Bill Myers, a popular Christian writer, has 50 books currently in print, including the "Forbidden Doors" series for teens and "The Dark Side of the Occult" for adults. Beliefnet interviewed him about his latest entry in the "Bloodhounds Inc." series for young readers-a book featuring a group of school "misfits" who are obsessed with a fantasy book series about a wizard.
Is your new book "The Scam of the Screwball Wizards" a response to Harry Potter?
It's about kind of a social-outcast child who is looking to empower his life through wizardry. A brother-and-sister detective team try to help their friend who's getting caught up in this craze. There's plenty of humor, which is typical of the series. I don't know if I wrote it so much as a simple reaction to Harry Potter as in reaction to our culture. As a youth worker I'm quite concerned with the amount of supernatural or occult literature that's out there. When I see so many books that say a young boy can find his identity and can be empowered by taking a shortcut through difficulties of adolescence-and can look upon occult elements as a way of taking that shortcut-then I'm concerned. Some of the kids I work with are attracted to this supernatural thinking. They think, If I can empower my life by doing that, then maybe I don't need to go through all the other teen angst. We see it in Columbine, we even see it in people such as David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam killer. He came out of the military a social outcast and turned to an occult group that accepted him.
But these would seem like pretty extreme cases, rather than the mainstream kids who just enjoy fantasy literature.
That's a good point. I love fantasy literature-it stimulates the imagination and it's a great creative tool. And I'm not saying that any child who reads Harry Potter is going to go into this.
I'm certainly not advocating censorship, but I'm trying to be another voice. I think it's a voice that needs to be listened to.
What is it about the Harry Potter series that concerns you?
Even though it's treated as funny and humorous, I am concerned that the kid finds his identity and authentication through occult elements. I think [the books are] clever, I think they're witty, I think they're well-written. All the other elements I think are brilliant, but when you start saying the occult is just a little fantasy plaything, then I'm not such a big fan of the series.
If you believe as I do that the occult is something dangerous, and you start blurring the line between the occult and fantasy, you've got a problem. But I think you have an even greater problem when you say those occult elements are something positive.