SciFi Month Prompt: OUT OF THIS WORLD – #SciFiMonth

ARTWORK by Simon Fetscher

Once again I choose to respond to this prompt by seeking some alien landscapes in the amazing archive at PIXABAY: you have no idea of the sheer amount of beautiful creations you are presented with by asking for “alien landscapes” in the search bar!

Choosing a limited number of them among the veritable embarrassment of riches submitted by the very talented people who share their work there was not easy, but it had to be done. My advice would be to go the site and look for some more: you will not be disappointed…


SciFi Month Challenge Prompt 14/11/2022 – #SciFiMonth

ARTWORK by Simon Fetscher

Today’s challenge prompt asks to PUT HUMANITY IN PERSPECTIVE, looking for images where a tiny human is dwarfed by a huge alien landscape – which is the situation we might find ourselves in once we start to set out feet on some extraterrestrial worlds.

As usual, when looking for some interesting images, my first stop is at PIXABAY, where I can find so many freely downloadable examples for any given clue, all of them from very, very talented people. Here are some of the pictures I found showcasing vast expanses where small humans looked all but lost…

Impressive, aren’t they? 😊


SciFi Month: Challenge Prompt 3/11/2022 – #SciFiMonth

ARTWORK by Simon Fetscher

Today’s Challenge Prompt being EVEN BETTER TOGETHER – or a showcase for shared universes or author collaborations – made me think immediately of my favorite space opera saga, which started with a run of nine books and was then very successfully translated on the small screen in a visually amazing series.

The Expanse was published under the author name of James S.A. Corey but the pseudonym hides the identities of Daniel Abraham and Ty Frank, whose partnership gave us one of the most engrossing stories of space exploration by humanity that I ever remember reading, so let’s celebrate it with a montage of the books’ covers…


SCIFI MONTHS PROMPTS: Generation Ships – #SciFiMonth

ARTWORK by Tithi Luadthong from

This is certainly one of my favorite themes in SF: huge ships needing to travel for decades, if not centuries, before reaching their destination, with the original crew knowing they will never see the planet chosen for the new colony but trusting that their descendants will be able to fulfill the dream.

Of course there rarely is a story about a generation ship that does not include some kind of problem, the most frequent leading to the population forgetting that they are on a space-faring vessel and believing that that microcosm is the whole world.

Here a Wikipedia list – that I hope is comprehensive – of the works of fiction, in several mediums, focused on generation ships.

I have not read as many novels with this theme as I would have liked, but the first one I encountered, a long time ago, was

ORPHANS OF THE SKY, by R.A. Heinlein (1963)

It tells the story of a generation ship where a mutiny obliterated most of the passengers and the reasons for the voyage have become more myth than actual knowledge. The remnants of the crew still perform the required maintenance operations, but such actions have become a matter of religious ritual rather than anything else, while in the less radiation-shielded parts of the ship a number of mutants lives in harsh conditions. 

Another example of generation ship can be found in

CHILDREN OF TIME, by Adrian Tchaikovsky (2015)

in which what remains of humanity, after the collapse of Earth and its civilization, travels in old ships, practically falling apart, toward the only habitable world discovered by their ancestors, unaware of the fact that a race of intelligent spiders has created a civilization there and is less than sanguine in being invaded by these… strange aliens.

And again, the theme is explored in a novella:

Acadie, by Dave Hutchinson

ACADIE, by Dave Hutchinson (2017)

This story features the society built by a group of humans who wanted to build an environment in which they could expand their potential through genetic modifications, long banned on Earth, whose authorities still hunt for them. It’s not exactly a generation ship story, but the colonists live in movable arcologies, and that’s close enough to the trope that I felt it could be easily listed here.

As far as shorter stories go, I would be remiss if I did not quote

MONO NO AWARE, by Ken Liu (2012)

A poignant tale of refugees from Earth, facing a centuries-long voyage toward a distant start after our home planet has been destroyed by the impact with a comet. A damaged propulsion system will force the story’s main character toward a difficult, hearth-breaking choice.

Generation ships have also featured in movies and television: I remember, for example, that there was one episode in the original series of Star Trek featuring such a society that had forgotten its past and whose ship was headed toward mortal danger. In more recent times there have been a few examples of the theme as well:


a movie that was more horror than SF, in which a few individuals are awakened from cryo-sleep only to be confronted with mutated people turned cannibals.


a TV series about an ark ship launched by no other than President Kennedy at the height of the Cold War, to preserve humanity against nuclear holocaust. Only, things are not exactly as they appear…


a movie exploring, in a far less gruesome way than Pandorum, the consequences of an unplanned re-awakening from hibernation.

And this list would not be complete without mentioning a movie I love:

WALL-E (2008)

showing what happens to humanity after the generation ships in which it has taken refuge have chosen to satisfy every need people have, without them moving from their seats or making any kind of effort.

Do you have any suggestions for other titles featuring generation ships? I am looking forward to them, and will brace my overworked TBR accordingly… 😉


Wyrd & Wonder Prompts – May 6th 2019: Celebrate a Sidekick

(image courtesy of kasana86)

Sidekicks are often the unsung heroes of the stories we read, their deeds somewhat overshadowed by the actions of the main characters and the focus on them, which just as often makes us forget that the hero or heroine could never have achieved what they did without the help – and sometimes sacrifice – of their faithful sidekicks. So I will celebrate not one, but several of my favorites.

Sam Gamgee (The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien)

There was little doubt in my mind about the character that would be showcased first in this post: Samwise Gamgee is the one who stood at Frodo Baggins’ side all along their perilous journey to Mount Doom, often going without food to keep Frodo’s strength up (and we all know what food means to a Hobbit…), and it was Sam’s moral support that carried Frodo through the worst moments when he felt that his quest was impossible.  Unlike many sidekicks, however, Sam received all the credit he deserved, not least by Frodo who called him friend of friends.


Jean Tannen (Gentlemen Bastards, Scott Lynch)

Although being a wallflower is not exactly Jean Tannen’s modus operandi, his personality appears less ebullient than that of his longtime friend and partner in crime Locke Lamora. The two seem perfectly matched, Jean being the voice of reason that tries to counterbalance the insanity of some of Locke’s plans, even though he’s certainly not a timid personality – just think about his weapons of choice, a pair if lethal hatchets he has named The Wicked Sisters. Still, I believe that without Jean Locke would have met some terrible fate long ago, and fortunately he knows and appreciates that.

Drawing by Kejablank (Camorr Wiki)

Suzume Hollis (Generation V, M.L. Brennan)

More than a sidekick, Suzume is an ass-kicker, and more often than not the behind she needs to kick is that of her partner Fortitude Scott, a vampire in the making who does not enjoy the idea of being a blood-sucker from a renowned family. Suzume is a kitsune, or – in her own words – a fox who can shapeshift into a woman, and one of her joys in life consists in embarrassing Fortitude out of his despondency. Her mischievousness is nothing short of delightful, but it also serves as a cover for her friendship and sense of protectiveness toward Fort.

Mr.Kindly (The Nevernight Chronicle, Jay Kristoff)

This is one of the most mysterious and eerie characters I ever encountered, because it’s not a solid one, but rather a shadow taking the shape of a cat: Mia Corvere, the protagonist of Jay Kristoff’s series, meets Mr. Kindly on the day her family is destroyed and she finds herself running for her life. The cat-shaped shadow not only helps her survive but becomes a sort of familiar, drinking away her fears and turning her into a formidable adversary. What I most love about Mr. Kindly are the barbed quips it exchanges with Mia, and the way it acts as… well, not so much her conscience as a devil’s advocate in many circumstances.


Nymeria and Ghost (A Song of Ice and Fire, GRR Martin)

When the Stark children, at the beginning of the first novel, bring home the direwolf pups they found alongside their dead mother’s corpse, they establish a strong bond with these creatures that are bigger, stronger and more ferocious than ordinary wolves, and in time we learn of their extraordinary capabilities of melding with their humans and allowing them a… different perspective, so to speak.  Up to the last book written (and also in the TV series which is drawing to a close) only two of them survive: Nymeria, Arya’s direwolf (although the two had to part company long ago) and Ghost, who is Jon Snow’s faithful companion, but all of them showed a ferocious determination to protect the human they were linked with.

Hodor (A Song of Ice and Fire, GRR Martin)

This would not be a true sidekick celebration without mentioning Hodor, the feeble-minded giant who acts as Bran Stark’s guardian and protector (and carrier, since the boy is paralyzed).  Unable to speak, he only utters the word “Hodor” in a variety of intonations, and only in Season 6 of the TV series we learn the origin of the word that became the man’s name: it’s one of the most terrible and poignant scenes I have ever witnessed, and it shed a heartbreaking light on this character.


Ka-Poel (Powder Mage, Brian McClellan)

Young, diminutive and mute, the silent companion of powder mage Taniel might easily be overlooked, but she’s a powerful wielder of magic – and of a kind that I find disturbing, since it often involves the creation of voodoo-like dolls through which Ka-Poel can work her enchantments on the chosen victim.  Despite her lack of voice, she always comes across as a though character, one whose loyalty and strength are never in doubt, and one I always liked to read about, even more than I did with Taniel.

Drawing by A.E. Coggon (B.McClellan’s site)


Wyrd & Wonder Prompts – May 3rd, 2019: The Best Things Come in Three

(image courtesy of kasana86)



And here we go with the first Wyrd & Wonder prompt that struck my fancy! You can find the complete list HERE

Stand-alone books have become quite rare in fantasy: now its seems almost impossible to write a story in this genre that can be contained in a single volume and multi-book series have become the norm.  Sometimes this is a wonderful thing, since it allows the authors to expand on their creations and to engage in delightful character growth, but other times it’s a curse – either because there are a LOT of sagas to keep abreast of and our TBRs are always filled beyond capacity, or because some of them expand into more books we can handle. Or again the authors make us wait far too long for the next book… (and yes, I’m looking straight at a certain writer right now, stamping my foot in sheer frustration).

Choosing some titles for this post has not been easy, because I’ve noticed that some of the series I’m following have gone beyond the three-volume mark required for this prompt, while I know nothing (yet) about others that would be perfect but I still have to read. So here are my choices, even though I’m sadly aware I’ve just skimmed the surface of this vast ocean…




Strictly speaking, this is not a trilogy, but rather a whole book divided into three sections (The Fellowships of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King), but the publishing “adventure” it underwent at the time somehow turned it into a trilogy, or rather THE trilogy.  No need to expound on the story and characters, we all know what it’s about: it’s a classic in every meaning of the term and it has set many of the rules for modern fantasy, becoming the template for many of the works that followed.

Needless to say, this is and remains my favorite fantasy story, my very first foray into the genre, and the book I love to return to, now and then, to reconnect with the characters and the places that are forever engraved on my imagination. And my heart.



From the origins to the present: R.J. Barker’s debut work is one of the best fantasy works I have read, a story set in a tormented land where havoc has been wrought by the inconsiderate use of magic, to the point that mage-wielders are hunted and killed, their blood spilled on the ground to give back some of the life-force taken from it by the forces of magic. In the three books of this series – Age of Assassins, Blood of Assassins, King of Assassins – we follow the adventures of Girton Club-Foot, a young man who is being trained as a skilled assassin but is also trying to hide his magical abilities in a world where such discovery would cost him his life.  Intense, powerful and poignant, this is a series everyone should read, and I dare you not to fall for either Girton or any of the amazing characters that people these books.



Of a totally different mood are the three books from Juliet Marlier that compose this saga: Dreamer’s Pool, Tower or Thorns and Den of Wolves were my first works from this author, but they will definitely not be the last.  Blackthorn is an embittered woman whose husband and child have been killed in a fire caused by the local overlord, who later imprisoned her on a false accusation and condemned her to death. While languishing in prison she meets another inmate, the closemouthed Grim, and when both find a way out of the prison and away from the gallows, circumstances make an unlikely – but very compelling – pair as they try and fulfill the obligations set on them by their rescuer, a mysterious fae.

A poetic, poignant story that made me a fan of this author after a scant handful of chapters…



Before reading the first book in this series I had never heard of the term flintlock fantasy, but after a somewhat difficult start I fell in love with it and with this series set in a world vaguely reminiscent of 18th century Europe and starting with a bloody military coup with overtones of the French Revolution.   Promise of Blood, The Crimson Campaign and The Autumn Republic follow the deeds of Field Marshal Tamas, bent on overthrowing the corrupt monarchy of Adro and establishing a new government. One of the most unusual elements of this saga is the use of gunpowder to enhance the skills of certain gifted individuals who enjoy better sight, improved strength and the ability to guide bullets toward their targets well beyond the limits imposed by ballistics.

It’s an imaginative, unique take on the usual fantasy themes, and one filled with great characters and awesome deeds: if you have not read it until now, know that you should, because it will prove to be worth of your time.



I stumbled on this Urban Fantasy series almost by accident, but it was a very lucky one: the first book, California Bones, conquered me completely and I did not wait too long to read the two sequels, Pacific Fire and Dragon Coast.   In this alternate version of our modern world, the political landscape is quite different and Southern California is a ruthlessly managed kingdom: any kind of magic employed here comes from the consumption of bones, especially those of the weird creatures that lived in this world’s past, like dragons and griffins and so on.  Osteomancy, however, exposes its wielder to the greed of other practitioners of this magic, because the consumptions of another osteomancer’s bones gifts the… receiver with all the abilities taken on by the victim, which leads to some gruesome narrative threads.

This is a very different kind of story, and one that stands out because of this very uncommon element.