Influences of the Imagient King
The Imagient King is a series that I have worked on and off for about ten years now. It has changed multiple times, and in this first set of edits, I see that I have been influenced by a lot of mediums. The three most consistent influences to my work are fantasy novels, anime, and live-action films. There are other smaller influences like my knowledge of history, my love of video games, and a few other things that have inspired me over the years, but for the sake of keeping this a bit more precise in this blog post I will talk about how literature particularly fantasy books, anime and a special anime influenced western cartoon as well as live action films and tv series have inspired and changed the way that this book was written.
Imagient King is a coming of age/high fantasy series so it is no surprise that I was inspired by fantasy books. The four big ones are probably Lord of the Rings by Tolkein, Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan, Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson, and most interestingly Journey to the West the great Chinese epic. Each of these have contributed as an influence to me in multiple ways, some more than others.
My earliest literary influences come in the form of the Star Wars novels that I read as a small child. I mostly read nonfiction in elementary school, and most of that was dinosaur books since I wanted to be a paleontologist at a young age. The in middle School I picked up and read The Hobbit for the first time, partial inspired by Lord of the Rings which came out around the same time. I also remember watching The Hobbit animated film in one of my classes for some reason.
Tolkien is one of my first memories when it came to literature that was of the fictional variety. I had read monster and mystery novellas as a child, and even read Harry Potter, but Tolkien particularly The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings are still series that I really related to. The journey of a hobbit and dwarves across Middle Earth helped carve in my imagination the idea of a journey that needed to be completed.
In middle school I read beyond fantasy an that included a lot of scientific and philosophy books. I encountered C.S. Lewis a contemporary of Tolkien and author of the Chronicles of Narnia. It was my love of fantasy and medieval combat that I made friends in both middle school and high school. One such friend introduced me to the works of Robert Jordan, and from there I started to read The Wheel of Time series. I also read the Ranger's Apprentice series around this time, but The Wheel of Time has a much more important role to play in terms of the development of The Imagient King.
I was so enthralled by the world that Robert Jordan created in The Wheel of Time that it consumed me. I loved the characters, I loved the world building, I could see the influence of Asian philosophy and culture interwoven into Robert Jordan's material that it influenced me a fan of Japanese video games and anime to delve deeper into epic fantasy for more reads and influences.
This love of Jordan along with my love to create my own characters and my own worlds would be the basis for me created the story of The imagients, and the Imagient King as a whole. The early ideas of a princess from the east meeting up with a blacksmith from a farming town was birthed in high school, and the original idea for the story was eerily very similar to Jordan's Wheel of Time series.
So one could say that Jordan is the first and biggest influence on my writing and of the developmental process of the Imagient King as he inspired me to write. Although, I would leave the basic manuscript and ideas that I started in high school, the basic plot that revolved around a blacksmith who has a destiny being reveled by his mixing of paths with a princess from the East became the inspiration for Imagient King in the future.
After high school I went to college and it is here where I for the most part stopped reading fantasy. I was a history major, particularly interested in Asian culture. I read tons of Asian primary sources in my courses and developed an appreciation for Asian storytelling. I was already a fan of Japanese anime, but most of Japanese literature is based on Confucian and Buddhist teachings from China. The biggest of which is Journey from the West, and it would be my next biggest influence.
Journey to the West is an epic tale of a monk who sets forth on a journey fighting monsters and traveling to India to get the sacred texts of the Buddha. That by itself is similar to the story of the first Imagient King book- A blacksmith along with a princess from the East travels west to a library to find out about his past and his destiny. I won't say that I stole that from Journey to the West, as Journey to the West is a very spiritually themed story, and that summary is not necessarily what Journey to the West is about, but the influence is supposed to be there. Just like Dragon Ball author Akira Toriyama was inspired by Journey to the West, so was I, and the first book which is pretty much a giant chase scene, but inspired by Journey to the West structurally.
The Chinese have inspired many Japanese and other Asian films and books, but we don't see a lot of Western fantasy based on Asian history or culture. Most fantasy is European based, due to the Tolkien worship, but Jordan defiantly influenced by Hindu and Buddhist religions used those inspirations to create the religion and culture of Randland or whatever you want to call his world he created in Wheel of Time. I was more of a fan of Confucian views, which ironically Journey to the West satirizes. So, you will see probably some very Confucius principles in my writings.
I left school with my history degree and Asian Studies minor, not really knowing what the future would hold. I needed to focus on my future, but I would eventually start to work on my draft for Imagient King I was interested in reading contemporary fantasy novels. The one that was recommended by a friend was Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson. I didn't know what to expect as many readers either hate Erikson's books or love them. I became a part of the latter, and it is probably because we have similar backgrounds.
Steven Erikson is an anthropologist with an archaeologist background who fell into role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons and Gurps. I myself am a historian with knowledge in paleontology who loves playing role playing games. When I created lore for the stories I wanted to create as a teenager and young adult I obsessed over lore and setting. Erikson's first book in his Malazan series, Gardens of the Moon is very much so in this vein.
Gardens of the Moon was originally going to be a film script according to Erikson, and then after that was canned he was going to turn it into an RPG setting like Gurps or Dungeons and Dragons. Although, this could probably still be done, sometime later Erikson turned Gardens of Moon into a novel series and along with his friend Ian C. Esslemont would created the shared universe of Malazan.
This inspired me to continue building lore and focusing on making my world as realistic as I could, not so in the since of making it realistically based in reality, but making the characters feel like real people with something at stake. Creating a world and society that seemed believable, not just some fantasy fodder world that people had seen before. Erikson's attention to detail allowed me to continue with what I was doing and helped me craft my setting and tone in a new way.
Beyond literature my biggest hobby is that of watching animation particularly Japanese anime. I have been an anime fan since I saw Pokemon when I was in the second grade. My love or more realistically my obsession has just grown since then. Anime is an interesting medium, because unlike American animation which focuses on children anime focuses on genres and story arcs. If you watch adult animation in the states it is mostly stuff like Family Guy, The Simpsons, South Park which is mostly potty mouth humor. There are not story arcs, even in kid shows. The closest thing was the Justice League, Batman, and Superman shows in the nineties and early two thousands, and even then they don't concentrate on the story and plot like anime do.
Anime as a medium have characters and stories to tell that may seen strange and bizarre to a majority of westerners. Since I was enthralled early on, and loved the characters and stories presented and latter delved into Japanese culture I came to respect the medium even more. It became my main hobby, and more often not on my free time I am watching anime, it has become that important part of my life.
The anime that truly probably inspired me the most is actually in truth not an actual anime, but an anime influenced cartoon known as Avatar: The Last Airbender. Avatar actually does a lot of things superior to most modern anime creating a world that is interesting and characters who are instantly likable. It showed duality between two sides which was an inspiration for me to focus not just on my heroes and heroines, but show the side of the villains and antagonists as well. Both are proactive, and both have hopes and dreams. That is probably the biggest literary thing I learned from the Avatar series.
It is not the only inspiration I have taken from the Avatar series. The simple elemental system used in Avatar inspired my magic system of elementology that I use. My system is a bit more complicated that the one that is used in Avatar, but it is very similar in nature. The way that the benders in the Avatar series use their elemental abilities also inspired me when developing the abilities of my own characters.
My characters themselves were not influenced by Avatar, nor was my world. Although, it is anime influenced much like my own writings other anime series helped me influence my characters and world building. Moribito, in terms of my characters is probably one of the more obvious ones. Moribito is an anime series that is based on a novel of the same name that centers around a middle aged woman named Balsa. Not only is that quite unorthodox the characters in the anime series are quite complex. The complex nature of someone like Balsa who does jobs as a mercenary to redeem herself inspired me to make my heroes and especially my heroines have passions, dreams and be strong characters.
Moribito had a great Asian influenced fantasy setting as well, and helped me craft some of my lore and setting, but for the most part Malazan and Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere helped inspire my setting and lore. Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere is an anime series that itself is based off a light novel series notorious for not being so “light” in size. It is one of my most loved anime series, and despite the fact that it gets a lot of hate for it's use of fan service I still love it. The world building, the setting is grand in scope. Much like Malazan.
Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere is a science-fiction based light novel series that has a massive cast of characters much like epic fantasy. The characters are also a part of the smaller scale of the world and eventually involve themselves with the greater problems facing the world head on. That is the tone of my series as well. The first three novels of the Imagient King the main protagonists are small scale and only doing their own tasks and duties while a much biggest threat looms that they don't face directly. Eventually after Li and Tsuna form their destiny, they will tackle the larger issues in the last three books.
The big deal in Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere is the world is ending, the Apocalypse. It isn't that serious in my book series, and also isn't as weird and outlandish like Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere. It is a much more simpler tale than ending the Apocalypse. The first three novels follow Li and Tsuna's destiny, and then the last three show what they will do to carve their own path.
I don't watch that much films or television anymore, but I do enjoy me a good fantasy film. Lord of the Rings as a film franchise influenced me to read The Hobbit which kickstarted my love of fantasy so film as a medium has influenced me. However, the biggest film series to influence my writing is probably Star Wars. It is obvious that something like Star Wars would influence me, I loved the Star Wars children books when I was little, I loved the first trilogy, and I love the new series of films and lore.
Star Wars has inspired me to write strong characters and always have a bit of mystical and magical qualities. Unlike, George Lucas I know I am writing a fantasy series and won't ruin it by bringing in midoclorians. But, despite my personal misgivings about George Lucas as a writer, his writings and lore that he built for Star Wars are inspirational. Star Wars doesn't have a great plot, it is just stole from films and myths.
It is the characters that are most important in Star Wars, we care about Luke, Leia, and Han Solo. Yes, the characters are essentially tropes, but they are at least written well. We don't delve too much into character development with these characters, but it is interesting to see Luke follow the heroes journey.
The Force is an interesting and unique in it's implementation in the original Star Wars. Instead of just using magic, although the Force is essentially magic, it has it's own rules and boundaries. In tern this inspired me to develop imagitechs. Imagitechs started out trying to find a way to over power saiyans from DBZ, but thanks to my love of Star Wars lore, and creating the elementology system I would create a magical system of my own with it's own rules and boundaries similar to that of the force.
Star Wars was great, but as I have already stated it is a pretty generic story told in a very unorthodox way. I still love it, but I began to understand that in high school Lucas was partiality inspired by Akira Kurosawa. The Hidden Fortress is one of the most credited films in history, and is a huge influence to Star Wars particularly A New Hope. The Hidden Fortress is told by the perspective of two peasants who are pretty incompetent, but there is a princess, a samurai and a journey.
I won't really say that The Hidden Fortress has inspired me beyond that. The princess in my story is the driving force, and one of the most proactive characters. The samurai or bodygaurd could be seen in both Li and in Tyvan. But I don't really have peasant characters who goof off like in The Hidden Fortress.
When it comes to Akira Kurosawa my main influence is that of Kagemusha, which is one of my favorite films ever. Kagemusha is partially inspired by the tale of Shingen Takeda a warlord or diamyo in the Japanese Warring States period. It helped me envision how life in an asian culture and land would be like. Kagemusha helped create the idea of the Omi Empire, and the culture that lived there. Although, the Omi Empire would evolve to be a very Japanese influenced culture I would add a very Chinese bureaucratic system and have some Korean motifs such as a strong navy, strong walls, and Korean architecture.
Kagemusha also helped shape a political and historical based drama that was different than anything I saw in modern fantasy. It inspired me to take from asian history and culture to create a world that was not like anything in contemporary fantasy. Asian politics and culture is something that interests me, so as I researched it using Kagemusha as a basis it helped me draft a better understanding on how a culture like that would work in a fantasy setting.
The fantasy setting that I ended up crafting for the novel was one that had multicultural influences, the Imagients were a culture of invaders, warriors and aristocrats. They fought with each other as much as they fought with the native Imagient mianthi. It was a chaotic struggle for life and death in the Imagience inspired by historical fiction, fantasy literature, anime, and television. Many might see influence from Game of Thrones, and I won't detract that I have not been influenced by the tv series or even George RR Martin's fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, but these other influences outweigh I think any comparisons between Martin and me.
My writing was influenced by fantasy novels, by anime and animation in general, by video games, television and by Asian films. I crafted a world based on these influences. I made characters to inhabit this world, and The Imagient King is the series that is dedicated to telling the stories of the Imagients and humans who live in The Imagience. It is just through the lens of a blacksmith who has a heroic destiny and of a runaway princess who will soon face her own destiny.
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A.L. Hornbeck, historian, author, metalhead, and all around geek.