Celebrimbor: a cautionary tale

Celebrimbor and Annatar (WETA Shadow of Mordor)

Note: this was an academic paper that my friend and beta reader Martha and I submitted for consideration to an academic book about the Tolkien Legendarium, but didn’t make the cut. So we thought in sharing it here for you to read.

Celebrimbor: a cautionary tale

Ricardo Victoria-Uribe

Martha Elba González-Alcaraz


Fairy tales were meant to be cautionary tales to teach children about the dangers of the world. Like the legends and fairy tales that inspired it, the Tolkien Legendarium contains several lessons, including but not limited, to important ecological messages or how easy it is to fall prey of evil even with the best intentions. In particular, this last lesson derives from being responsible of our actions and considering their impact on the wider world, best exemplified by the tale of Celebrimbor.

Celebrimbor is possibly one of the most tragic characters of the Tolkien Legendarium. Previously only known by being the creator of the rings of power, fooled and later betrayed by Sauron, his life ended in a gruesome, sad way. His use in the videogames of Shadow of Mordor and Shadow of War brought him wider recognition to the casual fans, speaking of how interesting this character is. In Celebrimbor’s character arc, it’s possible to see the practical application of the old saying ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions’. As the last surviving member of the House of Feanor entering the Second Age, Celebrimbor sought to redeem the evil deeds of his ancestors –especially those of his father Curufin, of whom he renounced- by creating works that helped others, by fostering friendly relationships with the dwarfs and by trying to be a good person. But it was in this quest that he fell prey of deception because he never stopped to consider one of the fatal flaws of his kin: it is not a question of whether you can do something, it’s a question of whether it is a good idea to do so. In a way, Celebrimbor is like modern creators that conceive objects at fast pace, rarely taking the time to consider the impact that their actions and designs have in the world around them.  This paper aims to explore the character of Celebrimbor and how it became a cautionary tale.

A brief review of Celebrimbor’s life and times

Celebrimbor was the son of Curufin, fifth son of Fëanor and Nerdanel, which meant that he was somewhat akin to a Noldorin prince by bloodline. During the First Age, when his grandfather dragged the Noldor back to Beleriand to recover the Silmarills from Morgoth –and in turn was included in the Doom of Mandos-, Celebrimbor fought alongside his family in the battles of Dagor-nuin-Giliath, Dagor Aglareb, and Dagor Bragollach. After that last battle, he moved alongside his father to Nargothrond, where he remained in good standing after repudiating his own father due to the later’s evil deeds and eventual banishment from the realm of Finrod Felagund. He later fought at the Nirnaeth Arnoediad and in the Sack of Nargothrond. After the fall of Nargothrond due to the ill thought advise of Turin Turámbar, Celebrimbor moved to Gondolin where he integrated into the life of the city until its fall. Unlike the rest of his family, he survived the War of Wrath and decided to stay in Middle Earth.

During the Second Age, Celebrimbor established in Eregion, at the time ruled by Galadriel and her husband Celeborn. It is interesting to note a couple of things here, as Celebrimbor becomes a more present character during the Second Age than during the First (where he admittedly was somewhat of a background character). To begin with, his relationship with Galadriel. It is well known that Galadriel had no love for Fëanor or his house, as she didn’t return to Beleriand to follow him in his foolish quest for the Simarils, but rather so she could rule a kingdom on her own, and she even fought on the side of the Teleri during the Kinslaying at Alqualondë. She also had a marked animosity towards Fëanor, who requested at least three times one of her golden hairs, request that she rejected every time (unlike with Gimli, who only asked once and received three hairs in a crystal locket). However, it seemed that Galadriel and Celebrimbor were in good, or at least decent terms, as she allowed him to enter Eregion and even counseled him later on. Here is where things become a tad muddied as there are two versions of what happened next: in one version, Galadriel and Celeborn left of their own accord, moving to Lothlórien and eventually becoming its rulers after the last Sindar King, Amroth, was lost at sea, leaving Eregion under the rule of Celebrimbor. In other version, Celebrimbor staged some sort of soft coup d’état or peaceful takeover of Eregion from Galadriel, after which she and her husband left to Lothlórien (Voices of Geekdom, 2021). Regardless of which version happened, the relationships between both kingdoms and their rulers remained friendly.

It was as leader of Eregion, when Celebrimbor made the two biggest changes on elven culture at the time: The first was the friendship with the dwarves of Moria and the elves of Eregion. Of note was the creation of the West Gate alongside his friend Narvi, a renowned dwarven craftsman. It was this friendship that allowed to have peace and stability in the region for a time.

The second one was trying to recover, or at least preserve, what was left of the essence of the land where the elves had been living for millennia and that had been in decline since Morgoth arrived to Beleriand during the First Age. What jumpstarted the project was the arrival of Annatar, Lord of Gifts and supposedly a representative of Aüle, the Valar of craftsmanship. Under his guidance, and against advice from Galadriel, who didn’t trust Annatar, Celebrimbor and his Elven smiths forged minor magic rings and later on the Rings of Power. Unbeknownst to them, the technique taught to them by Annatar, incorporated secret binding spells. Said spells had a resemblance to what Morgoth did during the Song of the Ainur, pouring his very essence, and thus creating evil upon the land, on Arda. The rings just did it in a smaller scale. At some point Celebrimbor must have suspected something, for he crafted the Three Eleven Rings on his own and in secret. By the time Annatar revealed himself as Sauron, forging and putting on his finger the One Ring, Celebrimbor had sensed the treason and sent away the Rings to Galadriel for safekeeping and distribution among those elves she considered worthy. This ignited a war in which Eregion was devastated, the elves fled the region, the dwarves closed Moria (Scott, 1972) and Celebrimbor –after a valiant effort to defend his people– was captured and tortured, dying at the hands of Sauron. His body was later used by the orcs as a ‘banner’ of sorts as they attacked the elves. This ended the lineage of Fëanor and the Doom of Mandos was fulfilled, as Sauron casted a shadow over Middle Earth for millennia to come, until his final defeat during the War of the Ring.

Overcorrection, overconfidence, or gullibility?

It is interesting to examine Celebrimbor’s personality. Of the House of Feänor, he is the closest to his forebear in skill at creating things. One could say that the rings of power have as much weight historically wise as the Silmarils. However, Celebrimbor is for the most part described as the further opposite to Feänor and to his father Curufin.  While Fëanor was selfish and hotheaded, and Curufin, for lack of a better term, was devious and evil, Celebrimbor is portrayed in the stories as someone selfless, kind and who easily shared his creations with others. Even heroic in the defense of others, as his actions during the First Age wars and the defense of Eregion during the Second Age demonstrate. It was argued that he wasn’t prideful, but it is the belief of the authors that Celebrimbor was full of pride, although unlike his forefathers, he usually kept said pride in check, and channeled it by taking bigger challenges instead of doing boastful remarks about his skills. His character became taciturn and anxious once he sensed what Sauron was doing with the Ring of Power, but by then it was too late.

Going back to the point of pride, it could be argued that like Fëanor, Celebrimbor sought to transcend the limits of what was possible to do, of his own existence (Ellison, 1990). While Fëanor managed to capture the light of the Two Trees and transform something that belonged to all into a possession coveted by him and later both his sons and Melkor himself, Celebrimbor worked to create the Three Rings trying to capture something elusive: the atemporal beauty of a land that was no more. Both were overconfident in their skills because they were that good. But whereas Fëanor became overly possessive of the Silmarils and went to war against Melkor for them, Celebrimbor went the other way and parted with them to keep them from Sauron. Fëanor never allowed to let go of the Silmarils voluntarily –in fact, he refused to hand them over to heal the Trees after Ungoliant drained and poisoned them. Celebrimbor decided to send away the rings before they were captured by Sauron, thus leaving them open to the Dark Lord.

Another aspect worth noticing of Celebrimbor and how he differentiates for his forebears are his relationships with others, especially with the Dwarfs and Galadriel, as noted in the previous section. He sought friendship where Fëanor only sought adulation and domination, and where Curufin only saw either pawns or obstacles for his ambition.

This leads to ponder whether Celebrimbor was like that by nature: less selfish and more cautious; or whether he made a conscious effort to distance himself from the worst aspects of his family and kept the family pride in check. Some children develop the opposite personalities to their parents, and it is more marked when said children are immortal elves that have had millennia to develop their own personalities. In either case, this led him to ignore other flaws he had: his gullibility, or naivety.

Why did he trust Annatar? It is clear that Sauron, as a former Maia of Aüle, did know enough craftsmanship to teach things that Celebrimbor and his elven smiths ignored or weren’t capable of discovering on their own. It has to be noted as well, that in “The Lost Tales” it’s mentioned that on those times, Sauron still possessed part of his original Maia beauty and shapeshifting powers, and remained a powerful sorcerer, which certainly helped to keep his true identity hidden, with only the most insightful elves, such as Galadriel, suspicious of the real menace beneath. Added to an evil insight which clearly Celebrimbor didn’t have, the task of creating rings that could preserve things was an attractive proposition to the elf. Celebrimbor was eager to achieve the maximum expression of his craft, thus when a stranger came with teachings that allowed him to do that, he jumped at the opportunity. It was this flaw that Sauron exploited, as he was more devious than his own former master in that regard. Whereas Morgoth was evil like a hammer, Sauron was a scalpel, and thus perhaps more dangerous to the people of Middle Earth.

Even after Galadriel warned Celebrimbor against working with Annatar, the former kept doing it. Why? It could be argued that a combination of pride, naiveté and overconfidence led Celebrimbor to think that he could overcome any danger.  After all, he had survived the War of Wrath and the previous battles. It was only when Sauron revealed his hand that Celebrimbor realized the ruse. In his search to create a magical device that would preserve the elven lands as timeless regions, he had helped the Dark Lord to create the most powerful weapon Middle Earth had seen till then. It does sound familiar to what has happened in the real world with our technology and its impact.

The impact of our actions on the wider world

Although Tolkien was adamant to refute any suggestion that elements from his legendarium were inspired by events of the real world –and for this, we must take the intention of the author at face value- it’s hard to not draw certain parallelism with Celebrimbor’s actions and those from the developer of the first chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Without trying to fall into an argument by hindsight, the story of Celebrimbor and the Rings of power certainly draws parallels with the development and application of the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), or with Oppenheimer’s development of the atomic bomb. While he lamented that the bomb killed thousands, he kept still looking for ways to make them more effective and never regretted having created it. It seems that he was actually proud of how well it worked. We are enamored with our technological development but barely consider the unintended consequences of their creation. But first, it is necessary to understand why the Rings, and in particular the Elven Rings were created.

In the elven rings, the elves projected their need to attempt preserving the world into which they were born at first and that had been severely scarred and in decline due to the wars against Morgoth. Decline that while initiated by Morgoth, the elves were complicit in accelerating, in particular thanks to Feänor and his sons. The Three Rings symbolize the fear that the elves had of fading away in a world increasingly dominated by Men –and not even the Edain-. It is in this bout of nostalgia and yearning for a past long gone, that Sauron wedges his influence under the guise of Annatar, Lord of Gifts, directing these desires into the crafting of the first sixteen rings, with the willing participation of Celebrimbor, who no doubt, thought this would be an undertaking that would rival the Silmarils or at the very least would be recognized as one of the finest and wondrous in all elven history.  

Celebrimbor had been around since the First Age. Had witnessed the best of elven creation and the horrors of the wars against Morgoth. It is a normal motivation to want to improve things, or to return them to a time where they were ‘better’ from certain point of view. Although warned by Galadriel, who suspected of Annatar’s identity and intentions (Voice of Geekdom, 2021), Celebrimbor continued. The fact that he forged the Three Elven Rings on his own and in secret could point to the assumption that at the end he was somewhat suspicious of Annatar, but not enough to cut all ties with him. He has just suspicious enough to try and use the magic techniques taught to him by Annatar on his own (Voice of Geekdom, 2021) to pour this ‘elven’ essence into the rings. In a crude modern analogy, it can be argued that all the Rings of Power, if they were software, share the same source code, although the Three Elven Rings work inside a walled environment that kept them somewhat freed from the One Ring’s corruption, but still open to Sauron’s influence if not used carefully.

This is where parallels can be drawn to modern technology. Isaac Asimov (1982) in his essay “Ring of Evil”, offers the argument that the Ring of Power, and by extension the other rings, works as an analogy of our dependence on technology and how it is causing severe damage to the world. We are reluctant of letting go technology that while highly polluting, it’s easier to use, cheaper. We are so bewitched by our creations that we prefer to remain in our zone of comfort rather than look for better options because they are unknown to us. The Three Elven Rings represent a similar desire to keep things within the familiar, the comfortable. Afterall, we now have the power to shape our own world at an unprecedented scale. Victor Papanek (1985), one of the first designers to speak about sustainable design once famously wrote that “Designers, have become a dangerous race”, for their ability to churn out products of little real value, to create needs people didn’t have before and making them more and more attached to their own possessions and technology (which on itself has an interesting parallel to the effect that the Rings of Power have on the Dwarfs).

Using the example about the development of the CFCs, these chemicals were developed to solve an increasing human need: to prolong food storage by keeping it cold for longer periods without using ice. At the time these chemicals were developed, it was unknown that they would create the ozone-depleting and greenhouse gas effects on the atmosphere, for these effects started being detected after 30 years of use. In both cases we can see that, by trying to make life more comfortable, the creations had bigger impact on the world than what was originally intended.

Fate or Freedom of choice?

Was Celebrimbor doomed from the start? It depends on which perspective it’s seen from. Let’s review first the basics of the Doom of Mandos, which comprised eight conditions (Tolkien, 1977):

1. No one who follows Fëanor or his followers will be able to return to Valinor.

2. Anyone under the Doom will suffer greatly.

3. Fëanor’s oath to recover the silmarils will drive their lives, but it will also betray them and cause them to lose the treasures they pursue.

4. Anything they start will end badly, even if it started well.

5. Those from the house of Fëanor and his followers will always be dispossessed.

6. They will have gruesome deaths. Either murdered, tormented or in pain.

7. Their spirits will not be able to return to life for a very long time and they will find little pity around them.

8. Those who don’t die will grow weary of the world and become as shadows of regret before the humans appear on the world.

There are a couple caveats to this Doom that have to be mentioned.  While it was aimed mainly to Fëanor family’s, it also applied to any Noldor that decided to follow Fëanor’s lead into Beleriand. However, Galadriel, her siblings and family barely escaped it because while they went there, it wasn’t because they liked or followed Fëanor, rather they had other ideas in mind, mostly protect their people from his madness or in the case of Galadriel, forge a kingdom of her own. Thus, they stayed out of the House of Fëanor misadventures, except when they involved in their schemes, as was the case with Turgon (founder of Gondolin) and with Finrod Felagund (founder of Nargothrond); or like Thingol, king of Doriath, who tied his kingdom’s destiny to that of the House of Fëanor by requesting Beren to go and find a Silmaril in order to allow him to marry Lúthien.

Although Celebrimbor didn’t join in the evil deeds of his father (even getting him expelled from Nargothrond) and grandfather, he was still of the House of Fëanor and left Valinor, and thus, the Doom followed him. The interesting thing with prophecies, -which is what the Doom ultimately is- is that they can be interpreted in all different ways, in order to fit the agenda or the historical perspective of those that follow it. The very same text of Lord of the Rings provides what is perhaps the best example of this via the ‘No living man being able to kill’ prophecy of the Witch King, which got upended by Eowyn cleverly pointing out that she was no man. Some prophecies, both in real life and in fantasy, on the other hand have the tendency to become self-fulfilling, as with Turin, which draws parallels to Oedipus’ own tragedy. Lastly, prophecies in literature are as much a study and a commentary on human nature as a fantasy element to guide the plot. Thus, it could be argued that the Doom Mandos casted upon the House of Feänor was a self-fulfilling prophecy because Mandos knew very well the kind of psyche Feänor had and had instilled in his own family. In a way, the Doom was as much a prophecy as it was a warning about how the flaws of the family would spell problems for them if left unchecked, which is what happened at the end.

From a meta level, of course, he was doomed because the story required him to be. Regardless of how Tolkien merged his initial legendarium with the later works of the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, by the time the reader gets to know about Celebrimbor, his doom is a done deal, a necessity to explain the backstory of the Rings of Power. In the same meta level, the writer is the creator god of the story, manipulating the events to fit the narrative they wish to tell. Thus, the characters fit what a growing number of philosophers and even scientist argue, which is that free will does not exist and everything is preordained (Burkeman, 2021). This would absolve Celebrimbor of any misgivings because he wasn’t responsible for them. However, aside the fact that taking that perspective would open a can a of worms outside the scope of this paper, it would be better to keep an in-story perspective.After all, this paper is about the character as it exists within the story and not about the intention of the author when creating it.

Then, from an in-story point of view, like all the other Noldorin elves that followed Fëanor, was followed by the Doom. He showed again and again that he was willing to go against the tide that was the House of Feänor if their course of actions contradicted his own beliefs. The problem was, as mentioned above, and Mandos knew that very well, that the whole house shared some inherent traits and flaws, be it that they were inherited or instilled, and the biggest flaw of the house was pride. They were a prideful people, well acquainted with their own unparalleled skill that thought that any challenge thrown their way would be easily conquerable. In that regard, while Celebrimbor was described as having ‘an almost “dwarvish” obsession with crafts’ (Tolkien, 1980), he was also a more thoughtful, conscientious elf than his forebears, and yet, he still went willingly and helped forge the rings without asking himself not whether he could, but whether he should create them. An elf his age knew very well, or at least should have heard of the kind of trickery that Morgoth first, and Sauron later, were capable of. But he found very tempting the challenge to help Sauron as Annatar, to create the rings.

In Celebrimbor two major flaws collide, pride, like Feänor, and gullibility (Voice of Geekdom, 2021), which certainly is a curious contrast to his grandfather’s paranoia. The extremes touch at some point. Celebrimbor dedicated most of his time to his craft, which yielded tangible results. It could be argued that once he saw the development of the Rings of Power and decided to create his own improved version to prove himself the superior craftsman. Or craftselve in this case. Fisher (2008) considers that the creation of the Three Rings and their destinies, echo the work of Feänor and the Silmarils. Following this path, Celebrimbor, like Feänor before him, had at every moment an opportunity to back off, to change of idea, and in the case of former to investigate his new associate, of listening to Galadriel’s warning. But the pride and the allure of seeing himself as a legendary craftsman blinded him until it was too late, and the changes he did to the Elven rings were too little. However, in his defense, and unlike Feänor who coveted the Silmarils over anything else, Celebrimbor gave away the Three Rings to keep them away from Sauron and thus they remained somewhat unspoiled by the corruption. This proves that he had choices, that he could have changed paths if he so desired. It was just too late to change paths by the time things came to a head. Many of us tend to act the same way, forced to change our patterns or habits only when things have reached an extreme that puts at risk something we care –health, family, the planet-, not always managing to solve the problem.

Celebrimbor had the opportunity to change that fate by returning to Valinor instead of remaining in the Middle Earth after the Downfall of Melkor, but he didn’t. He fell prey of his own flaws because he never stopped to consider them, to reflect upon the failings of his predecessors and how they formed his own choices. Being member of an immortal race, one may have expected that his apparent superiority and long life should have made him more reflective, and yet, his pride over his craftsmanship won over. The pride that resulted from such action called forth the Doom and dragged him, the remaining elves in Middle Earth and pretty much the whole world into a conflict that would turn into the land a lesser version of what it used to be, the very opposite effect of what the elves wanted to achieve.


Celebrimbor serves as a cautionary tale in many levels: the need to be socially responsible of our actions and choices, the need to keep in check our own pride, to be aware of our own flaws, of the use of our technological prowess without carefully examining possible consequences. Celebrimbor is in a way, one of the best examples that the road to Hell, or in this case Mordor, is paved with good intentions.

Celebrimbor fell prey to Sauron’s tricks and although Galadriel warned him about it, he didn’t listen because he was busy trying to achieve the next level of craftmanship, which may or may not have equivalent to his grandfather’s Silmarils. Good intentions alone are not enough, we need to make a conscious effort to keep out worst instincts at bay and ponder the effects that our decisions have in the world at large.


Asimov, I. 1982. Ring of Evil. Asimov on Science Fiction. New York. Avon Books.
Burkeman, O. 2021 The clockwork universe: Is free will an illusion? The Long Read. The Guardian. Available through: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2021/apr/27/the-clockwork-universe-is-free-will-an-illusion [Accessed April 28 2021]

Ellison, J. 1990 “From Fëanor to Doctor Faustus: a creator’s path to self-destruction.” 5th Tolkien Society Workshop.

Fisher, J. 2008. Three Rings for—Whom Exactly? And Why?: Justifying the Disposition of the Three Elven Rings. Tolkien Studies 5, 99-108.

Mulder K.F. (2013) Impact of New Technologies: How to Assess the Intended and Unintended Effects of New Technologies?. In: Kauffman J., Lee KM. (eds) Handbook of Sustainable Engineering. Dordrecht, Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-8939-8_35

Papanek, V. (1985). Design for the Real World. New York. Pantheon Books.

Scott, Nan C. (1972).”War and Pacifism in The Lord of the Rings,” Tolkien Journal: Vol. 5 : Iss. 1 Article 9. Available at: https://dc.swosu.edu/tolkien_journal/vol5/iss1/9

Tolkien, J. R. R., & Tolkien, C. (1977). The Silmarillion. London, Allen & Unwin.

Tolkien, J.R.R., / Tolkien, C. (1980) Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth. New York, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Voice of Geekdom, 2021. Celebrimbor – Forger of the Rings of Power | DISCUSSION. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1mGQhhZt_g&ab_channel=VoiceofGeekdom [Accessed 27 May 2021].

Science vs Magic in Tempest Blades. Part 1


A few weeks ago, I posted a twitter an open request for questions from readers about the setting of Tempest Blades. The most intriguing questions that evolved into a long post were by Leo McBride:

You have magic and technology side-by-side in your world – are there notable examples of tension between adherents of the two sides, and was there outright conflict as technology was first introduced?

Yes, and in a big way. When the 3 species arrived to Theia, humans had lost all their tech. Samoharo took theirs to their continent and kept it hidden for millennia. Magick was exclusive of the Freefolk for their biology made them the only ones able to channel magick energies. While dragons (still alive back then) and samoharo served as mediators, the Freefolk soon became the major power of the world. Especially after the Titan Hunt. Humans being humans, developed technology from scratch to level the field.

Sometimes with help of the Freefolk (see titanarmors, which are basically magick infused armors), sometimes to fight them (rifles, explosives and so on). It all came to a head when the Asurian Empire declared war on the Freefolk (the whole species). An intercontinental war erupted between the two powers, with increased escalation (IBMs, bioweapons -see Buried Sins-), that ended by killing all the dragons, erasing the Empire from the face of the planet, and ending the power of the Freefolk.

The trigger point, technologically, that prompted that?

The Asurian Empire was an expansionist power that believed that they should police the world. They feared the Freefolk because their magick, unlike the human version, doesn’t require long, complicated rituals. 1 in 10 Freefolk can cast magick naturally. And magick back then beat most regular weapons. The Asurian had already conquered the Straits, were encroaching the Kuni Empire and wanted all the lands above the World’s Scar, for they are rich in ore. But those lands were Freefolk. When they clashed, the Freefolk handed them a massive defeat. So for the next century, the Asurians worked on developing countermeasures for magick, including enhancing tech that could allow soldiers to kill Freefolk with ease and ballistic weapons. That tracked and exploded in contact with the magick energies. That’s why dragons had to intervene to stop both sides from killing each other, and in turn ended dying.

What are the legacies of that in social terms in the modern setting? Prejudices, laws, etc?

The Freefolk are seen with distrust (although that stems from when they were shapeshifters, before the magick) because of their innate power for magick, so they lost most of their lands south of the Scar and there are political parties that use them as scapegoats. When things go wrong (like in the Great War, despite the fact that the Freefolk were victims of massacre during the war and only 3 of the actually participated on it, Fionn and Izia for the Free Alliance and Peremir for the Blood Horde). So they are subject of racism. Magick is usually only allowed within Freefolk territory, for magic shows, school, research, emergencies or with a special permit. Bioweapons and nukes are banned (although most of that tech got lost after the Fall of the Empire).

Fionn’s actions during the War and after, the peopletarian work of the Foundation, the arcanotech research, better education, and the threat by the Samoharo to step it (which scares the hell of everyone) has helped to erode the racism towards Freefolk, except from certain political parties across the Alliance that see them as rivals for power and refuse to return them their lands. The Kuni have good relationships with the Freefolk (as they were also enemies of the Empire). And the Freefolk mostly stay on their lands to avoid more problems. And the Empire is seen as the example of the worst of humankind, the cautionary tale of what not to do and most people would prefer to see it erased from history. Only its capital, Meteora, remains as a city state in the Wastelands, a hive of scum a villainy.

So there it is, a bit of info on the backstory of Tempest Blades that informs what’s happening currently in the books (yes, plural, more on that later).

The one where I talk about Saint Seiya, the problem with the Gold Saints and my own novel setting issue.

Whoah, that was a really looooong title.

*Warning: spoilers for a 30-year-old anime show… and my own novel.*

If you were a kid from Mexico in the early 90s’, odds are that you woke up early every Saturday to watch the legendary anime “Los Caballeros del Zodiaco”, the original name “Saint Seiya” (for the purists) and known in the US as “Knights of the Zodiac” after a bastardized adaptation. And odds are that if you are Mexican kid that grew up in the early 90s’, is that Saint Seiya is your favorite anime -or one of them-.

Me? I’m a fan, not a big fan as some of my close friends (one of them even has every single figure released since the heyday of the show), but I would lie if I say I’m not a fan. The concept is pretty simple (the video below gives a remastered, succinct explanation for the visually inclined): every 300 years, ancient gods return in the shape of avatars to take over the world, so Athena (yes, that one), reincarnates in a human body**, calls forth her Saints or Knights, who wearing special armors inspired by the 88 western constellations, will face these gods -Poseidon, Hades- to protect humanity. The Saints are divided into the humble Bronze, the flashy Silver, and the godlike 12 Gold Saints -that follow the Western Zodiac-. However, this time, something went wrong, Athena and a few of her ‘weaker’*** saints are in the run of the most powerful ones and have to face them in a grueling marathon to uncover the truth, the traitor and fix everything before Poseidon, Hades and their armies return.

The show has a favorite character for everyone, especially if your zodiac sign had a cool representative among the Golden Saints, the top of the cream of warriors in the show. Really 10 out of 12 signs had a great character representing it-unless you are a Cancer or a Pisces, then I’m sorry your respective saints suck big time-. My wife has Shaka, Virgo Saint, the closest man to God and basically a buddha* with the power to traverse every single hell and heaven from anywhere. And is more dangerous when he actually opens his eyes.


Mine, is this man:


Dokho, Saint of Libra, custodian of the 12 sacred weapons of Athena, watcher of the Rozan peaks where the specters of Hades are trapped, having lived for 243 years and trained an old incarnation of the Pegasus Saint and the current Dragon Saint, Shiryu (my other favorite character). Dokho, who is the Yoda of the show that -spoiler- when the time comes and things get dire near the end, returns through a special technique to his peak form, that looks like this:


The shortest, hot-tempered, goofball Gold Saint ready to take names and kick ass. In this form he is… well, the Obi-Wan of the show, even to the other Gold Saints. And even if he looks like a hyperactive teenager (which he technically still is).

But I digress… the show is entertaining -if a bit repetitive as older anime usually is-. The music is superb (think a rock group playing with an orchestra waaay before Metallica did it). And you grow fond of the characters -unlike they are Pisces and Cancer, seriously, they need a better PR spokesperson-. And I really enjoy it, to the point that I’m addicted to the new mobile game. But there is an issue here… I get that Seiya, the Pegasus Saint and titular character, and friends are the main heroes. And the show is about their growth into heroes. But the thing that most of my friends and I agree is that as much as the show sells you the idea of the Gold Saints being these beastly, godlike beings capable of facing gods when they show up in the show… they barely actually show up.

Yeah, I have the same expression as you, Dohko.


Don’t get me wrong, some of the battles between the 5 Bronze Saints -Pegasus Seiya, Dragon Shiryu, Cygnus Hyoga, Andromeda Shun and Phoenix Ikki- and the Gold Saints are nail bitters, especially those between Ikki and Shaka, Hyoga and his master Aquarius Camus, Shiryu vs Cancer Deathmask**** and Capricorn Shura, and the last stand of Seiya against the evil side of Geminis Saga before Athena dies -look, it’s really complicated to explain-. But the rest are… a mixed bag. Aries Mu is an ally of the heroes. Taurus Aldebaran is convinced by the heroes that they are right, Dohko is busy being a Yoda, till Hades returns in Season 3. Scorpio Milo gives a good fight but he is a good guy and changes his mind and Pisces… he is so damn annoying and his fight with Shun really drags on. Aiolia Leo is being brainwashed by the main bad guy so he has to be freed from his control and Saggitarius Aiolos has been dead for 13 years. And when the Poseidon Chapter comes, nothing happens with them. The Hades chapter was meant to redeem them, but it only worked for Dohko and Kannon, the evil twin of Geminis Saga that now is the good twin -that family has ISSUES-. Then came Soul of Gold that tried to redeem them but the animation did them no favor at all. And Lost Canvas, which is not canon, did use well ALL the Gold Saints, but they were from a previous incarnation, taking place in 1743 and the only known character there is Dokho who is kinda a rookie then (this Obi-Wan in Episode I).

And here is the thing that bothers me: they are not that awe-inspiring when they appear, aside Saga whose power set is broken (which makes him a good villain).  I get that the animation techniques back then (the series started in the 80s’ even if it arrived at this side of the world in the 90s’) didn’t allow for much spectacle and thus the powers seem subsided, reduced. But when I was a kid I remember dreading the day the 5 Bros were about to face the Gold Saints because of the show’ propensity to sell you the idea that the later were nigh impossible to defeat. That their powers were earth-shattering -literally in the case of Capricorn-. But when the fights came about, they were not that different from the main 5. Which led to a sense of power escalation in later seasons -as many shonen***** anime do- that never allowed the Gold Saints to show their prowess against feared rivals like Poseidon’s Marines or Hades’ Specters. They were punked.

Which leaves me a sour taste in the mouth, because the Gold Saints should be downright terrifying. The kind of guys that inspire myths because what they can do is off the charts: create tears into the space-time continuum, freeze things to atomic level reaching absolute zero (the show plays fast and loose with physic laws), cut through the Earth itself, move at the speed of light, send your soul to the Underworld, crash a planet on your head… you get the idea.  They are the stuff of nightmares, even if they are, for most of the part, the good guys.

Rather, they are not so spectacular.


Yes, it’s kinda sad, kinda amusing, Dohko.

This is a particular issue of concern for me while I work in the sequel of Tempest Blades. Fionn -and really, any of the Gifted- is known as a powerful warrior whose abilities are way beyond the ken of mortal men. But due to the peculiarities of the villain in the first book, he had to fight with a literal hand tied to his back. Same for Gaby and Alex. Now, for the sequel, they have free reign, more training, and more experience under their belts to show off all that they can do. However, I know the risk of power escalation, which can destroy the suspension of disbelief within the setting, making the Marty/Mary Sues, if I just give them more power. That’s a serious problem.

So that left me thinking…


The solution is already set in the first book. In the POV of the only regular character of my cast: Harland. And others like him.

I don’t need to increase their powers. There is no need because they are already that powerful. What I need is to show how the powers they have, without the restrictions, posed by the plot of the first book, look to others from the outside. Namely, for Alex, manipulating energy might seem normal after 10 years. But for Harland, who is a regular human, it might be downright scary. And what about when Fionn truly let go. So far he has barely shown his full potential, for fear of collateral damage. But if the restriction is lifted… Gaby… well, you will see. That’s why in the new book I’m introducing a couple of characters that will give the perspective of how is like to watch a Gifted with a Tempest Blade in hand, going full out. Because while for my main cast, Harland aside, doing what they do is part of their daily lives, for the people watching from the sidelines, what they do, is the stuff of nightmares. Even if they are the good guys.

I just hope Athena can guide me to make it work.



*Well, not basically a buddha, he is actually a reincarnation of Buddha.
**She is like the Christ-like figure of the story. Seriously, Saint Seiya is a hot podge of myths, religions and everything between, but seen through the greek mythology glasses and anime tropes.
***Weaker, sort to speak. While the 5 main characters: Pegasus Seiya, Dragon Shiryu, Cygnus Hyoga, Andromeda Shun and Phoenix Ikki are Bronze Saints and thus the lower step of the stair, they -in very shonen fashion- grow to be more than a match for the Gold Saints and assorted deities.
****No, really, that’s his birth name. Kurumada has the subtlety of a sledgehammer.
*****Shonen is anime aimed for male audiences, think Dragon Ball.

My 2019 awards eligible stories

eligible stories banner

Hello there, world. This is the first time I write one of these posts (as I have only been nominated once for an award and I wasn’t the one promoting it). But given that this was a seminal year for me as a writer, it was due time to create one. So here there are my award-eligible stories for 2019. Here are in order of length.



518349ZKw8L“Tempest Blades: The Withered King.” Shadow Dragon Press. August 2019. Approx. 97,500 words.

Buy it from Amazon: https://mybook.to/TempestBladesWK
Buy it from Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/2kDhBlA

Genre(s): Fantasy, Science Fiction

What’s about? Fionn thought that his days as a warrior were over. Gaby & Alex never expected to become heroes. Now they must join forces to stop an ancient evil. In a world where magic and science intermingle, anything is possible. Including second chances.

What others have said about it:

“An action-packed blend of magic and mayhem, sword and sorcery, science fiction and fantasy. The book is full of entertaining characters, has a sense of humor and adventure, and there’s a crackling video-game vibe added for good measure.” —Maria Haskins, author, and B&N Blogger

“A glorious sci-fi adventure for any reader of the fandom of the classic video game ‘Soul Blade'” —Booklist

“Like Final Fantasy meets Dungeons & Dragons! An action-packed sci-fantasy adventure that fans of the genre will love! Victoria delivers a lively story that feels like a video game, with plenty of heart and humor along the way. The characters are interesting, the action keeps you turning the pages, the concepts are fascinating! This is good stuff! The one-liners are killer, too!”Diane Morrison, Author of the “Wyrd West Chronicles” & Manager of the official SFWA YouTube channel

“It was a fun, fast book, full of action beats. It was also surprisingly introspective and deep. As entertaining as it was, this is ultimately a book about second chances. I found it highly enjoyable.”Jodie Crump. Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub

“It’s a science fantasy epic that bursts with originality. It is new, it is fresh, and it makes the imagination soar. In short, this is not something you’ve read before.”Leo McBride at Altered Instinct

“There’s a some portals and a spaceship, a lizard pilot dude and a good deal of magick, a 133 yr old father-mentor guy and lottsa swords. A total mashup spanning the spacepunk, fantasy, scifi, and LitRPG genres, The Withered King looks to surprise you on every page…

…The Withered King is an impressive debut that any reader of speculative fiction should enjoy.”Paul at Paul’s Picks



Tales of Magic and Destiny cover“Asherah’s Pilgrimage.” in the anthology Tales of Magic & Destiny (Inklings Press). Edited by Leo McBride & Rob Edwards. July  2019. Approx. 9,100 words.

Buy it from Amazon: http://mybook.to/MagicDestiny

Genre(s): Fantasy

What’s about? A girl, the first with the gift of magic, has to step up and lead her people into a new world in finding a place to settle. But the perilous journey will mean for the freefolk to leave behind what remains of their old ways. And for Asherah to succeed, it will mean sacrificing everything she is and find her new place in the world.

What others have said about it:

“A story that has high-stakes and drama, personal courage and friendship, action and introspection, humour and pathos. For me, it captures the essence of what it is to be an individual overcoming their own limitations to achieve something that really matters.”  E.M. Swift-Hook at Working Title.

“…I loved the image of the freefolk and they seemed so intriguing and I loved the little glimpses of the world they left behind. I loved how the story grew to its close and I absolutely wasn’t ready for this one to end. The battle in the maze had some really great imagery. I haven’t read this one a second time yet (because I just read it this afternoon on my lunch break!) but I will definitely give it a second read.”Reviewer at Amazon.

Short Stories


51yj0nKMCsL._SY346_“No-Sell.” in the anthology Gunsmoke and Dragonfire. Edited by Diane Morrison. March  2019. Approx. 4,800 words.

Buy it from Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1999575717

Genre(s): Fantasy Western

What’s about? In a world where magic delayed the invention of firearms, an ex-spellslinger has taken up a career as a traveling sales being of a newfangled weapon called a “rifle”… and he has a few tricks under his coat.

What others have said about it:

“I also enjoyed No-Sell, from Ricardo Victoria, taking the theme and running with it, for in a Wild West world where magic is commonplace, what use is a gun? And what would the equivalent of a snake-oil salesman do with one if he had one?”Leo McBride at Altered Instinct.

““No-Sell” by Ricardo Victoria was a fun story that reminded me very much of Dragonheart, but in a Western setting and blending in a bit of Aztec mythology. I really enjoyed the slow reveal on this story and the twist at the end.”Geoff Habiger.


41sHL1Kc1rL“Good Boys.” in the anthology Gods of Clay: A Sci Fi Roundtable Anthology. Edited by Eric Michael Craig & Ducky Smith. February 2019. Approx. 4,800 words.

Buy it from Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Gods-Clay-Sci-Roundtable-Anthology/dp/1733728317/

Genre(s): Science Fiction

What’s about? In the distant future, uplifted dogs and octopuses sent a mission back to a legendary place, a ‘lost’ planet, to find about a strange signal sent by their long-gone creators. The secrets they find there, the ancient enemies they will encounter, will shake their beliefs and their future.

The problem with prophecies

Disclaimer: This blog post has spoilers from recent episodes of Game of Thrones. Read under your own peril.


Prophecies. A staple in fantasy and at times, science fiction (and science fantasy as a result). The guideline through which many stories live and die in the head of the audience. If the prophecy somehow is not fulfilled directly or through a twist -more on that later-, the audience tends to complain about how it was a cop-out, a plot hole or a mistake. As if the prophecy and the myth from where it is derived is a promise about how the story should develop, like a recipe. Perhaps is due to the tendency that humans have to create patterns and follow them to the letter, out of a sense of familiarity and comfort. Maybe because of personal headcanons make you, the audience to consider that a story should develop in a certain way to fit your interpretation of a prophecy. But prophecies are meant to be vague because they are trying to predict events in the future that are unfolding based on several decisions

I have to say, I’m not a fan of the whole prophecy thing, not a least as a guideline of how a story should develop. I don’t mind a prophecy here and there. I do mind the way it is used to railroad a story. In my humble opinion if you as writer follow to a T a prophecy you created for your story, then something went wrong. Same if as reader you expect a prophecy to work as stated and get angry when it doesn’t. Even in the real world, prophecies are unreliable and subject to interpretation. I mean, if prophecies were that literal, we would be using Nostradamus writings as an almanac, easily expecting what was going to happen and taking one of three options:

-You sit down and let thing happens without doing nothing, taking away your agency (which in storytelling makes for a really boring character and in real life veers in nihilism).

-You try to avert what’s gonna happen, thus changing the future and invalidating the prophecy (Vision of Escaflowne revolves around this, how Fate is actually a probability zone created by free will and changed by our decisions rather than a fixed outcome, which is what the villain wants to do, force the world into his fixed outcome).

-You fulfill said prophecy by setting in motion the causes and effects that will result in it (self-fulfilling prophecies, which sound to me a lot like determinism).

So the reason I’m not a big fan of prophecies as road map’ that populate fantasy is that I’m a firm believer of free will. As a relative once told me, during a philosophical/esoteric talk, you might have a destiny, as you have during a trip, but how you reach it, if at all, is entirely your choice. Prophecies are nice touches that lend depth and worldbuilding to a story, but using them as the blueprint for your story, negates character development and force you to end the narrative in a certain way that might not be entirely organic.

I will put it this way: my personal pet peeve with the last book of Harry Potter (disclaimer: my wife is a huge fan of the series, she actually cried when we visited the Wizarding World in Orlando) is that the ending and the whole quest felt so forced because Rowling had to follow this prophecy:

‘The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches … born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies… and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not… and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives … the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies…’
-Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

To me, the plot collapsed under its own weight due to the adherence to the prophecy. Yes, Neville could have fulfilled it. But by half of the saga, it was clear that he was a red herring. The story fell into a pattern and the resolution felt contrived to me (you, of course, are free to disagree). The story was kinda predictable after a certain point. Harry had to die for Voldy to be gone. The challenge there was to see how the author would pull it off -killing the MC or finding a way to keep him alive-. I have been guilty of this on my stories, so I admit this post is also a learning experience for me.

Now, you can tell me that in fiction, prophecies have been not always followed to the letter, playing with the expectations of the reader. The earliest example I can think of is Lord of the Rings, in specific the death of the Witch King of Angmar:

Éowyn: Be gone, foul dwimmerlaik, lord of carrion! Leave the dead in peace!
Nazgûl: Come not between the Nazgul and his prey! Or he will not slay thee in thy turn. He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shriveled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye.
Éowyn: Do what you will, but I will hinder it, if I may.
Nazgûl: Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me!
Éowyn: But no living man am I! You look upon a woman. Éowyn I am, Eomund’s daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin. Be gone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him.
-The Return of the King, Lord of the Rings

In this example, Eowyn -with a certain degree of help from Merry- kills an unkillable enemy by taking the prophecy to the letter “No living man can hinder me” and being literal with its interpretation. A woman did the deed. Helped by a hobbit. I wonder if an orc, dwarf or elf or an undead being could have done it too. In this case, the prophecy by Glorfindel was followed to the letter, but by sticking to it, presented the way it was going to be fulfilled: anyone besides a living man could have done it if we play a rules lawyer.

Now, here is one of the most controversial prophecies in fandom, one that’s still debated how it should have been interpreted, regardless to the fact that the original creator already said which interpretation was the right one. I present you with the Chosen One from Star Wars:

“You refer to the prophecy of the one who will bring balance to the Force. You believe it’s this…boy?”
―Mace Windu, to Qui-Gon Jinn about Anakin Skywalker

“If the prophecy is true, your apprentice is the only one who can bring the Force back into balance.”
―Mace Windu, to Obi-Wan Kenobi

“You were the Chosen One! It was said that you would destroy the Sith, not join them! Bring balance to the Force, not leave it in darkness!”
―Obi-Wan Kenobi, to Anakin Skywalker

How do you interpret ‘balance’? According to Lucas, balance meant to destroy the Sith for their use of the Dark Side was breaking the said balance. Then he introduced the Mortis family and well… things changed. The balance was meant to be achieved by destroying both Jedi and Sith? Or as the NT is kinda trying to imply in The Last Jedi, balance is accepting both the good and the bad of the Force as it is a reflection of the universe, life & death, good and evil? It kinda still fits with Lucas original version of balance because the Sith wanted to control those aspects and by doing it, corrupting the Force and breaking the balance of the natural order.

But I often wonder what would have happened if Lucas had eschewed the whole Chosen One thing and just stick to making Anakin a really powerful Force user that went bad like many talented people do in real life? Maybe we wouldn’t have to hear about ‘midichlorians’. The thing is Lucas kinda tied his hands by introducing the Chosen One thing and then tried to retrofit it with the previous lore established in the OT. I know, his biggest inspiration was the ‘Journey of the Hero’. But that is just a  way to tell a story, not the only blueprint for it.

This takes me to the issue at hand, which is where this post gets spoilery: Game of Thrones. In particular, S8 Ep 3 ‘The Battle of Winterfell’ where everyone, including Kit Harington, were expecting a  fateful duel between Jon and the Night King. A duel that never happened. Jon got stuck with an undead dragon, Dany was surrounded by wights and defended only by Ser Jorah and in a very interesting twist, Arya stabbed the mortal enemy of mankind and saved the day, enraging a lot of people that think that it invalidates the books and the prophecies about Azor Ahai, The Prince that was Promised, and so on.

But here is the thing, Martin has made a point of leaving said legends and prophecies open to interpretation. He describes himself as a ‘gardener’, which means he has a basic outline of how the story will go but is leaving himself room to create the story. And to do that, the legends and prophecies in the books -and by extention, the show- had to be kept vague.

So let’s examine this:

Complaint one: Jon/Dany was meant to be AA, TPtwP, etc. and the one that delivered the final blow to the NK. I admit I was of this mindset at first, until my wife told me, with reason, that no prophecy actually works literally in the real world. And GoT/ASOIAF is meant to be a fantasy story with a certain degree on real-world logic on it.

So the prophecy used  for the show, as expressed in the book says:

“There will come a day after a long summer when the stars bleed and the cold breath of darkness falls heavy on the world. In this dread hour a warrior shall draw from the fire a burning sword. And that sword shall be Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes, and he who clasps it shall be Azor Ahai come again, and the darkness shall flee before him.” 

A Clash of Kings, Chapter 10, Davos I.

If you notice, it never says that AA will kill the darkness, just that it will dispell it. I contend, and this is a personal interpretation, that Lightbringer is not meant to be a sword, but a coalition of people willing to stop the darkness. The first Lightbringer was the Night’s Watch:

I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men.

So in a way, Jon & Dany did fulfill that part of the prophecy, because the set things in motion, gathered people willing to fight the darkness and did everything possible to allow for Arya to deliver the decisive blow. Heck, without Jon in the North as a king, Arya would have probably gone south to kill Cersei. The Battle of Winterfell is showing us a new Lightbringer: the coalition of the living created by Jon & Dany. The description of this bit from The World of Ice & Fire, about the Long Night mentions:

How long the darkness endured no man can say, but all agree it was only when a great warrior – known variously as Hyrkoon the Hero, Azor Ahai, Yin Tar, Neferion, and Eldric Shadowchaser – arose to give courage to the race of men and lead the virtuous into battle with his blazing sword Lightbringer that the darkness was put to rout, and light and love returned once more to the world.

The World of Ice & Fire, The Bones and Beyond.

It doesn’t mention the woman with a monkey’s tail that’s referred in another part of the text*, but that’s another point. Most people would assume that is a single warrior with different names. But what if is, in reality, a coalition of heroes from different parts of the world save it and with the pass of time, their figures got mixed into a single being. I mean, that’s the basis of the Faith of the Seven in a way.

Complaint two: by killing the NK so early, the show was left without a bigger villain and is back to petty squabbles for a throne. Well, the thing is, that it is actually consistent with the source material. The story of Westeros didn’t stop with the end of first Long Night nor will ‘stop’ with the end of the second one (a very short one actually). And here is why:

When the daughter of the Opal Emperor ascended to power as the Amethyst Empress, her envious brother cast her down and proclaimed himself the Bloodstone Emperor and began a reign of terror and slavery, in which he practiced dark arts and necromancy, took a tiger-woman for his bride, feasted on human flesh and cast down the gods of Yi Ti to worship a black stone fallen from the sky. This Blood Betrayal, as it is known in the annals of the Further East, ushered in the Long Night, with the Maiden-Made-of-Light turning her back on the world, while the Lion of Night came forth to punish the wickedness of man. The darkness ended when a great warrior rose to lead the virtuous into battle with the sword Lightbringer in his hand. Light was restored, but the Great Empire was not reborn for the restored world was a broken place where every tribe of men went its own way, fearful of all the others, and war, lust, and murder had endured.

The World of Ice & Fire, Yi Ti.

G.R.R. Martin story has always been about humans being their own worst enemy (like in real life). An often overlooked part of the Azor Ahai/PtwP myth/prophecy says (and this is the part everyone is ignoring) that after the Long Night ended, the land was left in a state of constant war and chaos. So yes, a magical monster was killed, but the very real monster that hides inside every person is still there. Which if you think, fits with what the show is doing.

I know it’s kinda iffy to bring book canon to the show canon when in the show they had barely discussed the prophecy beyond that Azor Ahai will save the realm (it doesn’t really specify from whom, darkness can take many forms: ice zombies, mad queens…). But the theme seems to be consistent in both forms. The show might have taken liberties, but the theme remains: humanity is it’s own worst enemy. Jon still has time to become Azor Ahai, but it won’t be in the epic fantasy way we expect. It will be in one more set to a more ‘realistic’ world, or as realistic as a world with dragons and ice zombies can be. And he can become that (or Dany will, the coin is still in the air) because the evil hasn’t gone away, it is still there. And unlike with the White Walkers, this evil doesn’t go away immediately when you stab the leader. It never truly goes away. Darkness is always inside us. And every epic battle, real and in fiction, has consequences.

Or to put it this way: after WWII ended and the bigger evil was defeated, we were still left with a very dangerous monster (Stalin), a Cold War and the realm in disarray, with the threat of nuclear war looming over our heads. And it hasn’t really gone away. History is nothing but a long succession of smaller histories all linked together. In fantasy, we are preconditioned to stop reading after the hero takes down the bad guy, but we rarely stop to consider the aftermath. I mean, I have always wondered what happened to the orcs in LOTR after the fall of the Sauron. were they massacred? Or Were they free to create their own culture and perhaps someday become somewhat of a nation?

Bottom line, prophecies in the real world rarely come to happen as they are intended because the future is always in motion, thousands of small decisions change the outcomes of our day to day interactions. History seems to us, set in stone because we can see the logical chain of causes and effects that made certain events happen the way they did, but truth is that we see it in that way because we are living in the result of those interactions: for us to exist in the way we do, things had to happen in that way. But it doesn’t apply to future events. So I don’t see why prophecies have to be interpreted as the only way events have to unfold in a narrative. For us as writers, is hard to keep vague things because, in the way we are the gods of the worlds we create, we can see how things are gonna end. It is even more difficult if you are a plotter/architect. A pantser/gardener -kinda can allow themselves a certain degree of surprise. But the concept of the ending is usually set in stone, even if the road there is not laid out yet.

The problem with prophecies is that they are a double-edged sword when used in a story. Either you get railroaded by them or you leave them so open to interpretation that the audience will complain. Actually, in both cases, someone is gonna complain. Prophecies shouldn’t be used as the blueprint for your story. Otherwise, it becomes predictable or will contradict other parts of your story. Prophecies should be used as hints, as red herrings, as potential futures. And keeping them vague is really tricky.

Thus, prophecies should be used judiciously. Personally, I prefer the second option, both as audience and as a writer, as it gives more leeway to the imagination and clever twist, to represent the chaotic nature of our world instead of a deterministic one. Because living in a deterministic world must be the most soul-crushing experience ever.

That’s what I liked about what’s going on in Game of Thrones in its final episodes and the source material: the prophecies leave room for interpretation based on the cultural contexts of the characters and the audience. There is a myriad way everything can unfold. I don’t think I’m that good of a writer to pull it off in my stories -hence why I haven’t even attempted to write a prophecy for them- but I certainly can enjoy when others do it. Because it keeps my interest. I love not knowing whats’ gonna happen, to be in the edge of my seat screaming at Jon for not being able to reach the Night King on time and be pleasantly surprised that Arya did. And to me, that helps to make a good story a great one.

*“This legend has spread west from Asshai, and the followers of R’hllor claim that this hero was named Azor Ahai, and prophesy his return. In the Jade Compendium, Colloquo Votar recounts a curious legend from Yi Ti, which states that the sun hid its face from the earth for a lifetime, ashamed at something none could discover, and that disaster was averted only by the deeds of a woman with a monkey’s tail.” George R. R. Martin, Elio Garcia & Linda Antonsson. “The World of Ice & Fire.”


My novel’s dream soundtrack.

A while ago, I wrote a similar post about my ideal soundtrack for my novel when I was around the 7th draft. Now that it is to be published and in hands of the ARC reviewers, I thought in updating the list to make it fit better.

This is my ‘dream’ soundtrack, the one that if money, rights and time weren’t an objection, would be what I would like to hear in a movie or a tv show. Alas, this is the list of songs I used while writing my novel.

Some songs are for scenes, others, to reflect the character in question -a musical shorthand if you like, a leitmotif -. So their ‘character songs’ are the ones I listened when writing their parts. Same with specific scenes that have a ‘theme’. Thus the reader could listen to them with the same effect, maybe getting a better idea of the mood I was aiming for. These songs really helped me nail particular bits of the story.  Even if this is an eclectic list, to say the least.

And thank you to the artists behind these songs. Your work inspired me to write the best story I could.

Theme Song for the whole story:

Character themes:

Fionn’s Theme:

Gaby’s theme (and the inspiration for the song she sings before the crutial fight):

Alex’s theme:

Sam’s theme:

Sid’s theme / The Figaro’s flight:

Harland’s Theme:

Scene themes:

Opening Chapter / Heroic Resolve (I’m gonna kick your sorry ass):

The Freefolk theme (for anything related to them, the Maze, Mekiri or magic in general)

Training Scenes:

Big Damn Heroes (in the final chapters):

The Final Duel:

Closing moments / Credits:


The Reveal: “Tempest Blades. The Withered King”.

Well, here it is, my book’s cover is finally done. And the book is for preorder too. But first the cover.

cover reveal TBWK

Pictured: Fionn, Gaby, and Alex, my main characters, trying to clean up the mess that someone else created. Some reunions can get really chaotic.

It’s amazing isn’t? I mean I can’t stop staring at it. It’s widely different from what I had pictured at first, but that’s the great thing! I get to see my world through the eyes of one reader. Because yes, Salvador Velázquez, the Mexican graphic artist who worked in this awesome art piece read the whole book to try and get the right feel for it.

I consider myself lucky for many, many reasons in life (like having a wonderful wife and great friends). But in this case, I think, without wanting to sound as I’m gloating, that I’m also as a writer. Usually, when a writer gets to be published, the editor sends the design brief to the artist, the artist does their interpretation of said brief (which is not the same as the actual story) and you get a cover done. Most of the time it works but not always, as in that fight between a cover artist and an author that was neither good or kind. Others the author if they have the skill, work on the illustrations as well, like Tolkien. Sometimes if you self publishes, you buy a premade cover or hire an artist and result may vary. And occasionally a writer gets to work directly with the artist and a good rapport and communication surges, becoming friends, which is my case with Salvador.

I was lucky that my publisher, Artemesia Publishing, allowed me a certain degree of liberty when it came to the cover design and illustration. And me, being the control freak I am, took the opportunity. In another blog entry, I will showcase the development and evolution of the cover art, with added comments from Salvador (given that it will be a long post, it will take some time to put it together). Lest suffice to say that I spent the last months, chatting back and forth with Salvador, trying to get his vision and my ideas to mesh together into the fantastic illustration you are seeing above. I have to give it to him as he was patient enough to listen to me rambling about how a bow should be used or asking about references while leaving his own imprint on the piece. I think that something that helped is that both of us have a design background* (and since I will be overseeing as well the editorial design of the cover) so we shared a common language and understood how and why to ask something.

This is the cover, all put together with the synopsis in the back. The final cover design and assembling were done by my wife, who is not only an amazing photographer but also a talented editorial designer who is starting her business creating covers for authors like me. Trust me, it might look easy, but the level of skill required to make sure everything is correct right to the last millimeter is staggering. I still have a lot to learn from her if I want to improve the covers for Inklings Press.


The synopsis reads:

Fionn is the wielder of a legendary Tempest Blade, and he is blessed – or cursed – by The Gift. Though his days as a warrior are long over, his past leaves him full of guilt and regret. Life, however, has other plans for him, when he agrees to help a friend locate a missing person.

Gaby and Alex never expected to become heroes… until they met Fionn. As an ancient evil arises and consumes the land, Fionn must help them to master their own Gifts and Tempest Blades.

Together the three of them, and their friends, will chart a course aboard the flying ship Figaro to save the planet. Will Fionn’s past be an anchor, or will he overcome the one failure from his former life before time runs out?

In a world where magic and science intermingle, anything is possible.

Including second chances.

Anyways, this is the cover. The back blurb is not on it because I wanted you to admire the art and the custom made logo Salvador and his girlfriend did for me. You can give them a better look at these promotional banners:

Banner TBWK Fionn

The Greywolf

Banner TBWK Alex

The Inventor

Banner TBWK Gaby

The Dreamer

While “Tempest Blades. The Withered King.” will be released on August 20th of this year, you can preorder my book (so weirdly satisfying to say that) here**:


Preorders help writers too -actually, they help a lot, more than you can imagine- so I will be deeply thankful if you go and get a copy for yourself. And let me know what do you think when you get your copy after August 20th.

Thank you.

*Design, like many other fields such as engineering and medicine, has different specialties and different skills. Yes all designers, know how to draw. But one thing is to draw a product -like in my case, and I admit I’m not that good- and another to draw a custom made illustration or develop a marketing campaign. Yes, you can cross-pollinate abilities -my wife, a graphic designer, and photographer, is teaching me about editorial design and photoshop- but it takes time to get good at them. See my point about editorial design.

**I just hope that by the time you see this, Amazon has updated the cover image for the ebook version, that’s why the link will take you to the paperback version.

‘Lost in Translation’ and writing about a character’s introspection.

I have a special relationship with ‘Lost in Translation’, as when I watched it, I was going under some personal issues. I recall that I went with my parents to watch it (because no one else wanted to do it and my mom enjoys going to the cinema) and when it ended, as ‘Just like honey’ sounded along the rolling credits I told them: “that’s what Tokyo looks like… and that´s how I feel most of the time.” And they understood. Never a movie so far had explained better for me the level of isolation and need to connect that one can feel on a bad period of life.

As Roger Ebert put it:

“”‘Lost in Translation’” offers an experience in the exercise of empathy.”

It’s often decried that the movie is about nothing, or confused with a romantic comedy. I say no to the first assertion and might agree partially to the second one. ‘Lost in Translation’, in my opinion, is a character study between two people that feel isolated and find a kindred soul to share said isolation, through mutual understanding of their different circumstances. The movie is about both: personal introspection on the dual questions of ‘what am I doing with my life/what am I doing here?’ and the sense of isolation and impersonality created by a being in a foreign place or in a big city.

Anyone that has moved abroad to study or live could agree that the first months there feel like this until you manage to make human connections. An even then, the feeling truly never goes away. Regardless of what Bob told Charlotte in that famous final scene, both made a connection, both grew up as persons and both realized things about them that couldn’t figure it alone, but couldn’t figure it with a relative either. It was through breaking that wall of isolation that they found what was literally ‘Lost in Translation’ in their personal lives.

I was thinking about this movie recently, as I drafted a list of my 10 favorite movies, and recalling it made me think something we, as writers, tend to forget: character’s internal growth or introspection. Due to a variety of reasons, readers and writers –including myself- tend to skip the calmer moments of a story, in search of the next action beat. When I was showing to some friends the outline for the Tempest Blades sequel, one pointed that a chapter describing a training period could cut the flow of the action. But I’m planning to leave for now said chapter. I’m not interested in the training part per se, but in the connection between characters to make the protagonist look inside and realize some things he needs to solve inside his head and heart before moving to the next stage. The whole theme of the book is about that learning.

I have a particular fondness for that kind of bittersweet, slow stories because they offer a window to the soul of a character (or characters) and the kind of inner exploration we rarely give even to ourselves. We have grown accustomed to hectic lifestyles where we forgo the time to look inside and reach outside. And our characters reflect that.
Regardless of whether we add or not quieter, slower scenes of introspection –scenes that some readers can say are about nothing- to our action-packed or politically intriguing stories, we as writers can and have to do it. Even if it’s something that will remain in our notebooks, part of the hinted background of a character. Allowing ourselves to help our characters to go through this introspection, through this ‘exercise of empathy’, I believe, would allow us as writers to create more believable characters.

Characters that can react with a certain amount of believability to what we as might gods of fate throw at them. We write about actions but rarely dwell on consequences. The actions of our characters change the world –relative to scale and theme of course- but are also changed by them, for what’s life but constant change. In ‘Lost in Translation’, Bob and Charlotte are being changed by their current circumstances as well as their previous personal histories. The introspection they are subjected by the events depicted in the film force them to come to terms to what has traversed and move on to the next stage. Our characters, regardless of the genre we are writing (well, perhaps not in horror because odds are they will be dead by the end), need to go through the same process, even if it’s never to be depicted in the story and takes place only in our heads. But by doing it, we can write them better and thus, the story is improved.

We are not cardboard beings, nor should our characters be. Maybe that’s why is taking me so long to start writing the sequel because I need to figure out how much my characters have changed inside by the events of the first book in order to show where they are moving. I did this exercise for the main characters of my short stories ‘Asherah’s Pilgrimage’ and ‘No-sell’ (both to be published this year in different anthologies) and I think it improved them. At least made me understand better their motivations so I could try to portray them as needed. I hope I did achieve that. Because now I want to try that at a larger scale. I’m connecting with my characters in order to understand their particular isolation and thus understand what they are looking for, so the plot is better serviced by that.

‘Lost in Translation’ will always have a special place in my heart. And now I realize, in the list of influences I have.

Weird Western and Me. New anthology project.


Last year, I wrote and submitted my first Weird West Fantasy story “No-Sell” to an anthology project. I was fortunate enough to get it accepted.

The mastermind and editor behind the project is writer and SFWA Youtube master extraordinaire Diane Morrison, who has been a delight to work with on the edits and the overall publication of the anthology. The book is already for preorder at Amazon in Kindle format (it will be released in paperback at a later date). It will be at an excellent, low price just until the end of January, so be sure to pick up a copy.

About my story, without telling too much, it’s about a disillusioned retired military spellslinger traveling on the frontier of the land, visiting remote towns and carrying a new type of weapon called ‘rifle’. Think Algren from ‘The Last Samurai’ (the one with Tom Cruise) when he is sent to sell weapons to the Japanese. Except that no one wants his fare. Not like it matters to him. And of course, I managed to slip a small reference to Mexican Culture. Depending on how things go, I might write more stories in that new universe. I just got this book for further research: Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History.

The anthology has many good stories, including one by my archenemy Brent A. Harris.  And it will include a public domain story by Robert E. Howard (who kinda pioneered the genre). You shouldn’t miss this book.

A brief story of Science Fantasy


Image by sykosan

Earlier today, someone at the FB writers’ group to which I belong, asked (and I quote):

“I have long been assured that ‘Science Fantasy’ is a ‘thing’? So why can’t I find this genre in the BISAC fiction codes?”

It’s an interesting and fair question, moreover, because it is a discussion my publisher and I have had regarding under which genre list my novel at Amazon (ultimately, the distributor opted for Science Fiction, which well, might work, although I still argue it is Science Fantasy or Futuristic Fantasy).

So I replied the following. Bear in mind that this is what I recall from several consultations at the usual sites (Wikipedia, TV Tropes), The Complete Guide to Fantasy Subgenres by Best Fantasy Books, my recollections of Issac Asimov’s essay compilation and my own readings.

Currently, it is difficult to get a clear cut classification of Science Fantasy for two reasons:

1) As shown in the Complete Guide to… there are tons of Fantasy subgenres, and if you recall my previous posts on Science Fantasy, I see it more as a grading scale. So they often get mixed between them and with Science Fiction, that has become an umbrella term for the general public and thus, for several bookstores.

2) History. So sit down, grab a cup of coffee and listen to old uncle Ricardo explain it the best he can:

Originally Science Fantasy was published in the same magazines as Weird Fiction and original Heroic Fantasy (think Lovecraft for the former, Robert E. Howard for the later) during the ’20s and ’30s. Often got confused with straight fantasy, being fantasy an umbrella term for non-literary work or noir. That’s why you get things like the Cthulhu Mythos that mix horror, magic and science or stuff like Planetary Romances such as ‘John Carter of Mars.’

Science Fiction as we know it today was a counterproposal of that, encouraged by  John W. Campbell, editor of Astounding Science Fiction, who as per Asimov’s recollection, was adamant of having sound scientific knowledge behind every story he published (what we now know as Hard Science Fiction). It slowly pushed away from the mixture of genres and laid out the rules of what we know now as classic Science Fiction (Asimov, Heinlen, and Clarke). But if you read their older work, especially of authors like Bradbury, many of them wrote still a mix of Fantasy and SF.

With the advent of LOTR in the later part of the ’50s ( trivia time: incidentally helping to create the environmental movement), the division between Science Fiction and Fantasy became more entrenched. And the weird/horror part of the mix got separated into horror and the new weird (Charlie Stross for example). But if you notice, for example, some of the works of Stephen King go back to those roots (The Dark Tower, The Stand even It). But for many years, authors and readers tried to keep them separated, although there are stories that get them mixed.

You have cases where authors adamantly said their work belonged to one or the other, which was the case of Anne McCaffrey and the Dragonriders of Pern series (she might say it was straight SF, but they read like fantasy to me). Authors that started writing their sagas as fantasy and through connecting them with their other work or as result of worldbuilding created fantasy worlds in post-apocalyptic future Earth, like Terry Brooks and the Shannara series or The Book of Swords Series by Fred Saberhagen. Finally, the third group of authors never bothered with such divisions, instead of looking for the best mix of elements to tell the story at hand, like Terry Pratchett and the Discworld series or Roger Zelazny and his various works, like was the case of Creatures of Light and Darkness or Lord of Light.  And then you have authors such as Steven Brust of the Dragaera series that abide by the rule of cool as prescribed in the following quote:

“The Cool Stuff Theory of Literature is as follows: All literature consists of whatever the writer thinks is cool. The reader will like the book to the degree that he agrees with the writer about what’s cool. And that works all the way from the external trappings to the level of metaphor, subtext, and the way one uses words. In other words, I happen not to think that full-plate armor and great big honking greatswords are cool. I don’t like ’em. I like cloaks and rapiers. So I write stories with a lot of cloaks and rapiers in ’em, ’cause that’s cool. Guys who like military hardware, who think advanced military hardware is cool, are not gonna jump all over my books, because they have other ideas about what’s cool.

The novel should be understood as a structure built to accommodate the greatest possible amount of cool stuff.”

― Steven Brust

Personally, I abide by that rule too.

So as you can see, Science Fantasy hasn’t truly disappeared, just mutated, sometimes ignored, sometimes confused. The only place where Science Fantasy has been published continually since the ’20s as it’s own genre is in superhero comics (which started as pulp fiction), but now they have their own sub-genre in the literature (in part, thanks to Wild Cards by GRR Martin).

However, its existence has influenced our pop culture in ways are not that obvious. That’s why we have Star Wars and Saturday Morning cartoons from the ’80s (e.g. Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors or Thundercats), because Lucas and those other creative artists grew up watching old pulp serials, reading classic comics. For them, the mix of genres was obvious and useful. But the literary world -always influenced by commercial interests and marketing strategies- changes slowly. I recall as a kid, that fantasy was still considered SF in many places (and I’m an 80’s kid) and bookstores still tend to put fantasy books in SF shelves. I recall a bookstore chain in the UK that puts Patrick Rothfuss’Kingkiller Chronicles’ next to Star Trek novels. Because for the general public, they are the same.

There is however one country where Science Fantasy does have its own classification as a literary and cinematic genre: Japan. They do like their eclectic mixes and both their video games and anime show that. We don’t notice because when they get ported this side of the world, they get classified in our rigid system. For example, Dragon Ball started as fantasy (with super advanced technology) and now has aliens fighting deities and androids, with a not so healthy mix of time travel and multiverses. Or Final Fantasy, that started as a somewhat straight fantasy and by VII had megacities, modern tech, spaceships and schizo mix of magic and technology known as magitech.

With the advent of superhero franchises at the cinemas and book adaptations for modern sensibilities, I believe that Science Fantasy is on the rise again, but it will take some time to catch up in renown as its own subgenre.