Monday, October 20, 2014

Inspirations for In the Shadows of Myrmidons

Now I'm not a huge Stephen King fan, his ideas are cool at times, but his writing style just doesn't do much for me. I've read a few of his books, and tried to like a few others without success, it just didn't work out. That's no bash on him, it's just a fact, though I did enjoy his book, "On Writing".

Somewhere, I once had seen a list of novels King had read while he was writing certain novels of his own. I don't recall any of them, and couldn't tie his story to elements in anything he was writing, but I thought it was interesting that he read so avidly while still pounding his own stuff out. It was also cool to see what kinds of stuff a man like him read.

I'm not, and never will be on that level of Stephen King, but this blog is for those who have read the novel (link) or wonder what inspired writers to do what they did. Nowadays especially, most of the original ideas are used up, so people (Tarantino, and also those in my generation especially) are often left doing "homages" or outright plagiarism of the cool stuff we liked. I hope that the stuff that ended up in Myrmidons is original enough not to be a ripoff, but gives credit to the greats that came before. I certainly did try to spin things a little differently than my predecessors, and made extra efforts not to totally be enslaved to the tropes.

So here's what inspired me. While I have read a lot, I did a lot less as I was writing a novel, therefore, most of what influenced me was from the visual medium. TV, Movies, and videogames that I watched during the process or long ago. Though to be fair, my personal writing style for novels was irredeemably influenced by the Star Wars novels. You'll note that in Myrmidons, it's got a touch of that style, the heroes are together, split up for a bit of adventure, reconnect and finish together. It's hopefully not too formulaic, and I certainly didn't do it on purpose. I just found it to be a fun way to read stories, have multiple storylines going, and keep a reader's interest when I read. It's probably why I find it hard to read many novels that don't have multiple storylines like that.

At any rate, here's some of the fictional stuff that influenced me at least. I hope it's not too much of a giveaway to the magic. Most of these are film. There's not too many spoilers, so here goes.

The gangs and overall tone of the story:

Kung Fu Hustle - of course inspired the creation and central threat of the Pink Shirt Gang. The Axe Gang was deadly, but at the same time kind of silly. They were a serious threat, and absurd. The whole movie bounced back and forth between the two. One minute, a dude get bit on the lips by a poisonous snake, the next, someone is dying at the hands of an assasin.

This, more than anything, I hope set the tone of the novel and the threat to our heroes. Snake and his friends deal with some serious stuff, but there's also some silly moments. So the tone of Kung Fu Hustle was the biggest influence, and the rest was the idea of in deadly, yet silly/dancing gang taking everyone else over.

On a side note, Stephen Chow's "Flirting Scholar" is also hilarious.

Last dragon - kind of the same sort of deal here. The tone influenced the Myrmidons novel. Our hero, Bruce Leroy, was facing a serious threat in the form of Sho Nuff, and Eddie Arcadian was a thug, but at the same time, the movie had plenty of funny moments.

Intentionally or not.

This movie also has a quasi modern, urban setting which wasn't so much an influence, but did help add flavor in the editing process and in adding a few references.

On a movie night, this film would make a good double feature with kung fu hustle.

West side story - in the original version of the story, Nick had a scene with Snake and friends having a smug-off with their antagonists which involved Shakespeare banter and singing and dancing gangs. Singing and dancing gangs were somehow a staple of the original version of Myrmidons. This to me of course brought West Side Story to my memory. Unfortunately. I did rewatch it, and I'm sure it influenced me somehow.

Feel free to analyze that one.

The Warriors - this movie is highly overrated, though still worth watching. It's bad enough that I'm surprised they never watched it on mst3k. But in spots its bad in a good way, and that's what saves it from riffing probably.

I watched it to be inspired and didn't get much out of it. My main take away was probably the idea of absurd gangs and that helped me think outside the box...I guess. Then again, Nick and I had always envisioned eccentric gangs. Maybe it just showed me that colorful gangs still can be a serious threat.

The Cross and The Switchblade / Run Baby Run - though there is a movie for Cross, I didn't watch it. Rather, I read the books. Not only are these two books, one of the greatest true life stories I've ever read, they helped me see the real side of gangs, and most importantly, the human side.

Though I wanted the gangs in Myrmidons to be serious, but still a little silly, I also wanted them to feel real and be human.

These two books here really show the bleak side of life in the gangs. Though Myrmidons doesn't do these books justice, I hope that they at least helped me touch the subject with some respect.

The superheroes:

Batman Begins - in high school when Nick and I wrote this stuff, realism wasn't a prime thought. For me, that changed with Batman Begins. Batman showed not so much the gritty side of superheroics, but rather what they might look like for real if someone started doing hero stuff.

Batman definitely inspired me to try adding a level of believability to Myrmidons, and that realism also, I hope, helps me put a new and unique spin on super hero tropes and clich├ęs.

Because I'm Batman!

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm - I wish I had rewatched this movie earlier. It's the best Batman movie out there. I'd say the main take aways were the super hero origin being told with a love story as well as the hero facing a present threat or two.

This movie is epic, and so complex for "kids" fare. It's a masterpiece.

Unbreakable - mainly this movie was a realistic take on a superhero. That's what I got from it.

Buffy (movie and tv) - I guess it inspired me somehow...

Mainly in how it shows a high school student trying to live life, get through school and fight monsters. I'd advise against wasting too much time on it though...

The Incredibles - ah yes, The Incredibles. This film is also great, and the main take away here was that super heroics could be outlawed. And that some heroes would escape and lie low, still doing good.

Though to be fair, Nick had posed the idea of some sort of official authority presiding over super hero affairs as far back as 1997, suggesting that some sort of legislation had been in effect. We then toyed with the idea of rules and bylaws that super heroes were to follow. Initially this judicial authority was just a neutral bureaucracy chafing the heroes, things changed.

I took it a little bit further after influence from the next two entries

They Live - the idea that our perceptions could be clouded by, I guess, alien technology to blind us to their presence as they run the show among us, was quite terrifying. Not to mention that it makes the battle look that much more impossible.

In Myrmidons, somehow this has been done to all of humanity to erase the memories that superheroes had existed. Some nefarious villain had defeated the heroes, and effectively erased them.

I guess the connection to They Live is that the masses had been deceived.

Dark City - is another film that plays with memory, and how humanity has been messed with by sinister forces to forget the truth. In the movie, men in black (MIBs) alter the memories of each person, and the landscape to experiment how different people experience the same memories.

In Myrmidons, Mr. Suit seems to have a way to do this telepathically, but it's more tied in with the larger conspiracy, yet to be revealed.

A bigger influence on me than this was reading about UFO abductions as a kid, where false memories are said to abound, and men in black often appear. I'd say Dark City just showed me how those ideas could work in a fictional setting, and overall, I didn't take alot from it, or they live. Though together, with the Incredibles, a conspiracy storyline was born! The X-Files was probably another influence as well.

Boys From Brazil - speaking of conspiracies, this film is about one of the biggest conspiracies of our modern era. Namely, that the Nazis survived WWII (really, many did, but who knows if it was like this or not) and were plotting a rise to power in the future. Brazil had them trying to clone Hitler. While this film didn't directly inspire the Nazi conspiracy in the deep background of Myrmidons, it helped solidify it.

It only makes sense that if Nazi leaders and mad scientists still lived after the war, they'd be up to no good. This movie was a cool movie, and the idea of Nazis continuing in the background with weird genetic experiments was the main take away.

Weird Al's song "Midnight Star" also gives us one last clue how such a conspiracy ties into the story, for those few stalwart souls who make it to the end of Myrmidons.

And my friend, Mr. Lee said the only PC bad guys are robots, aliens and Nazis...

Mitchell (as seen on mst3k) - Mst3k has been a huge influence on my life, and you'll probably pick out more than a few references to MST3K throughout the novel. The most overt, of course would be Police Liaison Officer Mitchell.

I don't think I even need to explain it.

Earthbound - the videogame, Earthbound was also a huge influence on this novel. The masks worn by Los Tiburones were inspired by the Sharks from Earthbound. (Given that I am now an official supporter of the the Cronulla Sharks Rugby Team, this is especially fitting I guess).

I would also say that a number of other references are probably also made throughout Myrmidons, and if Myrmidons was a videogame, I'd want it to be like Earthbound.

Also, the Handsome Phils were going to be the Handsome Toms originally. The Handsome Toms are enemy puppets that appear in Earthbound, but somehow the name Phils jumped out at me, and I went with it.


So there you have it.


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