In episode thirteen, award-winning author Marlee Jane Ward joins us to talk Diggers! Published in 1990, Diggers picks up where Truckers left off, splitting the story of the Nomes in two.
The Nomes, having fled the destruction of the Store in a stolen lorry, have spent six months – something like five years in Nome time – making a new life in an abandoned quarry. But as humans start to take an interest in their new home, Grimma must hold the quarry Nomes together – no easy task when Nisodemus, the acting Abbott, is trying to convince them all to return to the old ways of the Store. Meanwhile Dorcas, the engineer who made the Long Drive possible, has made a secret discovery in one of the old quarry sheds – a mighty beast, known only as Jekub…
With many of the main characters from Truckers exiting the novel quite early on, Diggers focuses on Grimma and Dorcas, with the books’ events happening concurrently with those in the third book, Wings. Among its many themes are Pratchetty commentaries on religion, faith, community and responsibility, as well as many new jokes about the ways in which Nomes misunderstand humans – or, perhaps, understand humans perfectly. Have you read Diggers? What did you think? Use the hashtag #Pratchat13 on social media to join the conversation. We particularly want to see your original drawings of Nomes (see the original description from Truckers in the notes below), and to hear what you think about the exciting news of the The Watch TV series being officially greenlit by BBC America!
November 24, 2018 marks a special Pratchett anniversary – 35 years since the publication of the very first Discworld novel! That’s right, we’re going back to the very beginning to read The Colour of Magic and find out if it really is a very good place to start, with help from fantasy writer and freelance editor, Joel Martin! We’re sure you have loads of questions, so please send them in via social media using the hashtag #Pratchat14.
Show Notes and Errata:
- Marlee Jane Ward’s best known works are the YA sci-fi novella Welcome to Orphancorp – winner of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Young Adult – and it’s sequel Psynode, both published by Seizure. A third and final book in the series is coming in 2019. You can find out more about Marlee at her web site, marleejaneward.com, or by following her on Twitter at @marleejaneward.
- Marlee’s story “The Walking Thing” and Liz’s story “Naming Rights” can both be found in the short story anthology Best Summer Stories published by Black Inc.
- Neil Gaiman is an English writer who started out as a journalist, but became better known for his comic book work. His most famous series, Sandman for DC’s mature imprint Vertigo, chronicles the life of Dream, also known as Morpheus, one of the seven Endless, anthropomorphic personifications of concepts including Destiny, Despair and, yes, Death. (See the Once and For All podcast for a comparison.) Gaiman was the first journalist to interview Terry, soon after the publication of The Light Fantastic, and the two quickly became friends. Neil has since gone on to become a best-selling novelist, award-winning screenwriter and, most recently, a TV producer, in order to keep a promise to Terry that the television adaptation of Good Omens – the novel they wrote together, based on an idea of Neil’s – would be good.
- The creepy little girl with long black hair who walks weirdly is Sadako, the vengeful spirit of a young girl murdered and thrown into a well in Ring, a 1998 Japanese horror film directed by Hideo Nakata. It was remade in English as The Ring in 2002, directed by Gore Verbinski and starring Naomi Watts. Both versions follow the plot of the 1991 novel by Koji Suzuki, which was been made into an earlier 1995 film and a television series in 1999.
- Ten is indeed an aspirational age for outdoor nomes, but is about the expected number of years for Store nomes. The original Abbott in Truckers died at the age of fifteen, and was considered extremely long-lived.
- “Winter is coming” are the words of House Stark, one of the noble houses struggling for control of the fantasy kingdom of Westeros in George R. R. Martin’s blockbuster series of fantasy novels, “A Song of Ice and Fire”, adapted for television as Game of Thrones. The Stark words are significant in Westeros because their Winters do not come regularly or last for a consistent amount of time.
- John Snow is one of the main protagonists of Game of Thrones, an illegitimate son of the head of House Stark, though there’s much speculation about whether this is in fact true. His character in some ways resembles Masklin: he is a born leader who wishes he didn’t have to lead, and prefers to go off on his own to get things done.
- The “guy in King’s Landing who makes stuff” mentioned by Liz could be a few different people, including Tobho Mott, the blacksmith, Hendry, Mott’s apprentice, or Hallyne the Pyromancer, who mostly makes wildfire, an alchemical substance which burns long and hot.
- In Robert Zemeckis’ 1985 time travel comedy Back to the Future, high school student Marty McFly (Michael J Fox) is transported 30 years into the past and accidentally stops his parents from having the meeting that led to their relationship and marriage. In his efforts to help his father George (Crispin Glover) get together with his mother Lorraine (Lea Thompson) he gives him some pointers on how to talk to her; George misreads his notes as “my density has bought me to you”.
- In the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Anya is a former vengeance demon who once granted the wishes of women who had been wronged by men. In her first appearance her source of power is destroyed and she becomes mortal, and she provides a great deal of comic relief as she struggles to adjust to normal human life. She has a fraught relationship with Xander, the regular human of the group, and the end of her story is…well. We won’t spoil it for you. (It’s not a Buffy the Vampire Slayer podcast after all.)
- The Castle is a 1997 Australian comedy film about the working class Kerrigan family, whose fight the compulsory acquisition of their Melbourne home, which is extremely close to an airport. The film is a cultural touchstone in Australia, grossing over $10m domestically, and many lines from the film are now part of the Australian vernacular.
- Muriel’s Wedding is a 1994 Australian comedy film about socially awkward Muriel, who dreams of a white wedding and moving to Sydney to escape her unhappy life, bullying friends and domineering father. It was a breakout role for Toni Collette, and also starred Rachel Griffiths and Bill Hunter. A box office smash and classic of Australian cinema, it was adapted into a stage musical in 2017, featuring both original songs and many by ABBA, which feature heavily in the film. Liz’s comment that the film is “terrible” references the famous line from the film featured in the trailer: “You’re terrible, Muriel!”
- Enter the Dragon is a 1973 martial arts film starring Bruce Lee. He plays “Lee”, a kung fu instructor persuaded to attend a martial arts tournament to infiltrate the criminal empire of a drug lord.
- Although it feels like more, Australia has had six Prime Ministers (including Kevin Rudd twice) between 2007 and the time of writing in November 2018. This is in sharp contrast to the eleven-year Prime Ministership of the previous incumbent, John Howard.
- For more on Australian leadership spills, see Liz’s article for The Guardian, “Another nick in the wall at Melbourne cemetery’s Prime Minister’s Garden” from August 2018, and Marlee’s blog post “Two Strong Women and the Whole World Watching: The Spill & The Filibuster” from June 2013.
- You can read about the “Friends for Stability” WhatsApp group, which played a crucial role in the most recent (as of November 2018) leadership spill, in this ABC News article from August 2018.
- The “Geneva Conventions” are several treaties and protocols that established international legal standards for the treatment of combatants, prisoners and civilians in war. You can read more about them with commentary at the International Committee of the Red Cross. Pratchett references the conventions – or the idea of them – in several books, including the first Johnny Maxwell novel, Only You Can Save Mankind, where one of the ScreeWee aliens mocks the idea of having rules in war.
- “Millennials are destroying X” became such a pervasive mainstream media discussion topic by mid 2018 that it was subject to widespread deconstruction via a Twitter hashtag and several response articles. “Here is a list of things that millennials are killing” at The Comeback is a good place to start if you want to read about it.
- The “O-Bahn Busway” is a sort of weird fusion between bus lane and railway in which busses travel without stopping along a guided track between major interchanges. Brisbane’s busways are similar and longer, but do not have guiding tracks like the O-Bahn. In both cases parts of the busway are underground.
- Pixar’s Cars series of films have generated much discussion because the living, personified cars seem to exist in a world with no humans, and yet they still have doors, and drive on roads amongst human buildings. If you want to wander down the hellish road this has led some to pave, just google “Pixar Cars theories”; you’ll find versions where the cars are AI vehicles who have taken on the personalities of their last driver, where they are highly evolved insects, and where they are a weird fusion of human and technology. All of them are disturbing.
- There are lots of explanations for why we traditionally say “bless you!” when someone sneezes, but none can be definitively proven to be the one true source. Myth-debunking web site Snopes has a list of many of them.
- Local authorities ignoring the hero’s warnings of a murderer, monster or other source of mayhem aren’t restricted to 80s films; the TV Tropes web site has a whole list of films, TV shows and other media in which the hero cries “You have to believe me!” to no avail.
- The original description of Masklin from chapter one of Truckers says he is “a small, stumpy figure”, then goes on: “It was not entirely human. There were definitely the right number of arms and legs, and the additional bits like eyes and so on were in the usual places, but the figure that was now creeping across the darkened floor in its mouseskins looked like a brick wall on legs. Nomes are so stocky that a Japanese Sumo wrestler would look half-starved by comparison, and the way this one moved suggested that it was considerably tougher than old boots.”
- On the subject of punching sharks in the nose, shark researcher Ryan Johnson in this BBC article from 2017 suggests that if you are being attacked already, you might as well just go at the shark as hard as you can, preferably with an inanimate object if you have one handy. Shark expert Dr David Shiffman, interviewed by The Smithsonian in 2013, reckons you should try poking the shark in the eye, since punching anything in the water is very difficult. Both articles remind us all that we are very, very unlikely to be attacked by a shark. Even in Australia.
- In his 1955 lecture “English and Welsh”, J. R. R. Tolkien described the phrase “cellar door” as among the most beautiful in the English language, though he was speaking only of the sounds of the words, not their meaning.
- Douglas Adams fans do not usually describe themselves as anything except “Douglas Adams fans”, but many do celebrate Towel Day each year on the 25th of May – coincidentally the date of The People’s Revolution of the Glorious 25th of May, as previously discussed in episode 7A.
- The Emperor’s New Groove is a 2000 Disney animated film about Kuzco (David Spade), a teenage Incan emperor who is magically transformed into a llama by evil sorceress Yzma (Eartha Kitt) when he fires her as his advisor. He teams up with a humble farmer, Pacha (John Goodman) to take back the throne, while Yzma and her sidekick Kronk (Patrick Warburton) try to find Kuzco. The film was a modest box office success – if a disappointment compared to most of Disney’s 90s films – but has found a devoted audience since its release. Its development was so protracted and troubled – including not only the Sting incident mentioned by Liz, but multiple major changes in personnel and direction – that there’s a documentary about its production titled The Sweatbox.
- JCB is a single from the album Half of These Songs Are About You by the English alternative folk duo Nizlopi, who are sadly no longer performing together. The super cute music video is on YouTube, and includes a hand-drawn JCB which the song also describes as a “digger”. (It seems to be the same kind of digger as Jekub.)
- The “how dinosaurs are drawn” episode of 99% Invisible is “Welcome to Jurassic Art“. Liz would be proud.
- Caramello Koala is a koala-shaped chocolate filled with gooey caramel, made by Cadbury. Along with Freddo Frog and (for older folks) Bertie Beetle, he’s a staple of the kids range of Cadbury chocolates, often sold individually wrapped as part of charity drives.
- Tiny Teddy biscuits are…well, tiny teddy bear-shaped sweet biscuits made by Arnott’s. They come in a variety of flavours and one of their big selling points to parents is that they contain no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives.