East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


The last flight of the Gremlin Special

margaret hastingsThe lady portrayed here by the side is Corporal Margaret Hastings, WAC.
She was one of the survivors of the Gremlin Special1, a C-47 Skytrain that, on the 15th of May 1945 crashed in unexplored Shangri-La valley, New Guinea.

Margaret Hastings, described as a woman that “liked her liquor, in moderation, and her men, also in moderation”, had apparently joined the service to escape a life of spinsterhood in her hometown.
She was thirty, and beautiful – spinsterhood?

This seems to have turned into a women & airplanes sort of week, so, why not take a look at the adventure of the Gremlin Special? Continue reading

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The true adventure of the WASP

cover79908-mediumFor 27 months, between 1942 and 1944, eleven hundred and two women flew military aircraft as part of the US war effort.
They did not engage in combat, but (mostly) ferried new planes to their destinations – a key role, because planes don’t fly on their own.

The story of the Women Airforce Service Pilots is one of those often overlooked bits of history that are the main reason why I love history.

Now, Sarah Byrn Rickman, probably the foremost expert on WASP history, has published WASP of the Ferry Command, a complete overview of the WASP ferry pilots – based on official reports and documents and, most importantly, on interviews with the surviving members of the unit. Continue reading


Other People Pulps – Not a Country for Pulps

pulp_coverAs I probably mentioned already, I’ve been a roleplayer for the last 25+ years – having started to play seriously with Call of Cthulhu in the mid-80s.
It will come as no surprise that I like very much pulp-themed RPGs – home-brew stuff run on Savage Worlds, mostly, but also games such as Adventure!, or Hollow Earth Expeditions.
I like the genre, and I can slip quite easily into pulp-adventure-mode.
It’s fun.
My players often have a lot less fun.
Fact is – being Italian, they lack the pulp background.
They are pulp-illiterate.
And lacking the pulp culture, they have a hard time coping with the stories I pitch at them – with the characters, the situations, the mood.
The problem is similar to what would happen should I pitch one of my stories to most Italian publishers.
This is not a country for pulps. Continue reading

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Writing on spec – the end (?)

And so it’s done.
3500 words, ten scenes.
From open call to final draft in 48 hours.
Not bad at all, if I do say so myself.
I still need a title1 and a final revision (is it possible to turn up the volume a little on the action scenes and make the finale even more dark? Maybe add 100 good words cutting 10 useless ones?)
But I’ll send it along to the editor before midnight anyway.

Will it sell?
Who knows.
It was well worth the try anyway.


In the meantime, I have learned that the turret in a submarine is called the sail of the sub, and it comes with two sail fins – the structure is also known as conning tower.
And in old subs, the mess was between the crew quarters and the control room – the officers’ rooms being further forward.
Yes, I love doing research for my stories (and improve my English).

  1. and this is going to be tough. 


Shanghai, Summer 1937

The Battle of Shanghai is the sort of big, fat chunk of history that somehow gets lost in the fury of the years just before the start of WW2. I learned about it doing research for my novel.
But for all its pulp trappings and Chinese fantasy elements, what I’m writing is still a historical fantasy.


To me, historical fantasy means that history as we know it stays in place, but fantasy happens in the dark corners and hollow places that history books don’t cover.
I can’t change the course of events and still call it historical fantasy – it can be pseudo-historical fantasy, it can become a form of uchronia*, but historical fantasy it can’t be anymore.
Continue reading

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Nazis & Dinosaurs – Half Past Danger

cover39842-mediumHalf Past Danger is a comic series by Stephen Mooney, released by IDW Publishing.

In 1943, sergeant “Irish” Flynn is on a recon mission on a Pacific Island, when his squad hits on something big.
And dinosaurs.
The sole survivor of a confrontation with rampaging T rexes, Sargent Flynn comes back with a wild story and a few grainy photographs.
Nobody seems to believe him, until a special expedition on the mysterious island is put together.
Together with a supercilious British spy, a larger than life USMC captain and a Japanese martial artist, embittered Flynn will have to face his nightmares again.

STK612602Half Past Danger is a concentrated extract of pulp adventure – it has got everything, and then some.
There’s the war, the Nazis trying to develop a superweapon (but not what you think), yankee supersoldiers, ninjas, beautiful women, and dinosaurs.
In its approach to its subject matter, Half Past Danger fits perfectly the style of New Pulp – old fashioned themes with a modern sensibility.

It’s fast, fun without being comedic, it’s gritty and nostalgic, with lots of meat and excellent art.
The first series of six issues will be collected in a massive hardcover that will hit the shelves in February 2014.
In case you missed the single issues, it’s well worth looking out for.

And let’s hope there’s more coming.