In this week's New Statesman podcast

Alien life, Conservative campaigning and hating on music festivals.

You can get the New Statesman podcast every Friday from newstatesman.com/podcast, through this RSS feed newstatesman.libsyn.com/rss or by subscribing in iTunes. Alternatively, you can listen using the web player embedded below.

This week, George Eaton (editor of our excellent Staggers blog) talks to the Conservative campaigner David Skelton. They discuss his ideas to bring about a resurgence in support for the Conservatives in the north of England and among working class voters and ethnic minorities.
 
I also attempted to join in with a conversation about the search for extra-terrestrial life between our science columnist Michael Brooks and our economics bloger (aka junior space correspondent) Alex Hern. Apparently, for the bargain price of £1m a year, the UK could be among the first to make contact with the little green men. Or something like that.
 
Our superb blogger Alex Andreou chatted to Helen Lewis about the current situation in Greece, as well as touching on the oft-rehearsed argument of BBC bias. If you've enjoyed Alex's posts on how George Osborne is like Fernando Torres only less effective or the unvarnished bigotry of Ukip, you have to listen to this.
 
Lastly, Eleanor Margolis - of Lez Miserable blog fame - enlarges on why exactly it is she hates music festivals so much.
 
Happy listening!
 

Caroline Crampton is web editor of the New Statesman.

Warner Bros
Show Hide image

Harry Potter and the Minotaur’s Rage: how fanfiction got me into writing

My fanfiction was almost uniformly awful, like most of the things I did or liked when I was becoming myself.

The source of the noise was clear. Some kind of monster was emerging from the wood.

"Easy, Harry," counselled Hagrid, "Easy.”

Nervously, the bespectacled wizard approached the hulking beast cautiously. What was it? It had red leather skin, like a sofa, was bigger even than Hagrid and had a pair of cruel horns.

You may not recognise the above passage from any of J K Rowling’s seven entries in the Harry Potter series. That’s because it’s not by Rowling at all, but is taken from Harry Potter and the Minotaur’s Rage by awideyedwanderer, the alias under which I, with the addition and subtraction of a few dashes and underscores depending on the platform, wrote fanfiction from 2000 to 2006.

To deal with the obvious questions, no, it was not about the Labour party, and no, I don’t think anyone ever had sex, except perhaps very briefly towards the end of the story. (As such, it was a fairly accurate reflection on the life of its author during that period.)

Fanfiction often gets a bad rap, in my case deservedly. One former editor of the New Statesman used to say of one of his staffers that he was “the Fred West of prose”, and my fanfiction was not much better. I hacked my way through the universes of Harry Potter, Doctor Who, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Final Fantasy and Star Trek. I also perpetrated my own, highly derivative “original” fiction, featuring a character called Mr Jones who was basically Doctor Who with a gun.

My fanfiction was influenced by whatever novel I was reading and whatever the current state of my politics were, which meant that as the Noughties wore on it became increasingly dominated by thinly-veiled allegories for the excesses of the Bush administration and the war in Iraq.

What got me started? Well, it’s all J K Rowling’s fault. I was an early adopter of the Harry Potter books, and though the first three books came out every year, there was a three-year gap between The Goblet of Fire and The Order of the Phoenix. So without a new book, Potter fans had to write their own, of which Harry Potter and the Minotaur’s Rage was one.

At this point in this sort of article, it’s usually customary to defend fanfiction by pointing out that some of it is actually very good, while some of it has made a great deal of money. My fanfiction was neither good nor financially lucrative, but I always think this misses the point a bit. Very few people think they are producing high art when they write fanfic – people are doing it to have a good time, to expand a world they’ve enjoyed.

My fanfiction was almost uniformly awful, like most of the things I did or liked when I was becoming myself. (In its defence, I think my fanfiction has aged better than Evanescence, a band which provided the soundtrack and most of the chapter titles to my fic.) But I had a great time writing it, and if nothing else, it taught me never to begin a sentence with “nervously” and end it with “cautiously”.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.