Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Radio Karavansara #2: Shanghai

The first transmission from Radio Karavansara got some positive feedback, so why not try again? What about a broadcast about one of my favorite obsessions?
Shanghai, the Paris of the East – a city that has fascinated me for ages, sneaking into my stories when least I expected it… and here’s a selection of tunes about shanghai, or from Shanghai, or somehow related to Old Shanghai.

Enjoy!

I’ve given myself four episodes to try and see if this thing catches on.
Up next… ah, maybe something about Central Asia and the Transiberian railroad?
Please leave your comments below…


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If this is Thursday, this must be Peking… no, wait, maybe Shanghai…

As I am planning a special podcast episode for my Patrons to celebrate both my birthday and the Feast of Long Shadows, that is, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee’s birthdays, I am re-watching for the umpteenth time the 1972 classic “faux Hammer” movie, Horror Express.

A movie I love, and I have watched thousands of times – one about which I believe I know everything.
And yet, five minutes in, the screen announces…

Peking, Russian Concession

… and my brain does a double flip, and I go…

Hold it. There was no Russian Concession in Peking in 1906. Must be Tientsin, or maybe Shanghai. You guys are playing fast and loose, here…

And then of course I kick myself for a pedantic idiot, because I’m here to enjoy the movie, not to edit it, at least until, exactly one minute later…

Peter Cushing: “Ah, professor Sexton! What brings you to Shanghai?”

There, you unknown Spanish title-writer! I was right! And Peter Cushing knows!
And that’s a little sad about me, right?
But only a little.

Onwards we go – the podcast is going to be a smash.


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Shanghai again

I just sent a short story, called Sapiens, to the editor of a science fiction magazine.
A brief, optimistic story set in future Shanghai.
I needed a city damaged by the ocean’s rise due to climate change, and my three choices were (in order) Alexandria, Osaka and Shanghai. Those three cities, after all, will be hit hard by the ocean’s rise – we talk about 17 million people in Shanghai only, in need for a new place to sleep.
In the end I went for the Paris of the East simply because after half an hour I was playing with flood maps of Osaka, I realized it would be a lot faster to use a city whose geography I know from previous research.

hero_shanghai_1600x600_03

This story has also been a great opportunity to divert and focus my anger at a piece that was published recently on the Esquire website, in which it was plainly told that, while it’s good and right to do all we can about the current climatic crisis, it will come to nothing in the end.
We are dead.
Human society is not capable of dealing with this sort of changes.
Just like Cyanobacteria did not make it two and a half billion years ago, for the same reason. We can’t deal with change.
A4HHo5R-640x537And I thought about our old ancestors, dealing with two glaciations with the sort of technology you can put together with two rocks.
I thought about our ancestors that came out of the African savanna and colonized up to the Arctic, and deep into jungles and deserts. I thought about the few of us that lived on the ocean’s shelf or walked on the Moon.
There is this massive, culture-wide guilt trip that’s being fed by certain media. A guilt trip that denies the best of our species, basically to preserve one of our artifacts: the economy.
So I went and wrote a story in one afternoon. Then I revised and I sent it away.
I hope the editor likes it.
It’s time to remember we are sapiens.


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Karavansara Free Library: Arnold Wright (and Hope & Glory)

The Internet Archive is a treasure trove. Right now my browser informs me it is undergoing maintenance, but when it’s up (it should be up briefly), you can listen to Old Radio shows, you can peruse pulp magazines, and you can find a number of excellent resources for your writing and your games.

For instance, let’s consider the catalog of books by Arnold Wright, former journalist of the Times of India and then London editor of the Yorkshire post, who made a nice career for himself as an author of reference books about the East. Continue reading


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Four Cities

It is all my friend Claire’s fault, of course.
She just posted about this interesting writing prompts website, and in particular she mentioned the prompt about describing your city as a person.

I did some attempt at it on Claire’s page, but then I thought I’d like to expand on that.
Leaving Castelnuovo Belbo out of the picture, if you please, because after my first attempt at Claire’s, I am sure it would be just an exercise in necrophilia.
And because it’s not my city, or town or village or hole in the ground.
I’m just living here, but I do not belong. Thank goodness!

As I mentioned in the past, I am a two-cities kind of guy.
A girl I knew once said it’s because I am a Gemini.
But I really have four cities, so maybe I’m a Gemini with Gemini ascendant, who knows. Or maybe it’s just superstitious rubbish, and I’m in fact one of those “city slickers” Joe Jackson mentioned a long time ago…

We think we’re pretty smart
Us city slickers get around
And when the going’s rough
We kill the pain and relocate
We’re never married
Never faithful not to any town

So here goes, my web-exclusive Four Cities, an exercise in impromptu urban fantasy.
Enjoy. Continue reading