Terry Pratchett is God. Or perhaps he is Moist von Lipwig. What a name. Seriously! Pratchett has a way with names that I have never seen outdone.
I loved Raising Steam. Goblins are my new favorite race. These people keep on knocking over the expectations of other races time and again. Their freedom from being eaten, chased, beaten and downtrodden (at least in theory) has led to them outdoing many of their old masters.
Perhaps this is the main reason Pratchett has caught my heart. He isn’t afraid to address problems in society, and he does it in a manner that helps me see them in a new light. Moist von Lipwig is an excellent conduit for that message. He races through the story having to face himself ever so many times. Facing myself is not my favorite pastime but it is one that I try to make time for daily. One of the advantages of limited mobility is that I can no longer run from whatever parts of me I might wish to run from. Moist tries but Mister Of the Twilight the Darkness keeps him on track.
In Raising Steam those tracks are technology and the steam engine. But I guess like so many of Mr. Pratchett stories, Raising Steam is about our fears. Facing our fears. In this case our fears take the shape of racism, fear of technology, fundamentalism and basically fear of any person or thing that is not within our scope of experience.
We are all frightened little shites trying to muddle our way throughout life without realizing that all of the others around us are also frightened little shites. For this reason I truly love Pratchett. He shows us our fears, and our fears are many. What we need is a Vimes who asks us difficult questions and at the same time helps us realize that we are dumber than bread in persisting in our fears.
Like von Lipwig, Pratchett is my enabler. He helps me see what needs to be faced and leaves me feeling graced by his presence. No wonder he is my god.
For me Terry Pratchett is the man. Discworld was my first meeting with him. Since then I have gotten to know him better through his cooperative work with other authors. This way he has spread my knowledge of other authors and interest in other types of science fiction and fantasy.
On his website I eventually discovered that Pratchett has developed Alzheimer’s disease. My parents now have friends who have had Alzheimer for quite a while and I have gotten to see some of the effect of that disease. They have also shared with me how these individuals show the symptoms of Alzheimer and how the person they knew disappears slowly but surely.
Due to the nature of the disease Terry Pratchett has quite naturally had many thoughts about how it is going to affect him. When will the moment come when his ability to make choices for himself disappear?
BBC’s documentary Choosing to Die with Terry Pratchett is bound to make an impression on the viewer. I was touched by it and remained thoughtful a long time after viewing it.
Alzheimer’s is very definitely not the only disease that has a terrible progression. In Choosing to Die we get to meet two people who are choosing to die before their body gives in on its own to MS and ALS. My own thoughts on the matter are that I would very much like to choose to die rather than have to endure an awful ending.
The film seems to have disappeared from the net.
2011 winner for Best Single Documentary at the British Academy Scottish Awards
2011 winner for Best Single Documentary at the Royal Television Society awards
As all of you must know by now Terry Pratchett is one of my all time favorite authors. It turns out he started publishing his writing from the age of 13.
What A Blink Of the Screen gives us is a look at the development Pratchett has had as an author through he varied and lengthy authorship. We also get an excellent example of how some people are born with the gift of writing. Thankfully, Pratchett decided to develop that talent into what we see today.
I read Pratchett’s story from when he was 13 without much hope of entertainment. But, you know. There is a reason Pratchett is my favorite author. He simply has the gift. And that is the feeling I am left with after reading A Blink of the Screen.
A Blink of the Screen is a collection of everything from short stories to poetry and even an Ankh-Morporkian anthem.
The Anthem is the “Ankh-Morpork National Anthem“. It is properly pretentious and has a second verse worth memorising.
Pratchett does well in a great many genres. Death as a disco-lover, football cards, heroes that are resurrected, x-mas cards that draw you in, silly laws and regulations, alternate earths, evolving chickens, biographies, the Discworld: this book has it all. The art of Josh Kirby is excellent. Seeing it in such vivid colors is a delight.
Like all of Pratchett’s books, A Blink of the Screen shows the world to me as it is. Sure, you have to strip away the fantasy bits first, but the people are real in all their glory and horror. I’ve met some of these people. I am some of these people (definitely not telling who). Add this to his gift of communication and we have magic.
YES! I’ve read Dodger. Genius once again. Way to go Terry!
While reading Dodger, it is easy to see where Pratchett got his inspiration for the Discworld from. We get a behind-the-scenes look at the various fictional and real characters that have shown up in various forms in his novels.
I am certain there is a whole sleuth of People out there waiting to catch Pratchett and his Alzheimer out. Phooey.
Terry attacks Dodger in the same way he has written most of his other books: With a great sense of humour and tons of warmth.
Pratchett’s portrayal of Victorian London leaves out nothing when it comes to poverty and the struggle for survival. Not everyone who came to London met with good fortune. In fact, most were probably on the wrong end of dark deeds done and would themselves have preferred to be on the other side of that act.
Stench, filth, disease and poverty were rampant in the less than lovely city of the 1800s. However, it does make for an excellent backdrop to Dodger’s dealings with fictional characters and characters from history books. Not all of them belong in the era portrayed, but Pratchett isn’t exactly known for writing historical novels. As the quote on his page states: “In the bathtub of history the truth is harder to hold than the soap, and much more difficult to find…”
Dodger is a delightful character (as well as being the title of the book). He ties the various stories together in his fight to keep the mysterious love of his life, Simplicity, out of the hands of her assailants. This tosher uses his place of work to aid in his heroic deeds. The sewers of London have never smelled better.
The cannonball bird – a predatory bird that shoots a ball out its mouth killing the victim. I guess it could be a quick death.
With The Long Earth Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter have written a tale about mankind’s continued unwise choices given a seemingly unlimited choice in worlds to live on. The funny thing, was that before reading the book I was worried. You all know that Pratchett battles Alzheimer’s and some of the reviews claimed that he had to be well on his way to no more writing. You are sooo wrong.
Pratchett’s insanity is apparent in a great many details of the book. Where Gaiman makes Pratchett’s insanity even more insane, Baxter sort of brought it all down to earth. The lion-tamer did his best to tame the lion. Two science fiction writers need to be a little insane – both apart and together – in their writing. It is part of the charm of the genre. Without the insanity, science fiction would only be fiction, and science fiction is so much more fun.
Off my soap-box and back to The Long Earth. What would happen if humans had millions of earths available to them just a few “steps” away? The Long Earth seems to give a fairly realistic picture of our choices. Because humans are so varied, we would all have different goals. What if some of us weren’t able to “step”, due to some quirk in our brains? This is where it all becomes worrisome. Humans do not handle being left out well. We are silly little buggers.
There are two people we get to know really well, Joshua and Lobsang. Joshua is a natural stepper. Lobsang is an AI supposedly blended with a reincarnated Tibetan mechanic. Together they traverse the millions of earths to find out exactly what it is that is driving trolls and elves from the long earth. Along the way we get a look at various people who have encountered the long earth in its various forms.
While the earliest technological items we’ve seen on the Discworld were the iconograph, Moving Pictures takes the technology a step further and uses an imp- and salamander movie camera and projector. However, certain problems occur as a result of the experimentation with new technology, as always happens when people play around with new discoveries.
Consider the case of Thomas Midgley (1889-1944). In 1921 he discovered that lead reduced the engine-knocking in a car-engine significantly and lead was introduced into gasoline. We all know what happened as a result of that. Today we are still struggling with the effects of that discovery. Later on he managed to come up with freon which has had a severe effect on the ozone layer. Why should the Discworld be any different?
Obviously, the place to find inventors on the Discworld has to be at the Unseen University or the Alchemist’s Guild (of whom Leonard of Quirm is a member). Where else could a bunch of people willing to try anything in the name of science be found. The motto of the alchemist’s guild is: All that glitters is gold. Most of their experiments tend to end in loud explosions, causing their building to be in a state of constant repair. Unfortunately for Ankh-Morpork, they have now managed to come up with Octo-cellulose, one of the major factors of the events in Moving Pictures.
Another major event leading to the opportunities had at Holy Wood was the death of the door keeper. You’d think that a place needing a guard for their door, ensuring that it’s kept closed, would be a hint to stay away. But it never is, because curiosity is something that people struggle with. Some of us will always push the big red button just to see what will happen (no matter what the sign says). Once Holy Wood becomes accessible, people are drawn there like flies to honey.
Gaspode, the talking dog shows his face again. He gets to have an important part in the book, along with other dogs with suspicious names. Dibbler plays his usual scheming self and Death makes appearances as well in the book. Befuddled, eternal student, Vincent, is our main character. Poor guy. He gets completely sucked into the whole Holy Wood scene. Poor Ridicully and his wizardly gang have to join in the chaos and save the day.
You all know that Pratchett is making fun of Hollywood and the whole film industry (not just there). The glamour, hype, fame and craziness are all seen in one part or another of Moving Pictures.
The road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Our main character William deWorde, estranged from his family, starts out by writing a newsletter for foreign dignitaries. Once the dwarves bring in a press to Ankh-Morpork William ends up with a very popular newsletter called The Times. All of a sudden William is employing a journalist, Sacharissa Cripslock, and a photographer, Otto Chriek, to get enough news.
Poor Otto. Such dedication. Being a vampire with an obsession for photography cannot be easy on one’s health. Good thing he has his vial of blood with him om every assignment. The Times are lucky to have him on their staff in their search for truth.
Competition is bound to arrive on the scene. The Guild of Engravers and Printers are producing a newsletter called the Ankh-Morpork inquirer. In it you’ll find articles on just about anything, whether it be true or not.
In the meantime, a plot against Vetinari is once again going on. The Firm (in the form of Mr. Tulip and Mr. Pin) are doing their best to get him accused of murder. Part of that plot is kidnapping Vetinari, but Vetinari’s dog Mr. Wuffles, gets away. Pin and Tulip need to find Wuffles, but The Times is also on the hunt and De Worde has offered a $ 25 reward for Mr. Wuffles. As usual chaos and mayhem ensue.
Journalism is obviously the theme in The Truth. Media’s function in society should be questioned at every opportunity. There is plenty of power in deciding what the truth is and who should hear it. The intentions of the owners and journalists matter a great deal. The potential for doing great harm or great good hangs as a temptation for the best of them.
The term “Going postal” was coined by Karl Vick in his article “Violence at work tied to loss of esteem”. “Going postal” refers to an employee who becomes so disgruntled with her/his workplace that she/he ends up being violent towards co-workers.
Moist von Lipwig is a conman who has conned one too many, leading to his capture. In our lovely Ankh-Morpork prison he is on death row. Waking up after his so-called hanging, Moist discovers that he has been given a choice: Become postmaster or walk out THAT door. Looking out the door, Moist discovers that the drop is a bit too deep for his preference. Postmaster it is.
The postmaster function in Ankh-Morpork has not been filled in decades. The Post Office is overflowing with undelivered mail. There are two employees left, living in the Post Office. They are Junior Postman Tolliver Groat and his assistant Stanley Howler. Moist certainly has his work cut out for him.
Delivering the undelivered mail is only one part of Moist’s problems. Another part is getting people to use the Post Office again, seeing it as a viable option to the Clacks. The Clacks could with a certain portion of good-will be compared to the telegraph. The Grand Trunk Company owns and operated the clacks, and they do not like the fact that the Post Office is coming to life again. In addition to these problems, von Lipwig discovers that the Post Office seems to have come into a sort of life of its own. It has definite opinions and is not afraid to share them – causing some near-death experiences.
During his duties Moist meets the golem activist Adora Dearheart. She fights for the freedom of Golem from slave-contracts. Instead they buy themselves free one at a time, through getting proper work-contracts.
Golem activism or the battle against slavery and abuse of workers has been a recurring theme in Pratchett’s books. Is it possible for people to change or do we just need to change their focus. After all it was von Lipwig’s phenomenal abilities as a con-man that made it possible for him to be the kind of Postmaster that Ankh-Morpork needed. Once again Terry takes a look at the function of technology in the world. Is it a thing for the betterment of mankind?
2005: Going Postal adapted for stage by Stephen Briggs
2010: Going Postal adapted for television by Richard Kurti and Bev Doyle
This time Vetinari tries to volunteer Moist for the banking business. After all, now that the postal business is up and running, we can’t have Moist with any time on his hands. You never know what he’ll do then. Moist won’t have any of it.
Sadly, life doesn’t always happen the way we would like it to. During his stint at the Royal Bank of Ankh-Morpork the owner’s dog, Mr. Fusspot, found von Lipwig quite likeable. When Topsy Lavish dies, she leaves 50% of the shares to her dog (who already owns 1%), making him Chairdog. Mr. Fusspot is left to Lipwig. Mrs. Lavish is a smart woman and has made sure that Moist knows the Assassin’s Guild have a contract on him if anything should happen to her dear Mr. Fusspot.
Moist van Lipwig is now in the banking business, and banking will never be the same in Ankh-Morpork. Neither will Moist.
Lovely Adela is still trying to help the golem population. She has travelled to the ancient civilization of Um to uncover 4 golden golems who have been buried a very long time. When she returns with them everyone gets a surprise, not least of all Moist’s enemies.
In Making Money Pratchett takes a look at our definition of money and people’s acceptance of monetary value. Banking gets its day in the sun and a well-needed sunning that is.
Mr. Scattering was at work as a night-guard at the Royal Art Museum when he experienced an explosion.
He did not want people to know about the gloriously glittering lady holding a large ball over her head before she vanished.
Smeems, the Candle Knave, makes his rounds every night lighting and refilling the candlesticks. His apprentice, Nutt, is stepping in for Trevor Likely, who seems to have taken ill. Nutts is a keen, gray-skinned fellow who tries to fit in at the UU.
Archchancellor Ridicully is a loud wizard, in a place where wizards generally take up a lot of space. Wizards are, usually, celibate. They find their celibate thoughts challenged when the housekeeper employs lovely and empty-headed Juliet. Glenda, the other housemaid, is frustrated with Juliet’s looks and empty-headedness. Getting her to focus on one task is difficult.
Ponder Stibbons, a jr. wizard, makes it his life’s mission to protect the universe from Arch-chancellor Ridicully. Sometimes that means unpleasant duties. One of those duties is telling Ridicully that the Archancellor Preserved Bigger’s Bequest is about to engage the UU in traditional sports, the Poor Boys’ Fun. As we all know, the wizards (with the exception of Ridicully) abhor physical exercise. There will be no getting out of if if they want to keep the bequest.
A team will have to be organized and getting to learn the rules of the game will be essential for them. Unfortunately, this football-like game seems to have very few rules. With Vetinari the wizards attempt to set out some rules for the game. After all, they do want to survive. They get their own coach in the form of Mr. Nutt. The wizards even end up with their own cheerleaders.
Pratchett is fond of bringing Shakespeare into the Discworld. Unseen Academicals is no exception. This time Romeo and Juliet, in the form of Trev and Julie, gets Terry’s touch. Poor lovers. They belong to teams who absolutely hate each other.
As you can see from the above map, the Discworld consists of many countries and continents. Each country has its own culture and religion. From my reading there are three books in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series that are specifically about religion and culture. These three stories are about the countries of Djelibeybi (Pyramids) – try saying it, Omnia (Small Gods) and Zlobenia vs. Borogravia (Monstrous Regiment).
Pyramids consists of four books: The Book of Going forth, The Book of the Dead, The Book of the New Sun and The Book of 101 Things a Boy Can Do.
As a young boy Pteppic was sent to Ankh-Morpork by his father, King Teppicymon XXVII. The Assassin’s Guild had accepted him as their student. The reason they had chosen the assassins’ school was because it offered the best all-round education in the world.
At home all Teppic had was a kingdom two miles wide and onedred and fifty miles long. Its stronger neighbors only tolerated their existence because anything else would lead to war between the two countries.
Djelibeybi’s days of glory were over. Now all they had to attract visitors was pyramids – enough pyramids to bankrupt the country.
Teppic’s stay was Ankh-Morpork is a success. He survived his finals (assassin’s school finals can be quite deadly) through knowledge and a great deal of luck. The test was to arrive alive and well at a site and then kill someone. He passed by accident.
Then Teppic’s father dies and Teppic becomes King Teppicymon XXVIII and has to go back to Djelybeybi. When he gets there he discovers that the High Priest Dios pretty much runs the country. Any change that Teppic wants to bring in to Djelibeybi, like plumping, is fought. All Teppic is supposed to do is get a consort and bring an heir into the world. Most importantly, a new pyramid has to be raised and his father’s pyramid has to be capped.
Pratchett plays with time and space in Pyramids. The pyramid of Teppic’s father has become so large that upon capping, Djelibeybi comes out of alignment with the rest of the disc. Chaos ensues in Djelibeybi as the dead come alive and the kingdom’s various gods want a part in ruling the kingdom. The power of belief is strong on the Discworld. There gods gain power through their believers. If the people believe the pharaoh is a god, then the pharaoh has godlike powers. Egyptian mythology along with Christianity get their fair share of Pratchett’s attention.
1989: Winner of BSFA
SMALL GODS (1992)
On the Discworld there are gods for everything. On Wikipedia you’ll find a list over the gods and their function. They come in all shapes and sizes. Lack of belief decreases power while belief increases the power of the gods. If they have no believers, the gods are small gods crying out for belief.
History has to be observed. Otherwise it’s not history. It’s just … well, things happening one after another.
This is why history has its own caretakers making sure things happen as they should. These caretakers live in a hidden valley in the Ramtops. The 493rd Abbot sends his most experienced monk, Lu-Tze, to Omnia to make certain that nothing messes up the course of history.
In Omnia the time of the 8th prophet was imminent. The Church of the Great God Om has “very punctual prophets. You could set your calendar by them, if you had one big enough.” Brutha, the novice monk hears a voice. This voice is trying to get his attention. Due to a lack of belief Om finds itself stripped of power and has therefore become one of the Small Gods. When Brutha discovers that the voice he has been hearing in his head belongs to a small tortoise, Brutha is astounded. No less astounded does he become when the tortoise wants to see the High Priest. A mere novice will never be allowed into such august company.
Vorbis, the Deacon, is the head of the Quisition. Their job is to do all those things that need to be done that other people would rather not do. Their methods of garnering information were like the Spanish Inquisition’s, rather unpleasant. Along with General Iam Fri’it of the Divine Legion and Bishop Drunah of the Congress of Iams Vorbis is planning on forcing the word of Om on the Ephebians. Once Ephebe has been converted, the way onward to Djel and Tsort lies open.
Religion and its inquisitions, philosophy, and the battle between reason and belief end up on the playground of Pratchett’s satiric hand. Terry gives us a look at how some people seek power to the extent that they will do anything to gain it.
Some gods are crazier than others. In Borogravia Nuggan passes decrees that are increasingly bizarre. Borogravians are ruled by the Abominations – a list of taboos: no garlic, no cats, ginger hair is out and so are six-buttoned shirts, chocolate and the color blue. You can see that being a Borogravian can be a challenge for the most devout. Due to these Abominations Borogravia is constantly at war with their neighbors.
Even though women aren’t allowed pants, Polly dons them, cuts her hair short and sets off after her brother Paul, who has gone missing in the Borogravian army. She needs him back at the family pub so the pub won’t be passed on to their terrible cousin if their dad dies. All she has to do is join the Borogravian army.
The recruiting sergeant and his corporal assistant Strappi give Polly (or Oliver Perks as she calls herself) a shilling to kiss and a picture of the queen. Along with Polly, several other recruits join up: a vampire, one troll, an Igor and humans. Strangely enough all the of the recruits have very light voices. The tiny regiment makes their way toward the keep where the enemy is based. Guess who we get to meet there.
Commander Samuel Vimes has been sent to Zlobenia to figure out how to deal with Borogravia. To Vimes Borogravia is just another criminal that has to be dealt with as such, and he is going to treat Zlobenia and Borogravia as he would two scrappers back in Ankh-Morpork.
As you can probably imagine the main themes of Monstrous Regiment are the battle between the sexes and repressive religions. Deprivations caused by a war-happy country are only all too apparent in this story. Along with young males, food and clothing are scarce. We don’t have to look too far back into our own histories to see how all of these themes are sadly relevant for us.
The characters in Monstrous Regiment are delightful. The lengths these women go to in order to hide their gender is funny (socks in pants etc.). Their reactions to discovering the true identities of their compatriots and the difficulties that come with hiding their gender create weird scenes (especially in relation to Lieutenant Blouse – an incredibly inept soldier).
2004: Monstrous Regiment adapted for stage by Stephen Briggs
2011: Monstrous Regiment trailer fanfilm by Michelle