East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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Space Patrol, in German

I was always pretty wary of nostalgia, and I’ve become even more so in the last few years, after seeing nostalgia weaponized and used to sell cartloads of rubbish to people that, basically, were reacting to a manufactured nostalgia for something they had not, in fact, experienced first hand.
And yet.

Yesterday I read in Variety a Bavarian production company is set to launch a new series of Raumpatrouille – that’s Space Patrol in German – a 1966 series that was probably the first proper SF show I ever saw on television, in the early ’70s, when I was in primary school.
Boy, we loved that show – all seven episodes of it.
The complete title was quite a mothful, in original: Raumpatrouille – Die phantastischen Abenteuer des Raumschiffes Orion.

The plot: in a future in which humanity has become a single people as is exploring space, major Clif Allister McLane and the crew of the starship Orion face menaces both natural and not, including the expansionist plans of an alien race known as the Frogs.

The series was shot in black and white, and REALLY on the cheap – and yet it turned out to be too expensive for the production company, that had to pull the plug after barely seven 1-hour episodes because they had run out of money.

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500 movies per year

I was talking movies with some friends, a few nights back, and one of them asked how come it looks like I have seen every movie out there, twice. And so I had to explain that, first, I am cursed with this memory, that works 110% when it comes to remember movies or other useless things, and really sucks at everything really important (like faces, phone numbers, passwords etc.). And that second, I was born fifteen years before he did, and so I grew up in a different world.

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Fear of the Unknown

Yes, I know, this is not an overly original title, and we all have heard or read that classic H.P. Lovecraft quote, from his Supernatural Horror in Literature. They even made a documentary film with that title.
And in case you missed it, the quote is…

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown”

H.P. Lovecraft

But I have another quote for you, and it’s as follow…

“I don’t see why I should read this book you mention. I read [Asimov/Heinlein/Tolkien/Howard/King/Lovecraft] back in 19**, and I don’t need to read anything else in the genre, because nothing’s better than that.”

A lot of SF/Fantasy/Horror fans I know

This came up today when I was talking with an old friend, and we wondered why people that should be all for the future, and discovery, adventure and running risks, turns out to be so averse to trying something new.

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Me, Steve Perry, Fritz Leiber and why I won’t write about kids on bikes in the 80s

This is a weird post (maybe the title could have forewarned you) and it is a part of something larger I’ve been trying to put into words these last few months. It has to do with marketing, platforms and brands, and writing for a living – indeed, it is the sort of post I usually write once or twice a month for my Patrons, under the header of Nuts & Bolts.
But I’m doing it open because… well, because.

We were discussing nostalgia and exploitation, yesterday, with some friends that have been binge-watching the third season of Stranger Things. The series has been called exploitative and manipulative by some. It ticks all the right boxes, and it settles in a general trend that builds commercial success on the nostalgia for the ’80s by people that are too young to actually remember them.

And as we were talking, a song started playing in my mind…

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Like a letter from the past

indexI was going through my shelf-load of photography handbooks, because I’m taking some time off tomorrow to take some photos, play tourist, stuff like that, and I needed a reference from a certain handbook.
Well, what you know, the handbook is not to be found.
Lost when I moved? Lent to someone that kept it? Misplaced?
I don’t know.
I could re-order it for about five bucks – which I hate as a matter of principle.

On the other hand, I found an old hardback copy of Ernest Hemingway Green Hills of Africa, among my photo handbooks. Continue reading


How I became a hack – part the first

LostHorizon-oldI wrote my first “lost city in the Himalayas” story when I was fourteen or fifteen.
I had not read James Hilton’s Lost Horizon* yet, but I was actually reading a lot of E.R. Burroughs and Rider-Haggard, and quite some Howard at the time.
Their style struck me as easily emulated.
Oh, and I also read a lot of Peter Kolosimo and some Von Daniken and other “mysterious archaeology” books back then.
Food for stories.

So I sat at my mother’s Olivetti Lettera typewriter (hey, it was 1982!) and started hammering away – no outline, no no plan, no nothing.
I was actually writing in the most unpractical way I can imagine, but I had never ever read a writing handbook, so I was winging it.
And I was painfully slow on the keyboard – which helped, actually, as it gave me more time to think the next paragraph.
Anyway, in two months flat I did put together 80 single spaced sheets.
Which strikes me as interesting, as it was very much in the “original novel” pulp format – not only in contents, but also in terms of word count. Continue reading