Category Archives: Unlikely Inspirations

The Legend of Prince Valiant logo

Prince Valiant Title Sequence: Unlikely Inspirations

Arthurian myths play a big role in The Fey Man. You might think I read and researched a lot of those myths. Perhaps you have a romantic image of me in a montage of reading books, cross-referencing articles, leafing furiously through pages before finally falling asleep on a pile of books, glasses askew. Perhaps you don’t. But whilst I was inspired by the myths, I also took inspiration from another source: the title sequence for The Legend of Prince Valiant.

Time for a confession: I was never a fan of Prince Valiant. I watched it, because I’d watch any old rubbish as a kid. But if there was something else on, I’d watch that. The Legend of Prince Valiant was too slow, too mundane for the tastes of a boy who thought Teenage Mutant Turtles were the best thing since sliced pizza. But the title sequence always stuck with me. I suspect it was the power ballad.

It was definitely the power ballad.

It might sound daft, but I’m fairly certain this sixty second video has influenced my entire thinking of the Arthurian myth. It’s full of sun symbology, brave knights galloping, and everyone is standing about proudly and bearing arms to the sounds of 80s enthusiasm. It speaks of a golden age of chivalry and, well, valiance. And then, towards the end, there’s an old man slumped in a throne. Completely at odds to everything else. Even old Merlin is doing the whole standing proudly thing. But Arthur seems fed up with it all. Or defeated. Surrounded by all this hope and purpose and yet unable to feel it.

And doesn’t that exactly sum up the myth of Arthur? His rule is meant to be a golden age. But, like all halcyon days, it’s too good to be true. It falters and fails. So instead the myth casts another ray of hope, that Arthur will return one day and bring about a true golden age. Yet it’s a vain hope. Those days will never come again. Even if Arthur did come back, how could he bring that time with him? The past has passed and doesn’t return. That old man slumped in his throne is aware of the lie of his legend.

Or am I reading way to much into a cartoon title sequence?

Link and Navi from the Ocarina of Time

Ocarina of Time: Unlikely Inspirations

One of the characters in The Fey Man is Dank, a boy covered in bizarre tattoos who has a little sprite living in his skin. This fay can push its way in and out of his body, at great pain to Dank, but whilst it’s within him he’s connected to the fay. He can share their thoughts, their memories and knowledge. And that character wouldn’t exist if not for Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

Anyone who’s played Ocarina of Time will already know that the playable character is a boy named Link, who is accompanied by a little fairy called Navi. Navi is a game mechanic to provide hints, reminders, and to demand that you listen. Generally Navi floats around objects of interest or provides hints as to what to do next. But, when you are at rest, she will sometimes disappear under Link’s clothing. You can see it below in the animated GIF my brother made for me (thanks Chris!)

Animated GIF of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Anyway, one day, I wondered if she wasn’t actually disappearing under Link’s skin.

I know. My thoughts worry me too, sometimes.

But this thought actually became key, not just to Dank, but to the very nature of the fay in the Fair Folk series.

It seemed a given that Navi’s body wouldn’t remain intact inside Link. She’d have to dissipate inside him. And if her body was dissipated, so were her thoughts. A fairy wouldn’t endow the boy with any physical benefits by existing inside him. But mental benefits? Sharing thoughts? That made sense.

And that’s what made me think that maybe all fay shared thoughts. Because sharing thoughts with a single fay didn’t seem enough of a benefit to me. But if the fay all shared thoughts? Then linking to one would get you access to thousands of immortal memories. That sort of knowledge might be worth pain, mental intrusion, and a sacrifice of your own personality to something greater. Or, at least, something you were told would be greater.

So that blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment in Ocarina of Time turned out to be pretty important for the Fair Folk Series. Without it, there would have been no Dank, and the fay might not have shared a mind, which is pivotal when Tom finds the tomb of Cairnidol in The Unquiet Sword.

Oh, but you haven’t read that bit yet, have you?

Cryo’s Dune: Unlikely Inspirations

I think nearly every writer can point to a single book, film, comic or somesuch and say “that’s why I’m a writer”. It might not be the only cause, but it’s a primary cause. The blame falls mostly at its feet. Most writers seem to point to classics in their genre, be it Lord of the Rings for fantasy writers, Star Wars for science fiction writers, or anything by Stephen King for horror writers. I must come clean, though; my major inspiration is rather unusual.

Frank Herbert’s Dune is a masterpiece of science fiction, a piece of work that you can return to again and again and find something new each time. Dune packs in the power and danger of religion, the role of the figurehead, the influence we have on our environment and vice versa, undermines the hero’s journey as he takes it, and much more. It’s an epic book and it’s been hugely influential; without it we probably wouldn’t have Star Wars. It’s been a huge literary influence on me and I think everything I write, no matter how unrelated, probably contains in it a nod to Dune.

The truth is, though, that my inspiration lies not with the book, but with a lacklustre spin-off: Cryo’s Dune. An adventure/real-time-strategy video game that would make a PS3 owner gag (check out this short video to see the early 90s cutting edge graphics!), it’s based loosely on the novel but fails to encompass the themes, the drama, even the distinctive authorial voice. The gameplay is linear and the player simply clicks what the game tells him to click when it tells him to click it. It is, in short, not a good game. But it managed to incorporate the magic of Dune and I encountered it before the novel, so the faces and voices are what I see and hear when I read it.

Cryo’s Dune is my guilty pleasure and I replay it on a regular basis. I’m also a little embarrassed to say that I own the game soundtrack and listen to it even more regularly.

But as much as you may judge me for that, the truth is it led me directly to the book, which in turn led me to the greater world of science fiction and genre fiction as a whole. And so I owe it a debt for every SF book I’ve read, every fantasy film I’ve seen and pretty much every story I’ve ever written. Cryo’s Dune is the cause for it all.

Do you have an unlikely inspiration for your writing? Let me know in the comments. Don’t be shy; I’m sure it’s not as odd as mine!