East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

The Return of Asteria


sun-kingDuring the coming weekend I will write a 12.000 words story, give or take 2000.
It will not be hard, at least the first draft – the story’s been outlined for two years, but I never got around to actually write it.
It’s called Asteria in the Court of the Sun King, and it’s the third in the series I started in 2014 about Asteria, a formerly dead amazon that is a pawn of forces beyond her comprehension.

It all started in 2014, with a discussion with a friend of mine, Italian indie author Alex Girola, about the old peplums, the sword & sandal movies that were the staple of Italian fantasy cinema in the 1950s and 1960s, and that gave us a lot of fun and even a few good movies.
What both Alex and I found fascinating – and promising from a writing point of view – was the mix of spurious Mythology, mismatched genre tropes and time periods the movies displayed.
The heroes of “classic” peplums – usually called Maciste, or Hercules – would face Egyptian sorcerers this week and fight the Pirates of the Caribbean the next, maybe with a brief detour to cross swords with the Cossack or to deal with a vampire.


As a result of that discussion, Alex created his Maciste versus… series, featuring a time-hopping muscle-bound every-man, a bold attempt at revitalizing the peplum genre for the 21st century Italian readership, and I experimented with The Adventures of Asteria.

In a nutshell: Asteria, an Amazon killed by Hercules during one of his feats, is brought back to life by a mysterious faction to be used as a sort of time-shifting troubleshooter in some sort of strange cross-time game of chess.

Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion was an obvious inspiration for my work, but I also thought about the old English series, Sapphire & Steel, and a few other bits and pieces.
I wanted more action than my usual stories, and also a bit more sexy than usual – but I also wanted to subvert expectations, and keep the thing classy.
I wrote on top of my notes

Asteria is not Xena
Asteria is not Red Sonja

61aTkF+g19LFinally planned the story to be an Italian-language exclusive, just as Aculeo & Amunet is an English-only series1.
The first story, Asteria in the Court of Minos, referenced heavily the anime and manga of Go Nagai, and the Mazinger series in particular. It also pitched my heroine against the Minotaur, that is always a classy show.
The readers liked it – it’s still selling a few copies a month after four years, and it’s got a 4.5 rating on Amazon, where the lowest rating (3 stars) compares my character to one from a Tanith Lee story. That was flattering … much more flattering than the three-star rating, actually.
61NN7H0B-ALThe follow up, Asteria in the Court of the Great Khan, brought in Mongolian magic and mayhem.
And I planned a third story – the one set in Versailles, with a wink and a nod at the old Angelique bodice-rippers2.
But then I just dropped it – you know more or less how my life changed drastically in 2016, and Asteria 3 was sort of MIA.

But now I’m bringing the girl back.
And I am bringing her back in English.
There will be an ebook – a 40.000-words collection featuring the three Court stories. I have translated, rewritten, expanded and improved (hopefully!) the first two stories, and I will add a few thousand words of extras, behind the scenes and what not.
Hopefully my English-language readers will like Asteria.
I have here a few pages of notes for four more stories, known as the Versus series. Who knows, maybe there is a future for my formerly dead, sensual, ass-kicking Amazon.

I’ll keep you guys posted.

  1. but I’d love to have the stories translated in Spanish and French. Any suggestion? 
  2. and I’ll do a post on those, too 

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.

5 thoughts on “The Return of Asteria

  1. Sounds like a great weekend plan! I like the story. Good luck! —- For French and Spanish translations, I’d get a translator or a native speaker to help. You’d probably have to pay for it.

    Liked by 1 person

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