For our twentieth episode we finish our first Pratchett series! Elizabeth and Ben are joined by writer Dr Lili Wilkinson to discover the final fate of Masklin, Angalo, Gurder and the rest of the Nomes in the 1990 conclusion to the Bromeliad: Wings! (If you need to catch up, you can find Truckers in episode 9, and Diggers in episode 13.)
When Masklin arrived in the Store, he learned that the Thing – an ancient artefact handed down for thousands of generations – wasn’t just a useless box, but could speak. It warned him of the destruction of the Store, helped him escape with all the Store Nomes in a truck to the quarry, and revealed that Nomes came to Earth from a distant star. Masklin knows the Nomes can’t run from humans forever. It’s time to find a proper home of their own. So with the help of the Abbott Gurder and explorer Angalo, he’s going to sneak onto a Concorde and go to Florida to hijack a satellite so the Thing can talk to their starship and fly them to another planet. Not that Masklin understands what most of those words are…
The Book of the Nomes concludes with a rollicking, fast-paced adventure that doesn’t shy away from some big questions about identity, religion, philosophy and taking risks to do what’s right. Picking up from where we left him at the start of Diggers, Wings follows Masklin, Angalo and Gurder as they travel vast distances, meet their own gods and eventually have a close encounter of the Nome kind. Did you find the ending satisfying? How does the mix of fantasy and sci-fi tropes site with you? Do you wish there’d been more stories of the Nomes? We’d love to hear from you! Use the hashtag #Pratchat20 on social media to join the conversation.
Last month we had to delay the release of our live show from Nullus Anxietas VII, discussing the short story Troll Bridge with author Tansy Rayner-Roberts, but it will be released in between this episode and the next one. And speaking of the next one…in July we’re visiting a distant part of the Disc and finally catching up with everyone’s* favourite inept wizard, Rincewind, as we’ll be joined by David Ryding of Melbourne City of Literature to return to the Discworld series with Interesting Times! Get your questions in via social media using the hashtag #Pratchat21.
* Well…all right. Ben’s favourite inept wizard. Though Catweazle, Ergo the Magnificent and Meredith are all up there as well.
Show Notes and Errata:
- Dr Lili Wilkinson is an author based in Melbourne. She’s written a dozen books for young adults and middle grade readers, including The Boundless Sublime (about a girl who gets sucked into a cult), After the Lights Go Out (in which a girl is prepped for the apocalypse by her Dad…and then it happens), and Green Valentine, a romance featuring shopping trolleys, a lobster costume and a whole lot of gardening. Lili also started insideadog.com.au, an online community for bookish teens, and the Inky Awards, Australia’s only reader’s choice award for YA fiction. Watch out for her new picture book Clancy the Quokka in October 2019. You can find Lili online at liliwilkinson.com.au and on Twitter at @twitofalili.
- The supersonic passenger aircraft Concorde was a joint project of the United Kingdom and France, and operated between 1976 and 2003 by Air France and British Airways. With a top speed of over twice the speed of sound, it could cross the Atlantic in half the time of other airlines, and boasted luxury service for its passengers. But it was loud, environmentally unsound, and very expensive, so it was never adopted by other airlines, and the planes were eventually decommissioned. The thing about the gap in the plane was mostly true: due to the heat generated by the extreme speeds, the fuselage would expand by as much as 30 centimetres at top speeds. The design accommodated this, manifesting in a gap in the inner wall between segments of the cockpit. One pilot left his hat in the gap deliberately during the final flight of one of the aircraft.
- The Concorde did indeed have a very safe operational record for most of its history, with only one fatal accident in the year 2000. In May of that year, an Air France Concorde hit debris on the runway during takeoff; its fuel tank was punctured and the aircraft crashed into a hotel not far from the airport, killing more than 100 people, including everyone on board. The entire Concorde fleet was grounded for over a year following the crash, though they weren’t the only aircraft found at fault: the debris had fallen off a Continental Airlines DC-10 which had been shoddily repaired, and the airline ended up paying a large portion of the compensation.
- Lindsay Lohan stars in the 1998 version of The Parent Trap, a remake of the 1961 original, in turn based on the novel Das doppelte Lottchen by German author Erich Kästner. Lohan plays a pair of identical twins separated soon after birth, who discover each other when coincidentally sent to the same camp. They decide their parents are still in love with each other and plot to get them back together. The Concorde is an important plot device near the end of the film.
- Time-Flight was a story in Peter Davison’s first season as the Doctor, and immediately followed Earthshock, the story in which a major character died. While it was reasonably popular at the time, with record viewing figures for its first episode, it has become loathed among fans, often featuring in the bottom five in poll rankings of every Doctor Who story. No doubt it’ll feature on Lucas Testro’s podcast Doctor Who and the Episodes of Death any day now…
- Concorde had 17 separate fuel tanks, only four of which were in the fuselage; most were in the wings, with a few more at the front and back. It was unique in that it pumped fuel between the tanks during flight to shift the aircraft’s centre of gravity during supersonic flight. The engines were created by Bristol Siddeley Engines and French aerospace company Snecma; Bristol Siddeley was acquired by Rolls Royce during the development of Concorde.
- The UK didn’t ban smoking on international flights until 1997, so for most of Concorde’s operational life smoking would have been allowed on board. Australia was in fact the first country to ban smoking on all domestic flights, in 1987; smoking on international flights to and from Australia was banned in 1990, a year after the US banned smoking on domestic flights. (They banned smoking on international flights in 2000.) Major pressure for the ban came from the flight attendants unions, who first campaigned for it in the 1960s.
- The dessert Ben is trying to think of is junket, also known as curds and whey, which is made with milk and rennet. A powdered form, coloured and flavoured, used to be available; you just had to add milk.
- It’s actually Angalo who was getting into The Spy With No Trousers; we hope he sees our Twitter version, which we hope to release soon under the hashtag #thespywithnotrousers. (We’ll compile it at post it on the web site, too.)
- You can find out more about the “Satanic panic” of the 1980s in the first episode of Let’s Talk About Sects, Lili’s YouTube series about cults and new religious movements.
- Scott Westefield is an author, most famously of the YA series Uglies and Leviathan.
- As previously mentioned in episode 7A, in James Cameron’s 2009 film Avatar the alien Na’vi have a tendril-like organ which allows them to to “plug in” to various animals on their planet, including the pterodactyl-like ikran, and…er…control them? It’s weird and gross, and not the sort of things Nomes – or Pratchett – would be into.
- Vatican II, more formally known as the Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, is the most recent ecumenical council – a convening of senior church officials to discuss church doctrine and practice. It actually occurred much earlier than the 1980s, from 1962 to 1965, and resulted in many changes meant to help the church fit in with the modern world.
- In 2006 – well after the publication of Wings in 1990 – then Senator for Alaska, Republican Ted Stevens, was arguing against the idea of net neutrality. He was trying to explain his position that some commercial network traffic should have reserved bandwidth on the Internet, but didn’t do the best job. He said: “the Internet is not something that you just dump something on. It’s not a big truck. It’s a series of tubes. And if you don’t understand, those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and it’s going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material…” He was widely mocked for this clumsy (if not entirely inaccurate) analogy, and “a series of tubes” became a popular meme.
- The West Wing Weekly, part of the Radiotopia podcast network, is an episode-by-episode discussion of the political drama The West Wing. It’s hosted by Joshua Malina (who played Will Bailey in the show) and Hrishikesh Hirway (host of the Song Exploder music podcast), and has featured many actors and crew from the series, including creator Aaron Sorkin. As of recording, they were approaching the end of the show’s penultimate sixth season.
- The Quentin Blake-esque covers of the current edition of the Bromeliad books are by Mark Beech, who also did the internal art for the hardback illustrated edition of Truckers (this is the one Ben likes a lot) as well as covers for the most recent editions of The Carpet People and the Johnny Maxwell books, and covers and internal illustrations for the collections of Pratchett’s early short stories for children.
- The Care Bears started out as characters on greeting cards, and became a hugely successful line of plush toys and animated characters in television (originally from 1985 to 1988) and film (beginning with The Care Bears Movie in 1985). They are magical beings who personify various emotions, with each bearing (sorry) a symbol on their belly representing their feeling. They live in “the Kingdom of Caring”, hidden amongst the clouds, which contains their home, Care-a-lot, and the Forest of Feelings, home to the Care Bear Cousins (similar characters who aren’t bears). The Care Bears and Cousins try to guide children to be their best and deal with challenging emotions, while also defeating villains like Professor Coldheart who seek to eliminate caring from the world. Their main magical power is the “Care Bear Stare”, which manifests as coloured beams of light from their belly symbols that infuse their target with warm feelings.
- The animated film Ben was remembering was GoBots: Battle of the Rock Lords, aka Machine Men Movie: Battle of the Rock Lords. While its voice cast wasn’t nearly up to the standard of Transformers: The Movie – which featured Leonard Nimoy and Orson Wells – it did star Roddy McDowall, Telly Savalas and Margot Kidder! Both films were released in 1986.