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Robert Conrad, 1935-2020


Hell of a week – bad weather, bad health, unexpected expenses, work complications, and the good guys keep going: yesterday it was Robert Conrad, the star of The Wild Wild West and Baa Baa Black Sheep/Black Sheep Squadron, two shows I loved as a kid, together with the spy show A Man Called Sloane.It’s been a hell of a week.Original link
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To be born and to die

Ulysses, discovered as a kid in school when I was six or seven, remains one of my favorite heroes, and certainly the first of my heroes, and Kirk Douglas’ portrayal is the definitive article.And this scene will forever resonate with me.Original link
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Kirk Douglas, 1916-2020


We lost Kirk Douglas early this morning, and already I have caught the blasé Facebook Philosophers going “why the shock, why the surprise, he was 103!”To which I say, fuck you, you soulless wankers.Kirk Douglas was a giant, a man who made film history, with a catalogue of movies and roles that is staggering for variety, quality and freshness.Many remember his role in Spartacus, but I would have a hard time selecting the role in which I best remember him – Ulysses in the Italian adaptation of the Odyssey, probably, or as a scarred Viking chieftain in The Vikings, or his turn as Ned Land in Disney’s 20.000 Leagues Under the Sea.But what of the noirs, like Out of the Past, and Billy Wilder’s Ac...
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Too many interests

I was talking with a few friends about two job-related issues: to wit specialization and home-working.Two things that do not have much in common but one thing – the marketplace hereabouts seems to have got them wrong, and a lot of the people I know (writers, translators, web designers, computer programmers, artists) are suffering for this.Working from home is not considered “real work” here in my country – I live in a place where you get hired to do a translation, you get paid by the page, and the boss wants you therein his office, sitting at the desk, so that he can see you while you translate.And yet, a lot of jobs could be done from home, with flexible hours, a lower environmental impact,...
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Sunday Night in Hamunaptra


Last night I went and re-watched Stephen Sommers’ The Mummy, from 1999. I first saw it in the theatre, in ’99, with my brother. At the time we were used to go at the matinee show, taking advantage of the discount, and enjoying shows in which we were often the only viewers. For The Mummy, there was about a dozen people in the theatre, mostly pensioners. We smuggled in two packs of crisps and two bottles of Sprite, and had a great time.Possibly even more than the first Indiana Jones movie, The Mummy is my perfect go-to movie if I need to explain to some mundane friend what pulp is all about.It often goes like this…Me: I read and often write, you know, pulp fiction…The other guy: Ah, Tarantino…...
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A great novel, and dignity


First things first: I am reading a great novel, and you should read it too. Because it’s a great fantasy novel from a good writer, and because it’s the sort of Eastern-themed sword & sorcery that if you are reading these pages you’d probably like.Also, for a few days it’s priced at 99 cents on Amazon.The book is called Never Die, and was written by Rob J. Hayes. Five champions are called back from death to help the God of Death settle a score with an impossible-to-kill enemy.Just dig the cover.Yes, I know.Go buy it, and read it.Rob Hayes’ book made a huge impression on me.As I said, I like the story, the setting and the characters a lot. The writing is great, crisp and direct while still bei...
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Being silly is not enough


I was being silly, and I was discussing with some friends the wird crackpot theories of one of those guys they call “Pyramidiots” – you know, the sort that “I don’t know how or why to build a pyramid, so the aliens built the pyramids.”Which, incidentally, it’s a perfect premise for fiction, but utter crap when presented as factual. And the author we were discussing in particular claims that the pyramids were built by Neanderthals. Yeah.They were built by Neanderthals before they developed speech.And so we were talking and being silly, a friend saidthey’d need to be great mimes to coordinate the worksand I repliedYeah, they were led by Marcel LescauxAnd now I know I have to write a story abou...
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The coldest days of the year


We are keeping warm and fighting with a number of technical issues hereabouts, as the coldest days of the year keep us indoors.And not just us.The perks of living in the country: the cold causes mice to seek refuge indoor, and as every year we had to deal with these small home invaders. This year though it’s been different – the beasties are more cunning (and avoid our baited traps) and are showing a penchant for eating through plastic bottles (thus flooding our sink with dish detergent) and more importantly, on cables.We’ve been experiencing LAN problems, and half of the kitchen appliances are damaged.And the crazy thing is, of course, that I am thinking this is a good premise for a short h...
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One night at the (Vampire) Circus


Having milked Dracula for all it was worth, in the early ’70s Hammer Films turned their gaze to other vampires and, taking advantage of the more relaxed censorship rules, created what is called the Karnstein Trilogy, very loosely based on Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu Carmilla (that you can find here as a free download in case you missed it).The three movies in the cycle are The Vampire Lovers (1970), Lust for a Vampire (1971) and Twins of Evil (1971), and are considered classics – and I will have to write about them sooner or later.The Karnstein vampires are different from their Transylvanian counterparts, being generally female, much more inclined to nudity and most importantly being able to go ...
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A new deck for the collection


Marie Anne Adelaide Lenormand was a very popular fortune teller during the Napoleonic era, that became (in)famous when she became the card reader and confidante of Josephine, Napoleon Bonaparte’s wife. She was also arrested for espionage – and for witchcraft, but it was hard to make the accusation stick in post-Illuminist France. When she died she left a fortune to her only heir – that being a devout Catholic burned all of her stuff, and wanted nothing to do with her, but kept the money.Better known as Mlle Lenormand, Marie also created her own tarot deck – and I received a packet this morning containing a new Lenormand Tarot deck for my collection.And the Lenormand Tarot is particularly int...
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Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes


No, this is not about the Jimmy Buffett song, or album.It’s about something I realized last night, after spending 1.98 euro on two historical novels – I’ve been reading more historical novel than usual this last year, and while my science fiction reading remained steady, it’s fantasy that is taking a dip. Given the choice, I’d rather go for an historical novel, or a history essay than for a fantasy book.So I started to wonder why, and came to the conclusion that I have three factors to blame…First factor: as I grow old, I have no more time for trilogies made of seven 1000-pages books, that seem to be the default format of fantasy these days. And indeed, I mostly go for short story collection...
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Radio drama: The Hex

Here’s something spooky for a cold winter night: The Hex, based on M.R. James’ Casting the Runes (which was made into a movie called Night of the Demon, by Jacques Tourneur).Enjoy!Original link
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The Nexus Mirror


The Nexus Mirror We have here a story about a hidden race on Earth, known as the Enlai, and a human who sets out to stop a war between the different factions of this race. Then we have a woman of the Reader Enlai group being manipulated by the villain after her sister is kidnapped. Finally, later in the book, we are introduced to the ruler of the Shadow Enlai, who ultimately became one of my favorite characters. This book took me by surprise. What I mean by that is that after several chapters of slowly being introduced to the characters and the world that Michael Noah created, I found that I wasn’t that interested. First, because I am a Mortal Kombat player, the name Raiden immediately had m...
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The Rose of Tibet


As expected, the effect of Christopher Fowler’s The Book of Forgotten Authors is making itself felt, causing my reading list to explode as I discover writers I have so far ignored.First it was Margery Allingham, and now it’s the turn of Lionel Davidson.A writer that was highly praised by Graham Greene and often compared to Eric Ambler, Lionel Davidson had three Gold Dagger Awards and was considered for a while a highly favoured contender, if an outsider, for the title of best British thriller writer. One of his books was even made into a TV series by the BBC and his last book, published in 1994, received rave reviews.But then for some reason he fell out of sight.Of all of Davidson’s books me...
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It's not fantasy


I just found out my old paperback copy of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Italian edition published by Rusconi, which I bought in 1983 or 1984, goes for up to 150 bucks, second-hand, online.I could give it a thought, really.Apparently all the old editions of Tolkien’s doorstop novel are being called back and destroyed, or so it seems, as part of a complicated copyright infringement lawsuit that also branches out in a legal battle about slander and what not.The crux of the problem: the current Italian publisher of Tolkien commissioned a new translation, and all hell broke loose. The old translation’s been accused of being inaccurate, the new translation’s been mocked for some choices and som...
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Two-Guns Bob at 114: on the need to start reading Robert Howard again


The first thing I ever read by Robert E. Howard was People of the Black Circle, the opener in Conan the Adventurer and still my favorite Conan story today. I bought the Italian edition in the early ’80s, the sturdy hardback with that gorgeous Karel Thole cover that gave me a lot of problems both at home and in school.Indeed, the first thing I was asked when a schoolmate saw I was about one third into the book was…“Has he already raped someone?”That was when I learned that sword & sorcery was considered on a par with pornography by those that did not read it.Forty years on, I sometimes get the impression that a lot of those that do not read sword & sorcery are still under that impression – bu...
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The Blue Nightingale, a new Tale from the Frontier


I have just posted a new story to my Patrons, the fifth short in the Tales from the Frontier series – a short fun piece, written in a single sitting and set this time on the other side of the Abode of the Snow, in the not-exactly-Chinese-empire of the northwest.A story about honor, duty and common sense, called The Blue Nightingale.Because it’s good to be my patrons.Original link
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Cultural illiteracy


Werner Herzog, not exactly the latest newcomer, used to joke that kids coming out of film school had wasted three years and a lot of money, and thought the history of cinema started with Star Wars, they had no idea of who Elia Kazan was, or who D. W. Griffith was.And about half an hour ago I was talking with a friend, and she was aghast: in a TV quiz show, the participant was asked to give the name of “the Sergio who directed Once Upon a Time in America“, and the participant drew a blank – this person had no idea of who Sergio Leone was.Now I told my friend that it may not be a good idea to use quiz shows as a measure of the general state of the nation, but… damn!This is much worse than the ...
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Plots, Nefarious or Otherwise


Sitting here wrapped in blankets, drinking hot tea and popping aspirins to try and get back on track after two days spent on the road and in the cold, I find that there is little I can do but plot future stories.I sent a detailed pitch to my Italian publisher, but I’ve yet to hear back from them, and I have here two open calls that would be madness to miss – so I sit, and drink tea, and plot.This is the phase in which I do not write, but rather I pile ideas upon ideas, and let them simmer.Basically it means to look at what I like and what interests me at the moment – certain themes, certain clichés – and see how they intersect with the themed calls.Can I really write a humorous SF story feat...
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Lime pie noir

Having spent most of the last 72 hours running around – mostly on trains – all I have to post today is this great little noir movie…Original link
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