These are the episode notes and errata for Pratchat episode 61, “What Terry Wrote“, discussing the 24th Discworld novel, 2005‘s Thud! with guest Matt Roden.
Notes and Errata
- The episode title plays with “What Tak wrote”, the creation myth of the dwarfs, as featured at the start of Thud!
- For those interested, here’s the Pratchat intro script as it appears in our episode notes template. Ben updates it when creating the notes for a new episode, inserting the book’s title and the details for the guest.
LIZ: I’m Elizabeth Flux. BEN: I’m Ben McKenzie. LIZ: Welcome to Pratchat, the monthly Terry Pratchett book club podcast. BEN: Each month we discuss one of Terry Pratchett’s books with a special guest. LIZ: This month we’re reading Book Title, [pun/joke about the book]. BEN: And our [returning] guest is [descriptors], [guest name] - welcome [guest]!
- 100 Story Building and Story Factory are not-for-profit creative writing centres for children and young people which run workshops centred around storytelling, literacy and writing, mostly in schools. Both were inspired in large part by 826 Valencia, a creative writing centre for established in San Francisco in 2002 by educator Ninive Caligari and novelist Dave Eggers (of McSweeney’s fame). Other similar organisations exist in many countries, including The Ministry of Stories in London (with which Matt was involved) and Fighting Words in Dublin.
- A geode is a hollow, rounded sedimentary or igneous rock (and we’ll come back to that term) which has minerals on the inside of the hard outer shell. Those minerals often include crystals, like quartz or amethyst. Igneous geodes are often formed when there is a bubble of gas inside a flow of magma or lava. They’re very popular as jewellery and ornaments, and are often cut in half for display, with the flat edge of the shell polished to show off its formations too. They’re not to be confused with thunder eggs, which are similar but distinct spherical structures also formed in lava.
- Octarine – the eighth colour, the colour of magic – is last definitely mentioned before Thud! in The Last Continent, back in 1998. (It might also be mentioned in The Last Hero, though this is harder to verify without re-reading the whole book.) It does get a passing mention in The Science of Discworld III: Darwin’s Watch, but only in a non-fiction chapter.
- Detritus and Cuddy, the Watch’s first troll and dwarf recruits, argue – and become fast friends – in Men at Arms. We discussed the book all the way back in #Pratchat1, “Boots Theory“, and revisited in the live special #PratchatNALC, “Twice as Alive“.
- The “dwarf and the troll in the rock band together” are hornblower Glod Glodsson and percussionist Lias Bluestone who form a band with Imp y Celyn’s in Soul Music. We discussed the novel in #Pratchat19, “It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got Rocks In“.
- Rush Hour is a 1998 action comedy directed by Brett Ratner and starring Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker as Detective Inspector Lee from Hong Kong and Detective James Carter of the LAPD. Lee is summoned to Los Angeles to help rescue the kidnapped daughter of his former boss, and Carter is assigned to “babysit” him as punishment, making him determined to solve the case. It was a big hit, spawning two sequels: Rush Hour 2 in 2001, which moved the action to Hong Kong, and Rush Hour 3 in 2007, which took both officers away from home to Paris. There have been rumours of a fourth film for years, and in this era of legacy sequels who knows – it could still happen.
- The Wire is an American crime television series created for HBO by David Simon, an American author and former crime reporter. It’s set in the city of Baltimore, in the US state of Maryland, and each season explores a different group connected to crime and law enforcement, though drug gangs and the police appear in all five seasons, which were first broadcast between 2002 and 2008. Season four, the one specifically mentioned by Matt, deals with the education system and the mayor’s office. The Wire notably stars Wendell Pierce as William “The Bunk” Moreland, a homicide detective who features in all five seasons; you might know him as the voice of Death in BBC America’s The Watch. (See #Pratchat52, “A Near-Watch Experience“.)
- We’ll mention the earlier Watch novel, The Fifth Elephant, quite a few times this episode. It introduced the idea of the Deep Downers and is the origin of a lot of Discworld dwarf culture, previous books having mostly stuck to a parody of Tolkien’s dwarfs. It also announced the impending arrival of Young Sam We discussed it in #Pratchat40, “The King and the Hole of the King“, back in February 2021.
- Fizz, the political cartoonist for The Ankh-Morpork Times, is named for Phiz, the pen name of popular Huguenot illustrator Hablot Knight Browne (1815-1882). His inclusion here (and in Monstrous Regiment) reflects that he contributed cartoons for the British satricial magazine Punch in very much the same style, but Browne was also known for illustrating novels and serialised stories in more reputable publications, most notably for Charles Dickens’ Pickwick Papers, which started with the pseudonym Nemo before changing it to Phiz. “Phiz”, by the way, is short for “Phizzog”, an English slang term for face which is derived from the word “physiognomy”, which means “a person’s facial features or expression”. (We’re not sure which came first, the cartoonist’s tag or the slang term, but its a fun word all the same.)
- The Good Wife is a CBS legal drama set in Chicago, which ran for seven seasons between 2009 and 2016. It stars Julianna Margulies as Alicia Florrick, a woman who restarts her legal career as a junior lawyer when her State’s Attorney husband is jailed for corruption. It was followed in 2017 by The Good Fight, a spin-off starring Christine Baranski as her The Good Wife character Diane Lockhart, a senior lawyer at Florrick’s firm who has to start over at a new one after her daughter is scammed, resulting in financial disaster. It ran for six seasons between 2017 and 2022. We previously mentioned both shows in #Pratchat51, “Boffoing the Winter Slayer“. The Good Dwarf could deal with similar themes of what women are expected to give up for men, but adding in the unique species and gender angles of Discworld dwarfs. Don’t forget to tell us which characters you think should be in it!
- Code-switching is originally a linguistic term for when a multi-lingual speaker changes between languages (or varieties of the same language) in the same conversation. This usage dates back to 1951 with the book Language of the Sierra Miwok by Lucy Shepard Freeland, when she notes it in the context of Californian First Nations people. Code-switching involves a great deal of mental energy as different languages have very different structures, idioms and modes of speech, and multilingual speakers often have to switch for their own needs as well those of the people they’re speaking to. The term has seen expanded use to mean switching between any two different modes of speaking (or thinking), especially when it comes to different levels of privilege, expected gender roles, and neurodiversity.
- The Da Vinci Code was Dan Brown’s smash hit novel from 2003 (two years before Thud!), the second to star Robert Langdon, a university professor who specialises in religious iconography and “symbology”. Langdon, who was introduced in Brown’s 2000 novel Angels & Demons, would appear in four more books. The Da Vinci Code‘s plot uses ideas from earlier writings about the Holy Grail and the Templars, and kicks off when professor is murdered to protect a secret about Christ which was uncovered by Leonardo da Vinci, who left clues in his paintings – most notably The Last Supper. It was controversial for its portrayal of the Catholic Church (who employ assassins in the book) and Christianity in general, as well as for its cavalier attitude to religion, history and art – Brown claimed in interviews that the background history he used for the book was “all” or “99%” true, including the existence of secret societies generally considered fictitious. In 2005, the same year as Thud!, Tony Robinson – comic actor, Discworld audiobook narrator and presenter of Time Team – produced The Real Da Vinci Code for Channel 4, in which he debunked many of the supposed historical facts mentioned in the book. This didn’t hamper the book’s immense popularity, though, and in 2006 it was adapted for film by Ron Howard, with a script by Akiva Goldman and starring Tom Hanks as Langdon. The film was followed by adaptations of Angels & Demons and the fourth Langdon novel, Inferno.
- A cyclorama (not “cyclodrama” as Matt says, though we’re all for drama in the round) is the Roundworld equivalent of Ransom’s painting in the book: a panoramic painting intended to be displayed on the inside of a cylindrical platform, surrounding the viewer. The term is also used for the building or room designed to hold such a painting. They were apparently very popular in the late 19th century. These days “cyclorama” is more commonly used to refer to the all-white backdrops used on stages, or in photography studios, where they are curved to give the illusion of there being no background at all.
- Mr Sheen is an Australian brand of cleaning products – specifically an aerosol-based surface polish – created in the 1950s. They were popular well into the 1990s, remembered for their mascot, a small Mr Magoo-like cartoon figure with a large shiny forehead and glasses, and his catchy advertising jingle. He found success in other markets, too, notably the UK, where the Australian mascot was replaced by a moustached flying ace who flew around the house on a can of the product. “Mr Shine” has also been used as a name by many cleaning companies and products, though none of them seem famous enough to be a direct reference.
- The city of Dis appears in Inferno, the first part of Dante’s The Divine Comedy, where it encompasses Lower or Nether Hell – which are the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth circles, housing those souls whose sins were willing or “obdurate” (i.e. unrepentant) – in order, those of heresy, violence, fraud and treachery. The city’s outer walls are surrounded by the River Styx, which forms a moat. Its name is derived from Virgil’s Aeneid, which refers to the Underworld as “the realms of Dis”, and mentions its “mighty walls”. “Dis Pater”, Latin for “Father of Dis”, was also the ruler of the Underworld in Roman mythology.
- The Gooseberry is most obviously a pun on the Blackberry, the early smartphone which was a little ahead of its time, but nonetheless popular with high-powered business folks in the 1990s and 2000s, before the advent of touch-screen smartphones with the iPhone and its competitors. It might also be a reference to UK slang, in which a “gooseberry” is like a “third wheel” – someone who feels a bit unnecessary or left out in company, usually a couple.
- “Unrelenting standards” is a psychological term for internal pressure to perform well, manifesting as perfectionism, difficulty in gauging one’s own performance compared to what’s generally considered acceptable, a desire to avoid criticism or mistakes, and an obsession with productivity and efficiency. It’s often said to be a product of growing up being valued primarily for your achievements, or in an atmosphere of frequent criticism and little praise.
- We’ve previously mentioned the Love Languages in #Pratchat46, “The Helen Green Preservation Society“. They originate in the 1992 book The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, which was written by Gary Chapman, a Baptist pastor and radio host. The book was phenomenally successful, selling more than 11 million copies and spawning many sequels and imitators. Ben is not a fan because the idea is very reductive; psychologists and counsellors have criticised Chapman’s work for over-simplifying and homogenising human experiences of love and communication, even where they appreciate the metaphor and have tried to expand it. Other critics note that Chapman is not professionally trained in psychology or counselling, holds some deeply conservative and homophobic views, and based his book on his experience with a fairly narrow sample of his parishioners. He also rejects any expansion of the idea. perhaps because its made him a great deal of money… For the record, his original five love languages are “Acts of Service”, “Words of Affirmation”, “Quality Time”, “Receiving Gifts” and “Physical Touch” – which you can probably see already leaves out a lot.
- For more about Moving Pictures as a horror story, see our discussion in #Pratchat10, “We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Broomstick“.
- Stephen King’s “Tak” appears in his 1996 novels Desperation and The Regulators, the latter of which was published under King’s outed pen name Richard Bachman, claiming to be a novel Bachman had written years earlier. Instead, it’s intentionally a story set in a parallel universe to Desperation, with alternate versions of many of the same characters – including the author!. Like the Summoning Dark, King’s Tak comes out of a deep mine in the desert and inhabits a human host – in Desperation it is a police officer who becomes a sort of berserker. We won’t say too much more, but as Ben mentions in the episode, the similarities don’t go much further than that, but it might be a deliberate reference.
- The HBO miniseries starring Ben Mendelsohn is the 2020 adaptation of another Stephen King book, 2018’s The Outsider, which does indeed have a similar plot.
- “And then the car ate a person I guess?” is a reference to Stephen King’s Christine, a 1983 novel about a seemingly possessed, jealous and violent classic car named “Christine”. It was adapted the same year into a film by John Carpenter, with some details – notably the source of the car’s demonic presence – changed considerably. Carpenter directed it as a career-saving move after his previous labour-of-love film, The Thing, didn’t do well at the box office, but both films are now cult classics. A remake of Christine is rumoured to be in production.
- A “cryptex” is a small container with a secure, complex lock, intended to carry secret messages. The term – a portmanteau of “cryptic” and “codex” – was invented by Dan Brown for The Da Vinci Code, though there’s nothing about the device itself that requires the use of cryptology to use. The original version in the novel is a hollow cylinder made of stone and brass with five rotating sections, each containing every letter of the alphabet (though whether it’s the Latin or modern English alphabet is unclear). This makes it basically a letter-based combination lock with between 280,000 and 11 million possible combinations, depending on some details not given in the novel. Physical reproductions of the cryptex have become widely available since the release of the Da Vinci Code film; Ben has even used one as part of an escape room experience he designed.
- We mention that on the Discworld, werewolves are classified as undead, something which dates back to Angua’s first appearance in Men at Arms. We’ve never really agreed; see above for our episodes about the book, where we decide they are, if anything, “twice as alive”.
- “A Collegiate Casting-Out of Devilish Devices” is the fifth and final Discworld short story, first published in the Times Higher Education Supplement in May 2005, just four months before Thud! We’ll be discussing it in #Pratchat63, coming in January 2023.
- “Fracas“, along with “rumpus”, are both used by William de Worde during a meeting with Lord Vetinari in The Truth. A footnote describes them as the word equivalent of rare fish, claiming that they are “found only in certain kinds of newspapers” and “never used in normal conversation.” For more on this, see #Pratchat42, “Truth, the Printing Press and Every -ing“.
- Liz mentions “Incepting The Wire“; she’s invoking the concept of “inception” from Christopher Nolan’s 2010 film Inception. The film is about a crew of criminals who use technology to enter the dreams of others, stealing important secrets from their subconscious. The plot of the film involves the crew being hired for the more difficult crime of “inception”: inserting an idea into the mind of the target.
- We Own This City is a 2022 television mini-seres created by David Simon for HBO. Like The Wire, it’s set in Baltimore and is about law enforcement – in this case, corrupt members of the Gun Trace Task Force, based on real-life events which occurred between 2015 and 2019.
- The Descent is a 2005 British horror film written and directed by Neil Marshall. Ben doesn’t necessarily recommend it, especially if, like him, you’re not really a horror fan – it’s pretty full on. Ben prefers the director’s previous film, the 2002 black werewolf comedy Dog Soldiers, but The Descent was pretty successful. A sequel, The Descent Part 2, was released in 2009, though it was directed by Jon Harris, who edited the original. It’s considered to be…not as good.
- When Detritus is in the desert of Klatch in Jingo, he initially has a lot of trouble in the heat, especially as his helmet conks out. Later, at night when the desert is very cold, his brain cools and becomes more efficient, as he puts it. Sadly he doesn’t say anything about the apparent demise of his helmet; the relevant passage is quoted below, and the helmet isn’t mentioned again. See also our discussion of the novel in #Pratchat27, “Leshp Miserablés“, and our next episode, #Pratchat62, “There’s a Cow in There“, when we mention the helmet again.
The troll was standing with his knuckles on the ground. The motor of his cooling helmet sounded harsh for a moment in the dry air, and then stopped as the sand got into the mechanism.Jingo – Terry Pratchett, 1997
- Matt mentions Brick’s stream-of-consciousness passages read like “an excerpt from an Irvine Welsh novel“. Welsh is a Scottish author, most famously of Trainspotting, the 1993 novel about a group of addicts – of heroin or other things – that was adapted into film by Danny Boyle in 1996. Both book and film are considered classics.
- Matt’s “dribbling dragon” is an allusion to “Chekhov’s gun” (originally “Чеховское ружьё”, or “Chekhov’s rifle” in Russian), advice given by the Russian playwright Anton Chekhov in several letters to younger writers in the early twentieth century. It’s basically the idea that you should only include necessary details in your story – the usual example being that if you include a gun in the first act of your story, it should be used to shoot someone before the end of the play or else taken out of the story entirely.
- Reg Shoe, revolutionary-turned-zombie-turned-activist-turned-police detective, is not at all mentioned in Thud!, despite having a prominent supporting role in the two preceding Watch novels, The Fifth Elephant and Night Watch. Angua does mention in passing to Sally that “no-one cares if you’re a troll or a gnome or a zombie or a vampire”, but that’s as close as it comes. Vimes doesn’t even think of Reg during the flashback to his meeting with the Patrician about Sally, when he mentally lists the weirder members of the Watch: he thinks only of trolls, dwarfs, golems, a werewolf, an Igor and Nobby.
- We’ve mentioned the British drama Downton Abbey a few times before on the podcast, most notably in #Pratchat36. The series was created and co-written by English actor, writer, director and actual aristocrat and member of the House of Lords, Julian Fellowes. It follows the inhabitants of the titular manor house: the aristocratic Crawley family, led by Lord Grantham, and their servants. It’s set between 1912 and 1925 and features many significant historical events, including the sinking of the Titanic, the Great War, and the Spanish Flu epidemic. (Of note: Mary Crawley, eldest daughter of Lord Grantham, is played by Susan Dockery, known to Discworld fans as Susan in the television adaptation of Hogfather.) It ran for six series on ITV between 2010 and 2015, and became a worldwide phenomenon, especially after it was added to the streaming service Netflix. The story has since been continued in two films: Downton Abbey in 2019, set during a visit by the royal family to Downton in 1927, and Downton Abbey: A New Era in 2022, set in 1928 and involving a film crew hiring the Abbey as a location, and the family going on a trip to France to visit a villa the Dowager Countess (played by Maggie Smith) is bequeathing to one of her great granddaughters. Fellowes also created the HBO series The Gilded Age, set in 1880s America, and there’s been talk of potentially featuring a younger version of Smith’s character in that show.
- When Ben mentions “the witch in that Tiffany Aching book“, he’s referring to Miss Level, the witch with two bodies – kind of the opposite of Miss Pickles and Miss Pointer – who mentors Tiffany in A Hat Full of Sky. For more on that, listen to #Pratchat43, “Big Wee Hag: Far Fra’ Home“.
- The Leonardo DiCaprio pointing meme is an image of the actor character Rick Dalton pointing at a movie screen when he sees himself, taken from the film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019, dir. Quentin Tarantino). It’s often used in conjunction with a quote, retweet or another image to show the poster self-identifies with it. We previously mentioned it in #Pratchat36, “Home Alone, But Vampires“, and #Pratchat43, “Big Wee Hag: Far Fra’ Home“.
- Ben hasn’t yet confirmed whether its Mr Shine or Grag Bashfulsson who warns Vimes he might have to rein in his anger more than usual, but he’ll keep looking.
- Vetinari worries he’s pushed Vimes too far in Men at Arms, though Ben has the reasoning backwards – he’s worried because, as he mentions to Leonard da Quirm, Vimes didn’t punch the wall.
- Tracey Emin is a British artist known for her personal, confessional works in a variety of media, and was considered an enfant terrible of the Young British Artists (or YBAs) in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Her most famous piece is probably Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963-1995, a tent appliquéd with the names of all her sexual partners, which was destroyed in a fire in a storage facility in 2004. The “modern” artworks mentioned in the book are by Daniella Pouter, and include Don’t Talk to Me About Mondays, described as a pile of rags, which might be a reference to Emin’s famous 1998 work My Bed, literally the artist’s bed piled with items from her bedroom in disarray.
- “The Peaky Blinders thing” is a reference to the flat caps with sharpened pennies sewn into the brim, used as concealed weapons by Willikins street gang. The real “Peaky Blinders” were a street gang in Birmingham in the 1880s through to the 1910s; there’s a story that they used caps with razor blades sewn into them as weapons, leading to the gang’s name, but the name pre-dates disposable razor blades so this is probably apocryphal. A more sound theory is it referred to their sartorial style: they did wear flat caps, but also dressed rather well for a street gang, so the name probably referred to the hats and that they were fancy, as “blinder” is Birmingham slang for “dapper”. Another possibility is their technique of grabbing a robbery victim’s hat from behind and pulling it down over their eyes, so they wouldn’t be seen and couldn’t be identified. The term has become popular again since the BBC series Peaky Blinders gained popularity, though it’s a heavily fictionalised version of the real gang. It ran for six series between 2013 and 2022.
- We heard the story of Michael Williams’ 2014 interview with Pratchett during the recording of #Pratchat26, “The Long Dark Mr Teatime of the Soul“, and we included his story in the third episode of our subscriber bonus podcast, Ook Club. You can hear the full discussion as “Imagination, Not Intelligence, Made Us Human” on the Wheeler Centre website. There’s a lot of good stuff in it.
More notes coming soon!
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