Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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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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Flash from the Past: Hawk & Fisher

I discovered Hawk & Fisher in the early ’90s, when I bought in bulk the six slim Headline paperbacks that make up the series. It was a very strange hybrid: sword & sorcery, detective story and humor.
But I liked the general concept, the six paperbacks were cheap, and it was a fun way to spend a summer.

Hawk & Fisher is one of the first series developed by Simon R. Green, a British writer that has fully metabolized the pulp ethos of yore: he writes serial characters, usually in pretty classic genres (fantasy, horror, space opera), adding a twist that makes even the most trite concepts look fresher.

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Nevèrÿon

Of course I knew it, when I picked it up. I knew it would be hard going, and it would mock all I know about the genre, and make me feel small and stupid and basically fire-bomb all I know about writing.
But after all that was the reason why I picked it up to start with.

I’ve decided to devote the Christmas nights to the reading of Samuel R. Delany’s Tales of Nevèrÿon, his 1978 collection of stories that is the first volume of the Return to Nevèrÿon series.

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