East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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Stars so close you can touch them

1aa4d461-d737-4eeb-acc8-3fd1dbc672e4My father used to say that the nights are so clear and silent here in the countryside, you can sit in the courtyard at night and feel like you are floating in space, and you can stretch your hands, and touch the stars.

Last night I was in the courtyard.
At 11 pm we had 26°C and 83% humidity.
Like being at the bottom of the Tethys sea, that used to be here a few million years ago, but with none of the perks, and mosquitoes too.
The local festival was going full tilt, and a cheap band was playing on the town square, doing poor covers of novelty songs from the ‘60s. All the dogs in the neighborhood felt the need to vent their disapproval, howling their hearts out.
It was a good approximation of hell.

But then it all stopped, and by one pm it was all quiet and still like my father used to say, and there was even a faint breath of cool air. I was in the courtyard, and looked up at the sky, and saw Mars, burning red above the roofs of the houses.
And I lifted my arms, like I was heeding to its call.
And I felt silly, and went in and drank an ice cold tea to the health of John Carter. Continue reading

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Back to Mars, in a hurry

OK, so I am outlining a story I will try and sell to Tor.com.
This is a very long shot, and while the up side is they are looking for stories between 20.000 and 40.000 words long, which is nicely in my comfort zone, the down side is I have two months to write it, while at the same time doing a number of other jobs, and this is certainly the hardest market to crack out there.
But let’s admit it, not trying would be stupid.
kermit_typing As I mentioned yesterday, I am trying to ramp up my output – and indeed working on AMARNA1 was a great training.
And while it will still take some time for me to publish one novel-length work per month, I have high hopes for a serious increase in my output in the next weeks and months. Continue reading

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Mars and details

I’ve been spending some time on Mars, recently.
Not only did I take part in the How to Survive on Mars course by Monash University – which was lots of fun – but I’ve been reading about the Red Planet in order to write a story (due in two weeks) for an Italian anthology. They mentioned the wrd contract, which is good, and the editor in chief is an old friend, so I said yes. They’ve been vague enough in their guidelines, so I decided to go and hit them with a Martian story.
It will be hard SF, uncompromisingly optimist. My way of optimism, the one that says that problems exist, and we must work hard to solve them. They will probably reject it, but it’s a risk I’m ready to take.

But the problem right now is, I’ve a wonderful setting, but I have no story. Continue reading

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My first night on Mars

Yesterday night, despite the dismal internet connection I have here in the sticks, I followed the first lesson of the Monash University MOOC How to Survive on Mars, offered for free through the FutureLearn platform.


It is a good way to spend an hour, it is far better than television, and it’s helping me to brush up my basic physics and chemistry.
Then it’s about Mars, and that’s part of the fun.
And indeed it gave me a few ideas for stories, which is nice.
Still three weeks to go: all this is very promising.

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Life on Mars

As I am seriously thinking about ditching my TV set for good (and thus escape the blood-dripping 120 bucks TV tax our friendly government imposes us), I am once again using the web and MOOCs in particular for my entertainment and edification – and as a break from reading and writing.
And therefore, in October, I will be on Mars, for a short survival course…


This free online course will introduce the key scientific concepts needed for humans to survive on Mars, where there is no air to breath, no water to drink and no food to eat. The course will also examine interdisciplinary skills and meticulous planning required to sustain human life in such a hostile environment. Case studies and insights from leading experts in the field of Chemistry, Astronomy, Physics and Geology will demonstrate the basic science and problem solving skills you can use in everyday life.

The course is offered by Monash University, through the Futurelearn platform.
It’s free and it will last four weeks.
I think my brother will join me on this one, too.
If you’re interested, see you on Mars next month.