Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


4 Comments

The House of the Gods

I am very proud to announce that my new novel, The House of the Gods, published by Severed Press, is up and running on Amazon.
And I am damn proud of it.

house1

The story is set on top of one of the forbidding plateaus that rise along the Brazil/Venezuela border.
The crew and passengers of a charter flight come face to face with a “pocket lost world”, filled with dangers, wonders and dinosaurs.
Then the bad guys with the big guns arrive…

I will do another post in the next days, or maybe two, about the background of the story and the characters.
But right now, my new book is out, is published by a publisher I admire, and I am in a catalog that features some of my favorite writers.
So I’ll take a break and celebrate.

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Building a better Lost World

It’s been pointed out to me that it’s damn hard finding a paleontologist these days, not to mention a paleontologist versed in science fiction.
I never thought of myself as a rare commodity before.
And as luck would have it, right now I am revising The House of the Gods, my novel of a lost world in the Amazon Forest, filled with dinosaurs and action.
In ten days I’ll send the final draft to my publisher, and then we’ll see.

111

But in the meantime, why not do a little paleontology/science fiction post about my preparation work for the novel?
I’m a rare commodity, but I can be had – for a price. Continue reading


Leave a comment

Looking for a lost world

An unexpected post, with some musings and some ideas – basically me talking to myself by way of the blog.

Fact is, I’ve more or less successfully pitched “a story with dinosaurs” to a publisher, and I’m working on an outline for a short novel (say, about 45K words) more or less in the Lost World genre.
Quoth Wikipedia…

The lost world is a subgenre of the fantasy or science fiction genres that involves the discovery of a new world out of time, place, or both. It began as a subgenre of the late-Victorian adventure romance and remains popular into the 21st century.

… and I am a fan of the subgenre – H. Rider-Haggard, E.R. Burroughs, all the way down to Xenozoic Tales and Indiana Jones.
And yes, why not, babes and dinosaurs1.

tumblr_njija4SKQH1s63odho4_1280

Continue reading


Leave a comment

She who must be obeyed

sheSometimes working on the weekend is fun.
I’m writing (well, actually revising, at the moment) an essay on Ayesha and other “lost race” queens from popular fiction.
Happily, my piece will go in a high-profile publication.

And as an extra bonus, it’s been a good excuse for watching again this old Hammer movie from 1965 – a very loose but fun adaptation of H. Rider Haggard‘s classic, She, featuring Ursula Andress, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.

So, why not spread the joy?
Here are some highlights, courtesy of Youtube.
Cheers!

Enhanced by Zemanta


2 Comments

The (pulp) Lost World

There’s precious little pulp on TV these days – and in the past it was not better.
But sometimes I get lucky.

936full-the-lost-world-photoSummer has brought back to the Italian airwaves The Lost World, and I am a happy viewer again.

Now, I know many that do not like the series – not to the point of despising it, but let’s say it is not high in their appreciation where fantasy shows are concerned.
I’ll get to the main objection I registered later, because it is interesting.

Now, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World (that’s the complete title) is an Australian/Canadian show which takes its lead from the classic novel, and soon ditches most of the Conan Doyle plot and develops as a dinosaur-infested, lost-civilizations-laced, weird-science-loaded feast of pulpy goodness.

The basic premise – a band of heroes gets trapped on a plateau in South America, a lost world filled with… yeah, dinosaurs, monsters, lost cities, mysterious strangers, weird civilizations, relics from other times, crashed aliens, magic…
There’s even an access to the Hollow Earth!

The writing is fairly good, the effects are cheap but fun, the cast is competent, and adequate to the over-the-top premises of many an episode.
The main characters are a fine sample of pulp clichés…

. omni-competent scientist
. fearless big game hunter
. two fisted journalist
. unreliable femme fatale*
. fierce jungle queen*

Earlier seasons feature a second scientist character (as per original novel), sparking scientific and philosophical debate, acting avuncular and more importantly allowing the screenwriters to split the team.

And I’d welcome such a team at my gaming table, as it is the kind of ensemble which just sparks off stories: such a bunch of individuals would turn a jaunt down at the supermarket for snacks into an adventure.

tumblr_menwbumk7U1qzr8nao1_500Some of the recurring elements in the series are also highly entertaining.
There’s a civilization of lizard-men mimicking the Roman Empire.
There’s the afore-mentioned access to the Hollow Earth.
There’s the growing idea (actually turned into a solid plot element in the later seasons of the series) that the lost world plateau is sort of a time-distortion crossroads.

And then there’s everything else – including the kitchen sink.
Which is where many friends of mine start groaning.
There’s too much stuff, they say.
C’mon – dinosaurs today, aliens last week, yet another lost civilization next week…
How comes the science guy is able to build almost any kind of gadget, and yet he can’t telegraph home for rescue?
How comes they never run out of ammo?
How comes the women are always gorgeous, the guys alway handsome and athletic?

And yet, that is exactly what I like – because it’s in line with the classics.
Well, my kind of classics, anyway.
If it was good enough for Tarzan, or Doc Savage, why shouldn’t it be fine for a team of adventurers trapped on a plateau in South America, surrounded by dinos and weirdness?
Are we really counting shots and dissecting dinosaurs for plausibility?

All in all, to me, The Lost World remains a competent, fun, lightweight fantasy show – with some hidden gems lost among the many episodes.
Maybe it’s a guilty pleasure – but it is a pleasure indeed.

NOTE
* Yes, I know there’s no femme fatales or jungle queens in Conan Doyle. There should be.

Related articles


4 Comments

Some notes on Dinosaur Hunting – part 1

Two years ago, a friend asked me about those B-movies in which Army types face rampaging dinosaurs, firing tons of bullets to no avail.
Were the dinosaurs really so hard to kill?

I wrote a post on the subject, on my Italian blog, which sparked a long discussion with further Q&A.
This led to a series of articles about dinosaur hunting.

I’m currently translating and re-editing that material, planning a small ebook for the curious – what follows is the first part of a this revised stuff.
More will follow.
But for starters… let’s talk weapons.

First idea: military-grade personal weapons can be a match for dinos.
A bit of metal accelerated to ultrasonic speed (such as a P90 bullett) carves a cavity in the target as large as a basket ball, so you can be a dino, but a burst from a modern automatic weapon hurts all the same.

But it gets better, and more complicated than that.

The idea that dinosaurs had thick, armored hides comes from the early years of paleontology – working by analogy with modern pachiderms, the first fossil hunters imagined dinosaurs to be thick-skinned like rhinos and elephants
Modern studies on fossil dinosaur hide tell us a different story – dinosaur skin is just reptile skin, often revealing clear signs of bite from predators.
Tough, but not enough to shrug off a direct hit from an automatic weapon.

Does this solve the T. rex vs AK47 debate?
Not exactly.

First of all, underneath the often garishly colored, supple reptile skin we find thick bands of compact muscle.
And then there’s the matter of bone plates – normally found on herbivores, on the back, rump and neck areas.

Both can somewhat soak the impact damage from our bullets.

And with really big beasts, it can take a few seconds, from the moment the bullet impacts to the moment the pain and damage registers in the brain of the animal – due to the distance the electric signal has to cover from the periphery of the body to the head.
And a charging dinosaur can do a lot of damage in a few seconds.

Which leads us to the old problem of the riunning dinosaur…

An elephant weighs—let’s see—four to six tons. You’re proposing to shoot reptiles weighing two or three times as much as an elephant and with much greater tenacity of life.

The quotes comes from the basic required reading on dinosaur hunting, Lyon Sprague De Camp’s A Gun for a Dinosaur – which you can find and listen to, here in the X minus One archive, as an mp3.

The bottom line of the charging dino problem – you can kill it, but before it realizes it’s dead, he can still rush you and squash you.

So what?
Sprague De camp offers a classic solution

Here you are: my own private gun for that work, a Continental .600. Does look like a shotgun, doesn’t it? But it’s rifled, as you can see by looking through the barrels. Shoots a pair of .600 Nitro Express cartridges the size of bananas; weighs fourteen and a half pounds and has a muzzle energy of over seven thousand foot-pounds. Costs fourteen hundred and fifty dollars. Lot of money for a gun, what?
I have some spares I rent to the sahibs. Designed for knocking down elephant. Not just wounding them, knocking them base-over-apex. That’s why they don’t make guns like this in America, though I suppose they will if hunting parties keep going back in time.

Holland & Holland Nitro Express .700 (in the ’50s, when Sprague De camp wrote his story, H&H and Continental only manufactured a .600).
Because we don’t want just to kill it – we want to drop him on the spot.

Of course, we are talking a 7kgs (15 lbs) weapon, that kicks like a mule – not the most confortable weapon to carry around Dinosaur Valley.

We can find today even better calibres – JDJ .950 and such.
There’s even a thing called Tyrannosaurus Rex.
But the .600 and .700 Nitro Express are still the discerning dino hunter weapon of choice.

Note that we are talking single, large dinosaurs.
Dealing with velociraptors – which are small and attack in coordinated groups – is quite another story.
In these cases, suppressive fire fropm full-auto weapons might be the only choice.

We close this first article, by reminding our readers of the Servadec Principle (thus called from the classic Jules Verne novel) – accustomed tothe rumblings of the savage wilderness around them, the dinosaurs might not be scared at all by explosions, and rather react with curiosity to the bangs of our weapons, coming closer to investigate.

In the next installment – Bring ’em back alive!