What is our love affair with myths and legends?

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart:  I am fed to the teeth with elevated themes! Old dead legends! Why must we go on forever writing about gods and legends?” 

Baron Van Swieten:  Because they do. They go on forever. Or at least what they represent. The eternal in us.” 

─ Amadeus (1984)

I think it’s safe to say that people love stories. We’ve heard them since we were children, at bedtime, around a campfire, on our favorite TV show, and in the movies. Stories are what entertain us whether were sitting in a Broadway theater or watching the latest anime on our smartphone.

kingarthurThere are so many ways for authors and writers to tell their favorite stories, whether its a retelling of an old legend or a brand new story. These folk tales and fairy tales are the composite of our combined history. The give us hope, give us faith, and make us believe in something more than our everyday life. For writers like me, myths and legends are the source of inspiration for my writing.

As you travel around the world, you’ll find that every culture has a lot of the same stories, just told with different characters. There are creation stories, love stories, tales of famous heroes rescuing a damsel in distress, and some about a girl saving the day too. It’s all part of that shared history that all human beings have. No matter what the color of your skin, the language you speak or where you live, its the stories of the past that bring us together.

I’m reminded of the television miniseries Roots, based on the novel by author Alex Haley on how he discovered his lineage all the way back to Africa. He found it through a family story that was passed down from generation to generation. It was the story of how Kunta Kinte went out into the jungle to cut down a tree to make a drum for a gift, and how he was captured and taken away from his village. This story resonated through history until Alex Haley returned to the village of his ancestor and heard the story again, but from one of the village elders. That story connected them together over hundreds of years and thousands of miles That’s the power of stories.

“That’s how it is with legends. The greater they sound, the more must’ve got left out.”
― Tim Tharp, Knights of the Hill Country

Thou some are flights of fancy, others are based on some truths. We’ve seen some stories told over and over again, from Greek mythology and King Arthur, to stories from the Bible. These are some of the great tales that resound in all of us due to their morals, their heroism, their faith, and how they impact us emotionally. These tales have resonated from century to century, across thousands of miles and multiple languages. That is what makes them immortal.

Clash of the Titans is one of my favorite movies, from the original 1981 with Harry Hamlin and Sir Lawrence Olivier to the 2010 remake with Sam Worthington and Liam Neeson. No matter how much the story changed in 30 years, it still had the same myth at its base–Perseus, the Kraken, Medusa, etc. No matter how it inspired the writer, the story was the same at its core.

No matter how they’re told, myths and legends are the stories that we all share. We have a responsibility to keep passing these stories on to the next generation, in whatever form possible, to ensure they remain part of our history.

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Chapter 3 of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.

Anime is “the most expressive” form of art with no boundaries on imagination

73b11efb2c17bf4483481cc5183d01d9I have been a fan of anime before it was known as anime. In the 60’s and 70’s, it was just a Japanese cartoon dubbed in English to American kids. Shows like Speed Racer, Gigantor, Marine Boy, and Star Blazers were an absolute joy to watch, after school and on Saturday mornings.

In the 80’s, anime became more frequent with Mobile Suit Gundam, Captain Harlock, Sailor Moon, Voltron, and more. Then came the great Hayao Miyazaki and movies like Princess Mononoke, Howl’s Moving Castle, and the Academy award winning film Spirited Away. There so many more that I didn’t list here. That’s because anime has become a global phenomenon.

There are so many different types of anime, from story and style to genre and sub-type. There are terms like Ecchi, Harem, Shounen, Mecha, Shoujo, etc. There are so many different anime out there, there isn’t enough time to watch it all. A lot of them seem formulaic in their writing, but they do have their own quirky characteristics.

I am currently binging on Crunchyroll, an anime app and website that plays dozens of anime, old and new. There is such a wide variety available, I can’t watch it all. My favorite genre is magical fantasy, and they don’t stick to just one type. There are dozens of different combinations, from your basic fantasy (Full Metal Alchemmist) to Angels vs. Devils (High School DxD) and supernatural (Tokyo Ghoul) to fantasy/sci-fi (Infinite Stratos).

CGYXBY5UQAEbrcUThese anime is so different and so expressive that it comes up with new ways of approaching fantasy. The Irregular at Magic High School is a great example. The story takes place in an alternate history where magic exists and is polished through modern technology. However, the ability to use magic is determined by genetics, limiting the amount of magicians in existence. Due to the limited amount of magicians, they are treated as commodity and are forced to enter magic related schools and professions. It follows Tatsuya and Miyuki Shiba, siblings who enroll into First High magic high school.

The thing I love about this anime is how they combined technology as a way to better use magic. Instead of using chants and spells, magic users cast spells with their Casting Assistant Device (CAD). The CAD is infused with the user’s Psions (a substance-less thought particle) that activates the device and constructs the magic ritual. The spells are programmed into the CADs that allow them to use their magic more efficiently. It’s an incredible concept that, to me, brings the fantasy/magic genre to a new level.

A lot of the fantasy genre revolves around magic schools, training young men (but mostly women) in the arcane arts. There is a strong obsession in these anime with school girl uniforms and how they “fill” them out. I’ve been told its called a “fan shot” by name. Quite peculiar but fun to watch.

Another one of my favorites is Is it Wrong to try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon. This anime is like Dungeons and Dragons but better. The story takes place in the fictional city of Orario, whose main feature place is the Dungeon which contains an assortment of monsters from goblins to dragons. The people of Orario join groups called Familia, who serve a range of functions from dungeon crawling to crafting items. The story follows the exploits of Bell Cranel, a 14-year-old solo adventurer under the goddess Hestia. He is a “Level 1 Noob” who is trying to do good by his Familia and impress Ais Wallenstein, a powerful swordswoman who once saved his life, and with whom he fell in love.

Watching this anime is like playing D&D on Saturday night. This anime goes as far as the dungeon crawlers leveling up, with their statistics tattooed on their backs. Their deity updates the stats through magic. They can buy armor and magic items, just like in the game. You can’t help but laugh out loud through each episode.

For a writer, freedom to express your stories is vital to creativity. Anime has such a broad range of genres that it has inspired my own writing for more than 40 years. I watched it as a child because it was entertaining and imaginative. I watch it now because it inspires me to broaden my imagination. You should too!

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Chapter 3 of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.

Classic monster movies are a necessity when Halloween is near

I can honestly say that I love classic sci-fi/horror movies. I grew up watching them on Saturday afternoons on TV or late at night as part of the “Doctor Demento” movie showcase. I really consider them an essential part of my development as a sci-fi/fantasy writer. Their stories may be a little campy, and somewhat dated, but oh so fun to watch.

I think everyone has their own opinion on their favorite movies, I have a few that, to me are essential for any sci-fi/horror fan to watch. Some of these have been remade and update with modern movie magic, but the originals are still the best.

them-movie-poster-1954-1020544319Them (1954) — The earliest atomic tests in New Mexico cause common ants to mutate into giant man-eating monsters that threaten civilization. This movie has an all-star cast, including James Whitmore and Edmund Gwenn (Santa Claus from Miracle on 34th Street). In the early days of the atomic bomb, scientists didn’t really know how radiation would affect people, insects, animals, etc. It wasn’t the giant ants that were scary in this movie, but the sound they made. When you heard that sound, it made chills run down your spine, kind of like the music from Friday the 13th when Jason Voorhees was near. The best scene was when they were talking to the little girl who survived the attack and, when she hears the sound of the ants, and shouts out “Them! Them!” It really makes the movie seem real and terrifying.

Dracula1931posterDracula (1931) — The ancient vampire Count Dracula arrives in England and begins to prey upon the virtuous young Mina. Before vampires became sparkly boy-toys, there was Count Dracula. Bela Lugosi is, and always will be, the one and only Dracula. This is the role that, unfortunately, typecast him so that he rarely did any other roles outside the famous vampire; but at the same time, it is a role he will always be remembered for. He doesn’t bare the classic fangs we see in vampires today, but he was terrifying none the least. It is amazing to see the huge sets and dark, scary places associated with the classic story. Though it’s been told and retold, time and time again, this is still the original and the best one there is.

4f153e3f1cf3c9f62bb2456bd2d1d857--gene-barry-classic-sci-fi-moviesWar of the Worlds (1953) — A small town in California is attacked by Martians, beginning a worldwide invasion. Though Orson Wells radio show started the hysteria around this adaptation of the H.G. Wells novel, the movie brought it to life. It even won an Academy Award for visual effects, influencing countless science fiction movies in the years to come. The death and destruction reigned down on the people of Earth was overwhelming. It also showed the ugly side of man, as they tear each other apart to escape the horror. Even in the end, when they died from something simple as bacteria, it demonstrated that we (human beings) are not the most powerful beings in the universe. This movie is always on the top of my watch list.

Thing-PosterThe Thing from Another World (1951) — Scientists and American Air Force officials fend off a bloodthirsty alien organism while at a remote arctic outpost. Many think John’s Carpenters The Thing is the best version of this story, but I beg to differ. This is, without a doubt, the best and the scariest there is. When battling aliens, it’s hard to imagine a fight like this:  A crashed spaceship, a frozen alien pilot, alien plant-life that grows on human blood, and more. The creature itself was terrifying to watch. His bloodthirsty nature was an integral part of the story, as was the idiot scientist who thought he could control it. Battling the creature in the freezing arctic made it even more difficult. This is an essential science fiction classic for everyone to see, but my advice is don’t watch it alone.

Abbott_and_Costello_Meet_Frankenstein_poster-1-Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) — Two hapless freight handlers find themselves encountering Dracula, the Frankenstein monster and the Wolfman. Okay, it’s not a scary movie, but it’s too damn funny to ignore. Abbott and Costello ran into various classic movie monsters in a series of movies, but this one is the best. This movie has the original Dracula (Bela Lugosi), the original Wolfman (Lon Chaney, Jr.) and even a cameo by Vincent Price as the Invisible Man. It has so many great scenes that combined scary and funny. When Lou Costello was reading the description of Dracula and the coffin lid kept opening and closing, or when he goes into the Wolfman’s room and he keeps missing the monster’s attacks are side-splitting laughter to watch. This is a don’t miss movie.

There are a few honorable mentions like Night of the Living Dead (1968), The Time Machine (1960), The Wolfman (1941), Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) and Godzilla (1954). I’m sure there are a few I missed, so please add your favorites to the comments. Just pop the popcorn, turn off the lights, and put in the dvd. Just remember to watch it with a friend.

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Chapter 3 of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.

Women should be feared, loved and respected

ww scJames Cameron is a moron! I had to start out with that because, in my opinion, he is. Here is an Academy award winning filmmaker, who has created some of the most powerful women on screen and he says something stupid like this:

“All of the self-congratulatory back-patting Hollywood’s been doing over Wonder Woman has been so misguided. She’s an objectified icon, and it’s just male Hollywood doing the same old thing!” he fumed. “I’m not saying I didn’t like the movie but, to me, it’s a step backwards. Sarah Connor was not a beauty icon. She was strong, she was troubled, she was a terrible mother, and she earned the respect of the audience through pure grit. And to me, [the benefit of characters like Sarah] is so obvious. I mean, half the audience is female!”

Seriously? You are pissing on one of the most powerful female icons in the history of fantasy by comparing her to your own character. Sorry, but as much as I love Sarah Connor, she is no Wonder Woman. This is a character that is idolized by millions in everything from comic books, action figures, anime, and cosplay. Her likeness is recognized by millions. If I were to hold up a picture of Wonder Woman and Sarah Conner, who do you think people are more likely to recognize?

If you’re trying to compare strong female icons of 80’s films, I’ll take Ripley over Sarah Conner any day. Even today, there are dozens of female characters I would chose over Sarah Conner, from Daenerys Targaryen to Harley Quinn to Lara Croft. Sarah Conner hasn’t been a bad ass since Terminator 2: Judgement Day.

Characters like Wonder Woman stand the test of time. She’s changed with the times, from a WWII patriotic heroine to a modern, free-thinking feminist in the 70’s to a woman of today, powerful in mind and body to stand up to the evils of our world. Wonder Woman has aged like a fine wine… bold, distinct and full-bodied (okay, sorry, bad pun).

Sarah Connor is a part of the modern, sci-fi genre, and rightly so, but you can’t compare her to Wonder Woman. There is no comparison. I think his comments are insulting to Gal Gadot, Patty Jenkins, Lynda Carter, and the thousands of fans who have been waiting to see her on the big screen. It is also insulting to Kate Winslet, Zoe Saldana, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Linda Hamilton, and every other strong woman who appeared in a James Cameron film.

I’ve tried to include strong, female characters in all my stories. It’s because I’ve had many strong women in my life. That’s what having a great female role model does. I think James Cameron needs one in his life.

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Chapter 3 of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.

Without Excalibur, there wouldn’t be a fantasy genre


“Behold Excalibur! The sword of power! Forged when birds and beasts and flower were One with Man, and death was but a dream!” — Merlin, from the movie Excalibur

If you want to trace back the origins of the fantasy genre that we know today, you have to start with the story of King Arthur and his sword, Excalibur. Magic swords are, without a doubt, the heart of many fantasy story arcs.  You know their names… Excalibur, Stormbringer, Kusanagi, Glamdring, the Master Sword, etc. Just the mention of their name evokes power.

Many of these blades are based in some form of mythology. For example, Beowolf’s sword Hrunting, was based on the Viking Ulfberht swords. The Ulfberht weren’t magical swords, but great swords of power , none the less. Dating between the 9th and 12th century, the Ulfberht swords were made with crucible steel, making the swords unbelievably strong. Such a sword was recently found in Iceland, completely intact and nearly 1,000 years old.

It’s the history and mythology of swords like this is essential for fantasy writers like myself. There has to be a history with the sword, not just a name and magical power. It has to have a history and a purpose.

Lord Bryan MoonDrake [2072845]My fantasy series, Forever Avalon and The Dark Tides, is centered around the twin swords wielded by the Gil-Gamesh, the champion of Avalon, Twilight and Dusk. These swords were forged from the shards of Excalibur, after the sword was shattered when Merlin focused his magical power through the sword. To protect Avalon, the swords were reforged into the Twin Swords of the Dragon Moon, Twilight and Dusk. The swords were wielded by Percival, the last Knight of the Round Table, who became the first Gil-Gamesh.

I created Twilight and Dusk on the notion that Excalibur shattered because it was tainted by King Arthur… His jealousy of Lancelot and Guinevere, his guilt over Morgana and Mordred. This caused an imbalance within the blade that caused it to shatter. The pieces were reforged into two swords, each with a different powerset. Twilight held the power behind Excalibur… the light of truth, justice and honor. It shined with a light capable of penetrating any darkness. Dusk contained the evil that tainted the sword. It was a soul reaper, fueling the dark with the souls of the wicked.

These swords played an integral part of my story. They define Lord Bryan MoonDrake, the Gil-Gamesh of Avalon, in how he came to be and his abilities as the champion of Avalon. It’s not just a plot device or another element in the story, these swords are almost another character themselves. To demonstrate this, he is an excerpt from Forever Avalon, when the Gil-Gamesh first appeared in the story.

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Biscane pulled out a rolled up piece of parchment paper from his belt, opened it and compared the image on the paper to Stephanie. “Yep, payday boys, it’s her all right,”Biscane proclaimed happily, as he rolled the paper up and tucked it back in his belt. The trolls laughed with glee, deep and hearty. Biscane grabbed Stephanie by the hair and pulled her away from the troll, dragging her toward his horse.

“What about them?”one of the trolls asked Biscane, pointing toward the three children. Biscane looked over at the children and pondered their fate for a moment.

“They’re not on the bounty. Kill them—eat them if you want—just don’t leave anything behind.”

“No!”Stephanie screamed, struggling against Biscane’s hold on her, reaching out to save her children. They screamed in terror, backing up against the boat as the troll reached toward them, chuckling and licking his lips with the thought of a juicy meal of fresh meat. But then, he stopped dead in his tracks and looked down at his chest.

A black blade sliced through him from behind. Dark black-red blood trickled down from the wound. The troll dropped his club as his body began shaking uncontrollably. The monster started to shrink and shrivel to dust and bones—as if consumed by an unnatural force—until what remained of the troll fell into the sand and sea.

The dust settled and now, standing where the troll once stood, a mysterious stranger appeared. A metal sheath hid his face, his head was hooded, hidden by a flowing grey cloak. Only his blue eyes pierced through the shadows under the hood. His body was armored in chain mail. He wielded two swords—one black and one gold colored—each hilt adorned with dragons clutching the blades in their claws. At the bottom of each hilt, the dragon’s tail curled around crystals resembling the moon. On his chest, a coat of arms—a dragon holding the moon coiled in its tail—was proudly worn. The same image rested on a silver pendant, hanging from a heavy chain around his neck.

He turned to face Biscane and the other trolls. Biscane looked in horror and spoke just one name, “Gil-Gamesh!” He looked over at the two remaining trolls, gawking at the stranger in awe and fear. “Well, what are you slobs waiting for, kill him!” Biscane shouted.

The trolls, though afraid and unsure, raised their weapons and rushed to attack. The stranger took a fighting stance, stepping between the hulking beasts and the children. “Take cover behind the boat,” he told them, his voice commanding, ringing with a metallic sound from the mask. Ashley grabbed her brother and sister and quickly pulled them behind the boat. They peeked over the top rail and watched the ensuing battle before them.

The troll swung wildly at the Gil-Gamesh, who reacted quickly by rolling under the swinging club and slashing the troll in his Achilles tendon, across the back of his leg. The troll fell in pain, dropping his club and grabbing his wounded leg. The Gil-Gamesh moved to one knee and thrust his sword in the troll’s forehead, quickly silencing the beast.

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Chapter 3 of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.