East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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Meet the Shanhui

According to Chinese bestiaries, such as the Guideways Through Mountains and Seas, a strange creature exists in the wild, which is called the Shanhui …

There is a beast here at Penal-Law Mountain whose form resembles a dog but with a human face. It is adept at throwing things and laughs when it sees people. It is called the Shanhui. It moves speedily like the wind, and if seen by people is an omen that great winds will blow throughout the world.

Now this passage stuck with me as I was looking for creatures for my story, The Ministry of Thunder.
What caught my attention, I think, was the idea of a dog with a human face; hybrid creatures are popular in supernatural and fantasy fiction, and the Shanhui reminded me of Brown Jenkin, from H.P. Lovecraft‘s The Dreams in the Witch House.


And so, the green* devil dog of the ancient Chinese bestiaries entered my book – first as a dire warning, then as a nightmare, then as a beast in the dark, and finally as a dangerous monster trying to… Continue reading

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The Ministry of Thunder is up and running!


The Ministry of ThunderIt should have been easy – pick up a drunk Italian in a fifth-rate Shanghai dive, and then deliver him unharmed to an Irish guy in Foochow Road.
A small simple job, just what Felice Sabatini needed to pay his way out of town.
Nice and smooth.

But this, of course, was before the guys in black pajamas, with their throwing stars.
Before the knife-fight in the back of a runaway rickshaw.
Before the gunfight on the bank of the Foochow Creek, and the dragon waiting in the depths of the river.
Before the Irish guy turned out to be a Chinese woman, and beautiful.

They said it would be easy.
Well, they lied.

Continue reading


Introducing Acheron Books


Acheron Books is the first publishing house that produces Italian fantasy, science fiction and horror fiction and distributes it worldwide in the English language in e-book format.

Acheron’s distinctive quality is that it selects the best speculative fiction written by Italian authors who take inspiration from the rich Italian historical and folkloristic tradition.

The name “Acheron” represents the meeting of two worlds: Italian fantastic fiction, represented by the Acheron River from Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy and the mysterious Acheron Empire created by Robert E. Howard.

Acheron also means above all transformation and evolution.

This is why we chose as our symbol the Acherontia Atropos moth (one of the species of Death’s-head Hawk moth well known to the fans of “The Silence of the Lambs”): Italian speculative fiction remained closed for decades in national boundaries, and now, thanks to our English translations, it will transform and be available to readers all over the world.

What sets Acheron Books apart? Continue reading

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Writing fluff

Air_FluffMore talking aloud with myself, in English, about my current project.
In roleplaying games, “Fluff” is the name usually given to the gaming material that describes the setting – as opposed to the “Crunch“, the rules and mechanics of the thing.

Fluff is what I like in games – and what I normally write in gaming books.
After all, to me, roleplaying games is about living adventures in strange and new worlds – rules are for the weak.

Right now, in the early phases of my new work, I’m trying to decide how to present the fluff in my book. Continue reading

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Beyond Thirty


Beyond was the great unknown. Even the geographies of my boyhood showed nothing beyond. We were taught of nothing beyond. Speculation was discouraged. For two hundred years the Eastern Hemisphere had been wiped from the maps and histories of Pan-America. Its mention in fiction, even, was forbidden.

Edgar Rice BurroughsThe Lost Continent, originally published as Beyond Thirty in 1916 (but written the previous year), is a slim adventure novel that I read a few years back, and is not one of the most famous of ERB’s creations. Continue reading


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