Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Gunthar, Warrior of the Lost World

In the last few years, lovers of sword & sorcery had the opportunity to meet Gunthar, Steve Dilks savage adventurer, as he started in the footsteps of older and better known barbarians in three action-packed adventures. We saw him meet the Purple Priestess of Asshtarr, and then turn his attention to the Jaguar Queen, before he finally tackled the Devil from Beyond.

A muscular hero that still shows intelligence, cunning, and a sort of grim humor, Gunthar is a classic sword & sorcery hero, and manages to capture the old excitement of the pulps while bringing to the table a few more modern ideas. And right now, fans and newcomers can get their fix of s&s action in the character’s first collection, Gunthar – Warrior of the Lost World, published by Carnelian Press, that brings together Priestess, Queen and Devil, and throws in The Lord of the Black Throne for good measure. Three hundred pages of solid sword & sorcery, in a nicely illustrated volume with a beautiful cover.

While the shadow of a certain Cimmerian adventurer looms obviously large over Gunthar and his world, it is quite possible that a notorious Lemurian barbarian is also keeping an eye out for the young lad – and yet Steve Dilks is his own writer, and he gives us more than a mere pastiche or homage. One feels his many influences, but also appreciates his steady hand. His stories are fun, smart, and travel at a furious pace, filled with blazing swords and dark magic and beautiful, dangerous women, and he manages to bend the rules enough to do something original, while not breaking them. You’ve got to be good to manage that.

I got my copy as a gift from one of my Patrons (thank you!), and it’s been a pleasant diversion in these busy, surreal days. Indeed, it jumped to the top of my to-read pile, and it forced me to find the time to give it my undivided attention. It’s been refreshing, like taking a much-needed vacation.

An excellent addition to any sword & sorcery fan’s shelf.
We want more.


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The many children of Conan

As sometimes happens, the mailman delivered this morning a packet that caused me to change my plans for the rest of the day – or the next two days probably. The packet being an Amazon bubble-wrap envelope containing a copy of Brian Murphy’s Flame and Crimson: a History of Sword-and-Sorcery, published in 2019 by Pulp Hero Press (as far as I know there is no ebook edition).

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Atlantis, Lemuria and Mu

Lost continents are a lot of fun, and have been used as the venue for sword & sorcery adventures since the the every beginning. Robert E. Howard’s Kull was an Atlantean barbarian, and Conan plied his trade after the sinking of Atlantis, and I really always had a soft spot for Henry Kuttner’s Elak of Atlantis, hero of a short series of stories I first read in the mid ’80s. And of course Lin Carter’s Thongor roamed Lemuria and environs, lands crowded with sorcerers, strange technology and dinosaurs.

In the recent evenings, I’ve had a lot of fun with Heroes of Atlantis & Lemuria, recently published by DMR Books.

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The Sistine Chapel with crayons

The moment they ask you to write a fantasy short, roughly 6000-words, taking inspiration from Italo Calvino, you sort of feel like you’re looking up at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel while holding a pack of eight crayons.
And you go, oh, shucks!

But let’s make it a little more interesting – not just any story, inspired by Calvino, but a sword & sorcery number, with action, wit and swordplay.
Inside a shared world.
Do you feel lucky, punk?

I did, and then, I needed the money.
So I went and wrote The Queen of Spades.

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4 Against Darkness: Island of (something or other)

And the second novella in the 4 Against Darkness series is done, all 18.000 words of it. Now I’ll let it rest briefly, prune it of the useless bits, and then after dinner I’ll send it along to Ganesha Games for revision, editing, and the addition of art and a meaty gaming appendix.
The only thing still missing is the title.

Originally I pitched it as Rock Island (like the Jethro Tull song, in keeping with my habit of naming my gaming books from songs I like). But Rock Island for this baby is lame.
Then I thought about Island of Thieves, which is not bad, does not give away any detail about what actually happens in the book, but it’s intriguing, and it’s actually a thing that’s said in the story.
But I would really like to call it Island of the Screaming Statues, that is sort of an homage to Elric, and fits the story to a T.
And I really think I’ll go for it.

All in all I have built a fine sword & sorcery caper, with a few neat monsters, a twist I’m sure the readers will like when it hits them – maybe two twists, actually – and a few other nice bits and pieces.
The first story, Heart of the Lizard, was a success and is still selling steadily, and I can’t wait to give to the fans a second serving of the adventures of Haq, Kil, Gress and Varda.

But now, I need a short break because my hands hurt.


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Back to Planescape, sort of

I loved the Planescape setting for the old AD&D.
Somebody described it as “philosophy with sticks”, and it was all right with me. I liked the way in which the game setting was presented, with the incredible Tony Di Terlizzi Illustrations and all the little bits of fun such as the slang, and the strange mix of Elizabethan, not-exactly-steampunk, sword & sorcery and, yes, philosophy.
Planescape was the sort of setting in which you ended up investigating who had actually killed a god, but in the meantime had the opportunity for a lot of weird shenanigans, swordplay and wordplay.
It was great.

My small collection of Planescape books is still here on my special RPG shelf, and sometimes I fantasize about setting up a new campaign.
Shake the pillars of creation for one last time.

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