East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

book feature


Short stories

dahlIn this weird summer that alternates suffocating humidity with cold showers, I have a craving for short stories.
Don’t ask me why.
Maybe it’s because I can start and finish a story in a single sitting, even after a long day spent writing, or translating, or doing stuff; it engages my brain at the right level, without being too demanding on my time, or eyesight.
Or maybe it’s because in the last few years I’ve been writing mostly short stories and I am curious about what the great ones did.
I’m trying to steal their secrets.

So, I went through John D. MacDonald‘s The Good Old Stuff, and right now I’m going through the Everyman edition of Roald Dahl’s Collected Stories.
Afterwards I’ll probably go through Muse and Reverie, by Charles de Lint.
And then some Sam Shepard.
As I said, I’m craving short fiction, and studying with the best. Continue reading


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Other People’s Pulps – Revenge of the Peplums

cabiria101They never wrote novels about Maciste.
But someone’s writing them now.

Back in the ’50s and ’60s, Italy had its own brand of fantasy movies – they were called peplums, from the standard garment worn by the female characters, the classic attire of ancient Greece, or more generically “film mitologico” – myth-based movies.
And we’re talking classical myths – Hercules, Jason and the Argonauts, Ulysses… and Maciste.

Maciste first surfaced in 1914, in the silent era colossal Cabiria, portrayed by Bartolomeo Pagano, a former docks worker turned actor.
The success of the character was such that the following year Maciste was back on screen, starring in his own spin-off – the straightforwardly titled Maciste. Continue reading

media feat

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Music for writing

OK, so this has been sort of a themed week, what with my writing a new story and a new character and all that.

So today a bit of music from a concert that’s been providing a soundtrack of sorts for my writing this week*.


* I did tell you I use music to coreograph my stories, right?

writing feat

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The just-off-the-roller-coaster effect

treThere’s this folk tale, which is quite popular.
It tells of writing as a toilsome activity, built on pain and suffering.
Putting words on the page, we are told, is soul-draining and cruel.
And yet, ah, what can a poor artist do, when his muse, or daemon, or whatchamacallit, pushes them forward mercilessly?

And of course this is just so much rubbish, of the kind usually used by posers trying to get a free pass by playing the always popular part of the tormented artist.

On the other hand, there is a bad side to writing.
And I don’t mean the aching hands and the bad hours, the meager returns and the leery attitude of those that have “a serious job” like, for instance, gerbil farming. Continue reading


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