East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

They do not fight enough. As if I cared.


In the last six months or so I’ve heard harsh criticism leveled at a number of books…

  • Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun
  • Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast
  • Patricia McKillip’s Riddlemaster’s Trilogy
  • Robert Silverberg’s Lord Valentine’s Castle
  • Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar novels
  • J.B. Cabell’s Jurgen
  • John Crowley’s Little Big

Books that spend too much time in useless description, with little or no action, and characters that spend more time talking than fighting. My usual answer, “What, then?” usually receives strange looks.

In at least one occasion I once again got the boring lecture about the fact that true fantasy is “Norse” in themes and moods, while another of my correspondents took some time to explain to me that fantasy is a product of our deep Mediterranean roots.

This brought me to the conclusion that what I would really like to write one day is a completely non-belligerent fantasy, in which the heroes face intricate problems they need to solve with their wits, and a fantasy with little or no reference to any Vikings in drag from central-casting or elves with mock-Welsh names or Irish poetry.

Art by Doug Zider

Something different and strange, filled with djinns and raksashas and strange ghosts, and yet so unusual most fantasy fans raised on seven-volumes trilogies and wizardly colleges would have a hard time recognizing it as fantasy. There will be not a single dragon in sight, and no vampires hitting on werewolves, or any angelic jiggery-pokery. No dark lords and mighty wizards, and no riddle of steel, or aluminum for that matter.
There will be no vast battles, and it will be a swordless sword & sorcery, the only sword allowed on the premises being the sword Taia, of which zen master Takuan Soho once wrote.

Hard work – and with the books I mentioned above to set the standard, an almost impossible task. But what the heck, a man needs an ambition, or an impossible dream, right?

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.

8 thoughts on “They do not fight enough. As if I cared.

  1. I think Tanith Lee beat you to it.


  2. A name I never heard before, Mercedes Lackey.
    Okay, I read that she was already mentioned a couple of times in “Strategie Evolutive”, but apparently the thing didn’t leave a mark or a first impression.
    I “like” to have a list of site and person whom I have a highly consideration of their opinion to discover new things, but I am a little frightned to giving to this too much importance. Seeing her name between someone like Peake or Crowley, that a great thing, but if I had discovered her by chance, would I have given her more attention?
    Recently I discovered Lawrence Watt-Evans. I still have to read something of him, I’m actually simply aware of his existence.


    • Lackey is not in the same league of Peake or Crowley, but she did write some off-beat fantasy.
      Watt-Evans can be daunting because he worked on massive cycles, but he’s not that bad if you are into big dynastic adventures.


      • Not really. I think that certain cycles working in little measures, like Piers Anthony’s Xanth. The first three, five, eight, but then is enough. Even for a quality factor.


  3. By that standard then I guess Beowulf must have sucked too…………


  4. LOL!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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