East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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Great (Free) Read about the Silk Road (and more)

Cover Archäologie Weltweit 1-2015 enI’m having lots of fun with the latest issue of Archaeology Worldwide, the Magazine of the German Archaeological Institute.
The mag is available for free, in both German and English, in pdf format.

The current issue covers a topic that’s close to my studies as a paleontologist – the applications of Natural Sciences to Archaeology.
But the title story, “Metropolises and Empires”, is a great selection of articles to subjects of interest to Karavansara readers: from Alexander the Great to the Mongol Empire, starting with a highly interesting piece on the Sogdians and their commerces as a way station along the Silk Road.
Plus, a wonderful feature on lost or forgotten pieces of Roman art in old archive photographs.
Food for thought and germs of ideas for stories and gaming scenarios – but also a good way ti spend a few hours exploring the world from my chair.

The whole, with some gorgeous photographs included.

Große innere Mauer der Ming-Zeit nahe der chinesischen Hauptstadt Peking

Well worth a look!

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Pulp History – the legend of the False Lama

English: Ja Lama

English: Ja Lama (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They called him the Avenging Lama or the False Lama, and said he had no navel.

A number of weird characters – adventurers, maverick scientists, bona fide gods – ran footloose in that area comprised between China, Russia, Tibet and Mongolia, in the final years of 19th century and in the early 20th. Their lives and adventurea have long been one of my interests.

Among the gods – or at least demi-gods – Ja Lama is one of the least famous, and most colorful. Continue reading

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Return to the Crossroads of the World

avventurieriMy first pulp history essay, Avventurieri sul Crocevia del Mondo (Adventurers on the Crossroads of the World) hit the shelves of Amazon almost exactly two years ago.
The collection of characters and events from the Silk Road between the wars was highly successful and spawned two subsequent books, and a number of other events – lectures, games, whatever.

Now it’s high time the old Crocevia got a facelift, an update and a Second Edition.

I got a lot of feedback on the book, and I noted each constructive observation.
Now it’s time to put the good advice in practice.
And get a new cover. Continue reading

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The Silk Road from the wrong end

41PXW22MFDLThe joys of the internet era.
back in the days before Youtube it took me forever to get my hands on the NHK/CCTV documentary series, The Silk Road.
Now, I find the first series, twelve episodes, on Youtube, and I’m pretty sure the second series should be somewhere at hand.

According to the legend, it took 7 years to the Japanese NHK to plan and film the series – a travel along the Silk Road starting from Chang’an and ending in the Pamirs.
The project was developed further during the following decade, finally taking a staggering 17 years to reach completion. Continue reading

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Tracking Marco Polo

51ki+wP7fXL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_So it’s summer, and I’ll be spending a lot of my (little) free time reading Tim Severin.
In case you missed him, Severin is an award-winning explorer, traveler and writer who specialized in tracing the steps of famous historical and literary voyagers.

Severin is one of my all-time icons (together with the likes of Jacqes Cousteau, Folco Quilici, Thor Heyerdahl and more recently Barry Clifford), and all of his books are currently available in ebook format for very cheap price tags, so, why not.

And why not start with Tracking Marco Polo, the 1964 chronicle of Severin’s first expedition? Continue reading


10 Quick Tips About Adventure Stories

20324770-adventure_193503011Ah, this is a fun topic – one of the five generated last week, as I was telling you.
Now “about adventure stories” is a bit vague – about reading or writing them?
And then, Adventure stories is a pretty wide field.

And who am I, anyway, to give anybody suggestions?

But ok, it’s part of the game, so here’s my ten point list of tips for adventure writers.
For what they are worth.

1 . Don’t be afraid
They will put you down, talk about escapism, implausibility, silliness, and generally try to put you in your place. Don’t be afraid to tell your story. Continue reading


Back to the Silk Road – three blogs (and more!)

coverfinalsmallThe Silk Road was one of the inspirations for this blog1 – it even says so in the About page.
Ever since I was a kid I spent lots of time reading books about the history of the Silk Road, and even planned an ill-fated adventure travel along the Road, that never happened.

I wrote a non fiction book about travelers along the Silk Road in the early 20th century (Avventurieri sul Crocevia del Mondo, available only in Italian) and of course the history and legends of the Silk Road are part of the series of novels and stories I started with The Ministry of Thunder.

The world wide web has been called the New Silk Road and indeed a lot of features of the old caravan tracks can be found on the internet – from the mingling of cultures to the trading of goods, from the exchange of ideas in meeting places to crime and banditry.
And a wealth of resources is available for those that would like to know more about the Silk Road.
Some you can find in the links section here in the sidebar, but I’d like to single out a few. Continue reading