Are witches becoming popular again?

Cover of "The Worst Witch (Young Puffin S...

Cover via Amazon

Okay, this is probably going to be at odds with other articles you will see around the web but a couple of days ago, I came across a Guardian article talking about witchcraft and witches returning to popular culture in the wake of the Vampires and Werewolves trend. You can read it for yourself here.

The article mentions that various US television networks are starting to show different shows with witch protagonists, suggesting that this is the place that the trend is showing the strongest.

The only thing I took from it originally (it was late at night when I first read it) was the fact that Jill Murphy had published a new Worst Witch book. Not really surprising since she has released new books in the series recently however I did not recognise any of the other books or authors mentioned.

Today, I went to my local Waterstones and as I was browsing and picking up a book (or four!), I found myself unconsciously looking for books about witches. The result? I saw nothing to vindicate The Guardian’s article. I realise it is probably a trend that is just starting to find its feet but if there is a rising interest in books and other media about witches, why can’t I seem to see or find media about witches? Even in HMV, when looking, I couldn’t find anything about witches, not even on the shelves they had set aside for Halloween.

This evening, I returned to the article in question and re-read it. The result was the same. I decided to do some digging and had a look at the Waterstones and WH Smith websites in their best sellers generic listings and the best sellers for fantasy. Nothing.

The only patterns I could find was that vampire books are still popular and other authors, who had always been popular, like Terry Pratchett and Ben Aaronovitch, were still up there in the best sellers lists. A look on Orbit UK, Puffin and Gollancz future publishing schedules show none of this supposed trend. All I found was the tail end of the vampires craze and new books from established authors and series. (This is generalised I hasten to stress!)

So it has got me thinking about whether witches are becoming popular again or if, actually, witches (and wizards) had always been popular in their own way and had never really gone away?

I feel it is a valid question to ask.

A very brief survey of some of my friends from NaNoWriMo (just over 24 hours away!)  revealed that they thought that has been a small rise in popularity but it could easily be an offshoot to the vampires craze. Also, confirming what I suspected, was the fact that paranormal creatures and beings had never really gone out of style. It’s just that the focus of attention shifts.

Cover of "Harry Potter and the Philosophe...

Cover of Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone

The article mentions Charmed from the late 1990’s and that got me thinking about the fact that Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was released in 1997, during the same time period. The Harry Potter series has gone from strength to strength and continued being popular long after the end of witches popularity. The series has been so popular it has spawned spin-off books, a film series, a theme park and many other types of merchandise and not least of all, the recent news of JK Rowling wanting to return to the world of Potter and start writing a new spin-off series.

In the adults market, Ben Aaronovitch has gained success with his Peter Grant novels, featuring a London police officer and the country’s only remaining wizard. As well as them, there has also been Benedict Jacka’s Alex Verus novels. These are just two series that I read that feature wizards and witches (though in Jacka’s books, they are known as mages).

Then there are the popular Dresden Files books by Jim Butcher, the only wizard in the phone book. These books are on my to read list and Butcher has recently released a new book in the series.

So books about witches and wizards have always been popular, bubbling away beneath the hubbub of the vampire’s (and werewolves) craze. They sell and create series. Jacka has talked about this in his most recent blog post. He is talking about urban fantasy books in general but his comments are correct: “For every Sookie Stackhouse or Dresden Files, there are twenty or thirty urban fantasy series that fizzle out” (Jacka, Benedict. (2013). Alex Verus: The Future (Continued). [Online]. Available at http://benedictjacka.co.uk/2013/10/25/alex-verus-the-future-continued/).

So maybe witches are not becoming popular again as suggested in the Guardian article but instead the spotlight and attention is being shifted to a new type of character within the fantasy genre. Whilst talking with my friends about this, I had the thought that perhaps that maybe the reason I had not seen much in the way of different media having prominent witch characters is that perhaps we are just on the cusp of a new craze. I put this theory to them and they agreed that perhaps, that is the case.

I think that is my theory then. We are on the cusp of a new craze, a craze that is just starting to spread its wings. The interest in these types of books and stories have always been there but it’s now going to experience a new resurgence and people are just beginning to notice.

Or perhaps, it’s just something that is going to fizzle out to nothing.

 

JK Rowling to pen Harry Potter spin-off film-BBC News

YAY! JK Rowling is making her big screen début as a screenwriter by turning the Hogwarts textbook (which she actually wrote as an actual book for Comic Relief) into a film. In collaboration with Warner Brothers, the film will focus on Newt Scamander, the fictional author of the book, and be set in New York, 70 years before Harry‘s story begins.

This film will not be a prequel or a sequel to the original book series but an extension to the world. More information and the BBC Article can be found here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-24067557

 

Fan fiction: Is it a good thing?

This post I was going to do, not last week but the week before but because I have been waiting for replies on Google Plus (got nothing back) and due to life getting in the way, I have had to delay writing this. But since it is now obvious that I am not about to get anything from Google, I figured I might as well get on with writing it.

Warning: I may ramble!

I write fan fiction. I like to write it. It’s fun and sometimes, when I have writer’s block or I am just generally a bit stuck on another piece of work to get on with it, I turn to fan fiction just to chill out and work on something that doesn’t necessarily require me to think.

Personally, out of all the shows and games and books I read watch and play, I tend to always fall back to Digimon fan fiction, based on the two original Digimon Adventure series’ and the movie. I have written copious amounts of Final Fantasy 7: Advent Children fiction (looking back on that, it is horrible! And my OC is a dreadful Mary-Sue!), my first few stories include an unfinished Flint The Time Detective story over on FanFiction.Net (that is even worse than the Advent Children stuff!) and I have written the odd Doctor Who flash fictions (they were written more recently and are not too bad) but I always seem to return to Digimon.

Why though? Why Digimon? And why write fan fiction at all?

I recently got thinking about these questions when, once again, I found myself writing a bit of Digimon fan fiction during a period of writers block.

For the Digimon question, my brain quickly decided that it was because the world of Digimon is enormous, with just the first two series (and the movie) alone. It is wide open and that there must be many more digi-destined and digital stories still to tell. There are so many possibilities that the world almost leaves itself open for fans to come up with their own stories and imagine themselves in that world. Who would be my Digimon partner? And what could the world teach me and my partner?

I believe that other shows and books (mostly!) also offer these opportunities, like Pokémon, Hogwarts from J.K. Rowling‘s Harry Potter series and even maybe Miss Cackle‘s Academy for Young Witches from Jill Murphy‘s Worst Witch series. (Doctor Who and Flint probably doesn’t fit in with this but hey! These shows are about time travel and Time is a big ball of wibbley, wobbley, time-y whimey…STUFF!)

These worlds are large, the locations lend themselves to these sorts of ideas and allow fans of the shows to insert themselves or an OC (Original Character) of their making into the world and create their own stories.

For a new writer, this sort of set up, a set world, set characters, etc. is excellent and allows the writer to get right into story without having to worry about explaining much. Friends of mine who I spoke to whilst researching this noted that there is a lot of bad writing out there, set characters going out of character (sometimes simply because the writer is unable to write that type of character and some terrible abuses of the original owners work. This is always going to happen unfortunately.

I have seen others discuss this and I know others say that fan fiction is not good, it’s cheating, it’s not respecting the owners, etc. but I feel these reasons are complete utter rubbish. So long as there is respect and attempts at least keeping characters intact then I don’t think there is an issue. For new writers, who are just starting to learn their craft, I think fan fiction is great. Because it is new writers, there can be allowance for bad writing and some justification for the characters going awry from their original intent.

I also agree with something a friend said about writers bringing their own ideas to fan fiction. The friend said that writers often write the stuff the show/book/game writers never thought of and writing the things that they think should or should have happened. The example the friend gave was of the show Supernatural. I do not watch this show so I am just going on what the friend said and what I have seen on Tumblr. Apparently, fans just want Sam and Castiel (is that right?) to hug. This is the subject of a few fan fictions.

Despite not watching Supernatural, I do agree, as I said, with the friend’s point. I know in the Digimon fandom, there are some fan fictions of what happened to Wizardmon after his death, particularly as they did not like the idea that his data was not sent back to the digital world and he did not reconfigure there.

So why write fan fiction?

I believe people write it to express their love of the show, give their own opinions what should (or should not!) have happened and to give new writers a platform to begin, learn and develop their skills. One other friend of mine also noted that new writers might not feel confident enough initially to begin writing their own new, original material and need some where safe to begin.

I agree with all of this. I started writing fan fiction when I started writing. I had only just had it pointed out to me that I had a skill for writing, I had no idea how to develop my skills, where to start, how to come up with ideas or anything. I had not been taught any of that. I was completely and totally new.

Writing fan fiction gave me solid boundaries, set characters, rules, locations, etc. and allowed me to start writing and learning. I was terrible at the start. I rarely completed any stories, mostly because I didn’t understand about at least having an end point and some form of idea of what was going to happen in the middle. As I got older, I learned more, started completing stories, began dipping my toe into the realms of original work (inspired by games and films) and exploring new genres. I also started exploring older themes, with my fan work starting to burgeoning on into young adult audiences, including relationships, sex and infidelity. It is only more recently have I started getting into the middle and deeper end of swimming pool as it were and working on my own completely original work but even now, I still go back and I still write fan fiction.

Why?

Because it is FUN!

I write Digimon because it was the second or third anime series I really got into (the others being Pokémon and Cardcaptors/Card Captor Sakura) and I still love the idea of being a digidestined with a Wizardmon as my partner. Yes, it sounds ridiculous. Yes, it sounds childish. But you know what? I don’t care.

I love fan fiction. It is a great starting point. An excellent platform for new writers to begin and develop their craft and, for older writers like me, it is nice just to go back and write stories about the shows, films and games I love, especially when it is combating the effects of writers block or being stuck on an original story.

*I would just like to say thank you to everyone who responded when I requested their views about fan fiction and why people write it. Some of their views are included in this article and I am very grateful for them.