comes bundled with an interview to the author and an article in which he reminisces about London.
One of those cases in which doing research is a good opportunity to have fun.


Four Cities

It is all my friend Claire’s fault, of course.
She just posted about this interesting writing prompts website, and in particular she mentioned the prompt about describing your city as a person.

I did some attempt at it on Claire’s page, but then I thought I’d like to expand on that.
Leaving Castelnuovo Belbo out of the picture, if you please, because after my first attempt at Claire’s, I am sure it would be just an exercise in necrophilia.
And because it’s not my city, or town or village or hole in the ground.
I’m just living here, but I do not belong. Thank goodness!

As I mentioned in the past, I am a two-cities kind of guy.
A girl I knew once said it’s because I am a Gemini.
But I really have four cities, so maybe I’m a Gemini with Gemini ascendant, who knows. Or maybe it’s just superstitious rubbish, and I’m in fact one of those “city slickers” Joe Jackson mentioned a long time ago…

We think we’re pretty smart
Us city slickers get around
And when the going’s rough
We kill the pain and relocate
We’re never married
Never faithful not to any town

So here goes, my web-exclusive Four Cities, an exercise in impromptu urban fantasy.
Enjoy. Continue reading

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Cities of the Imagination

It went like this: first my friend Hell (yes, they really call him like that) did a blog post about the city he writes about, the city he was born in, Taranto. Then my friend Alex did a piece about the city he was born in, and about which he writes about, Milan.
And so I did a piece on the city where I was born, and about which I sometimes write about, Turin.
The piece that came out is weird and melancholy, and I even forgot to give it a title, and you can find it here translated through some web gizmo that I’m sure will make it even more surreal.


But the fact is, I have written a lot more about London, Paris and Shanghai that I ever did about Turin.
And so, why not do an alternate universe sort of piece, about the towns I write about in my fiction?
My cities of the imagination, if it does not sound too pretentious, and with all due respect for both Italo Calvino and Schuiten & Peeters. Continue reading

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For Others

how-to-walkI’ll take this a rather circuitous way – but you should be used to it by now.
I was given a book as a gift, for my latest birthday – Thich Nhat Hanh’s How to Walk.
I always was a long-distance walker.
When I was a student I used to walk instead of taking a bus, to save the money and buy books, or records. Later, when I started driving (I was a late starter), I tried to keep walking, and recently, after years of inactivity, I picked up hiking again.
This, coupled with my long-standing interest in zen, made me really curious or reading that particular book.
And I found it very good – simple, down to earth, and filled with great intuitions.
And there’s a passage, in it, that goes like this…

Sometimes I say I walk for my mother or that my father is enjoying walking with me. I walk for my mother. I walk for my teacher. I walk for my students. Maybe your father never knew how to walk mindfully, enjoying every moment like that. So I do it for him and we both get the benefit.

I was touched deeply by this one because I read it about one month after my father passed away. And it touched me also because I had already done that – twenty-five years ago. Continue reading

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Writing in the heat

It’s roughly three in the afternoon.
With 45 °C and a jungle-like humidity, one would expect the countryside to be silent.
But the guy with the drums is once again practicing broken rhythms.
Very broken.
This feels like something out of an Edgar Rice Burroughs story.
The natives are restless.

I’m sitting at my computer, rewriting the final part of a book I should have delivered this morning – I ditched the final 60 pages, I’ll have to rewrite rewrite rewrite.


I wish I was in some big city.
Paris, London, Berlin.
Even Turin, why not?
Under the rain.
Listening to Bach.

Not that anyone out there is really interested, right?

Oh, heck… missing Bach and the rain, I might just settle for Roger Hodgson

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Writing for a solid target

Targets are important.
Important in general, and important when you are writing.
The basic target for a writer is finishing the damn story, of course*.
But there are other targets – word counts, word per day, are classics.
And then, paying the bills is another extremely good target – highly motivational.

LONCON3_logo_270wRight now, I’m setting myself a new target – an important one, one for which I feel strongly.
I plan to write and publish enough stories (mostly in English) and non-fiction (mostly in Italian), so that I can put together enough money to go to London in August 2014, and meet my friends for the 2014 WorldCon, also known as Loncon 3.
I have less than 12 months, but I will make it.

I was supposed to go to the Worldcon in Japan, in 2009, but the sudden death of my mother forced me to change my plans.
And this year I had planned a trip to Texas for the 2013 Worldcon – but unfinished business with my university, the horrid state of my country’s finance and the worse state of my own finances forced me to drop that idea too.

Now, I want to go to Loncon 3.
And I think it would be just great to pay for the trip with my writing.

It’s a big target, and one that is very dear to my heart.
But I’ll put everything in to make it.
And now it’s public, I can’t back down.

*There’s two kind of writers: those that finish the story, and those that do not.