Why can’t they leave great franchises alone?

Why is it that there are no more original ideas? Instead of coming up with something new, people–and by people I mean comic book editors, movie and television executives–decide to reinvent or re-imagine a classic instead of making an original idea. There are so many original ideas out there from the many independent, self-published authors, why do they have to mess with success?

A great, more recent, example is the Ghostbusters franchise. Now, I may get in trouble for this but hear me out. Instead of going with a third movie in the trilogy, they decided to re-imagine it with an all-female cast. Yes, it had some very funny moments and some of the cast were great (Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon were my favorites) but it failed to grab the spirit of the original. Now, Jason Reitman is working to make a third movie with some of the original cast for 2020. That is getting praise from the fans of the original movies, and panned by some who think we didn’t give the reboot a chance. We gave it a chance and we didn’t care for it, enough said.

Another example is Star Trek. It was great to see Star Trek go from the original series, to The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, etc. I was even a fan of the Enterprise prequel. Then we got the reboot with Chris Pine, which was okay but it seemed to be more about bring the “millennial edginess” instead of a way of telling a new story. Even the new TV series Discovery has redefined Klingons different from the original premise. And now, there’s word the Quentin Tarantino will be given a chance to put his mark on Star Trek. Why? Why mess with something that already has a deep-rooted fan base.

Look at the movie 2015 Max Max: Fury Road. Because it was written, directed, and produced by George Miller, the creator of Mad Max, it had the same feel as the original movies. It was visually awesome, great cast, and a decent story. It even won some Oscars, a first for the franchise. You see, they didn’t need to update it because it was good as it is. You don’t need to make wholesale changes to a franchise just to make it interesting.

Image result for the mandalorianAnother great example is Star Wars. Now, there have been hits and misses with the franchise since the end of Return of the Jedi. The animated series have been top notch, the Rogue One prequel was OUT OF BOUNDS! However, they have not found the original magic from these successes in later projects. The Force Awakens was good, The Last Jedi not so much. Solo was, in my opinion, better than I expected it to be, but it had too many plot holes. I am looking forward to the Mandalorian Netflix series as well as future releases after Episode 9 (which I am patiently holding my breath for) because they will be original movies separate from the Skywalker saga. That’s where they need to go. We don’t need a reboot of the same characters with new actors, but rather, let’s go to another part of the vast universe.

With all these examples, I just want to make the point that there are stories out there that haven’t been told yet, but they need to be done right. Look at Stephen King’s The Dark Tower and how badly it was done. These editors, producers, and directors need to keep the writers in mind to keep the story true to the original intent. Granted, some things may be out of the budgetary range of some movies (though not impossible with today’s CGI technology) but it is from the writer that it even exists in the first place.

Even in comic books, story lines are now being rewritten to accommodate the way they were done in the movies. Really? So, the original stories aren’t good enough anymore? Sorry, but that’s just being too damn lazy to be creative and original.

I have had the great opportunity to meet, talk to, and read the books of other independent authors like me through our connections on social media. There are a lot of great stories out there, worthy of a movie or series. That’s where the inspiration for the next big TV series or blockbuster movie should come from, not someone’s idea of the next reboot should be. Quit re-imagining things and let’s be original for a change.

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniversepublishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon from Austin Macauley Publishing.

One man’s science is another wizard’s magic

Kurt Vonnegut said, “Science is magic that works.” This is a true statement that has evolved our way of thinking for centuries. I mean, Copernicus and Galileo were condemned as heretics for proving scientific theory over popular belief. This trend has also been found through the writings of Jules Verne, Ray Bradbury and others.

Its one of the reasons I love “steampunk” so much. Yes, I know, it’s technically not considered magic, but combining modern technology with something “old fashion” is along that line. Magic is considered, by many, to be ancient so, in a way, they’re similar. Bringing science and magic together just seems like a logical approach. Think about it this way, in referencing the classic novel Frankenstein.

“Frankenstein’s chemistry is to, quote James Rieger, switche –on magic, souped-up alchemy, the electrification of Agrippa and Paracelcus…..He wants the forbidden…He is a criminal magician who employs up–to-date tools.” –Solanki Sardarsinh

In fantasy writing, we use magic as a science… Alchemy, astrology, etc. The elements of science–fire, water, earth, and air–are all a part of magic. Magic is, in a sense, science we can’t yet explain, and tha’s what makes it fun.

I think that’s why many science fiction writers often find themselves delving into fantasy and the supernatural. Terry Brooks is one of my favorite fantasy authors, and yet the Shannara series could be viewed as post-apocalyptic science fiction as well as fantasy. It has elements from both, like many novels. Think about Star Wars… Han Solo was skeptical of the Force when he said, “Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.”

I mean, when you think anout it, what is magic? Well, magic is manipulating the energy of the universe. In science, a nuclear explosion can be accomplished through scientific method and practical use. In magic, it’s a level 50 fireball.

“Magic’s just science that we don’t understand yet. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Arthur C. Clarke

Sure, if I had a few degrees under my belt with years of scientific research, I could explain magic as science, but why bother. Half the fun is reaching into the unknown and pulling back from it, curiouser than before. Let’s look at magic not from the evil, supernatural perspective but rather as a form of science that is just outside the boundaries of our understanding. That’s what makes writing about it so much fun.

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a book/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a book/ebook at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon from Austin Macauley Publishing.

We could all use a good Doctor in our life

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“There’s no point in being grown up if you can’t be childish sometimes.” — The 4th Doctor (Tom Baker)

Many people turn to parents, grandparents, best friends, or even a priest or pastor to turn to for advice in times of need. For geeks, nerds, and other assorted misfits, we have a different source of comfort and advice.

The wisdom of Yoda, Captain James T. Kirk (or Picard, depending on your preference), Thanos, Gandalf, or many other characters from the various realms of sci-fi/fantasy are a bastion of wisdom. For me, there is only one really, and that’s the Doctor. Whenever I need some sage advice, I just listen for the wheezing sound of the Tardis, open the door and look for the Doctor.

Doctor Who has been around for more than 50 years. In all that time, you can find relative truths and insightful wisdom in his various incarnations. That was the great thing about regeneration’s, or how the Doctor has survived all these years for those non-Whovians.

For example… What do I bring to a party? “Always take a banana to a party!” (The 10th Doctor, David Tenant) or Will you read me a story? “We’re all stories, in the end… just make it a good one, eh?” (The 11th Doctor, Matt Smith) and When can I go to sleep? “Rest is for the weary, sleep is for the dead.” (The 6th Doctor, Colin Baker)

The wisdom of the Doctor extends beyond the simple and the straightforward advice one would expect from a family member, friend or confidant. The writing in the show was poignant, provocative, and has kept the fans enthralled and enticed new fans to the show.

“A straight line may be the shortest distance between two points, but it is by no means the most interesting.” — The 3rd Doctor (Jon Pertwee)

That’s the beauty of Doctor Who. Each Doctor has been played by a different actor, each with their own personalities and charm. It’s like a wealth of advice from a long line of long, lost uncles (and a soon-to-be aunt) right at your fingertips. The Doctor has always been a source of insight into humanity and our various idiosyncrasies that define us, both good and bad. The Doctor has made it very clear that humans are far from perfect, but with potential. I think longtime Doctor Who showrunner, Steven Moffat, said it best.

“When they made this particular hero, they didn’t give him a gun, they gave him a screwdriver to fix things. They didn’t give him a tank or a warship or an x-wing fighter, they gave him a call box from which you can call for help. And the didn’t give him a superpower or pointy ears or a heat ray, they gave him an extra heart. They gave him two hearts. And that’s an extraordinary thing; there will never come a time when we don’t need a hero like the Doctor.” — Steven Moffat

So as we prepare for the next Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) to take the controls of the Tardis along with new showrunner Chris Chibnall this Fall, we can look forward to more words of wisdom that I know I’ll be adding to this list.

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a book/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a book/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon from Austin Macauley Publishing.

The best thing about July is COMIC-CON!

sdccThis past weekend was one of the best reasons to be a geek… San Diego Comic-Con! SDCC is the pinnacle of geekdom with tons of cosplayers, celebrities, and plenty of new trailers of upcoming movies and TV shows. It is, without a doubt, the mecca for nerds.

This year was no exception. With the debut of the most anticipated trailers for Aquaman and Shazam, along with the debut of Jodie Whittaker, the 13th Doctor in Doctor Who, as well as the premiere of the new DC Comics “streaming” service and their flagship TV series, Titans, and the return of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, this was a monumental comic-con. I think, though, DC Comics stole the show with the myriad of movies and television to show off.

I have to start with television. There were plenty of trailers for the complete line-up of the CW’s DC shows, from The Flash to Arrow, Supergirl, Black Lightning, and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. The biggest announcement from that is the theme for it’s mid-season crossover event and next new series… Batwoman. This character has grown in popularity as part of the mainstream Batman universe over the past few years and now, she gets a starring role on her own. From the looks of things, she’ll be part of Supergirl’s Earth. It should be exciting come December.

The DC’s new series, Titans, is a lot darker than the cartoon. When you have Robin declaring “F*#k Batman!” you know it’s got a grim future. The other characters appearance was questionable, at first glance, but with the added CGI, it’s a lot better. Starfire and Beast Boy are looking more like they should, and Raven’s coming along too. It should be a great start to their new service.

Star Trek: Discovery made a surprise showing with Captain Christopher Pike (first Captain of the Enterprise) taking over the helm and the hint of Spock as well, bringing the mainstream Star Trek universe in line with it. On the opposite side, the return of the popular Star Wars series, The Clone Wars, it seems that Star Wars universe is back-tracking after the end of Rebels. I know fans of the series like this, but personally, I wish they would go forward instead of backwards.

Doctor-Who-Series-Eleven-posterThe big TV debut at SDCC was Jodie Whittaker and the new companions to Doctor Who. The new trailer definitely showed us a strange, new world for the 13th Doctor, but not a lot of teaser-worthy material. There is still plenty of mystery about the new Doctor, her companions, and what they will face. “I felt if I was very much in someone else’s shoes,” Whittaker herself said of her first days playing the character, “which is an amazing way to start this journey.”

The one thing we do know is that the Daleks will not appear in the first season. Sad, but true, according to executive producer Chris Chibnall. “We need a pillar of hope in these times, “Chibnall added later to a roar from the fans about Whittaker being handed the keys to the Tardis. “That pillar of hope is Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor Who,” he added. “This Doctor treats everything with a sense of awe, wonder and respect.”

The last thing to mention about SDCC is the movie trailers. There were so many awe-inspiring trailers this year that there is not enough space in my blog to talk about them all. Aquaman was, by far, the best of the trailers. I mean, as soon as I saw a comic book accurate Black Manta, I was done. Give James Wan the award for best comic book movie director because this was awesome! It has lived up to the hype, so take my money and let me see the damn movie.

Shazam was on another level as it accurately portrayed the origin from the comics and gave us the movie Big in comic book form. Seeing Billy Batson learn to use his powers, complain about how to pee in his superhero suit, and generally act like a kid in a super-powered form is exactly what we were expecting from Shazam. Zachary Levi was perfectly cast as Shazam and his comedy props are definitely in use here. This is going to be a bright spot in the DC Universe movies.

Wonder Woman ’84 was shown to the audience at SDCC, but no trailer as of yet. The thing I found out recently is that it was being filmed at a defunct mall just blocks from where I live in Alexandria, Va., and I didn’t know about it. That could have been a big moment for me and I missed it. Unreal!

Besides the stars, celebrities, and the merchandise on display at SDCC, it’s always great to see the cosplayers come out in full force. These people know what it means to be a fan and show it in the hard work they do in making comic and movie accurate costumes. And yes, the women who cosplay are incredibly beautiful and sexy, so it makes it easy to watch them bring your favorite characters to life.

SDCC is a treasure to end the summer, at least for geeks, filled with plenty of surprises. This one was no exception. I wish we had a little more from Marvel, but I guess they’re keeping things under wraps, for now. In any case, I hope that one day I get to attend SDCC. It would be a blast.

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a book/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a book/ebook at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.

 

 

 

Please stop dissing Solo and other Star Wars movies

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I will start this off by saying I am a Star Wars fan! I went to see Star Wars more than 20 times in the theater when I was growing up in the 70’s and 80’s. It was the first movie that really brought the possibility of space travel, other worlds, to life for me. I couldn’t get enough of it. And now, after more than 30 years, we’re finally getting Star Wars movies again. It’s the best thing ever, and yet, people have to criticize every little detail, nuance, and storyline. I don’t care! It’s Star Wars!

I thought it was great when George Lucas decided to do the prequels. I even went to see Wing Commander IN THEATERS because after the movie, they were showing an extended  trailer for The Phantom Menace. Despite what critics and some so-called “purists” say, I loved the prequels. They told the story just as I imagined it. Yes, I could have done with a little less Jar-Jar, not so emo Anakin Skywalker, but I still loved the movies.

You have to understand that these movies were my first “geek” crush, as it were. Like many of us who saw Star Wars for the first time in the theaters, it was something we had never seen before. The visual effects, the story, the characters, the lightsabers, were all something new to science fiction and we LOVED it.

There have been some hits and misses with the restart of Star Wars movies. Rogue One was OUTSTANDING, and I loved The Force Awakens. The Last Jedi had some issues I didn’t agree with but I still loved it. That’s my point. I can’t not like some things about the Star Wars movies, but as a whole, I can’t fault what’s being produced. It’s still visually stunning, great characters, great stories, and I love them.

You have to understand that there was a 16 year gap between Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace, and a 10 year gap between Revenge of the Sith and The Force Awakens. During that time, my Star Wars fix was relegated to books and The Clone Wars and Rebels on the Disney Channel. We needed more Star Wars, and yes, we still need MORE!

As for Solo, there’s a mixed bag of review. RogerEbert.com says, “As unnecessary prequels go, ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ isn’t bad. It’s not great, either, though—and despite spirited performances, knockabout humor, and a few surprising or rousing bits, there’s something a bit too programmed about the whole thing. It has certain marks to hit, and it makes absolutely sure you know that it’s hitting them.”

RottenTomatoes.com also had an assortment of reviews for their 70% rating of the movie:

“The tropes and twists of shamelessly recycled clichés are presented throughout with an absurd earnestness.”

“Of all the Star Wars-themed movies, this one is the closest to a Saturday afternoon serial/western. Don’t expect more than that.”

It doesn’t feel like a cohesive piece, so while it’s at times charming, and does get off the ground in the last act, the getting there is extremely bumpy.

Well, first off , what do they expect after all the negative press leading up to a movies release. There was so much bad publicity for Solo that you knew it was going to have a bad opening weekend. Top it off with the fact that it was released in the same month right after Avengers: Infinity War and Deadpool 2 didn’t help either. To the ultimate Star Wars fans, the reviews don’t matter. We’ll still go to see it.

Like I said, for the true fan it doesn’t matter. It’s Star Wars, and “if they make it, we will come” to see the movies, and the TV shows, read the books and comic books. It’s one of the biggest science fiction universes out there with a sandbox so big, the possibilities are endless. Give me more!

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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 as a book/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a book/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.

 

Don’t worry if your wife (or husband) calls you childish! Watching anime is a good thing, especially for writers!

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I saw a question from an online article that intrigued me. The questions was, “Does watching anime make you a better writer?” Personally, and professionally, I’d have to say YES! I watched anime as a kid, and with my own kids growing up. Today, I watch it for inspiration and, well, just because it’s totally awesome.

Stephen King said, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” That is most definitely true. I read books, comic books, graphic novels and manga my whole life, but I would add to that to watch movies and videos as well. We live in an age of growing technology, and anime is a popular form of vivid storytelling. All you need do is watch any of Hayao Miazaki’s movies and you’ll understand.

The stories within anime are so fanciful and cross so many genres within fantasy, from medival magical fantasy to steampunk and science fiction to time travel, you never know what you’re getting into. The thing I love about anime is not just the graphic art, the beauty of sight and sound that brings the stories to life, but also the detailed storytelling that goes into every episode.

For example, I just started watching an anime called Granblue Fantasy: The Animation. I only discovered this series because of an ad on Facebook from Animelab. The anime is a story involving magic, floating islands, primal beasts (dragons), and airships. It is a magical, steampunk adventure that enthralled me so much, I just had to watch it. I binge-watched the first five episodes last night. It has all the elements you expect from a good anime: Ruthless villains, powerful magic, steampunk technology, and light humor. Besides the fact that the anime is based on a video game makes it even more intriguing.

As a writer, I live for inspiration like this. It’s like an IV drip of imagination, slowly feeding me the inspiration for my writing. I get the same charge from watching 80’s sword and sorcery movies (Krull, The Beastmaster, Conan the Barbarian), Game of Thrones or even the original animated Thundercats for that matter.

The difference with anime is the vivid graphics. The images are so colorful, so beautiful, that they imprint on the mind of a fantasy writer like me. It allows me to see things in a whole new perspective, a different way to think about magic, magical creatures, or even how to combine them with technology. This is an inspiration that is unparalleled in many other genres.

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I can name so many other anime’s that provide the same inspiration:  Is it Wrong to Try to Pick up Girls in a Dungeon, Knights & Magic, The Ancient Magus Bride, Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash, Lord Marksman and Vanadis, In Another World with my Smartphone, and Full Metal Alchemist to name a few. And to be honest, that’s only “a drop in the bucket” when it comes to fantasy anime. There are more choices that can fit anyone’s fancy.

The other great thing is that you can find a variety of anime, both English subbed and English dubbed, on so many apps, websites, and channels. It makes it easy for someone like me to binge on as many different anime as I want to. I know it seems silly for a 55-year-old to sit and enjoy “cartoons” (as my wife calls them) but they’re more than that to me. Anime is an essential part of my writing, and I don’t intend to stop watching anytime soon.

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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 as a book/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a book/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.

Fantasy? Sci-fi? Or both? Which is better? Just answer the damn question!

60604e38e26fa970bcb98e76a7d0a552--fantasy-fairies-fantasy-artMagic vs. Science has been a question that fantasy and sci0fi writers have been pondering for quite a long time. The usual trope involves people using science in an under developed country which, to them, seems like magic. I’ve seen this used on episodes of Star Trek, Doctor Who, and various other television shows and movies. It is even considered “one and the same” in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) as told in Thor.

Science or magic? Or both, for that matter. Anime has a penchant for using magic to power technology, i.e. Knights and Magic, Tenchi Muyo: War on Geminar, The Irregular at Magic High School, and In Another World with my Smartphone, just to name a few. I love to see magic used in this way, it really has a cyber-punk/steampunk feel to it.

AdventureGuideI remember an old Role Playing Game (RPG) I played back in the 80’s (no jokes or comments about my  age please) called Rifts. The backstory involved a post-apocalyptic Earth where the ley lines have unlocked dimensional rifts, the rebirth of magical creatures in our modern world, along with the reemergence of mysterious locations like Atlantis, Lemuria, and other mythical places. I remember this picture in the player’s guide of an Elf, wearing cyber-punk tech, trying to hack into a computer. It really covered all angles of magic/technology. That’s the type of genre convergence I like to see.

The way to think about this is as a source of energy. Magic is, in all practical purposes, energy. You can call it mana, psions, or PPE (Potential Psychic Energy per Rifts), it’s still magic. Spells allow magicians, mages, magic casters, etc., to manipulate this energy through spells. In some ways, the use of technology gives the wizards a way to cast their spells faster, more accurate, and more powerful than traditional casting.

The best example for this is in the anime The Irregular at Magic High School. I know, I talk a lot about anime in my blogs, but that’s really to the broad range of genres they use. Anyway, in this anime, magical power is measured in psions or “thought particles” and use Casting Assistance Devices, or CADs, to make it easier to cast certain spells. The CADs are preprogrammed with spells that allows the caster the ability to use spells in rapid succession.

In the movies, the MCU has changed the way we look at mythology. The Asgardians in Thor use magic and science in the same breath. The ability to access this energy lies in their immortal life. When Thor first appeared in the comics, it was told as the ancient Gods coming to the modern age, nothing more. This was retold when the MCU was created and it made so much more sense. These are not beings born of magic, but a race of inter-dimensional beings who used magic to power their science.

“Your Ancestors Called it Magic, but You Call it Science. I Come From a Land Where They Are One and the Same.” — Thor Odinson, Thor

It’s a fine line to walk, especially as a writer. With magic, you can do practically anything in your stories. Magic is an unpredictable and wide-ranging power. However, when it comes to science, anything you create or imagine, you need to base it in science. Think about Star Trek. When the late, great Gene Roddenberry created his series, he wanted to base the technology on practical science. He even spoke with physicists and other scientists to ensure he was basing his stories on what technology in the future could be. I mean, from Star Trek, we got cell phones, digital music and movies, and other tech we see today… And it only took less than 50 years to go from science fiction to science fact.

Steve Jobs once noted that his inspiration for the iPod came from an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where music was played by the computer. This is how writers can inspire. Think back to Jules Verne. From 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to From the Earth to the Moon, submarines and rockets became a reality. Although, I’m still waiting for my H.G. Wells time machine.

As writers, we can let our imagination go and create anything and everything possible. Whether it be science or magic, or both… Use whatever you can to bring your story to 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 as a book/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a book/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.

Superheroes have powers we would love to have, no matter how ridiculous

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Superheroes, to me, are the most versatile and amazing fantasy characters. You have your “Holy Trinities” in the main two comic book universes–Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman in DC; Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America in Marvel–but the fact that you can virtually create and hero or villain with any type of power imaginable is wonderfully adaptive for writers and artists alike.

One of the first comic book series I collected was DC’s Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes. I liked it exactly because of that variety of powers. It was especially fun to read the storylines where they had tryout for new Legionnaires. You would get some of the most weird and wild powers, costumes, and names. I mean Double-Header, Esper Lass, Calorie Queen, Antenna Lad, Color Kid, Infectious Lass, and Porcupine Pete, just to name a few.

I see a lot of that wild variety in the anime My Hero Academia. While the show has some of the weirdest powers I’ve ever seen in comics, the concept behind it is so cool. A world where everyone has superpowers, or quirks as they call it. Some people have over the top, extraordinary powers, others have basic, simple powers.

For example, Shoto Todoroki has the quirk “hot and cold” meaning he can control fire and ice from each side of his body; but Yuga Aoyama, for some ridiculous reason, shoots a laser from his belly button. You know, it’s kind of out there but it makes perfect sense in a world like this. Additionally, unlike most comics, heroes are not part of the police force but licensed to us their powers to fight crime. They can’t use deadly force or even arrest bad guys themselves.

It’s such a wild ride, especially for an anime, and at times funny as Hell; but it also has a serious side. The stories cover every topic you would find in a afterschool special, but with superpowers mixed in. From teenage love to kids growing up too fast, these are the things we see in every teenage drama, but just with superpowers involved. And those powers are so freaky, and yet, they make them seem not only powerful but possible. There’s a pro-hero called Best Jeanist (yes, that’s his name) who is covered in denim from head to toe. His quirk manipulates fibers to ensnare or entangle his opponent. It seems ridiculous, yet he does it with “flair and style” like no other.

This is why superhero stories are so versatile and fun to write. It’s hard not to read a comic and find an example or inspiration in other characters. For example, if you look at DC’s Deathstroke and Marvel’s Deadpool, they’re basically the same character. Deadpool is Wade Wilson, Deathstroke is Slade Wilson. They both use every weapon imaginable, from guns to swords and daggers. Rob Liefeld, who created Deadpool, doesn’t hesitate to point out to the similarities, but won’t admit to it.

“I’ve always been in awe of Deathstroke — and “always” means since I was a child,” he said. “It might not be as obvious as it seems to me, but Deathstroke is blue and orange…and the last time I looked, Deadpool is black and red.”

Marvel did a direct ripoff from DC when they created the Squadron Supreme, an alternate world of superheroes that try to destroy the Avengers. Their superheroes mocked the Justice League with characters like Hyperion (Superman), Power Princess (Wonder Woman), Nighthawk (Batman), Doctor Spectrum (Green Lantern) and the Whizzer (Flash). Both sides admit to the ripoff, but more so as a compliment and tribute rather than a zing.

These great stories we read as kids are finally making their way to the big screen. We used to get one or two superhero movies every four to five years, but now its two-to-three annually. The technology has finally caught up to where these great hero stories can go from comic book to screen I mean, watching the finally fight in Doctor Strange looked exactly like a page of art drawn by Steve Ditko in the 70’s.

I have always loved superheroes. I even created a few of my own as a kid (Vulcan, Moonbeam, and the Speed Demons to name a few), and brought them to life in the City of Heroes video game (see my blog for more on that). We love these stories because it shows us the best, and worst, humanity has to offer in the form of entertainment.

Admit it, when you saw Captain America fending off Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet in the new trailer for Avengers: Infinity War, you were psyched. It’s why we love them!

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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 as a book/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a book/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.

Virtual reality is the new, up-and-coming fantasy world for writers to explore

Image result for star trek holodeckI think the first time we thought of “virtual reality” was in 1987 when Gene Rodenberry brought us Star Trek: The Next Generation with the latest technology… The Holodeck. We saw a virtual world come to life as Commander Riker stepped on the holodeck, moving from a starship to a forest. There were many such adventures on all the Star Trek series to follow, as the holodeck was used to leave the doldrums of work behind and explore places we’ve never been or seen, from Leonardo Da Vinci’s workshop to a 1920’s crime novel.

“Reality is incredibly larger, infinitely more exciting, than the flesh and blood vehicle we travel in here. If you read science fiction, the more you read it the more you realize that you and the universe are part of the same thing. Science knows still practically nothing about the real nature of matter, energy, dimension, or time; and even less about those remarkable things called life and thought. But whatever the meaning and purpose of this universe, you are a legitimate part of it. And since you are part of the all that is, part of its purpose, there is more to you than just this brief speck of existence. You are just a visitor here in this time and this place, a traveler through it.” ― Gene Roddenberry

This technology may be pure science fiction, but it is used quite frequently to transport people to fantasy worlds. Anime does that a great deal of exploration into these alternate realities (Sword Art Online, The Silver Guardian, Recovery of an MMO Junkie, Overlord, etc.) but its got to be more than just straight science fiction. You have to know how to use the technology, whether it be holograms or a virtual computer world.

I think one of the first virtual reality movies—in my lifetime—didn’t use either one. In the 1973 film Westworld,  the rich vacationed in virtual worlds filled with androids. The virtual reality of choice here was a popular one from the 60s/70s… Westerns. The modern Westworld on HBO is more about artificial intelligence than virtual reality. I think we’ll see more about the “escapism” factor of virtual reality when the movie Ready Player One comes out.

Image result for sword art online quotes about virtual realityLike science fiction itself, virtual reality gives writers a broad brush to paint with. You can make almost anything possible in virtual reality, but I think medieval fantasy (a.k.a. Lord of the Rings) are the most popular in the genre. Sword Art Online does it best with their virtual reality game ALO (Alfheim Online). Its a wonderful blend of science fiction and fantasy that any fan can slip into easily, whether its the anime or the manga.

Overall, I think this does make it doubly hard for the writer, to ensure that smooth transition from fantasy to science fiction and back again; but, at the same time, it gives you the chance to explore some philosophical questions about reality, fantasy, and the roles games (and their storytellers) play in the world today.

When you have  horrific tragedy like the shooting at Parkland High School in Flordia, it makes one question how fast technology has advanced. Has technology gone so far that kids today are so desensitized to violence, and maybe reality itself, that they feel the need to kill others as a way of getting that kick? Its hard to pinpoint precisely where things like video games, virtual reality, take that step too far; but, I want to leave you with this quote from SAO’s Kirito to make my point.

“I thought that the closer the real and virtual world got, the better the future would be. But the more the boundary between them blurs, the more it starts to trick people.” – Kirito, Sword Art Online

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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 as a book/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a book/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.

Magic rests at the heart of every fantasy story

Image result for doctor strange“The language of the Mystic Arts is as old as civilization. The sorcerers of antiquity called the use of this language “spells”, but if that word offends your modern sensibilities, you can call it a “program”; the source code that shapes reality. We harness energy drawn from other dimensions of the Multiverse to cast spells, to conjure shields and weapons, to make magic!” ― The Ancient One, Doctor Strange

From Doctor Strange to Harry Potter and Gandalf the Grey, MAGIC is at the heart of every fantasy story. Magic gives writers the chance to explore the fantastic, do incredible feats, and visit places we never expected to go. Its what makes fantasy writing a journey into other worlds every time I sit at my keyboard.

But what is magic? To state it simply, magic is energy. However, the type of energy can vary:  dimensional, demonic, divine, etc. If you think about it, something like “The Force” can be considered a type of magical energy. I mean, think about it?

“Well, the Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.”
―Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars

This is what makes magic so versatile in the hands of a writer. We can use it in any way imaginable. There is no wrong way for a writer to use magic. It can be an ancient art practiced for thousands of generations; and it can also be a sources of energy for high tech magicians.

Psion-Storm-AN-Ep24One of my favorite anime’s is “The Irregular at Magic High School” and its use of magic. In the series, magicians tap into psions,  non-physical particles that come under the dimension of psychic phenomenon. It taps into this energy through CADs (Casting Assistance Devices) in which spells are programmed through activation sequences. These devices range from something like a wristwatch, smartphone or a gun. Even in a show like this, they still adhere to ancient magic use, like seeing spirits and using spells, to help explain their thoroughly modern system of magic.

Granted, in my day, when I thought of magic, I thought of Merlin. Today, most kids associate magic with Harry Potter. It’s such a broad stroke, when you think about it, as to how writing has change when it comes to the arcane arts. Before today, most people associated magic with evil, devil worship, or demonic power. You didn’t think about magic being a force for good under a boy with a lightning bolt scar picked up a wand. That’s how much the opinion of magic has changed.

So, whether you invoke traditional magic through ancient spellbooks or using high-tech devices, it still boils down to the ability of ordinary people to tap into extraordinary power. How you get there is up to you, the writer.

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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 as a book/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a book/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.