I am a natural born myth geek. Give me a bunch of squabbling demi-gods with sinister agendas, herculean heroes on impossible quests, and a magic-infused bejeweled weapon or two and I’m in mythic heaven. The concept of Soul Warrior grew from that obsession, and this burning question: what if we take away the metaphor from mythology?
What makes a hero? What is magic? What if Gods literally walk among us? What if Heaven and Hell and every realm in between exists? And what if India’s magical, ancient past isn’t its past at all?
Soul Warrior is an urban fantasy novel based in the cultural myths of India. It’s the first book in the Age of Kali series, and its protagonists are Karna and Draupadi, two central characters from the ancient Indian epic, the Mahabharata. The geek in me couldn’t resist tinkering with that data and just had to pen “Marvel’s Thor with an epic Indian star cast, and a dash of Bollywood drama.”
What is myth?
Very simplistically, myth is the story of a certain people. The study of these beliefs, customs, fables and sacred texts is called mythology.
So, why is adopting myth into SFF (science fiction and fantasy) novels so popular?
Aside from the rich, readymade mythology that the world currently offers as kindling to set ablaze an author’s relentless imagination—be it Indian, Greek, Egyptian, Aztec etcetera—the ancient and not-so-ancient folklores are an anecdotal window into the human condition. Who are we? Why are we here? Where did we come from? Where are we going? What is our future? These questions have been asked since the beginning of conscious time, and each culture or mythos attempts to answer them in their own way. Great themes for any kind of fiction or non-fiction, don’t you think? Certainly for SFF.
Cultural mythology, quite possibly, is the very first offerings of speculative fiction. For Soul Warrior, or even my contemporary romance novels, I had to look no further than my dusty Amar Chitra Kathas (Indian comic books) for story ideas. Amar Chitra Katha literally translates to “eternal picture tales” and they draw material from the vast and ancient mythos of India. India also claims the honor of penning the oldest and longest epics in the world—the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.
Ramayana tells the story of the archetypical hero, Ram, the ideal man, who rescues his wife, Sita, from an evil demon named Ravana with the help of an army of monkeys, only to abandon her soon after to please his human subjects. The Mahabharata is a grander epic where generations of disagreements between two warring factions culminate in an apocalyptic war that wipes out most of humanity. While heavy in philosophy and the ideal way of life, both epics describe in some detail flying vehicles (vimana), nuclear-type weapons (divya astra), voice-activated (mantra) weapons, and what happens when they are deployed. They also portray the existence and purpose of supernatural beings, magic, extra-terrestrial worlds—in other words, all kinds of SFF goodies. So really, with such a fantastic playing field, writing mythic fantasy was a no-brainer for geeky me.
If I may exaggerate, most Indians begin to hear the classic versions of the epics from when they’re in their mother’s womb. It’s part of our DNA. Ever gratefully, I have taken at will what I wanted from India’s handy mythology, and hopefully have managed to twist and fit the ancient stories into my modern work with delicate precision without compromising their integrity, or making them unrecognizable to their familiars.
To readers who are not familiar with Indian myths, put on your seatbelts and get onboard for the adventure ride that is Soul Warrior (the Age of Kali, #1).
Thanks for reading.
Falguni Kothari is a New York-based hybrid author, and an amateur Latin and Ballroom dance silver medalist with a semi-professional background in Indian Classical dance. She writes in a variety of genres sewn together by the colorful and cultural threads of her South Asian heritage and expat experiences. She’s published in India in contemporary fiction with global e-book availability, and will launch her mythic fantasy series, The Age of Kali, in November of 2015. When not writing or dancing or being house-wifey, she fools around on all manner of social media, and loves to connect with readers. Falguni can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and FalguniKothari.com.