Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Sword & Sorcery movies

I happen to be on a Sword & Sorcery roll. Big deal, you say, as if it was the first time. But really, in part this is because for Christmas I got the last volume in Glen Cook’s Dread Empire series, and so I’m finally setting out to read the whole bunch of novels in chronological order, starting with A Fortress in Shadow. In part it’s because another gift I got in my sock for the Befana festival is P.J. Thorndyke’s Barbarians at the Gates of Hollywood, this being a fun and opinionated survey of the golden age of sword & sorcery movies, to wit, the 1980s.

And as I was reading Thorndyke’s book, it happened – as it usually does – that I started feeling like re-watching these old flicks. because no one will be surprised to learn I saw each one of them at least once, and many of them (yes, I’m looking at you, Beastmaster) repeatedly, in many long summer nights, when sleep would not come, and a silly movie and a cup of ice cream was all that stood between my sanity and heat-induced madness.

And of course I’ve been watching a lot of movies since I started co-hosting the Paura & Delirio podcast with my friend Lucy – at least one movie per week, often watching it twice; more when we do our specials, like the one we did on New Year’s Eve about the Hammer Karnstein Trilogy, and what we’ll soon do with the two Nosferatu movies – Murnau’s and Herzog’s.

So the question is – do I have the time, between Cook’s book, my writing projects, my planning and building a vegetable garden and the idea of acquiring a new skill in February… do I have the time for these old sword & sorcery films? Say one per week, following P.J. Thorndyke’s excellent guide?

And, should I do it … what next?
I could blog about them, of course.
And maybe do something more – a film or two will maybe find a place in Paura & Delirio – because of the contiguity between sword & sorcery and horror/weird fiction.
But what of the rest?

I’ll have to find an idea.
But right now, I’ll have to go dig in the box of old DVDs for the titles in my viewing list that are not on VHS.
This is going to be fun…


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Heroic or not?

Turns out a debate opened, on Facebook or thereabouts, two days ago, about the fact whether Howard’s Conan stories are sword & sorcery or heroic fantasy.
Because that’s an important thing, you see.
To some.
Apparently.

I was not present when the thing started, but apparently a friend referring to Conan as sword & sorcery caused somebody’s knicks to get in a twist.
Which is interesting, because everything started from a discussion about Fritz Leiber (him again), and we all know – or should know – that the label of Sword & Sorcery was coined by Leiber when Moorcock asked him about a tag for “the sort of fantasy stories Robert E. Howard wrote”.
It was 1961, the venue was the fanzine Amra.

So, the point should be moot, and yet… is there a difference?

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Five reasons for reading Fritz Leiber

Mondadori, the major Italian publishing group, will hit the shelves this week with a massive 1300-pages volume featuring all the Lankhmar stories written by Fritz Leiber.
To celebrate this, I did a piece on MELANGE, the independent magazine of fantasy and culture – and because I was asked by some friends that do not read Italian, I’ve translated the piece, and I’m posting it here.
Enjoy.

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The House of Vezzanius

I am happy to announce that my short story In the House of Vezzanius has just been published in the July issue of Swords & Sorcery Magazine, and is up on their website for everybody to read, free of charge.
And it is really a pleasure of being in the company of authors Teel James Glenn and Carmine A. Tedeschi (that sounds a lot more Italian than me, but comes from Pennsylvania)

I hope you will enjoy the magazine and my story in it – it’s a perfect read for the summer.


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Men (and women) of learning and of steel

Back in the day, I fell desperately in love with the writings of Mary Gentle, the British writer whose Rats & Gargoyles is still in my top five of favourite fantasy novels thirty years after I first read it. I have multiple copies of it, and the only time in my life I was mugged, the guy attacked me to steal from my coat pocket the paperback of Rats & Gargoyles.
A bibliophile-thief? A fantasy-loving thug?

In those pre-internet days, the only way to get everything Gentle had published was perusing the catalogs from Andromeda Books, and then mail an order (you know, with envelope and stamps) all the way to the UK, and then wait and pray the postman didn’t so something stupid.

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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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