Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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What makes us human (hint: it has to do with books)

On my Italian blog I have just posted a rather lugubrious post about the fact that, considering I was walking in Asti’s market square one week ago, and that Asti was a city in which a number of COVID-19 cases have been reported, I am currently counting the days, and feeling a shiver every time I cough or I sneeze.
Did I catch it?
Am I infected?
Will I die?

The virus has a 14-days incubation period, so I am currently halfway through, and counting.

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Michael Moorcock at 80

Today is the 80th birthday of British writer Michael Moorcock, and it seems right to write a post about him and his books and the pleasure, insight and fun, and inspiration they have provided me these last 40 years.
This will not be a critical assessment or whatever, but just a personal patchwork of strange memories. I’ll also list a few of my favorite books of his, but no more than a dozen.

Let’s begin.

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A day in the cold with Jerry Cornelius

I had to spend one day on the town attending various things, and I got a copy of Michael Moorcock’s Modem Times 2.0, a book that includes a Jerry Cornelius story, an essay by Moorcock on the London in which he grew up, and a lengthy interview with the author.

It was almost forty years ago (1981? Probably) as, on a Saturday afternoon, some state TV guy, forced to sit in office on the weekend to decide what was going to play, decided to pass Robert Fuest’s The Final Programme – and I was rather baffled in seeing that the weird movie that was starting on the telly was based on a work by Michael Moorcock… quite obviously the same Moorcock that had written the Elric stories and The Land That Time Forgot screenplay.
I watched the movie, I was confused, and I first met Jerry Cornelius.

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Raiders of the Lost Franchise: The Land that Time Forgot

My friend Lucy is doing a Halloween-month series of posts about the Amicus anthology horrors from the ’70s, and talking about the Amicus films, I remembered a pillar of my young education – the Amicus productions of the Edgar Rice Burroughs Novels, The Land that Time Forgot and The People that Time Forgot, plus At The Earth’s Core.
All three movies were directed by Kevin Connor and featured Doug McClure.

So I went and re-watched The Time that Land Forgot, the first and certainly the best of the three movies.

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Gateway Drug: Michael Moorcock’s The War Hound and the World’s Pain

I like fantasy.
I like genre fiction in general – I read it, I write it, sometimes I play evangelist (which sounds better than “sometimes I bore my friends’ socks off talking about fantasy books”).
Like this morning, when a friend told me

I was never able to go beyond Tom Bombadil, and just like with Harry Potter, I think the films were better. I guess I don’t like fantasy so much.

If you felt like a cold Hyrkanian blade piecing your heart at the above lines, if you felt the burn of some obscure Melnibonean poison course through your veins, you know how I felt.

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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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Gloriana

Today marks the four-hundredth and sixteenth anniversary of the death of Queen Elizabeth the First, one of the historical characters that always fascinated me the most. It probably comes from watching at a tender age the old TV drama featuring Glenda Jackson, Elizabeth R. And yes, I have already mentioned, when I was a kid, my parents allowed me to watch all sort of adult stuff on the telly.

As a result of this fascination, I have a shelfload of books about Elizabeth and Elizabethan England. Biographies, guidebooks, tomes on specific subjects such as magic, espionage, the criminal underworld.

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