East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai



There are three stories I want to write this month, to submit to two different anthologies and a magazine. Checking the calendar, I see I will have to write one story per week, seven days from first draft to submitted text. It’s OK, I can do it – we are talking stories in the 3000-5000 words range. Two fantasies and a mystery – which is good, because it means there will be a modicum of variety.

One of the three stories should be, according to the publisher’s guidelines, “epic fantasy” – and I have heard some ask, how can you fit an epic fantasy in roughly 4000 words?

And I can understand the doubt: if I google “epic fantasy”, the first thing I get is George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series. Talk about long-winded.
Also, it looks like epic fantasy has to have elves and/or dragons in it.

But according to my dictionary, the adjective “epic” means

heroic or grand in scale or character

and I am thinking in this terms because right now, for me, fitting something of epic scope or scale or character into the narrow space of a 4000-words story is what makes it worth trying.
I am not so hot about epic or high fantasy – I tend to frequent the back streets and darkened alleys of sword & sorcery.
So I wonder, can it be done?

A short story should focus on a single character and a single event, they say, distilling all the action and the plot into a single, searing, crystal clear, small chunk of prose. Can it be done, and still be epic, as in heroic or grand?
I think it can – but everything will hinge on my own perception of what’s epic, heroic or grand, and what the editor thinks about the same subject.
But it’s worth a try, and it forces me to think outside the box – which is always good when writing short stories.

And I have this idea, of telling the last five minutes – or two days – of something big and epic and adventurous. The last five minutes that give meaning to all that went before.
It’s going to be interesting.
Any way it will go, it will be a fun exercise.

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.

2 thoughts on “Epic

  1. Good luck with all 3 stories but especially that epic-in-a-4k!


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