Tuesday, October 15, 2019


Anita Thompson is a witch.  Not an ancient, cantankerous witch (that would be her Gran) but a young witch ready to make her mark on the world.  I just don't think the world, in this case, late 1960s England is ready for her. 

"Anita" by Keith Roberts has been on my TBR pile for some time. The first edition of the book in the 1970s collected all the Anita stories that had appeared in the pages of Science Fantasy and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.  She became the prototype for many teen witches to follow.

Anita is a thoroughly modern witch in a world of supermarkets, televisions, and sports cars.  But she is still a witch and can whip up a spell-raising with the best, or worst, of them.   But she is also generally a good girl who falls in love with whatever handsome boy or pretty girl (or mermaid) that crosses her path.

I picked up the most recent audiobook version from "Neil Gaiman Presents" with a wonderful introduction by Neil himself.  I agree with him that Nicola Barber was a fantastic choice to give voice not only to Anita but her old Gran as well.  It is a treat to hear her do Gran's voice.
This version is based on the 1990 edition with edited text, mostly to bring the stories in line with each other, and adds a new story of Anita in the 1980s.  It seems though, like many witches, Anita ages slower than humans.

The whole series is quite a treat and Anita is easily a likable character.  She is sweet, fun and even she is not being particularly nice she is still fun.   Don't get me wrong, these are not saccharine exploits of a teen girl who happens to have powers ala the first Sabrina the Teenage Witch series.  The undertone is closer to Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, including Anita knowing her soul is already damned.  In one story a girl Anita falls in love with kills herself over a boy so Anita animates the corpse and terrorizes the entire suburb that the girl was from.

The book is a forgotten gem really and I would have loved to have heard more exploits of Anita.  Does she ever settle down (doubt it!), is she still working as a veterinary assistant to Dr. MacGregor? (I can see that).  Did she ever have sex with Dr. MacGregor?  (Hard to say!) and so on.

I will admit that while I was listening to this book I was also binging both seasons of Fleabag.  I kept thinking that a mid-30-year old Anita would be like Phoebe Waller-Bridge's character Fleabag.  Complete with the drinking, smoking, promiscuity and the "occasional sodomy".  Maybe even with Fleabag's sadness too.  Anita always seemed to be losing someone.   This also made me cast Andrew Scott (aka "The Hot Priest") as MacGregor, and the reason why Anita's charms never worked on him was that he was gay.  If that were true then I could see Anita trying to set him up with any number of men she found attractive.

The D&D Connections

Even though the Anita stories do not appear in any version of the "Appendix N" there are spell names here that predate their D&D counterparts.  Enough that I have a strong belief that Gygax and Co at least had a passing familiarity with these stories.

So. Anita is a perfect witch then to try out for Night Shift.

Now Anita for Night Shift might actually be a Supernatural creature.  As a witch she is distinctly different than humans (or "Oomans" as Granny Thompson would say).  But not enough to really merit the extra expenditure of XP.   So instead I am going to say that Anita is part of a world where witches just age slower than humans.

Anita Thompson
Str +1 Dex +1 Con +0 Int +1 Wis +1 Cha +3
XP: 151,000 (Level 7)
Hit Dice: 7d4 Hit Points: 18 AC: 8  Attack Bonus: +1 Check Bonus: +3 (Primary) +2 (Secondary) +1 (Tertiary)
Armor: none
Saves: +5 vs. spells and magical effects
Class Abilities: Arcana 85%, Spellcasting 85%
Other Special Abilities: Enhanced Senses (Anita has 9 senses), Telepathic Transmission

Spells: 1st level charm person, cure light wounds, minor illusion, speak to animals  2nd-level animal summoning, esp, phantasmal image, 3rd-level animate dead, dispel magic 4th-level polymorph self

Gear: Has an amulet of Widdershins Dance.

The 1990 version also had art by Stephen Fabian, familiar to many AD&D Mystara and Ravenloft lovers.

Edited to add: Now available, Night Shift: Veterans of the Supernatural Wars.
You can get the PDF from DriveThruRPG and both the standard and special edition hardcovers from Elf Lair Games.

1 comment:

What a Fine Hand said...

Thought it was a post about Anita Blake.