Saturdays are the best day for anime because of My Hero Academia and GGO

dlbu_d0uiaagos5-1Most people would look forward to Saturdays because it meant the weekend, a day off, etc. Me… I look forward to Saturdays because that’s when the new episodes of “My Hero Academia” and “Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online” (GGO) air via Funimation and Crunchyroll, my two favorite anime channels! It’s like having my favorite Saturday Morning Cartoons like when I was a kid. These anime’s have heart, soul, and can be funny as hell. It’s amazing as to how entrenched I get into these shows, especially My Hero Academia.

I’ve been reading comic books since I was a kid. I actually wanted to be a comic book artist/writer when I was growing up. I wasn’t a good enough artist, but I still got to be a writer. Anyway, I’ve been reading teenage superhero stories, like forever, from The Legion of Superheroes to The New Mutants. Teenage superheroes dealing with their emerging powers and fighting super-villains has been a staple of comics for generations, but not like My Hero Academia.

First off, their powers are unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. Sure, there are some mainstays like super strength, fire and ice creation, etc., but there are some unique ones too that this shows makes out to be quite powerful. I mean, shooting tape out of your elbows, causing people to become immobile when you taste their blood (gross) are pretty out there. But the characters are rich, so much so that you want to know more about them. The stories are so intense and gripping, it’s hard to turn away from them.

42159On the opposite spectrum is GGO. Sword Art Online was the first modern anime I fell in love with, especially the GGO section in SAO2. The new GGO has so much more spunk than the original. The little “pink devil” known as Llenn is a munchkin with an attitude. In real life, she is a tall teenager, wanting to be shorter like the other girls her age. She gets her wish in the virtual world of GGO. There she meets another female player, Pito, who she finds out has a death wish she’s trying to fulfill.

GGO is so much fun. Yes, because it’s an anime about a VR world full of guns, shooting, explosions, and bloody mayhem, it can be rather violent… But in a good way. It does it with such fun and irreverence to death and dying. Plus, the action scenes are pretty incredible sometimes, almost like watching The Matrix fight scenes. I mean, one of the first action sequences was Llenn popping out of a suitcase and taking down five opponents in seconds. That was awesome.

And just like My Hero Academia, it has great characters and very distinct storylines that make the anime flow perfectly. That’s what makes anime so much more than a cartoon. Yes, a lot of the characters in anime are kids, but to me, they remind me of me in so many ways:  Vulnerable, a little dense sometimes, wanting to do what’s right. It’s what makes them so much fun to watch.

My Hero Academia is a place where heroes exist and GGO is a world where anything goes. As a writer, it gives me plenty of inspiration for what I do. That what draws me in and makes them so much fun to watch! Tune it Saturday! It’s a blast!

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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.

 

 

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To publish or self-publish, that is the question?

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As most of you know, I’ve finished writing the third book in the Forever Avalon series, The Outlander War. After almost six months of editing, I started sending it out to various publishers, trying to see if someone will take a chance on me. One rejection, and one offer, of sorts. Austin Macauley, a hybrid publisher from London, England, liked my story, my characters, and was interested in having me as one of their authors. However, since I don’t have a great track record of sales with my first two books, they offered me a “contributor contract” to pay for my novel to be published. The cost is about $3000.

I’ve spoken with many other authors I associate with online and they warned me against this. They said you shouldn’t pay to be published, it’s a scam, etc. They all say there are plenty of ways to publish for free, and that’s true. Amazon has a great site called CreateSpace that will let you put together a book as a paperback and ebook for free; but in the realm of “freebies” you’ll find that everything is not free.

You must pay an artist to design a cover, and that cost can range from $200-$400 and as high as $1,000 for an eye-catching cover. Then there’s inventory… You need to buy copies of your book to sell at book signings, etc. Then there’s marketing for your book. That costs money too. All in all, you may publish your book for free, but there are so many other costs associated with it, then why not pay someone to do it all for you.

There’s also time management issue. I have a full-time job which I must do, until my writing takes off (at least that’s what I want). I would love to be able to stay home, write, and do everything myself; but that’s not possible right now. I must work to support my family, so that means paying someone to do it all for me.

There are many negative things being said about Austin Macauley, but some positive things too. Publisher’s Weekly named them one of the fastest growing publishers in 2018. This is not something to ignore. I know that the Science Fiction Writers of America have them on their

There are too many variables to consider and, maybe I’m making the right choice, maybe not. It’s a decision that many self-published, independent authors must make each and every day. The one thing that keeps popping into my mind is that old saying:  “You have to spend money to make money.”

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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.

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.

Poetry opens the minds of writers to new possibilities

1-street-art-poetry-recapBelieve it or not, I started writing by writing poetry. In high school, I was part of the Poetry Club and helped edit and printed out our annual poetry magazine. I must admit, though, I am a terrible poet. My rhymes were more nonsensical than practical or what most would seem acceptable prose. Though I haven’t written any since then, I still have an appreciation for it.

Recently, I’ve done some “book review exchanges” with some wonderful poets and it has reignited my passion for poetry. It is exciting to find a passion inside me that I thought was long gone.

NOTE: It is a great option for independent authors to do “book review exchanges” to not only expand their library but get additional reviews from their peers.

I want to first give a shout out to the poets that have inspired me to write this blog. Universal Colloquies Inside of Me by Veronica Thornton is a wonderful book of poetry that will expand your mind through poems about the world today as well as poems that take a new view on the universe. Whispers of Death by Ronald Kihali was a diverse book of poems, that made me laugh and made me cry. Finally, I just started reading Her Crowning Frenzy by Robin Chappell. So far, this book reminds me of a walk through someone’s life, with chapters entitled “Love”, “Heartache”, and “Life” to show you the way.

These three books have really begun to inspire me, opening my mind to new possibilities. Poet Dylan Thomas said, “Poetry is what in a poem makes you laugh, cry, prickle, be silent, makes your toe nails twinkle, makes you want to do this or that or nothing, makes you know that you are alone in the unknown world, that your bliss and suffering is forever shared and forever all your own.”

For the most part, we associate poetry with the well-known names… Maya Angelou, Robert Frost, Emily Dickenson, etc. But you need to look further. There are some many wonderful poets, just starting out. They are brilliant in their own respects and inspire us as both humans and, for me, as a writer. As Vanna Bonta said, “The true poem rests between the words.”

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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.

The Heroic Spirits of the Fate anime series are the inspiration of fantasy writers

e32873a2b5cb427baed9a682d544b3c4Recently, another of my anime obsessions has led me to the “Fate” series (Fate/Zero. Fate/Stay Night, and Fate/Apocrphya). There are more than these three in the series, but that’s all I’ve watched so far. It’s not just the intricate storylines, the fast-paced fighting, or the beautiful animation that drew me in. As a fantasy writer, the heroic spirits are what truly facinated me.

To give you the basic background on the Fate series… Over the centuries, mages have been fighting for a chance to claim “the ultimate wish granter” … The Holy Grail. However, this is not some ordinary mages’ duel. They summon “heroic spirits” to fight for them. These spirits are pulled from history, with some changes to their capabilities, power, and even gender. They are broken down into seven classes:  Saber, Archer, Lancer, Rider, Caster, Bezerker, and Assassin. The spirits are controlled through “command seals” given to the mages when they are selected by the grail to compete in the Holy Grail War.

These anime’s have such unique and complex characters, in both the masters and the servants (as the mages and spirits are called respectfuly). The mages range from teenagers just learning about their powers as a mage to older, more experienced mages. The servants are from every possible time frame, from both history and literature. From Joan of Arc, King Arthur, Alexander the Great, Achilles and Gil Gamesh, to Mordred, Frankenstein, Jack the Ripper, Shakespeare, and Dracula, these spirits are transformed into amazing characters, beyond their original form into pure fantasy. These reimagined characters are what fantasy writers dream of.

Black_Berserker_full_2158619One of my favorites of this series was the reimagined Frankenstein monster. She (yes, I said “she”) was a beautiful creature with immense power. When I first saw her, I did not even think Frankenstein, and yet there are incredible subtleties within this character that you don’t expect. She doesn’t speak, except in grunts and groans. She wields a lightning mace (that resembles the equipment from Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory) that can release an electrical strike that can wipe out a forest. There are unusual attachments on her head, incuding something resembling a unicorn horn, that’s almost “steampunk” in nature. Yet, through all this power and ferocity (she is a Bezerker class) there is a delicate child inside. In one scene, she sits in a field, looking at flowers, reminding me of the monster from the movie, and yet, I don’t see the monster. And neither did her master. She was, at times, breathtaking.

They really enjoy these gender swapped characters in the Fate anime series, and to be honest, I don’t mind. Their gender may have changed, but the charater’s true pirit is still there. King Arthur, the King of Knights, is still the king haunted by his failures and his desire for justice. Mordred is even more complex and ever so serious as a woman, but you end up rooting for her. Jack the Ripper is a “loli” who dresses like a dominatrix and eats the hearts of mages for strength. Wierd, right? In the end, it’s not the gender that matters but the characters themselves.

One of the best episodes of the Fate/Zero series was a sit down between the three kings … Saber (King Arthur, King of Knights), Rider (Iskandar or Alexander the Great, King of Kings), and Archer (Gil Gamesh, King of Heroes). They all sat around, drinking, discussing what makes a great king. You get such a earful of Gil Gamesh’s arrogance, Iskandar laughing and drinking, and Saber pondering her role as king. It was a treat to watch this magical exchange of ideaology and philosophy.

My only complaint about this series is how overpowered some of the characters can be. They each exhibit what’s called their “Noble Phantasm” — a powerful magic that can overcome other servants and masters. Many of them don’t even show off their Noble Phantasm right away, because if they show their “trump card” to their opponent too early, they may lose their advantage. As fascinating as their Noble Phantasms are, they are so overpowered, it borders on ridiculous, even for anime (which has a history of overpowered characters).

If you haven’t seen any of the Fate anime series, I highly recommend it. They are available on Netflix, Crunchyroll, and other anime viewing sites. When you learn who some of these heroic spirits are, you will be surprised and inspired.

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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.

Avengers: Infinity War is the best Marvel movie yet – mostly SPOILER FREE movie review

Avengers-Infinity-War-IMAX-Poster-600x871First things first, this is going to be somewhat SPOILER FREE, though I doubt that’s necessary. After opening weekend, with more than $630 million at the worldwide box office, I doubt most of the secrets are out. I will be cautious in my review, but there will be some snippets of juicy information. You have been warned.

That being said, AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR was–without a doubt–the best Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movie to date. I was enthralled the entire movie. There was no lag, no slow spots, it was rolling thunder from beginning to end. Think of this movie as the waves off the North Shore in Hawaii… With each breaking wave, it built up, bigger and badder, until it finally broke across the shore.

In case you need a run down, Avengers: Infinity War brings the entire MCU cast of characters together to face off against Thanos, the Mad Titan. He wants to collect the six Infinity Stones (Power, Space, Time, Reality, Soul, and Mind) to achieve his ultimate goal… Wipe out half the population of the entire universe. In his twisted mind, doing this will save the universe from over-population, starvation, and war. Its going to take the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy to stop him.

First thing I want to mention is the many surprising deaths in this movie. I don’t know if those killed will stay that way (because, like all its comic books, Marvel has a way of constantly bringing dead characters back to life) but it was shocking, none the less. Again, I will not say who dies (SPOILER) because of the surprise deaths. I will reserve judgement for Avengers 4, coming out next year, to see if those killed are permanent or not.

Next, the villains. Thanos is played brilliantly by Josh Brolin. He is as evil, sick, calculating, twisted and deadly as he is in the comics. He uses the Infinity Stones to their complete potential as he brings down the heroes, one-by-one. His lieutenants, on the other hand, are another story. In the comics, the Black Order were so deadly that it took everything, and then some, to stand up to them. Yes, they are quite powerful in the movie and give the Avengers a run for their money. Overall, though, I found them to be less than worthy of being Thanos’ children.

Another complaint I have is the use of the Hulk (FYI, some spoilers here). He started out the movie better than expected. He went toe-to-toe with Thanos on the Asgardian refugee ship. It was so much fun to watch the fight, and a great way to start the movie. Yet, throughout the rest of the movie, he wouldn’t come out of Banner. It was as if the Hulk was afraid to face Thanos and his minions again. Yes, Bruce Banner stepped up to do the job, but it was hard to watch at times. That is definitely not the Hulk we all know and love since the 60’s. The Hulk is the strongest one there is. He needs to come back in Avengers 4.

On the positive side of all this was Thor. The Thor in Avengers: Infinity War makes up for the joking idiot we saw running around in Thor: Ragnarok. He was the essence of the last Asgardian, out to avenge his people. To do this, he goes to the dwarves of Nidavellier (who forged Mjolnir) to forge him a new weapon. There they find Eitri, the master weaponsmith, played by the unbelievably awesome Peter Dinklage. Yes I know, a dwarf playing a dwarf, but in Avengers: Infinity War, the dwarves of Nidavellier are three times the size of Thor. When Thor arrives in Wakanda to join the fight against Thanos’ army, he kicked ass with his new weapon Stormbreaker, and the audience erupted louder than any other point in the movie. Thor was the hero, the Avenger, we all knew him to be.

avengers-infinity-war1There were plenty of other surprises in this movie that tied back to all 18 previous films. It was incredible to watch and kept me on the edge of my seat:  Spider-man in his “Iron Spider” armor, complete with retractable legs, Iron Man’s “Bleeding Edge” nano-tech armor, finding out a certain Captain America is STILL ALIVE, and of course, Nick Fury’s return and the tease for Captain Marvel. It was all a comic book geek’s wet dream (apologize for the vernacular, but it’s quite accurate).

I think Avengers: Infinity War is a fun movie for anyone to see. It may take any non-comic book movie goers a little bit to understand the story as a whole, but it’s still an exciting roller coaster ride. It’s worth the price of admission to see it, especially in Real 3D and IMAX. The visuals are that impressive. So, great story, great cast, great visual effects, drama with the right amount of comedy, laughter and tears, shock and awe… It’s all in Avengers: Infinity War. A+++ Marvel! It was worth the wait!

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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.

These comics are a “must read” before you see AVENGERS: Infinity War

Four days and counting until the release of Marvel’s “AVENGER: Infinity War” hits theaters, and I, for one, have been waiting for this since I saw Thanos’ grinning mug at the end of the first Avengers movie. It’s what everything has been boiling down to over all 18 Marvel movies. With that said, it’s always good to go back to the source material to fully understand what you’re getting yourself into.

Here are three essential reads that will help you better understand some of the major elements involved in the story behind the movie. Granted, they have been altered some to fit the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), but the basics are all there.

Marvel_Graphic_Novel_Vol_1_1The Death of Captain Marvel (1982) — Jim Starlin created the first Marvel “graphic novels” with this masterpiece bringing about the death of one of Marvel’s beloved characters. Although there have been others to call themselves Captain Marvel, including a new movie coming out with Bree Larson as the titular character, Mar-Vell was the original. After discovering he’s dying of cancer, Mar-Vell takes his final journey by taking on his nemesis, Thanos. as he heads into the afterlife. This is not only a classic comic, but a great glimpse into the psyche of Thanos and his obsession with death. It’s also a glance into the cosmic universe side of Marvel and into the love given from the entire roll call of the Marvel universe to the original Captain Marvel.

250px-Infinity_Gauntlet_1The Infinity Gauntlet (1991) — The majority of the Infinity War movie is based on this Marvel mini-series from 1991. After Mistress Death brings Thanos back from the dead, she orders him to eliminate half the universe, to correct what she calls a cosmic unbalance. To do this, Thanos decides he needs the six infinity stones to complete the task. Collecting the stones, he begins to not only wipe out half the universe, but to take over all of eternity as well. This is the quintessential comic that has the ENTIRE backstory you need, from the infinity stones, his obsession with death, the gathering of heroes, EVERYTHING. There are even scenes from the comics that will be seen (and have already been seen in the trailers) from the comics. You will be more than prepared for this movie , even if you just read this one comic.

Infinity_1_coverInfinity (2013) — The main thing you’re going to find in this series is the villains that are supporting Thanos… The Black Order. The story behind Thanos searching for his Inhuman son, the destruction of Attilan, the release of the Terrigen Mist across the Earth is all inconsequential. The Black Order are the ones you’ll be interested in. Proxima Midnight, Corvis Glaive, Cul Obsidian (Black Dwarf in the comics) and Ebony Maw are his powerful and mysterious lieutenants, doing Thanos’ bidding without question. You’ll also see the Outriders, Thanos’ army (which appear in the battle of Wakanda scene in the trailer) and learn about them and their abilities. Again, you have to ignore the back story and just read it to learn about the Black Order. It will also give you a glimpse into something we may see more of down the road in the MCU… The Illuminati!

So, if you can, pick up these reads and hit the books before Friday. They are available as digital downloads so it should be easy to snag a look. See you at the movies!

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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.

Before you see “Avenger: Infinity War” you should see these essential Marvel movies

thanos-first-look-dlThe hype is nearly over. Avengers: Infinity War, the culmination of 10 years and 18 major motion pictures, is arriving on the big screen April 27. Most fans of Marvel Comics and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) knew this day was coming since we saw Thanos’ grinning face at the end of The Avengers and seeing Josh Brolin raise the Infinity Gauntlet at San Diego Comic-Con. If you don’t have the time to watch 18 Marvel movies in one sitting, then here are five “must see” Marvel movies that will help explain the basics of the MCU and lead you into the Infinity War.

IRON MANIRON MAN (2008) — This is the movie that started it all. Sure, their were plenty of previous films that carried the Marvel name, but for the MCU, this is it. There really is nothing better than watching Tony Stark create his armor from scratch and, after all non-stop action, see Samuel L Jackson’s Nick Fury talk about the “Avengers Initiative” with him. I still love watching this movie, especially the first fight he has in Gulmira; and, to be honest, this movie shows why Robert Downey Jr. is the heart of all of the MCU characters. He really embodies Tony Stark like no other. Like I said, it’s always best to start at the beginning.

THE AVENGERS (2012) — Sure, there are four other MCU movies in-between Iron Man and The Avengers, including some very good ones (Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger) but they don’t tie together until The Avengers. Not only does it bring the team together for the first time, but it also showcases Thanos’ villainy and introduces two of the six Infinity Stones… The Space Stone (the Tesseract) and the Mind Stone (Loki’s staff). At the end, we got our first glimpse of Thanos and that wicked smile of his. the best part is seeing all six of the Avengers together with Iron Man saving the day. At the end, the Tesseract heads back to Asgard for safe keeping while Loki’s staff ends up in the hands of Hydra.

Guardians_Of_The_Galaxy_Vol_2_Official_Poster_LandscapeGUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014) — Although there were other movies (Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: Winter Soldier) that were excellent movies and do play an important role in the MCU but Guardians introduces another Infinity Stone… The Power Stone. Yes, Thor: The Dark World also introduces one of the stones… The Reality Stone, but its not a great movie and it actually confuses the issue. Guardians is fun, entertaining, and brings us Thanos, his daughters (Nebula and Gamora) and how bad ass the Guardians are. To me, the music makes the movie so much better. It’s a soundtrack of my youth and I love it.

doctor_strange_ver5DOCTOR STRANGE (2016) — This is the movie that introduces magic to the MCU. Yes, we’ve actually seen magic before, as used by Loki in the Thor and Avengers movies, but it was never really explained. Remember, Thor told us that “in his world, science and magic are one in the same.” The Ancient One explains it even further as she brings Doctor Strange into the world of arcane arts, i.e. “channeling energy from other dimensions” and spells are like programs” according to the MCU. With all of this, we also get glimpse of the power behind the Time Stone, which lies inside the Eye of Agamotto. Even though Doctor Strange becomes quite proficient in using it, there is a reluctance to keep an Infinity Stone around his neck all the time.

BLACK PANTHER (2018) — To be honest, this movie doesn’t tie into the whole scheme of things all that much. We know from the Avengers: Infinity War trailer that a major battle takes place in Wakanda, so it’s good to get to know all the players. I just had to put this here because, in all honesty, this was one of the best Marvel movies I’ve seen in a while. The story of T’Challa and his journey to the mantle of King, Protector, and Warrior for his people was a simple one, and yet, this movie put it together perfectly. It had just the right amount of action, comedy, and drama. I was glued to my seat from beginning to end. This was a true Marvel movie and it’s a great lead-in to Infinity War.

There are a lot of other great additions to this list. I mean, all three Captain America movies were, to me, the best series out of all 18 MCU movies. There were good and bad (yes, I’m looking right at you Iron Man 3 and Thor: Ragnarok) but they all played some small part in leading up to these next two major motion pictures. With Ant Man and the Wasp and Captain Marvel coming next, the final phase of the MCU is coming to a close.

And then, guess what… It starts again! Excelsior!

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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.