Monday, December 14, 2015

Author Marlon James Speaks About Writing 'An African Game of Thrones'

Jamaican author, Marlon James, has been all the buzz this past weekend in the fantasy circle with his announcement about writing a fantasy series in which he describes as “an African Game of Thrones”. In my posting in April of 2013 about black authors writing fantasy, I talked about how very very few of them there were. Last year I posted about people of color in fantasy, stating that people of color, who are writers and are fans of fantasy, should write fantasy—epic fantasy. It looks like that’s Mr. James’ focus, and it will be interesting to see what he puts out.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Peter Jackson's Problem With The Hobbit Films

A lot is explained in the video below in regards to The Hobbit movies directed by Peter Jackson. I never thought that the movies were a disaster or ruined The Hobbit story—well, maybe only with the Tauriel, Legolas and Kili romantic triangle. There were no female characters in The Hobbit book, so I guess Jackson and the writers felt like they had to have a female character and throw in a romantic element. In the video below, Peter Jackson and his staff honestly admit that they didn’t have it all together with the films. But it’s nice to see them talking about it so that we know what the deal was. I still enjoyed the movies; the Extended Edition Blu-rays are all a part of my collection, and I will be watching them for years to come. talks about this as well. See here.   

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Sci-Fi & Fantasy On The Rise

Last month I talked about the rise of fantasy novels being adapted to the screen; and Orbit Books’ announcement this past weekend about their 50% increase to SFF titles each year (see here) just comes to show that the genre is on the rise in the world of entertainment. Barnes & Noble’s Sci-Fi & Fantasy blog posted an interesting article in regards to this, as well as other publishers jumping on the rising wave (see here).  

From Book to Screen

From Book to Screen (Revisited)

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Similarities between Harry Potter & The Worst Witch

Fan art by Zaionczyk at

As a kid in the 80’s, I loved watching the made-for-TV movie The Worst Witch, starring Fairuza Balk, Charlotte Rae and Tim Curry on HBO. It was a Halloween classic. I had some of the songs replaying in my head all the way into my adulthood (especially Tim Curry’s epic Halloween song)—so much so that I watched some of the movie on You Tube the other day and never realized until then just how similar Harry Potter was to it. I can’t believe I didn’t realize it before. The similarities are too close not to be noticed.

Now, to those of you who may not be familiar with the The Worst Witch series of books by British author Jill Murphy, the first book was published in 1974, with sequels following in the 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s. So, obviously, The Worst Witch was published way before J.K. Rowling ever conceived the idea of Harry Potter. Besides the film that was released in 1986, there was a British television series that ran from 1998 to 2001.

I knew I couldn’t have been the only one to notice the similarities between Harry Potter and The Worst Witch, so I “googled” it and found some links that go into more detail on the similarities (see them below). Now, a lot of people use words like “rip-off” and “plagiarism”, but I don’t know if I would go that far. I love the Harry Potter series and there are things in the series that are crazy similar to the The Worst Witch, but J.K. Rowling still made Harry Potter a story and world in and of itself, despite the similarities. The only thing that kind of bothers me is that Rowling never mentioned any inspiration from Jill Murphy’s books or the The Worst Witch film in any interview. She had to have been influenced by Murphy’s creation. Either she just doesn’t want to admit it, or she just forgot, or it’s just a coincidence. You be the judge.  

Below are some thoughts on this topic throughout the web:

  *  From Wikipedia: 
Many critics have noted that Jill Murphy's The Worst Witch series (first published in 1974 by Allison & Busby), is set in a school for girls, "Miss Cackle's Academy for Witches", reminiscent of Hogwarts. The story concerns an awkward pupil at a boarding-school for witches, who faces a scheming rival student. Her professors include a kindly and elderly headmistress and a bullying, raven-haired potions teacher. Murphy has commented on her frustration at constant comparisons between her work and Harry Potter: "It's irritating … everyone asks the same question and I even get children writing to ask me whether I mind about the Hogwarts school of witchcraft and pointing out similarities. Even worse are reviewers who come across my books, or see the TV series, and, without taking the trouble to find out that it's now over quarter of a century since I wrote my first book, make pointed remarks about 'clever timing' – or say things like 'the Worst Witch stories are not a million miles from J K Rowling's books'. The implications are really quite insulting!"

  *  Charles Webb at states: 
“If you squint a little, you can see a little bit of The Worst Witch making its way into J.K. Rowling's work, with the same emphasis on a parallel world of magical whimsy with its own rules of reality. I'm not saying there any kind of lift here between the two authors' work--in fact, Rowling was more concerned about her characters growing up and maturing in school than Murphy was in her own work. Not better, not worse--just different focuses.

  * wrote the following:
In this precursor to the Potter books, a young girl from a Mugg – uh – non-magical family attends a boarding school for witches. Which is in an ancient castle surrounded by an enchanted forest. While Mildred Hubble is enrolled at Miss Cackle's Academy for Witches, where she attends Potions, Broomstick Flying, Chants and Charms classes, she must deal with conflicts with her classmates, a cursed broom, and an attempt to overthrow the school. Also, Mildred and her friends make an invisibility potion. Here's an old Geocities page listing more similarities, including the fact that there's a mean teacher who hates the main character, and a popular blond kid who gets off on the wrong foot with the hero on the very first day.
Is there a Case? The series of Worst Witch books skews younger and tends to the lighter side of magic than the Harry Potter books. Many of the similarities are of the superficial, non-copyrightable type, though Murphy got there first.

  *  From a forum at
I am sure that Jill Murphy's The Worst Witch is actually the roots of Harry Potter, even though J.K. Rowling has never admitted that. There are simply too many similarities between both worlds for it to be a coincidence, and if Murphy never sued I guess that it's because she did not want to suffer all the hassle.

Just consider these unusual coincidences:

1- Miss Cackle's Academy for Witches is a lonely castle, surrounded by forest.
2- The castle is invisible to non-magical people.
3- There is a village nearby the castle.

4- The forest is forbidden to the students.
5- Mildred Hubble comes from a non-magical background.
6- Mildred has two best friends, Maud and Enid.

7- Mildred has a cat.
8- Miss Hardbroom (scary potions teacher) hates Mildred.
9- Elitist fellow student from an elitist family of Witches hates Mildred.

10- Benevolent, warm-hearted Headmistress loves and helps Mildred.
11- The first year students take special lessons to learn to fly with broomsticks.
12- Miss Cackle's Academy was founded by a witch called Hermione Cackle.

All of these sound familiar, right? There are other similarities, these are just a few!!

Now, if Harry Potter had come first then everyone would scream that The Worst Witch is a Harry Potter rip-off, but in fact the first Mildred Hubble book was written back in 1974... J.K. Rowling is a wonderful writer and a superb storyteller and there are also many differences between WW and HP, but I think that all HP fans (myself included) should accept that WW is actually the roots.

  *  The fan art by Zaionczyk on is a fun comparison which illustrates the similarities. A portion of the artwork is shown above for this post, but you can see the whole thing here

  *  Lastly, below is a video that someone posted on a Worst Witch fan channel on You Tube…

Thursday, October 1, 2015

From Book to Screen (Revisited)

A couple of years ago I posted about fantasy books that were adapted to the screen (see here), and I feel it’s time to say just a little bit more about it. There has been a lot of success with movie adaptations for fantasy novels lately—more than ever before. In the 70’s and 80’s, fantasy was rampant on the screen (both television and movies), but none of them would be as epic and successful as Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy (first released in 2001—a month after the first Harry Potter movie). 2001 was like the kick-off year for what would be an avalanche of fantasy movie adaptations (in addition to the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter sequels) with the release of The Chronicles of Narnia, Eragon, Stardust, The Golden Compass, The Spiderwick Chronicles, Seventh Son, and Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy. However, the Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and Hobbit movies would outshine them all.

The small screen (television) has been rolling out fantasy adaptations as well, such as: Legend of the Seeker, based on Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series; Merlin, which was loosely based on the King Arthur legend; and the all-popular Game of Thrones, based on George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. Coming up in January of next year is the release of The Shannara Chronicles, based on Terry Brooks Shannara series. Of course there were and are more fantasy TV shows, but I’m speaking specifically about fantasy literary fiction that was adapted to the screen.

To add on to the big and small screen fantasy fiction adaptations, today’s (October 1ST) announcement of Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicle series being acquired by Lionsgate for movie, television and video game (read about it here) shows that the fire is still burning hot for fantasy books converting to screen. Of course the Game of Thrones TV show breaking a record at the Emmy Awards (see here) comes to show that fantasy has what it takes to compete in the very competitive market of onscreen entertainment.

So, like the flux of comic book movie and TV mania, fantasy is creating its own waves on the screen, and we need only to sit back and enjoy (hopefully).

From Book to Screen

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Thin Line Between Science Fiction and Fantasy (continued)

Science Fiction and Fantasy are two genres that have been grouped together for as long as I can remember (even longer than that, actually) and it’s not really too hard to see why. As a child growing up in the 80’s, seeing a mash-up of spaceships, robots, swords and magic was common in the realm of cartoons and movies; such as, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Thundercats, Krull, Heavy Metal and Flash Gordon. But there were books mixing these two genres together way before the 80’s.

A ground-breaking novel of its time, Dune by Frank Herbert, published in 1965, is a story set in the distant future with interstellar space travel, politics, religion, technology and ecology. Often called the greatest science fiction novel of all time, Dune holds an authority in the science fiction genre like no other. Dune is like science fiction’s Lord of the Rings; in the words of science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke: “Dune seems to me unique among novels in the depth of characterization and the extraordinary detail of the world it creates. I know nothing comparable to it except The Lord of the Rings.” The journey and mystic feel of the novel gives the story an appeal that fantasy readers can gravitate to—with psychic powers in place of magic, swords as weapons, prophecies and the semi-feudal political structure of the empire. Douglas Cohen explains on how Dune is science fiction for fans of fantasy—that post is here.

Another popular science fiction series is the Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey—the first book, Dragonflight, published in 1968. One would think with the word “dragon” in the titles, and the covers of these books showcasing this fantastical creature, that the Pern novels were straight fantasy. But, again, we’re dealing with a story that takes place in the distant future, were mankind inhabits a planet called Pern, but society is reduced to a more post Middle Ages-type of setting with low technology. The dragons are basically “animals” genetically modified so that the humans can communicate with them through telepathy and use them to fight off virus-like organisms called Thread. Again, it is psychic abilities that give the characters their “magic-like” abilities.

One who has often been accredited as one of the founders of “science fantasy” is Christopher Stasheff, who had his first book in the Warlock of Gramarye series published in 1969. The first book, called The Warlock in Spite of Himself, tells the story of undercover agent, Rodney Gallowglass, who discovers a planet called Gramarye inhabited with people who dwell within a medieval-type civilization. Riding around on Fess, his robotic companion—who takes the guise of a robot horse—Rodney Gallowglass’s use of technology makes him a wizard in the eyes of the inhabitants. There are other parts of the series where “real” magic comes into the act. These books are not trying to be science fiction, nor are they trying to be fantasy. The author uses the components of both genres to kind of illustrate his political views within an adventurous story.

Even earlier than the works mentioned above, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars (or Barsoom) series, starting with the publication of A Princess of Mars in 1917, told the story of John Carter from planet earth finding himself on Mars and having great strength and special abilities, making him renown as a hero on Mars—a work containing a lot of fantasy-like overtones. Later authors, like Jack Vance, Arthur C. Clarke and John Norman, were inspired by Burroughs’ Barsoom series. John Norman’s Gor series, first published in 1966 with Tarnsman of Gor, goes along the same vein as Burroughs’  Barsoom series—a man from Earth going on a journey within an alien planet. Books like these tend to fall under the subgenre phrased as “Sword and Planet”, a phrase said to have been invented by Donald A. Wollheim (founder of DAW books) in the 60’s. Sword and Planet pertains to science fantasy stories which take place on other planets, where the protagonist is usually someone from Earth and the combat is usually hand-to-hand, with swords as the typical weapon.

Hard Science Fiction is based entirely on more plausible science within the story, but in the “softer” Science Fiction you will find stories where physic powers and telepathy are the “magic” within the stories, found in many books like the Saga of the Pliocene Exile by Julian May and Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover series, in addition to Dune and the Pern novels.

Now, I can’t go away without mentioning Star Wars. I won’t say much about it because I have already discussed Star Wars a couple of years ago on this blog (you can read about it here), but I think what makes Star Wars such a huge success is because it’s a perfect mix of science fiction and fantasy with great adventures and unforgettable characters.

So, when you really look at the long history of science fiction, you really can see the reason why these two genres tend to co-exist together. They share a section together in the bookstores, and they share the successful explosion of speculative fiction in the 20TH century. But let’s not forget that Fantasy has been around much longer than Science Fiction, and the two of them married together really makes a great match.  

Thin Line Between Science Fiction and Fantasy
Science Fiction vs Fantasy - VIDEO