East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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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