Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Reading Tanith Lee

It’s the sixth anniversary of the death of Tanith Lee, one of my favorite writers, and one I have a long history with. As I think I have often mentioned in the past, The Birthgrave was the second book I ever read in English, back in 1984. It was the one that got me hooked to reading in the original language, and it made me a Tanith Lee fan. It also dispelled this strange prejudice – that was at the time common in the Italian fantasy community – that Lee was bad, a writer of limited scope and poor ideas, a talentless hack and, worst still, a woman.
“She’s almost as bad as Michael Moorcock, and she’s an ultra-feminist!” a reviewer wrote.
Because thus was in ancient times.

Through the years I have read a lot of Lee’s work, and in the last few weeks I went on a shopping spree (my birthday’s coming, remember?) and started filling the gaps: the books I missed completely, and the books I read forty years ago in wobbly Italian translations, and now I feel like revisiting.
Ebooks are a boon, in this case.

So I got me a copy of Cyrion, a collection of fun sword & sorcery shorts I had given a wide berth to when it had been published in Italian, that ofer an interesting take on a somewhat Mediterranean/Middle Eastern fantasy. Cyrion’s adventures will serve me as a warm-up before I dive into the sword & sorcery collection Empress of Dreams, that has been recently published and collects Lee’s other sword & sorcery tales.
The title of the second collection is particularly apt, as it recalls C.A. Smith, sometimes called the Emperor of Dreams, and Tanith Lee S&S stories are somewhat similar, in tone and spirit, to Smith’s.

Then I’ve got me a copy of Companions on the Road, my old Italian edition being buried in a box here somewhere. I admit I remember very little of the book – I read it after the two-book series Don’t Bite the Sun/Drinking Sapphire Wine (still one of my faves from Lee), and the sudden shift to fantasy had left me cold and not very interested. And as I am at it, I might also re-read those two other novels.

Then, a collection of Indian fantasies (or science-fantasies), Tamastara, that I had completely missed at the time of publication. This one promises to be a nice change of pace – and I’m always interested in non-Western fantasies.

And finally, I got a copy of Dreams of Dark and Light, a hefty collection of science-fiction and fantasy short stories.

Tanith Lee had an unique voice, and an extreme versatility, and is one of the writers one should read to learn how it’s done. It will be a pleasure spending my summer nights reading her stories.


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I never wrote a vampire story

It’s something I realized a few nights back, while watching the new BBC adaptation of Dracula.
It was the classic realization thing in three movements, like a symphony, that’s often mentioned in writing handbooks:
first movement – damn, I can write better stories that this!
second movement – hey, I actually never wrote a vampire story! Never, in all these years…
third movement – opens a new folder and a new file in Scrivener.

Which of course leads to the question… why not?

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Quiet, rest and some Flat Earth

It’s the 23rd of December.
I have mailed my latest novella to my Patrons, and sent an ebook to a friend as a better substitute for a greeting card. The pantry is stocked, the menus decided for the next days. All the bills have been paid (well, OK, most of them), and there’s money (not much) in the bank. I’ve even bought a sack of treats for the feral cats that will come and sleep in the big box we’ve placed outside.
Now I can sit back and relax for a few days.
Read a good book, or three.

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Some other cavemen

Sometimes I say I’ll hung my keyboard to the wall and move to a career as a tarot reader in the pubs of the area. I mean this only half-jokingly, and for a series of reasons it’s becoming increasingly more attractive. And it turns out I wouldn’t even be the first – one of my favorite writers, back when I was a kid, apparently ditched a career as an award-winning novelist and journalist to become an astrologer.

Jane Gaskell was born in 1941 and wrote her first novel at 14, and published it at 16. It’s called Strange Evil and it’s a strange roller-coaster of magic, imagination and sexual suggestions. I read it in 1985 – give or take a few months – because of the Borius Vallejo cover, and because I had just been through Gaskell’s Atlan saga, again picked up because of Boris, and I was a fan.

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Inspirations

There are two questions that usually pop up during interviews, and they are

  1. Where do you get your ideas?
  2. What authors inspired you to become a writer?

The answer to the first is, of course, Schenectady.
The answer to the second, for me, is a little more complicated – or at least lengthier – because I am convinced that if we are readers – and writers can’t not be readers – then everything we read is a source of inspiration.
This kind of answer usually is interpreted as evasive by interviewers, so I usually have a list of authors I recite like a mantra.

And I thought it might be interesting to write a list, not only of authors, but also of the books by those authors I found inspiring. The books that made me say

THIS! This is what I want to write.

Who knows, maybe you need some reading suggestions for what’s left of summer. Here we go. Continue reading


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Women’s Day and book suggestions

maudfealyHere we go.
It’s the International Woman’s Day, and I thought… why not do a post about women authors I love?
A post about those authors whose books have influenced my writing, setting a very high standard and making me go

“That’s what I want to write! That’s the way I want to write it!”

I did a post, a long time ago, about non-fiction women writers whose influence I felt and still feel.
This time, let’s go for fantasy and science fiction – a limited list, only five names, the ones that are at the top of my list, and without my disrespect for all the fine writers I’ll leave out.
Here’s my top five, in no particular order… Continue reading


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Tanith Lee, 1947-2015

tumblr_nmasfaoUoY1r0uc86o1_500I just learned of the passing of British author Tanith Lee.
This was shattering news – I an a great fan of her writings, and The Birthgrave was one of the first books I read in English.
Some of her novels – Don’t Bite the Sun/Drinking Sapphire Wine, Volkhavaar, the Paradys sequence… but I could mention many others – stand very high in my favorites lists, and her style was always a source of wonder and frustration – because I’ll never write like that.

Lee was a master storyteller, often breaking the boundaries between genres, and defied categorization.
Her catalog is full of extraordinary stories, beautifully told.

This is really a chunk of my life that goes away.
I am very sad.