Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Two evenings with the Queen of Zamba

I have always loved Lyon Sprague De Camp’s books – both alone and in tandem with his pal Fletcher Pratt, both as a writer of fiction and non-fiction. De Camp & Pratt’s Castle of Iron was the very first fantasy I read, and then I tried to track down and read any book that had Lyon Sprague De Camp’s name on the cover.

This hunt for books was not helped by the fact that Italian SF/fantasy editors did not share my enthusiasm for Lyon Sprague De Camp’s work, or for him as a person – one of them actually celebrated De Camp’s death, and later would say that he “spat on the man’s grave”.
Because, you know, Lyon Sprague De Camp desecrated the purity of Robert E. Howard’s Conan. Or something.
Wankers.

(full disclaimer – while I believe that Howard’s work at his best was impossible to emulate, and think De Camp’s Conan pastiches are well below par, I also believe that without De Camp’s work to keep Conan in print, Howard’s work today would be a niche interest for very few connoisseurs – like it happened to many other pulp writers)

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Old Mars!

Color me happy. After literally ages I’ve been able to complete the trilogy of Martian adventures that Michael Moorcock wrote in the mid-60s using the pen-name Edward Powys Bradbury. I read the first book in the series, City of the Beast (also known as Warrior of Mars), back in the mid ’80s, having found a battered copy of the NEL edition on a bookshelf in a bookstore long gone now. I was just out of the Barsoom series, and I wanted more of the same, only different – yes, it’s a bit confused.
In the span of a short summer I read Leigh Bracket’s Martian novels, C.L. Moore’s Northwest Smith stories, a sampling of Lin Carter’s Callisto books, a few Dray Prescott Skorpio novels, and then Michael Kane’s Martian adventures.

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Flash Fearless and friends

R-2187065-1268821030.jpegThis is a request piece, because after I mentioned Flash Fearless in my previous post, a few pulp/planetary romance loving friends wanted to know more.
So, for all of you out there that were curious, here goes.

The Rocky Horror Show debuted in the West End in 1973, doing a rock’n’roll parody of horror.
And somewhere somebody started thinking – could the same be done with other popular genres? With, say, comic-book science fiction?
And so, between October and December 1974, a rather eccentric group of musicians was assembled in Chrysalis Studios, to record a rock’n’roll spoof of the classic serials of the ’30s and ’40s, penned by Steve Hammond and David Pierce with a little more than a wink and a nod to Buster Crabbe’s Flash Gordon.
The project was called Flash Fearless vs the Zorg Women, parts 5 & 6.
The record that answers the question… can I get Alice Cooper on vocals with John Entwistle on bass and Bill Bruford on drums, produced by Bob Ezrin?

Of course you can. Continue reading


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Sax Rohmer’s Sumuru in Space

Yesterday, taking a pause from my writing to enjoy a serving of chocolate cake, I watched one of the worst movies I ever saw.
And I saw plenty of bad movies.

The thing is called Sax Rohmer’s Sumuru, it was shot in 2003 and it goes more or lesslike this…

If you are perplexed, so was I.
And if you are not, let me bring you up to speed… Continue reading


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Other people’s pulps: with Dray Prescot on Kregen

Transit_to_ScorpioI mentioned planetary romance, yesterday, and one thing led to another and I ended up browsing Amazon, using “planetary romance” as a search string.
And I chanced upon a fat list of Dray Prescott/Alan Burt Akers novels set on the planet Kregen, orbiting Antares, in the Scorpio constellation. The series was originally published by DAW between 1972 and 1988, and that’s how I remember it: thin books with yellow backs and garish covers.
The digital omnibuses are pretty expensive at 9 bucks per shot, but I was happy to see they are still available: when first published in Italy in the ’70s, the series stopped at volume 3 – that is exactly 49 volumes before the end of the series, or 2 books away from the closing of the first story arc. The readers were not amused, and the availability, forty years on, of the electronic texts had been saluted, by those that still remembered Dray Prescott’s exploits, as a welcome opportunity to learn how things ended… or how they went on, actually.
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I’m writing a planetary romance (so there!)

brackettI think I mentioned in the past how much I like Leigh Brackett’s stories.
I loved the Skaith books, and I actually read Bracket’s The Sword of Rhiannon well before I discovered Edgar Rice Burrough’s Marian novels.
You can find a few of Brackett’s stories for free download out there, and I’ll provide links at the end of this post, but the reason I’m writing this is because I’m putting together a 5000-words story I plan to submit to a magazine next month. It’s going to be a planetary romance sort of thing, and it will be set on Mars, and so last night I went to the shelf and took down Sea Kings of Mars1 for a quick recap.
To soak-up Bracket’s language, if you will, to see if I can learn her secrets (wishful thinking). Continue reading


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An earthier kind of fantasy

Swords_and_Sorcery-anthologyI’ve been involved in a lot of talk, in the past weeks, about Sword & Sorcery and the definition thereof, and what makes S&S different from Heroic Fantasy and blah blah blah.
The subject is dear to my heart as I like S&S, and I both read and write it.
And as luck would have it, hot on the heels of that discussion I got a contract for a number of S&S shorts (yeah!!)1 – so it turns into a matter close to my bread-winning activities, too.

But do we really have to undersign a standard definition?

I still love the definition provided by Glen Cook (an author I love) in an old piece on the SFSignal Blog:

I see Sword & Sorcery as a species of proletarian fiction. The heroes are working class guys, within the context of the story and mores of the time when it was written. They are guys who get stuff done but you would not want them in the drawing room for high tea because they smell bad, break things, and leave bloody messes all over. Despite their class, or lack thereof, they are not much into progressive politics, seeing that sort as easy meat.

This one works fine with me, and while I am not much for definitions it was one of the bits I had in mind when I started writing Aculeo & Amunet. Continue reading