East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Asteria and the spirit of peplum

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asteria khan engAnd so…
The first story of Asteria was a straightforward peplum, but with a strong influence from Go Nagai and Mazinger Z in particular.
The second Asteria adventure was a Harold Lambesque story of Mongol warriors, with a supernatural horror twist.
The third Asteria novelette, that’s coming out in the weekend, is a lace & steel sort of swashbuckler, with a side of clockpunk shenanigans.
It is fitting, I think, that the fourth story, that I started writing yesterday, will be a tits & sand adventure with Arabian Nights and Marco Polo references.

One of the things I like about time-hopping characters like Asteria is the huge range of settings and cliches and twists one can weave into the plot of each story.
Weave, or just plug in.
Indeed, one of the strengths of the best peplum/sword & sandal/tits & sand movies was the huge variety that, in the hands of a smart screenplayer/director could produce marvels.

Ercole_al_centro_della_terra_film_posterConsider a movie like Mario Bava’s Ercole al Centro della Terra (H. In the Haunted World, for the English-language market): the movie starts with an almost legit mythological premise, turns into a quest that leads the hero and his companions to a sui generis netherworld, twists unexpectedly into gothic territory, and then gets full-on horror with an army of zombies.

And what about the mechanical wonders, the giant djinn and the scary monsters of the classic Alexander Korda’s take on The Thief of Baghdad?

So for my next story we’ll see Asteria in a harem girl outfit and wielding a tulwar, and I’ll throw in a few other bits of exotica.
The bad guy?
The Old Man of the Mountain, of course, and his assassins.
But it will be weirder than that.

Thief_Of_Bagdad_(1940)Writing carefree stories like these is refreshing – they require little planning, the recurring characters are by now defined and I know their quirks and their limits, and the kitchen sink approach that’s inherent to these stories allows a lot of improvisation. No big outlines, no complicate plots. The complexity arises out of the sheer freedom the genre allows.

The feedback on the stories keeps being scarce, but always positive, and sales, while not extraordinary, are good.
So, apparently, a silent majority of my readers like Asteria’s exploits.

And at that point, I will have to take a hard decision – close as planned the Court series of Asteria and then move on to a new, Versus series this coming Autumn, changing structure and dynamics, or just for the hell of it add another Court story, maybe two?
Because you see, there are the Czar and the Pharaoh, still, whose courts might be fun to visit. You know, Asteria meets Rasputin, or Asteria and the Seven Plagues of Egypt, that sort of stuff.

Ah, decisions, decisions.
But for the time being, I have to design the cover for Asteria in the Court of the Sun King, and then get the Arabian story cracking.
The clock is running.

What do you say?
Have you had enough of my gray-haired amazon already?


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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