First reviews for The River of Souls are in, plus my review of sci-fi novel Raq by T.K. Toppin

The River of Souls fantasy novella from award-winning author Mark Piggott featuring poetry by Ashley Valitutto from Curious Corvid Publishing

The first book reviews for my new fantasy novella The River of Souls are in and it’s a great start for me under the wing of Curious Corvid Publishing. The first comes from author T.K. Toppin, and its always good to get feedback from your peers. We often support each other with ARC reads to give insight into each other’s work. T.K. has a new book out, which I’ll talk about in a minute.

“This was a delightful and heart-warming novella about the power of love, and how it can stretch and endure through different worlds – even death. A cleverly woven tale mixing fantasy and steampunk, and reflecting on topics that are all too current, from hatred to bigotry and life after war. I thoroughly enjoyed this moving, fast-paced book. Magic, swords, crossing different realms and mystical beings – what more do you need for an engaging read.”

Author T.K. Toppin review of The River of Souls

The next review came from Instagram bibliophile scifiladygj, Geo VanJar. She has previously read my books and reads a multitude of genres. I love when readers who come out to my events continue to support me as an independent author.

@foreveravalon.author is quite the love storyteller. This novella is packed with memories of war and war. But what makes it encouraging is the author’s way of bringing to fore a future out of strife, pain and love. The story tells of the love of human and Dragonkin, which is taboo for most of those filled with prejudice after a 300 year war. But in the end, as it should, love conquers all. The author brought our own world into the fantasy world of Drogon vs human through the River of Souls, which brings home our own reactions to some. This novella is insightful, a bit of steampunk along with a healthy dose of true love. Well worth the read.”

Geo VanJar (scifiladygj) review of The River of Souls

Lastly, I want to give a shout out in my review of T.K. Toppin‘s latest sci-fi novel, Raq, available now in paperback and releasing September 16, 2022, on Amazon Kindle. I was captured after the first chapter. This book reads like an episode of original “Star Trek” written by Gene Roddenberry himself. It had the feel of classic science fiction but still modern to today. I loved the way it switched between the alien to the human perspective throughout. You understood both sides of the story, even though you may disagree with one or the other. It presented all the challenges of a first encounter with a world ending reality. T.K. is one of the great new voices in science fiction writing today. She has an array of novels from sci-fi crime noir to aliens and outer space. T.K. has got you covered. Stop by her Amazon Authors Page and check out all the great books she has to offer!

That’s the thing you have to understand about authors and readers. We look out for each other, we support each other, because we love our stories and what they represent. I know what it means to struggle with writing, editing, publishing, and marketing as an independent author. It’s not an easy path for any of us. Luckily, there’s a great support system out there to encourage our efforts every step of the way. Bonus, readers and bibliophiles LOVE to read and want to dive into your stories. To me, as a writer, that’s a “win/win” situation.

The River of Souls from Curious Corvid Publishing is available at Amazon and other online booksellers. Pick up your copy or download the ebook today! Or, come by my booth at the next 2nd Sundays Williamsburg – Art and Music Festival on Sunday, September 11, in Williamsburg, VA, and pick up a signed copy!

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Mark Piggott is an award-winning independent author of several fantasy/steampunk novels and short stories. A 23-year U.S. Navy veteran, his stories will take you from the shores of eternal Avalon to a dystopian steampunk future and other worlds.

The Forever Avalon fantasy book series—including Forever Avalon, The Dark Tides, and The Outlander War—is available online at Amazon and other booksellers. His fantasy steampunk novel, The Last Magus: A Clockwork Heart, is available through Lulu and other booksellers.

Get ready for The River of Souls fantasy novella from Curious Corvid Publishing. Coming in 2023 from Curious Corvid—the steampunk historical fiction, Corsair and the Sky Pirates, and The Last Magus: Dragonfire and Steel. Stay tuned for more new fantastic stories from the imagination of Mark Piggott.

Review: Star Trek goes back to basics with Strange New Worlds and it looks beautiful

Character poster for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds on the Paramount + network.

I have not been been a big fan of all the new Star Trek series on the Paramount + network. Discovery was a time travel flip-flop that didn’t know what it wanted to be when it grew up while Picard gave a beloved character another chance by rehashing old storylines. Sorry, boring.

But then, I started watching the new series Star Trek: Strange New Worlds and breathed a sigh of relief. Thank God, they found a way to hack into Gene Roddenberry’s brain and pulled out a winner. THIS is what Star Trek was meant to be.

I think the biggest complaint from nerds like me is that writers don’t stick to the source material. They stray from the storyline that we, as the experts (nerds, geeks, fanboys) know is supposed to be (or should be) canon. They try too hard to incorporate modern issues into science fiction storytelling, and to do that, they stray into multiple tangents that ruin the source material. That’s been the problem with every reboot, upgrade, and reimagining done in TV and movies over the past 20 years.

But I digress . . .

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is everything I want in a Star Trek series rolled up into a neatly packaged weekly episode. No drawn out storylines, no complex back story to deal with. This is what Gene Roddenberry envisioned when he first started his trek more than sixty years ago (God, that makes me feel old) and its what’s been missing from these new series.

The casting is absolutely brilliant. Anson Mount is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors. I loved him as Black Bolt in the very, very bad Inhumans TV series AND WAS ECSTATIC to see him reprise the role in Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. His portrayal of Christopher Pike is spot on, on par with—if not better than—Jeffery Hunter (original Trek) and Bruce Greenwood (reboot J.J. Abrams movies). Watching him is like Kirk and Picard had a baby and it grew up to be the best captain in Star Fleet. Add Rebecca Romijin, Ethan Peck, and a host of others that fill out one of the most diverse crews in the Star Trek universe. The little twists of adding new characters like the blind, telepathic alien Hemmer and La’an Noonien-Singh (a descendant of KHAN, no shit!) with early reveals at how Uhura and Nurse Chapel came aboard Enterprise makes for a complete, well-rounded cast.

Then there’s the writing. First and foremost, they have updated things to modern standards by bringing in more sexual banter and uncomfortable situations, along with diversity and social justice issues, BUT the writers are not force-feeding it to the viewers (think Chris Chibnal and Doctor Who) rather integrating it in a way reminiscent of Roddenberry’s original storytelling. It’s woven into the storyline like a maestro conducting a symphony of science fiction. These stories are poignant and yet heartfelt and uplifting in the simplest of ways. Plus, they are telling us stories where we know the characters but never got to know who they truly are. I mean, we had an entire episode on the Gorn and it was better than the original introduction of the alien race in TOS (The Original Series for any noobs out there reading this).

USS Enterprise (CVN 65) Sailors of the Year for the Year meet cast members of the “Star Trek: Enterprise” television series. Pictured here on the set of the series are (from left) Conner Trinneer, who plays Chief Engineer Charles “Trip” Tucker, III; Aviation Electronics Technician 1st Class Robert S. Pickering, Sailor of the Year; Personnelman 3rd Class Sarah E. Pizzo, Blue Jacket of the Year; Aviation Electrician’s Mate 2nd Class Timothy J. Whittington, Junior Sailor of the Year; and Scott Bakula, who plays Capt. Jonathan Archer.

I have had an ongoing love affair with the Star Trek universe, especially since the last ship I served on was the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) and I got to meet the cast of Star Trek: Enterprise and see actual production of the series. Here’s a hint: Watch the episodes “Desert Crossing” and “First Flight” to see U.S. Navy Sailors of the Year as background characters. It was fun to watch the multiple takes necessary for just one scene in an episode. Plus I got to sit in the captain’s chair, bonus for me! That’s why I don’t get into the “Star Wars is better than Star Trek” BS argument. Not just because I love them both, but to me, Star Trek will always be the original OG. Roddenberry created a universe based on the human race, with all our flaws but also highlighting the best things about us. From broaching cultural boundaries (the kiss between Kirk and Uhura) to hidden commentary on the Vietnam War and the Cold War (i.e. the episode “The Omega Glory” where Kirk recites the Pledge of Allegiance and reads the U.S. Constitution. In 2015, Entertainment Weekly highlighted the scene where Kirk reads the United States Constitution as one of the most important moments in that character’s life.) I see the same spark in watching Strange New Worlds.

We know where this is heading. From episode one, and from the original series, we know what Captain Pike’s fate is (watch “The Menagerie” if you don’t know what I’m talking about). It’s enticing to see how this will progress as the series moves on. But I can say, without a doubt, that if your a “Trekkie” then you need to be watching Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. It’s the series we’ve been waiting for.

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Mark Piggott is an independent author of the Forever Avalon fantasy book series and other fantasy/steampunk novels and short stories. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon and as an audiobook from Audible and iTunes. The Dark Tides: Book 2 of the Forever Avalon Series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from iUniverse Publishing and at Amazon, and other booksellers. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from Austin Macauley Publishing, and at Amazon and other booksellers. His latest fantasy novel, The Last Magus: A Clockwork Heart is available through Lulu and other booksellers.

Get ready for The River of Souls fantasy novella, coming soon from Curious Corvid Publishing along with the steampunk historical fiction, Corsair and the Sky PiratesThe Prometheus Engine: Book 4 of the Forever Avalon Series and The Last Magus: Dragonfire and Steel are future installments of his current fantasy book series, coming soon.

Con or not to Con? That is the question for independent authors everywhere

This weekend, I attended Katsucon 2022 at the Gaylord Convention Center in National Harbor, MD. I picked it because (a) it was close to home, and (b) fantasy is a big part of anime. I figured I would fit right in with my fantasy books . . . I was wrong. It seems people who cosplay as elves, knights, and wizards don’t really want to read about them in books.

First off, my sales barely covered the cost of my booth fee, parking, and food costs for the weekend. I took a loss for something I thought would be a major convention. Second, my location in the vendor hall really sucked. My booth was not in the artists alley, as promised, but between an earring and toy vendor, just two spots down from the Hentai booth affectionately known as the “Smut Hut” (their words, not mine!) Not a good place to be. I was told they wanted to “sprinkle” the authors amongst the rest of the vendors. Hide us was more like it.

On the positive side, I met and spoke with a lot of great people. I love attending events like this where people are excited about all things fantasy, steampunk, and sci-fi, and Katsucon was no exception. I mean, a lot of the younger people just walked by, more interested in anime plushies, statues, and posters, but there were several who bought my books or just picked up a bookmark or postcard with my website and other social media on it. I will have to wait and see if the convention translates to other online sales in ebooks or audiobooks. It’s still great when somebody stands at your table and keeps repeating “Wow! Wow!” as they read the synopsis on the back cover.

I think multiple day conventions like Katsucon are not for authors. I’ve been to more single day events and sold more books at those events than during my three days at a big convention like Katsucon. I need to focus on conventions and festivals specific to my genre and/or books in general. I know many people from my generation who are fans of anime, comic books, and movies are also avid readers. I think that gets a little lost with some, not all, of the younger generation. They are more visual with their books, like comic books, graphic novels, and manga.

I will stick to my upcoming steampunk festivals (Watch City in Waltham, MA) and the Imaginarium Fantasy Book Festival in Washington, D.C. My fellow fantasy authors also turned me on to a Facebook Group, Author Events Around the World, for various book festivals supportive of independent authors. This group is a great resource for various book events across the country.

So, word of advice to self-published independent authors looking for venues to sign and sell their books… Pick and choose your events carefully. Not all conventions are made alike and, before you pay for that booth, make sure your know all the details. I know that these things cost an independent author, and maybe it will result in more attention to your books or social media. Only time will tell…

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Mark Piggott is an independent author of the Forever Avalon fantasy book series and other fantasy/steampunk novels and short stories. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon and as an audiobook from Audible and iTunes. The Dark Tides: Book 2 of the Forever Avalon Series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from iUniverse Publishing and at Amazon, and other booksellers. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from Austin Macauley Publishing, and at Amazon and other booksellers. His latest fantasy novel, The Last Magus: A Clockwork Heart is available through Lulu and other booksellers.

Get ready for the steampunk historical fiction, Corsair and the Sky Pirates, coming soon from Revolutionary Press; and The River of Souls novella, coming soon from Curious Corvid PublishingThe Prometheus Engine: Book 4 of the Forever Avalon Series and The Last Magus: Dragonfire and Steel are future installments of my current fantasy book series, coming soon.

Put a little fantasy into your holiday gifts this year with these wonderful books

Lorden Awakening by Krislee Ellsworth, On the Edge by M.J. Glenn, Jax Marlin by T.K. Toppin, Bound in Darkness by Kim ten Tusscher, and The Publishing Room’s From Dark Corners

Most authors would put a shameless plug in for their own fantasy books, but I want to highlight some great books from some of my fellow independent authors that I read in 2021. I would highly recommend any one of their books for the fantasy or sci fi lover and avid book reader in your home. I met all of these wonderful authors through our independent author social media connections and it has been an absolute joy getting to know them and reading their books.

On the Edge by M.J. Glenn is the first book in the Dweller Hunter series. The novel tells the story of Ebony Wick, who for two years has survived alone as an outlaw and highwaywoman in Rundlewood Forest. She doesn’t need people. She only needs to survive. But when Hunter Sparrow breaks into her camp and invites her to join his gang, the Bounty Hunters, she finds herself facing a difficult choice. With a burning desire for revenge against a powerful enemy, Ebony must choose between reason and instinct. But in doing so, she discovers a long-hidden secret that will change her world forever. I loved this story and how independent minded Ebony is, even when confronted by a haunting past and revelations that change her world forever. I am looking forward to reading more of this series and the continuing adventures of Ebony Wick!

Bound in Darkness by Kim ten Tusscher is the first book in the Lilith Trilogy. I have only read the first book and just started reading the second, Broken in Twilight, so I will just cover Book One. This is the story of Lilith, a woman who has only ever lived with anger and destruction. The sole dragon shifter known to humankind, she despises her life as an instrument of terror at the hands of a prophetic sorcerer. Finally fleeing years of abuse, she’s distraught when she’s captured for stealing food and forced to answer to a bitter king for her crimes. Hiding her fiery past from the monarch’s shrewd advisor, Lilith grits her teeth and endures brutal lashings to keep her powers secret. But when her former abductor sends spies to reclaim her and threatens carnage in the name of God, she’ll have to choose for which captor she’s willing to spill more innocent blood… Can the tortured woman escape to freedom before the land beneath her burns? You really feel for Lilith, the pain and suffering she’s endured, as you read each page of this wonderful novel. I am just getting into Book Two, and it is enthralling and captivating as the first.

Jax Marlin: The Complete Short Story Series by T.K. Toppin is my kind of sci fi noir novel. The vigilante, Jax Marlin, and the special inspector who chases her, Michael Pedroni, find themselves on a journey of deeper self-discovery and mutual understanding as they battle the criminals of the world. What was once black and white and by the book, no longer applies. The world is filled with myriad shades and perspectives, and in order to conquer evil, one must do what one must. Learning this prompts Pedroni to make a life-altering decision. As for Jax, her once-resolute focus wavers when her driving force, the fire inside her, takes over with violent results. She battles her inner demon in a life-long war, she realizes she can’t change who she is and what drives her: bad people must be punished. She must make the ultimate decision: destroy the beast within or continue down the destructive path of homicidal abandon. I love watching classic noir crime dramas on TV and reading this book was like stepping into one of those classic films. The no nonsense detective, the female fatal, the spark between them, and its all done with a sci-fi vibe that I love.

Lorden Awakening by Krislee Ellsworth was, I think, the highlight of my reading this year. Magic has not existed for three centuries, and the world is dying because of it. Anaver has never seen the sun through the foggy dome that surrounds the island of Tamrose. She’s heard tales of other lands and magic, but no one can prove that such things ever existed. When fate pulls her from her home and places her in a land of sun and starlight, she discovers that she harbors a power that can awaken the earth’s dormant magic. Rothrin has watched as the world around him fades away. The elements have long lost their state of Lorden, or harmony, which has caused a decades-long famine to sweep over the continent. All seems lost until he meets Anaver, and the elements begin to awaken. They set out on a quest in a land on the brink of collapse and starvation to unleash the earth’s power before time runs out. Like the other fantasy books in my list, Lorden Awakening has an original magic system that is captivating as the story itself. These are great characters that you’ll fall in love with and villains you’ll hate.

The last book I want to mention is a bit of a shameless plug, but not just for me, for the other authors in this anthology. From Dark Corners is a collection of horror short stories published by The Publishing Room. Their mission is “to ensure that anyone with a dream in publishing a book can accomplish their goals.” They also publish short stories from independent authors in various collections. I published with them previously in their fantasy anthology, On Distant Worlds. This time, I wrote a horror short story called The Chalice for this anthology, my first leap into the genre. Along with authors Samayra Rashid, Danni Grace, Ruchi Acharya, and Jesse Fletcher, this book is a great addition for any horror fans on your holiday gift list. They support independent authors like me, you can too!

Click on the links above to order these books and, if you’re interested, click on the links below to check out my other fantasy novels for your holiday gift list! By the way, I am always open to book review exchanges between authors. I love getting new books to read and helping out other independent authors.

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Mark Piggott is an independent author of the Forever Avalon fantasy book series and other fantasy/steampunk novels and short stories. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon and as an audiobook from Audible and iTunes. The Dark Tides: Book 2 of the Forever Avalon Series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from iUniverse Publishing and at Amazon, and other booksellers. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from Austin Macauley Publishing, and at Amazon and other booksellers. His latest fantasy novel, The Last Magus: A Clockwork Heart is available through Lulu and other booksellers.

Get ready for the steampunk historical fiction, Corsair and the Sky Pirates, coming soon from Revolutionary Press; and The River of Souls novella, coming soon from Curious Corvid PublishingThe Prometheus Engine: Book 4 of the Forever Avalon Series and The Last Magus: Dragonfire and Steel are future installments of my current fantasy book series, coming soon.

Is “Krull” the most underappreciated science fiction and fantasy movie of all time? YES! Yes it is!

Krull Movie Poster #2 | Fantasy movies, Movies by genre, Movie posters
Movie poster for Krull (1983)

I’ve been wanting to write this blog for some time but I never got around to it. I know I’ve mentioned Krull and shown my love for this movie in previous blogs, i.e. Top sci-fi/fantasy movies of the 1980s, etc., but I’ve never focused in on just how AWESOME this movie is. You had an all-star cast (by today’s standards), a fantastic storyline, and great special effects (okay, by the 80’s standards anyway!) So, why has this movie been relegated to the back shelves of video stores, streaming services, and the dustbin of many dvd collections. The fact is it shouldn’t be. This movie is a gem that should be watched and often. It’s binge worthy in more ways than one.

Krull is a 1983 science fiction/fantasy swashbuckler film directed by Peter Yates and written by Stanford Sherman. It followed the journey of Prince Colwyn and a group of outlaws on the planet Krull who are attempting to save Princess Lyssa (Colwyn’s bride) from the Beast and his army of Slayers from her captivity in the Black Fortress, an impregnable citadel that teleports to a new location at dawn. To aid in his fight, he seeks soothsayers, sorcerers, a cyclops, and a mystical weapon called the Glaive.

The film stars an ensemble cast: Ken Marshall as Prince Colwyn, Lysette Anthony as Princess Lyssa, Trevor Martin as the voice of the Beast, Freddie Jones as Ynyr, Bernard Bresslaw as Rell the Cyclops, David Battley as Ergo the Magnificent, Alun Armstrong as Torquil, the leader of a group of outlaws (including early screen roles for actors Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane), John Welsh as The Emerald Seer, Graham McGrath as Titch, and Francesca Annis as The Widow of the Web.

The first thing you need to understand that this is the early 1980s, when everyone was trying to match the popularity and box office bonanza that Star Wars brought with it. So, it had a big budget for special effects, marketing, etc. I mean, Krull had an arcade video game, not something they did for every movie. They really thought they had a box office hit on their hands. Unfortunately, the critics were not on their side.

Critic Janet Maslin found Krull to be “a gentle, pensive sci-fi adventure film that winds up a little too moody and melancholy for the Star Wars set”, praising director Yates for “giving the film poise and sophistication, as well as a distinctly British air”, and also “bring[ing] understatement and dimension to the material.” Baird Searles described Krull as “an unpretentious movie … with a lot of good things going for it.” A retrospective review by AllMovie journalist Jason Buchanan hailed it as “an ambitious sci-fi/fantasy that even in its failures can usually be forgiven for its sheer sense of bravado.” Ryan Lambie, reviewing for Den of Geek in 2011, called it “among [t]he most visually creative and downright fun movies of the enchanted 80s” and “a well-made film, and an entire galaxy away from other cheap, quickly made knock-offs that showed up in the wake of Star Wars.”

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: Krull | 411MANIA
Ken Marshall as Prince Colwyn and Lysette Anthony as Princess Lyssa in Krull (1983)

Everything sci-fi that came into the movie theater megaplexes of the 1980s was compared to Star Wars or considered a Star Wars ripoff, but Krull was different. It had one thing that other movies did not… Magic! This was a full-bore fantasy genre movie locked into a world of science fiction. Yes, Star Wars has some fantasy elements in it with “the force” and other abilities, but in Krull, we are talking swords and sorcery. I mean, there are three certifiable “Gandalf-type” wizards (and one “not so much”) in the mix here. Krull blends the two together so perfectly that you don’t know what your watching, and by the time you do, the movie has already sucked you in.

Then there’s the weapon… The Glaive. It’s a bladed, flying metal starfish that, in truth, reminds me of Xena’s Chakram in how it flies through the air and returns to his hand. We are told in the beginning of the movie that the Glaive was just a myth, but the old wizard Ynyr knows where it is and that Colwyn will need it to defeat the Beast. My one complaint about this movie is that we don’t get to see him use it until the very end. Granted, the final fight between Colwyn and the Beast and Slayers is fun to watch, but it’s not enough. I mean, this weapon is what sold the movie to many fantasy fans like myself, and we didn’t see enough of it. You have to wonder how many D&D Dungeon Masters tried to recreate this weapon in a game (hint, I did!)

This movie also has your various fantasy tropes including magical beasts (Fire Mares or “Clydesdales on Steroids” running across canyons without stopping), magical beings (Changelings that kill with a touch) and an ancient, albeit bad ass soothsayer, living in the heart of a spider web (the Widow of the Web, aptly named). Not to mention a cyclops with a tragic back story, a great overhand throw, and a heart-breaking death (sorry for the spoilers but it’s true!) This is a true fantasy world invaded by a space-faring megalomaniacs hell-bent on destroying one world, then the next. You get this from the end of the movie when the narrator (Ynyr) proclaims they (Colwyn and Lyssa) would rule Krull, and their son would rule the galaxy! Really? I’d like to see that sequel!

Krull
Spider guardian of the Widow of the Web, Krull (1983)

The special effects were, without a doubt, some of the best to come out of the 80s. It’s not CGI, but the different sets combined with brilliant costumes, make-up, and effects blended well together. The fighting was a little staged and rigid in places, but it was overall well done. I loved the weapons of the Slayers, firing off a laser blast from one end before turning it around to use as a sword. The main magic we see used by the wizards in this movie was foresight and shapeshifting. There was no fireballs or lightning bolts, but transformations into everything from a tiger to a puppy (yes, a cute little puppy!) With all that, it was laid out brilliantly in the story.

Like I said, this movie is not Shakespeare and it’s nowhere near Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, or other big movie genres. Krull is just plain fun, from start to finish. It’s a great story to follow along, interesting characters to laugh and cry with, and keeps you in your seat from beginning to end. Krull is a movie that should be part of a film festival, not relegated to the back row of your dvd collection. If you haven’t seen it, watch it today! If you have seen it, but not in a while, pull it out and watch it again! See what you’re missing!

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon fantasy book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides: Book 2 of the Forever Avalon Series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from iUniverse Publishing and at Amazon, and other booksellers. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from Austin Macauley Publishing, and at Amazon and other booksellers.

Attack on Titan is a “binge-worthy” anime, so catch up before it ends

Attack on Titan Season 4: Release Date, Trailer, Episodes, and News | Den  of Geek

If you haven’t watched the anime Attack on Titan, you better start now! The final season of AOT just started (check out Crunchyroll or Funimation) and it is binge-worthy for any weekend watch party. I mean it, you need to watch it NOW!

For those not familiar with the anime, Attack on Titan is based on a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Hajime Isayama. It is set in a world where humanity lives inside cities surrounded by enormous walls that protect them from gigantic man-eating humanoids referred to as Titans. The story follows Eren Yeager, who vows to exterminate all the Titans after a Titan brings about the destruction of his hometown and the death of his mother. He joins the Scout Regiment to patrol the areas outside the walls to take his fight to the Titans, but instead discovers so much more about himself, the Titans, and the people behind the walls.

The anime is horrific and brilliant. The battles are animated with such precision and realism it puts you right there (Levi vs. Beast Titan… AWESOME!). The characters are memorable and draw you into the story, although many complain that Eren was a whiner in the beginning of the series (including me). However, after the five year time skip between Season 3 and 4, Eren has really come out of his shell and is the leader he intended to be. I’m not going to give SPOILERS here, for obvious reasons, but there is a lot to take in.

The first thing that grabs you about Attack on Titan is the whole mythology. You don’t know whether its science fiction or fantasy, or a bit of both. The idea that a single race, the Eldians, were born as the “Subjects of Ymir” and gave them the power to transform into Titans. It is their spinal fluid that allows other Eldians to be transformed into Titans. Another race, the Marleyans, were once slaves to the Eldians but revolted and took control of them. It was Marley who put the Eldians on Paradis Island (where Seasons 1-3 take place) behind the walls, trapping them there to better control the “Devils” as they call them. It’s confusing to try and explain everything here, safe to say, watching the series explains things so much better. It’s also easy to understand why the two races hate each other and are at the core of the conflict.

Power of Nine Titans in Attack on Titan - OtakusNotes

There are common Titans, i.e. Eldians transformed into Titans through spinal fluid injection, and there are the “Nine Titans.” The Nine are the most powerful Titans whose power can only be passed by (a) being born with the power of one of the Nine or (b) another Titan eats one of the Nine (in human form) and gains its power. The Nine are the Attack Titan, the Beast Titan, the Colossal Titan, the Armored Titan, the Cart Titan, the Jaw Titan, the War Hammer Titan, the Female Titan, and the Founding Titan. Eren Yeager possesses both the Founding and Attack Titan powers, which is why the AOT story centers around him. The Nine are the power behind the Marleyan military forces and what has been driving the story from the very beginning. We’re just getting to see that now in Season 4, but those who read the manga have known this all along. In any case, the Nine and the flawed, vulnerable, and quite human characters behind them make this story so incredible.

Speaking of characters, this entire series is character-driven with such diverse characters that you love to hate and hate to love. Eren, Armin, and Mikasa are the lifelong friends centered on throughout the anime. You see a love interest potential between Eren and Mikasa, but he is so focused on his revenge that he doesn’t see it. Then there’s the others in the Scout Regiment–Hange, Levi, Connie, Sasha, Historia, Jean, Commander Erwin–plus many more that died too soon throughout the series. And of coarse, the other Titan wielders–Annie, Reiner, Bertholdt, Zeke, Pieck, Galliard (and Ymir)–and those in the wings (i.e. Gabi and Falco). They all had such unique personalities, ideology, expressions, and back stories that make you look at each one and think, “I know someone like that” every time. We laugh, cry, scream, and cheer them on at every moment in every episode.

Lastly, there’s the technology used in AOT. It’s steampunk in a weird, modern way. I don’t know a geek out there that doesn’t want their own ODM (Omni-Directional Mobility) gear to fly around on. And in the anime, the flow is so brilliantly animated that you are actually flying through the trees or across city skylines with the scouts (Levi vs. Kenny fight scene… Another AWESOME!). It’s going even more into a relegated steampunk world in Season 4 with airships, “Thundersticks” and the new ODM gear. It’s going to be an exciting season to watch.

This is the final season of Attack on Titan is in full swing, so if I need to remind you again, binge it if you haven’t watched AOT already. Get through the first three seasons, wrap yourself in a Mikasa red scarf, give the scout salute (look it up if you don’t know how to do it) and dive into the final season. It’ll take a long weekend, plenty of beer and pizza, but you can do it. Trust me, it’s better than a weekend D&D session.

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon fantasy book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides: Book 2 of the Forever Avalon Series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from iUniverse Publishing and at Amazon, and other booksellers. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from Austin Macauley Publishing, and at Amazon and other booksellers.

I’m back after my self-imposed hiatus to protest the social media gods and I find myself in 1984

Social networks are the “Big Brother” of today!

So, I took off the past week, ignored my social media accounts and didn’t like, post, tweet, or blog about anything. I thought a simple protest against the social media giants for being “censors” when they’re not supposed to be would gain traction. I thought people would care about “Big Brother” keeping tabs on what we could read, talk about, or share with others. I thought wrong. The world kept on turning, the sun rose and set, and life continued as we know it.

And still, to this day, Twitter and Facebook (and Google to an extent) are deciding what constitutes “free speech” online. They put their own bias into what is available on their platforms. Now, please don’t think of this as a political rant, because it’s not. It’s about free speech, the First Amendment, and the rights we have as American citizens. I refuse to be locked down by these or any other social media platform for expressing my own point of view. If not, we are destined to bow at the altar of social media.

George Orwell said it best when he wrote his prophetic novel 1984 in the year 1949:

“In a world of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act!”

The people will not revolt. They will not look up from their screens long enough to notice what’s happening.”

George Orwell, 1984
George Orwell's Inspirational Quotes from “1984” - Orwell Monegros Project

Do you see what I mean? It’s one of the things I love about being an author. Science fiction has always had a prophetic way of seeing into the future, from Jules Verne to George Orwell. It’s strange how science fiction authors have such a deep insight into the world that they know where we’re heading. This is one such moment in history. Whether you believe it or not, we are living in a world that George Orwell imagined.

So now, what do I do? Do I end my social media footprint altogether and not bow before Twitter, Facebook and the like? This would probably be helpful to my psyche but limit my exposure as an author. Or, do I just continue on and hope that these tech giants are brought down to our level through the courts and other legislation? I mean, that’s what happened to Microsoft in the 1990s when they got to big. Then there’s Section 230, a provision of the Communication Decency Act (CDA) of 1996.

“No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider” (47 U.S.C. § 230).

from Electronic Frontier Foundation (eff.org)

Per eff.org, “online intermediaries that host or republish speech are protected against a range of laws that might otherwise be used to hold them legally responsible for what others say and do.” This gives social media platforms broad latitudes to determine what can or cannot be said on their websites. That, in turn, pisses off people from the Left and the Right which could mean an end to those protections.

There are more questions than answers. I will continue to express my views, no matter how controversial they may be according to the social media “hall monitors” watching over me. I was silent for a week, but no more.

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon fantasy book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides: Book 2 of the Forever Avalon Series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from iUniverse Publishing and at Amazon, and other booksellers. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from Austin Macauley Publishing, and at Amazon and other booksellers.

Soar through the sky “Steampunk” style

I have always been a fan of steampunk. It is an eclectic style of modern technology with Victorian sensibilities. To me, the novels of Jules Verne are the bible of steampunk. To think that he imagined submarines, nuclear power, rocket ships and more in the 1800s is just remarkable.

So I took inspiration from the imagination of Jules Verne and the genius of Nikola Tesla to create a steampunk world. Let me introduce you to a new concept for a new work in progress… Corsair and the Sky Pirates!

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A brilliant inventor… A prolific writer… A chance meeting between Nikola Tesla and Jules Verne led to a world as you could never imagine. A world powered by steam generated not from coal or fuel, but a meteor fragment. Tesla discovered a comet named Uriel was raining pieces of these powerful meteorites across the globe. It led to an industrial revolution years ahead of its time, but even progress had a price. While the rich and powerful lived in luxury in this new world, the everyday people groveled beneath the boot of their corporate masters.

One man brought hope to the people. His exploits were legendary, his crew infamous, and his airship a vision of the future. Corsair and his Sky Pirates flew around the world, carrying out deeds that spurred the imagination. Known as modern-day “Robin Hood” bandits, they stole from the robber barons and returned to the oppressed.

The swashbuckling Corsair was as handsome as he was cool and calculating. His crew was an assortment of renegades many authorities considered lowlifes and criminals, but they were all dedicated to Corsair’s mission… Working with Tesla to bring an end to the corporate rule that was strangling the planet. They came from every corner of the globe… From the outback in Australia to the American Southwest into the skyline of New York City, across Europe and the Far East. The crew of the airship Galeru, named for a mythical rainbow serpent, never faltered and never wavered.

While Tesla made his inventions to ease everyday people’s day-to-day burden, the Edison/Röntgen/Parsons Corporation or ERP used their power and influence to ensure people paid for their modern miracles. World governments bent over backward to appease ERP to ensure they got their hands on the most potent weapons known to man.

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I entered my first draft of Corsair and the Sky Pirates in Crystal Peake Publishers Steampunk Writing Contest, so wish me luck in getting this concept published!

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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 iUniverse Publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available from Austin Macauley Publishing.

The best fantasy/scifi movies you never watched, but you should

There are plenty of inspirations when it comes to fantasy and science fiction. Most people have their favorites, i.e. Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, etc. Me, I’m a little old school. My obsession with the fantasy and sci-fi genre began with movies many people today either haven’t seen, forgot or ignored. In any case, each one of these movies has a unique charm about them (for lack of a better term) making them a must-see for any fan or geek. These are my personal picks, so I would love to hear whether you agree or disagree. Either way, I hope you’ll take some “COVID19 down time” to watch some or all of these classics.

The Final Countdown (1980) — This is a kick-ass, “Red, White, & Blue” Hell-yah,  U-S-A, movie with a simple science fiction twist. The nuclear aircraft carrier USS Nimitz is sent back in time to days before the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. It has an all-star cast ( Kirk Douglas, Martin Sheen, James Farentino, Katharine Ross and Charles Durning) but the real star is the U.S. Navy. As a young man, looking to his future after high school, this movie made me want to sign up.  The filming from the flight deck to the sky above, seeing two F-14 Tomcats take on Japanese Zeroes, was epic. This is not your average science fiction movie, but the whole time travel aspect was so well done and wrapped up nicely at the end.

The Black Cauldron poster.jpgThe Black Cauldron (1985) — This is a Disney film, but its one of the darkest Disney films they ever made. The plot is your basic boy becomes hero by defeating the evil sorcerer, your usual fantasy genre yarn, but the visuals of this film are stunning. Something I didn’t know was that it was loosely based on the first two books in The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander, a series of five novels that are, in turn, based on Welsh mythology. Set in the mythical land of Prydain during the Early Middle Ages, the film centers on the evil Horned King who hopes to secure an ancient magical cauldron that will aid him in his desire to conquer the world. He is opposed by a young pigherder named Taran, the princess Eilonwy, a bard and a wild creature named Gurgi who seek to destroy the cauldron. This was Disney’s 25th animated feature, the first animated film to receive a PG rating, and it doesn’t get the props like Disney’s other animated films because of the dark storyline. No matter what, this is a great fantasy movie to see.

Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) — In the age when every movie wanted to look like and have the success of Star Wars, this movie fits the bill to a “T” and then some. Staring Richard Thomas (John Boy from The Waltons TV series) and produced by the genius Roger Corman, this movie had every science fiction movie trope in it, including the kitchen sink. Corman intended this movie to be a remake of the classic The Magnificent Seven but set in outer space. It had a stellar cast, from the legendary John Saxon and George Peppard to Robert Vaughn, and the effects were as expected for 1980, pre-CGI. The story follows the expected plot… The farming world Akir is threatened by the tyrannical warlord Sador (Saxon). Sador’s huge dreadnaught has a “Stellar Converter”, a weapon that turns planets into small stars. He demands that the peaceful Akira submit to him or he will turn his Stellar Converter on their planet. They want to hire mercenaries to protect their world, but since Akir lacks valuable resources, its people can offer just food and shelter in payment. Shad (Thomas) volunteers for the recruiting mission. It is a strange movie, full of Corman’s classic sci-fi tropes,  including a Space Cowboy, half-dressed Valkyrie warrior, an elite assassin, and a reptilian slaver, but it is well laid out and fun to watch.

The Black Hole.jpgThe Black Hole (1979) — Yet another Disney film that  has been relegated to the void that is the Disney vault due to its dark and violent nature. Another great cast ( Maximilian Schell, Robert Forster, Joseph Bottoms, Yvette Mimieux, Anthony Perkins and Ernest Borgnine) fills the screen with astounding visuals of a black hole in space, before Interstellar. The Palomino, nearing the end of its deep space mission, discovers a black hole in space with a large spaceship nearby, somehow defying the hole’s massive gravitational pull. The ship is identified as the long-lost USS Cygnus. Deciding to investigate, the Palomino encounters a mysterious null gravity field surrounding the Cygnus. What they find on board is far worse… Dr. Hans Reinhardt, a brilliant scientist, and what appears to be a crew of robots. They are not faceless drones, but are in fact the human crew who mutinied when Reinhardt refused to return to Earth and had been lobotomized and “reprogrammed” by Reinhardt to serve him and his floating murder-bot Maximilian. Again, a very dark movie for Disney that was not well received by critics but earned two Academy award nominations for cinematography and visual effects.

Dragonslayer (1981) — This movie is very familiar to anyone who played Dungeons and Dragons in the 80’s, but it is not seen as a top-rated movie like LOTR and others. It should be. Dragonslayer gave us our first look at a dragon, an honest to God dragon and all its power and glory. Before there was CGI, there was GoMotion, created by Industrial, Light and Magic for The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark and other classic movies of the 80s. In this movie, we got a dragon named Vermithrax that was everything you expected it to be… Evil, deadly, and downright terrifying. Another great cast (Peter MacNicol, Ralph Richardson, John Hallam and Caitlin Clarke) fills out this epic tale of a young apprentice taking on the beast to prove himself worthy as a sorcerer against a King who for years has placated the dragon with a virgin sacrifice. This is a worthy fantasy epic and a must see movie!

Deathstalker (1983) - Rotten TomatoesDeathstalker (1983) — The last movie on my list is another 80’s Roger Corman classic, filled with your favorite fantasy genre movie tropes just like he did in Battle Beyond the Stars. It’s a very Conan-esque movie, with buff men in leather, scantily-clad women, swords and sorcerers. It spawned four sequels, but this is the one to watch. Against, a basic storyline of sword-wielding mercenary on a quest to retrieve four magical items to stop a sorcerer from destroying his world. Along the way, he meets other warriors entering a tournament to find the greatest warrior and gain control over the kingdom. It’s not Shakespeare but it has all the qualities of a sword/sorcerer movie of the 80’s. It fits right in with The Beastmaster, Conan the Barbarian, and other fantasy movies of that time. Corman is a genius of the screen when it comes to movies like these.

So again, these are far from the Oscar-worthy movies you normally think of in the fantasy/sci-fi genre, but they have all the elements you think of when you watch these movies. I would love to hear about your favorites that I might have missed in my list, please comment and let me know.

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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 iUniverse Publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available from Austin Macauley Publishing.