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My new project – back from the dead after 82 years


I have just mailed a signed contract and then I’ll start working seriously on the outline of a 10.000-words story that promises to be fun to write, challenging, and might be the start of a series. Which is a nice way to try and dispel the lethargy this lockdown brought about. What happened was this: Pro Se Productions, a publisher so reckless they even publish my stories (I mentioned Explorer Pulp a few days back, but there’s more), apparently went and licensed forty-two characters thatwere intended to form the stable of a little-known pulp magazine publisher based in St Louis, Missouri, a fly-by-night publishing company that was born and fizzed out in a matter of a few months, back in ’38. ...
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Wartime wisdom

Because I follow the best vloggers out there… Original link
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The first 25.000


Today I delivered the first half of a book I was supposed to have finished and published in time for the Turin Book Fair in May. Niche-but-intriguing historical essay by an up-and-coming publisher, with my name smack on the cover, possibly with a live presentation, Q&A, signing session, the works. But the Fair was cancelled – or postponed to a date yet to be established, and today I delivered the first 25.000 words.I was supposed to deliver the whole shebang, but I decided to take the weekend off to try and recharge my batteries. Because here’s the fun thing – if you are the sort that finds such stuff funny: while the world is grinding to a halt because of the pandemic, my life has not chang...
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Along the Silk Road on a Rolls-Royce


There’s a story of mine, called Queen of the Dead Lizards (you can find it in Pro Se Press’ Explorer Pulp, together with three other fine stories by three excellent authors). I will not spoil the story for those of you who might like to check it out, but let’s say that part of the action in Queen of the Dead Lizards hinges on a trip along the Silk Road on a Rolls-Royce … an accident in the real life of the last Khan of Bukhara.And what can I say – it felt like a good idea at the time.But through one of those curious series of connections that come up during rambling conversations, I just stumbled on another Rolls Royce ride across the steppes of Central Asia, in a book by an author that’s no...
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Quarantine reads: Cherryh and Hodgell, and Block


I decided I will devote some time in this quarantine period to read three series that have been on my radar for ages, now, and I have always kept for later – one of them, indeed, comes from one of my emergency boxes, the stashes of paperbacks I sometimes buy (especially when I find a good special offer) and save for the hard times.Well, the hard times are here, so here we go. I normally don’t like series anymore – as I grow old, I found out I prefer standalone novels, novellas, or series of short stories. But these cases are different. These are three series of which I have already read the first volume, and they are the work of three authors I greatly admire – so, no risk there, right? Scie...
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A Gentle Philosophy


A Gentle Philosophy (or A Kind Philosophy, or A Soft Philosophy, depending on the translation) is the title of a song I like a lot (maybe I’ll put the video below), and is something I thought about after my last post in which I mentioned the philosopher talking of “an alleged emergency” and basically treating the current state of affairs of our species as just another thought experiment. Through a series of different connections, thinking about philosophy, I came to the usual – my own philosophical gurus, and their teachings. Because we are creatures of science and philosophy, and there’s always something to learn from the classics. “Disease is an impediment to the body, but not to the will,...
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Rationing


The news is that various areas in Italy are reaching the peak diffusion of the virus, and therefore the lockdown will be further restricted. Yesterday a wild story was circulated about army checkpoints and anti-contamination kits being distributed, one per family, and a lot of other rubbish. Easy to debunk, but a lot easier to spread, given the current psychological state of the citizens.People fabricating such stories should be sent to clean the bedpans of the sick in the hospitals. And incidentally, saying things like the last line I wrote is being denounced as a clear sign we are all turning into fascists: we should not invoke the punishment of those that in the end are just exercising th...
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Fantasy AGE for free


I mentioned Chris Pramas’ Fantasy AGE roleplaying game in a post a few days back – and now you can get a copy of the Basic Rulebook in PDF for free from the Green Ronin website, as a special offer in these days of quarantine.The Basic Rulebook is all you need to play one of the best fantasy roleplaying systems I’ve seen in recent times.Check it out. Original link
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A tiny snippet of my WIP

That goes to show that I always write about the same things, in the end… After crossing the Kin Tang bridge, and going east, the Chintang Strasse becomes Corso Vittorio Emanuele, and then turns into Petrograd Prospekt once you have passed Corso Trento. In less than two kilometers, a person who walks along this route will be subject to four different legal systems – Chinese, Austro-Hungarian, Italian and Russian, each administered by its own court. And yet, thanks to extraterritoriality, a citizen of one of the Eight Nations who breaks the law, anywhere in the Tianjin area, will be extradited to his sector. In a surreal variant of the classic joke, if there are an Italian, an Englishman and a...
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Dreams


No, not the Fleetwood Mac song.Ever since I was a kid, during highly stressful times I either get insomnia, or I have the strangest, most distracting dreams. As I think I have mentioned in the past, a lot of these dreams take place in the same locale, a white city that is sometimes completely deserted.Two nights ago it was not. And yes, I also hate those people that go and tell you about their dreams, so I think it OK should you decide to stop reading here. Two nights ago I dreamed I was in a very crowded palace in the White City. There was some kind of literary event going on. I guess this is connected to the fact that I am working on a book that was supposed to be presented at the Turin Bo...
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All I needed to know I learned… somewhere


There’s a lot of articles being posted on blogs and things about how to work from home. In Italy, a country that was criminally behind in terms of telecommuting jobs, the possibility of working via the net is causing a small quake, but it looks like all over the world we are seeing a sudden “discovery” of remote working. Another very popular topic on blogs and socials is what to read/watch/do while the country is in lockdown – huge to-read lists, playlists and what else. A lot of publishers and authors are giving away some of their books – I am doing it myself, because it’s nice to try and show some solidarity and manage to pass for human. And then there’s the vast population of nerds and ge...
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One day means ten


Today I ordered two books I need for research purposes (and for entertainment), and do not exist in ebook – there, the last bit is essential.Ebooks are not just cheap, they are instantaneous – the moment the payment is processed, you have them on your reader. Paperbacks you have to wait for – and there is where the lockdown makes itself felt once again. I used to joke about the fact, because I have a Amazon Prime account, I get my books mailed for free, and with the one-day delivery formula, which means I get them in three to five days. Because one-day delivery in Italy works if you live in a big city or in the immediate vicinities. Move to the hills, and one day means at least three. But no...
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Provisions run


This morning I went to the local discount to buy provisions, having planned last night a shopping list capable of covering two weeks for two people living in the middle of nowhere. A friend gave me a lift, and we drove for the 6 km to the supermarket. I have read, in the past days, reports about how the lockdown is doing wonders for the environment – the water is clear and full of fish in the canals of Venice, and wild animals are roaming the deserted streets of the cities, like in a movie. In South-East Asia, towns are being taken over by monkeys, like a page from Sinbad’s Voyages. And from what I saw, the countryside here in Astigianistan is feeling the benefit – crows, ravens, blackbirds,...
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Einstein as a two-fisted pulp alternative to Doctor Who


And talking about comics and ways to spend some quality time during these strange quarantine days, just dig this cover, and tell me you don’t want to read it…. … and in fact you can, for free and legally, at this link.You’re welcome. Original link
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Volcano Goddesses, Golden Dawns and Sorcerer Popes


It’s Sunday, the countryside is silent and dreary, yesterday people in decontamination suits walked the streets of our village decontaminating the area – a scene out of too many SF/horror movies – and today I decided I’ll be lazy, recharge my batteries and go through a collection of Athena Voltaire comics a friend sent me – I’ve been through Athena Voltaire and the Volcano Goddess this morning, I’ll devote the afternoon to Athena Voltaire and the Sorcerer Pope, leaving Athena Voltaire and the Golden Dawn for the eveningBecause I meed a little of high-octane pulp adventure in my life. And here’s a gallery of covers, for your entertainment (If you’ve not read the Athena Voltaire comics… you sh...
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Magic by numbers: Fifty-two


Today is Friday the 13th. The countryside is silent and deserted, and there is not a soul around. We are all sitting tight waiting for the second shoe to drop. At five pm my weekend will begin, and I will have a cup of tea and start a book. I have allowed too long external circumstances to spoil my everyday life. Like Steve Perry said, we’ve got to be good to ourselves. A few days back I spotted a special offer on Amazon, and for less than three bucks (including delivery) I got me a paperback copy of The Magic Toyshop, by Angela Carter, in the classic Virago Modern Classics edition.I have so far missed this novel, and what struck me was this: this book came out in the year of my birth, ergo ...
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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 Dilk’s 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 collect...
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What makes us human (hint: it has to do with books)


On my Italian blog I have just posted a rather lugubrious post about the fact that, considering I was walking in Asti’s market square one week ago, and that Asti was a city in which a number of COVID-19 cases have been reported, I am currently counting the days, and feeling a shiver every time I cough or I sneeze.Did I catch it?Am I infected?Will I die? The virus has a 14-days incubation period, so I am currently halfway through, and counting. But as I said in that post, we can only keep doing what we always did, and march on. After all, what else could we do?Were I to start obsessing over the fact that I might be ill, would it change my chances of survival?No.All I can do is stay put, and a...
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Two hundred five thousand and five hundred and thirty


The morning started nicely, with the news that a pitch I mailed 36 hours ago, for a 10.000-words story set on the Mongolian border has been accepted, and the editor would like to see a full treatment before they give the go ahead. This is a great opportunity to work on a very high-profile project, and also, it’s a fun story I am planning to write, so there. As I was updating my files (I keep a spreadsheet record of all the stories and the pitches I mail out), I decided to make a quick check, and calculated how many words I mailed out in total in 2019. 205530 This is of course not counting the stories I published for my patrons, those I self-published under my name or other aliases, my contra...
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Fantasy AGE – fast and cool


I do not have many opportunities of playing roleplaying games anymore these days – I live in a place in which RPGs are either too modern (because a lot of old people stick to billiards and games of cards, and consider weird any game with a thick rulebook) or too ancient (because younger people play massive online games and consider dice and hex paper quaint).But I still like reading games, and last night I received a gift card for DriveThruRPG just in time to take advantage of a 40% discount campaign for DM Day.So I looked into a few things I had on my list.And I discovered Fantasy AGE. Published by Green Ronin, Fantasy AGE is a game designed by Chris Pramas, an old hand at game design that ...
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