East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Clod & Dagger

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One of the things I’m working on is a sword & sorcery story for a forthcoming anthology of Italian low fantasy, known as “Zappa & Spada”1.
The idea is to do a humorous – if possible – collection of grim stories about the lower classes in a fantasy setting.

My idea is moderately humorous but not overly grim2, and evolves around the lady of a small feudal holding that, while her husband and all the “able men” are away to fight for the emperor, has to patch together an army of peasants, poachers and women to hold back a marauding band of raiders.

Not an overly original idea I will admit – George MacDonald Fraser used something similar in his The Candlemass Road, and a great little book it was3.
But I’ll try and make something different of it.
The original pitch had a historical setting here in the hills of Montferrat during the Crusades, but the anthology editor asked for secondary world stories, so secondary world it will be.

It’s a pity, really, because what’s good about sitting in a place that was a crossroads of armies for fifteen centuries, if you can’t use the local history to make your job easier?

Apart from the secondary world bit, the story I am outlining presents a specific problem: it has a big cast.
Just as in Magnificent Seven/Dirty Dozen stories, the fun in this kind of tale comes from assembling the team. This will mean I’ll have to try and characterize about a dozen characters with no more than 100 words each. I’ll have to dream up looks, speech patterns and quirks, and then manage them as I tell the story of this small hill castle that’s getting ready for war – if a small, dirty, soon-forgotten war.
And I’ll have to make it snappy!
And write it in three days or thereabouts.
Which is fun, but it also means I’ll have to prepare with maps and notes and what else before i start writing, in order to do it in a single take.
It will be fun.

  1. a play on Cappa & Spada the Italian for Cloak & Dagger, it translates as “Sword & Spade”, but probably Clod & Dagger would be more apt. 
  2. as usual, I’ve got nothing against the so called grimdark genre, I’ve just a short fuse with grimdark fans. 
  3. he then recycled the plot for The Reavers, which was fun but not as good. 

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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