East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai



Can you write sword & sorcery with elves in it?
It’s not an idle question – to me, elves are usually a mark of high fantasy, and all in all, only the old Eberron setting for D&D came close to show me it is not strictly so. Well, OK, Eberron and Shadowrun.
But, what can I say, I’m about to hit the shelves with a novella – hopefully the first of a series, should the readers like it – that is sword & sorcery (because that’s what I do and that’s what the client requested), but also features an elf. There’s always a first time, right?

The work was done to fit an existing universe, so there was no choice – elves it was. And also a very straightforward game-style structure.
I like the challenge, I like trying to write something different.
In this case, game-related fiction that is also good enough to stand on its own legs, with standard tropes thrown in, but possibly subverted.

One of the problems, when it comes to elves, orcs, dragons, is that they make it easy to get sloppy, to give in to laziness.
I can say “character so and so is an elf,” and that’s it – and count on the fact that nine readers out of ten will think of Orlando Bloom or of some off-the-shelf elf (aha! see what I did there?) that comes with a set of features I don’t have to bother describing.
“They were attacked by orcs.”
“The dragon unfurled its wings.”
And that’s all I have to say, a picture pops up in your mind, automatically.
It’s being done.
That’s the mark of the amateur, or of the lazy writer. Using tags instead of descriptions.
So I tried to go for a description anyway…

Zor Kiltei, sometimes known as Flaming Kil, arched her fine eyebrows. Pallid and long-limbed, in her fine purple silks and silver jewels she looked like a the sort of woman that hands out cursed rings and deadly quests to the unwary, and her pale eyes were completely dead. She had that cold, aloof expression all the members of her race shared, and that was the reason why the peoples around the Inner Sea were fond of burning down elvish villages.

The fact that I write of elves doesn’t mean I have to like them, right?
But I admit I have a soft spot for Kil.
Maybe not really soft.
Let’s say I find her more intriguing than scary.
And I like the idea that she’s fully clothed most of the time, contrary to the common iconography of her class.

I also tried to have fun with classes and “traditional roles”, and write a story that can be appreciated both by younger readers and more grown-up fans. And by non-players.
And I did pay attention to armor and proper adventuring attire.

All in all, it was a great writing experience, and pretty fast.
Great exercise.

More news as the book hits the shelf.

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.

13 thoughts on “Elves

  1. What’s the difference between sword and sorcery and high fantasy?


    • The thickness of the volumes, usually 😀
      But in general, sword & sorcery tends to be low fantasy, small-scale adventures featuring footloose adventurers (think Conan, but also Elric); high fantasy is usually very vast in scope, features big damn heroes facing colossal odds (think Lord of the Rings).
      In the end these are not cast in iron categories, but as a rule of thumb, the scope of the story and the stakes give you an idea in which field you are playing.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I like low fantasy, I admit. High fantasy is too often pretentious. But I’m glad your elven woman sounds something other than squeaky clean. I prefer the elves of Anderson’s THE BROKEN SWORD to the elves of Tolkien, and Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser to Aragorn. As for the scurrilous decadence of Lankhmar, City of the Black Toga, I love it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • We are on the same wavelength.
      I’m a Leiber fan, and I loved Anderson’s fantasy novels (Merman’s Children is another favorite).
      High fantasy is too often Tolkien with the plates changed.


    • Same here. Give me Robert E. Howard, Charles Saunders, Michael Moorcock and Karl Edward Wagner. I’ve owned a hardcover set of “Lord of The Rings” since the 1970s and still have not read it. At least once a year I take a crack at reading it but never make it past page fifty without dozing off. If it hadn’t been for the movies I’d never know how the mollyfoggin’ story ends.


      • The start of Lord of the Rings is damn slow.
        A friend of mine used to say “nothing happens, but rather nicely”.
        I read it three times now – but it’s not my favorite book by a long shot.
        I guess one has to read it when they feel ready.


  3. “The elves are good,but a little stringy”


  4. From the way that Michael Moorcock described Corum and his people, The Vadhagh, I took it as a given that even though he never stated it, he and they were Elves.


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