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That was seventy years ago


Black Narcissus is a movie by Powell & Pressburger, the British film-makers also known as The Archers. It is a gorgeously-filmed psychological drama set during the last days of the British presence in India. It is my favorite Archers movie (with A Matter of Life and Death coming a close second) and it’s the sort of movie about which I can bore you to death forever (did I already do a post about it? If I didn’t, I should). The film features Deborah Kerr and the often overlooked but absolutely stunning Kathleen Byron. I was boring some people to death about this movie last night, and I got an observation that caused me to pause. It’s a 70 years old movie. It’s not relevant anymore. We’ll wait ...
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These are not the cavemen you are looking for


The things one learns! While I juggle writing jobs (having divided my day in three chunks – morning, afternoon and after-dinner), I am reading – mostly at lunchtime – and looking for missing bits of documentation. And considering I am revising a neolithic-style story, I thought it might be fun to check out a few novels about the primitive world. I love Burroughs’ Land That Time Forgot and Pellucidar series, and I think I have already mentioned Lin Carter’s Zanthodon. And then, in a totally different league, there’s Kim Stanley Robinson’s Shaman. But I am game for more – this might be the right time to go to the library and check out a copy of Clan of the Cave Bear. Is there anything else? Le...
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From Lemuria to Opar


I am putting the finishing touches on a 12.000 words novella in what I, being old-fashioned (or just plain old) would call the science fantasy subgenre. It’s something long overdue, that I promised to my Patrons a lifetime ago, and that was caught up in too many complications to write here about. But now here it is. I have a cover, and I am going through a bout of rewriting – which means the story might end up being longer than planned. I hope nobody will complain. The novella is basically sword & sorcery with a thin patina of science – I took some inspiration from the Recent Dryas Impact Event and some theories about the extinction of the Clovis culture in the Americas, and then threw in a ...
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Writing for a living


I have just started a new series on my Patreon page, about the nuts and bolts of writing when writing is not your tool to pull chicks, it’s what pays your bills and keeps you afloat. Nothing fancy, just a series of posts about how I solve certain problems, how I tackle certain issues. And that’s how I call the series: Nuts & Bolts – Writing to make a living. I’ll start with one 1000/1500-words post per month, for all those that support me with 1$ or more. Then we’ll see if the thing grows. These posts will appear on my Patreon page exclusively, both in English and Italian. Because it’s good to be my Patron (or so they say). Let’s see what happens. Original link
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In London with Jerry Cornelius


On the 7th of January 1992 I landed in London, nursing a bronchitis and a few lines of fever. I rode a taxi to my hotel, then went looking for a place to eat a bite. Along the road to a pub, I stopped in a bookshop and bought two books by Michael Moorcock: Mother London and one of the Jerry Cornelius books. Both had the dome of St Paul on the cover. I still think those two books set the tone and the rhythm of my year spent in London. Now I’ve been commissioned an article about Michael Moorcock. It’s a pro bono job, and I’ve been given total control on the subject, the word-count, the style. And I’m thinking I will do a piece about London in the works of Michael Moorcock. And what better occa...
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It’s the International Cat Day!


art by Mark Schultz Original link
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Occasional ghosts


One of my various sources of income as a writer is a series of history articles I am writing for an Italian magazine – pieces about characters and events from the history of Turin and of the Piedmont area. It’s a fun job that so far has helped pay the bills and the house insurance in particular, and it hinges on two of my long-standing interests, history and doing research. Right now I have a nice list of future topics to explore and today I went into the tragic life of a young woman – a member of the Savoy upper class that lived a tragic existence in Turin and met a sad end in the 18th century. What is usually called “a footnote on the pages of history”, but of possible interest for the rea...
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The other Van Helsing


I was watching Brides of Dracula last night. The 1960 Hammer movie directed by Terence Fisher does not feature Dracula at all – the Count is name-checked in the title and in the spoken intro – and given for dead – and the main vampire in the picture is Baron Meinster (David Peel), on the rampage in search of young women’s blood in an out-of-the-way corner of Transylvania. It’s a good fun movie, with a lot of original touches, despite the presence of a very dodgy bat. And of course there’s Yvonne Monlaur, that is absolutely gorgeous, in the role of student teacher Marianne Danielle – the damsel in distress of the piece, all the way from Paris to Transylvania to get in a whole lot of trouble. ...
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Odds and Ends #7


I just posted the 7th collection of Odds and Ends for my patrons: this time around, very cheap books (a SF classic and an intriguing post apocalyptic espionage thriller series), two short movies, a bundle of cyberpunk gaming material, a guided tour of Rome, and a machine to make your own environmental noises. Because it’s good to be my patrons. Original link
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Relic/The Relic (1995 & 1997)


Often it’s all a matter of timing. I read Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s Relic when it came out in 1995, having read some good reviews. I was in the Air Farce at the time, and that probably did not help me enjoy the book, that I read during one dull weekend while holed up in the switchboard bunker, plus a late-night train ride home. That, and the comparison to The X-Files – a series I did not enjoy very much – did not help putting me in the best disposition. I liked the set up, the setting and the premises, but I found the main protagonist Agent Pendergast absolutely insufferable. I came out of the book with very mixed feelings. Also, it was pretty obvious one of the authors, that had b...
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Still my favorite song


One day I will write a story. It will be called Still my favorite song, that is a quote from a song by Burt Bacharach, called It was you. I often use old songs to find a title for my stories and my works. My weird western gaming supplement for Deadlands is called Messico & Nuvole, and that’s the title of a song. All the Hope & Glory novellas have a title based on a record or a song, and Hope & Glory itself references Edward Elgar, of course. One day I will write Still my favorite song, that is a story about a guy that after thirty years still has dreams in which he meets his first love. I could quote Donald Fagen’s The Goodbye Look, given the premise, and call the story An old lover dressed ...
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2199


Leiji Matsumoto has been drawing comics and animated features forever, and it makes sense that when Japanese animation was first distributed in Italy, one of Matsumoto’s works was at the forefront of the anime invasion. Space Pirate Captain Harlock hit my country about six weeks before my 12th birthday, and instantly became my favorite Japanese cartoon. No giant robots stomping over the suburbs of Tokyo, but good old fashioned space opera – and it was just what the doctor ordered for a kid that had spent two years reading Jack Williamson and Edmond Hamilton. I mean, come on… space pirate? Where do I sign up? Matsumoto’s Northwest Smith Matsumoto’s cover for Shambleau Only much later would I ...
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Art for art’s sake


Not necessarily the 10cc song of the same title, but maybe… who knows? I stumbled today on a discussion in which one of the individuals involved claimed genre fiction can’t be as good as literary fiction, because if it’s good it can’t be genre fiction. I oversimplify, but that was basically the gist of the argument, with a twist – genre writing can’t be good because of the way in which it is produced, because of the authorial intent, if you will. Now the obvious implication of this reasoning is, the moment I sit here and I say to myself , for instance, now I’ll write me a ghost story my story automatically looses the opportunity of being good, in a “literary fiction” sort of good. It’s flawe...
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Kill the stereotype


I find this photo particularly beautiful. Original link
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Rod Serling

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Writing from experience


Reader, I did it! About two hours ago – at the time of publishing this – I sent a short story of mine to a literary magazine, my first literary fiction submission ever. Mainstream as hell, no flashing swords, no roaring rockets, no snarky adventurers in this one. Serious fiction, yessir. There goes my pulp street cred. The venue to which I have submitted my piece is so classy and literary and posh that they don’t pay the stories they publish, but in exposure – but I was happy to break my rule, never to give away my work for free, because, first, it was a 330-words piece that I wrote in thirty minutes (and edited in two hours, more about that later), second, I considered more a writing exerci...
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To be or not to be


(nice title, what?) One of those little details that tell you an awful lot about the differences between languages and cultures and worldviews is the fact that when dealing with jobs and occupations, English uses mostly (if not exclusively) the verb “to be” (as in, “I am a part time dog walker”) while Italian can use both “to be” and “to do” – “I am a part time dog walker” but also “I do the part time dog walker” (the correct English form would be the bulkier “I currently work as a part time dog walker”). Where does this lead us? Well, let’s start saying I am thinking of renaming a character in my current work in progress, from Sara to Pandora. That’s a big jump, uh? Let’s backtrack for a mo...
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Odds and Ends #6


I’ve just posted the sixth selection of Odds and Ends for my Patrons in the Five Bucks Brigade. This week, dining like it was 4000 b.C., a way to prevent your cat from thrashing your books, a roleplaying game by Umberto Pignatelli, an Oscar-winning animation short, and the opportunity to defend the Frontier against Xur and the army of Ko-Dan. Because it’s good to be my Patrons. Original link
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It’s Frank Frazetta’s Birthday


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The guy you love to hate


Parabellum Serenade is at the halfway point, and there is a believable prototype of a cover, and the plot is thickening. What I like about this story – maybe I already mentioned this – is the way in which all the pieces are falling together in the right place without me having to do any major effort. I only have to type the story as it unfolds. My modus operandi is as follows: I devote half an hour before falling asleep and about another half an hour after I wake up to stay under the covers and run through my head the scenes of the novel, like they were a movie. Usually the post-wake up session orders and cleans up, and adds detail to the pre-snooze ideas. Then I only have to sit down and wr...
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