These are the episode notes and errata for Pratchat episode 70, “Punching Up”, discussing Terry Pratchett’s 1993 Discworld short story, “Theatre of Cruelty”, with guest Caimh McDonnell.
Since it was available for free, there are lots of scans floating about on the internet, and it’s a shorter version than the one available for free on the L-Space web, we figure it should be okay for us to share the original two-page spread of the story from Bookcase magazine, including the original version of Josh Kirby’s illustration.
Notes and Errata
- The episode title plays on Mr Punch, the concept of “punching up” in comedy (i.e. the idea that the targets of derision in comedy should be those with more power), and the other concept of “punching up” in writing (i.e. adding more jokes and/or pace to a script to improve it).
- We’ve mentioned Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series of urban fantasy novels before. They follow the adventures of new police officer Peter Grant as he becomes apprentice to the last wizard in England, who also works for the London police. There are now nine novels, four novellas, a short story collection, nine graphic novels (originally published as separate issue comic books) and a tabletop roleplaying game. The best place to start is probably Rivers of London, the first novel from 2011, which was originally titled Midnight Riot in the US (but is now published there under its proper title). The first comic, Body Work, is also a good place to dip in, as are most of the novellas and short stories.
- The Fortean Times is the magazine of the Fortean Society, an organisation founded by American researcher and writer Charles Fort. He collected and wrote about “anomalous phenomena” – unusual events and experiences which had gone unexplained by science, though apparently he did it to keep scientists on their toes rather than because he believed any of the theories put forth in his writing. The Fortean Times is still published in the US, UK and other countries today, and you can find them online at forteantimes.com (though you have to subscribe in print). Fort himself is mentioned in Good Omens.
- We can’t find a good reference for the edition of Good Omens with two Thursdays in one week, if that is a real error and not a fevered imagining of Ben’s. But there have been other notable ones: in some recent editions, Anathema is referred to as Agnes in one sentence when showing her index cards to Newt, and a persistent one in earlier editions was Famine saying his name had seven letters when cryptically referring to himself with a crossword clue. Some white editions of the book had a cover misprint in which the text and Crowley’s glass of wine appear, but the demon himself does not!
- On Roundworld, “theatre of cruelty” is an artistic concept created by Antonin Artaud, a French poet and theatre maker (among many other things) active in the 1920s and 30s. His theatre of cruelty wasn’t literally theatre, or literally cruel, but rather a reaction against realism. He wanted performance to be something more visceral: a spectacle, incorporating music, dance, lights and everything other than text, performed by “athletes of the heart” who would surround audiences to shock them out of complacency and wake them up to the horrors and violence of real life. While not embraced widely, it’s been an influence on many theatre makers, notably director Peter Brook in his work with the Royal Shakespeare Company in the 1960s, including a famous 1966 production of the play Marat/Sade. This YouTube video from CrashCourse is a pretty good overview.
- Neil Gaiman’s Sherlock Holmes stories are “A Study in Emerald”, from the 2003 anthology Shadows Over Baker Street, and “The Case of Death and Honey”, from the 2011 collection A Study in Sherlock. “A Study in Emerald” won both a Hugo and Locus Award in 2004, and has been adapted into a board game by Martin Wallace, of Discworld: Ankh-Morpork and The Witches fame.
- Harlan Ellison (1934-2018) was an American speculative fiction writer whose work encompassed novels, short stories, television (most famously the Star Trek episode “The Guardian on the Edge of Forever”), videogames and more. Angry Candy is his 1988 anthology about death, containing the award-winning short stories “Eidolons”, “Paladins of the Lost Hour” and “Soft Monkey”. Dangerous Visions was a 1967 collection of groundbreaking science fiction stories edited by Ellison and was hugely influential, not least for the way it included sex in the genre. It was followed by Again, Dangerous Visions in 1972, and he announced a third, The Last Dangerous Visions, in 1973, but it was not published in his lifetime. His failure to publish the book became a controversy in speculative fiction circles, especially after several of the authors who sold him stories died before seeing them in print; British author Christopher Priest wrote about the book for his own fanzine, eventually expanding the piece into a short book titled The Book on the Edge of Forever in 1988. Ellison’s literary estate is now managed by Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski, who announced in 2022 that The Last Dangerous Visions would finally be published in September 2024, preceded by new editions of the first two books.
- Regular listeners will be familiar with Liz’s love for Diana Wynn Jones, and we’ve previously mentioned her 1988 novelette “Carol O’Neir’s Hundredth Dream”. It’s part of her Chrestomanci series of stories and books, set in a magical universe where there are a specific number of alternate worlds.
- We’ve also previously discussed American horror and mystery writer Shirley Jackson (1916-1965), most notably in #Pratchat58, “The Barbarian Switch”. Her famous story “The Lottery” appears in the many collections, including 1949’s The Lottery and Other Stories. Dark Tales is a more recent anthology, published by Penguin in 2016.
More notes to come soon!
Thanks for reading our notes! If we missed anything, or you have questions, please let us know.