East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


Just like when I was in high school – a long reading weekend

Back when I was in high-school I spent a lot of time reading, and the summer was a particularly intense time. Indeed, I started reading in English because books in English lasted longer, and I had been reading through all of the readily available fantasy and science fiction on the bookstore shelves.

My teenage summers were filled with stories by Jack Vance, Poul Anderson, Gordon R. Dickson, C.J. Cherryh, Tanith Lee and Anne McCaffrey – to name just a few, that I still read and enjoy today.
Then, this morning, I chanced upon a conversation on Facebook about the literary merits of Alan Dean Foster – another staple of my young diet as a reader. These days Foster is known in my country mostly because of his novelizations, but back in the days his Pip & Flinx stories and his Humanx Commonwealth novels were very popular. Then things changed, and today the only books by Foster that get translated are his movie tie-ins.
This got me thinking.

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Leiji Matsumoto has been drawing comics and animated features forever, and it makes sense that when Japanese animation was first distributed in Italy, one of Matsumoto’s works was at the forefront of the anime invasion. Space Pirate Captain Harlock hit my country about six weeks before my 12th birthday, and instantly became my favorite Japanese cartoon. No giant robots stomping over the suburbs of Tokyo, but good old fashioned space opera – and it was just what the doctor ordered for a kid that had spent two years reading Jack Williamson and Edmond Hamilton. I mean, come on… space pirate? Where do I sign up?

Matsumoto’s Northwest Smith
Matsumoto’s cover for Shambleau

Only much later would I find out that Matsumoto had been, about ten years before, the illustrator for both the Northwest Smith stories and the Jirel of Joiry stories by C.L. Moore, when they had first been published in Japan. Impeccable pulp space opera credentials, that Matsumoto put to goo use not only in Harlock, but also in other works, and of course in Space Battleship Yamato, from 1974, a military sf/space opera that was the answer to the prayers of anyone grown up (not much, in fact) with The Legion of Space, and that felt trapped in a world in which there was not enough SF on the telly, nor in the bookstores.

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Return to the stars

Yesterday a story I had submitted for an anthology in November bounced back. Very kind letter from the editor, but alas, my story did not cut it. A pity, but it’s part of the game.
I asked my friend Marina to go through it, and then sent it along to another publisher. A British magazine, this time.
We’ll see what happens.

In the meantime I am writing two stories for two other submissions, the calls closing with the end of this month, and it’s been a strange sensation, because for the first time in almost five years I am back at writing my first love.

In the last three years, as writing became my only source of income, I have written basically anything as long as there’s a market: sword & sorcery & crime thrillers, Lovecraftian horror and time travel stories…

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Space Operetta

A friend asked me if flash fiction stories take place on Mongo.
Well played.

And Flash Gordon is particularly on topic, considering there is a Kickstarter going on for the Savage Worlds version of Flash Gordon.
You find the details here.


Flash Gordon, just like Buck Rogers (the comic series whose success Flash was launched to duplicate), were before my time, and when I was a kid I never caught them in their original form. Continue reading


A turning point and the Legion of Space

OK, I already wrote about this, a few years ago, on my Italian blog, but I thought I’d do a reboot.
Fact is, in a few days I’ll turn fifty, and I’m getting a bit melancholic and all that, and then a discussion popped up in which our earlier readings came up, and one thing led to the other, and here we are.
Legion_of_spaceForty years ago exactly I was about to turn ten.
As I think I have mentioned frequently, I was a kid that loved adventure TV series, who soaked up documentaries about space and dinosaurs and aquanauts and what else, and I loved reading – comic books and mysteries.
As my birthday was approaching, my grandmother Maria went to the bookshop two blocks from her house and asked the guy there to suggest her a good book for a kid of ten that loved reading.
And the guy suggested The Legion of Space, by Jack Williamson.
The book is considered one of the landmark stories of science fiction – it was originally serialized in 1934 on Astounding Stories.
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The Queen of Space Opera

Leigh_Brackett_1941The Queen of Space Opera was born 100 years ago, on December the 7th 1915, in Los Angeles, California.
Her name was Leigh Brackett.

When I started reading science fiction, back in 1976, I started with lots of Golden Age of Science Fiction space opera – Jack Williamson, Edmond Hamilton, and Hamilton’s wife, Leigh Brackett.
My schoolmates were reading Isaac Asimov, and yes, I read his books too – as I read all the SF I could lay my hands on.
But those earlier books, often fix-ups or expansions of stories and novellas originally published in pulp magazines, remained with me for a long time.
I read her books in Italian, and later got me copies of the originals, and re-read them in English. Continue reading