In episode 28, players Liz, Ben and guest Steve Lamattina press start and blast away at Pratchett’s 1992 novel of kids, war and videogames, Only You Can Save Mankind.
Twelve-year-old Johnny Maxwell isn’t the best at computer games, but he loves them all the same. While playing Only You Can Save Mankind, a space combat simulator, he’s taken by surprise when the Captain of the enemy ScreeWee fleet offers to surrender. After he accepts, the game starts to invade his dreams, and the aliens disappear – from everyone’s computer. Something weird is going on – but at least it’s a distraction from the war on TV and the Trying Times at home…
Only You Can Save Mankind – dedicated to Pratchett’s daughter Rhianna, now a renowned videogame writer – is explicitly about the first Gulf War (1990-1991), at a time when games looked more real and televised war looked more like a game. In early 2020, many themes of the book seem alarmingly current – even as the experience of computer games it describes is very firmly rooted in the past. Did you connect with Johnny’s experience? Do you like videogames? Does this episode contain too much Pokémon and Freddi Fish? Use the hashtag #Pratchat28 (and maybe #DeliciousPokémon) on social media to join the conversation!
Guest Steve Lamattina is a writer and editor who has worked in film, music, education and tech. He was also CEO of youth publishing company Express Media, and has written about food, events, movies, games, social media and much much more. You can find him on Twitter as @steve_lamattina.
Next month it’s back to the Discworld, and close to home – more or less – as we catch up with Rincewind in 1998’s The Last Continent, and welcome back a returning guest: Fury! We’ll be recording in late February, so get your questions in before then via social media using the hashtag #Pratchat29.
You’ll find the full notes and errata for this episode on our web site.
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