These are the episode notes and errata for Pratchat episode 65, “Let There Be Gaimans“, discussing several pieces from the “Scribbling Intruder” section of Pratchett’s 2014 nonfiction anthology, A Slip of the Keyboard, with special guest Peter M Ball.
We’ve mentioned it before a few times, but here again is Michael Williams’ interview with Terry Pratchett from 2013, during his tour to promote Snuff, titled “Imagination, not intelligence, made us human.” (It used to be available as an audio recording, but now it’s only available via YouTube.)
Notes and Errata
The episode title is probably not Ben’s best work, but it was there…
GenreCon is a writing conference in Meanjin (aka Brisbane) specifically for genre writers that tries to cover as many genres as possible: science fiction, romance, crime, fantasy, horror, and more. It just ran its eighth conference from 17-19 February 2023, with this year’s guests including friends of this podcast Garth Nix (#Pratchat51, “Boffoing the Winter Slayer“) and Will Kostakis (#Pratchat18, “Sundog Gazillionaire” and #Pratchat37, “The Shopping Trolley Problem“).
The Queensland Writers Centre is a not-for-profit membership organisation supporting local writers of all kinds. It was established in January 1990, and as well as GenreCon runs workshops and other events, and provides various services including consulting, mentorship and manuscript assessment and editing.
The Author is the quarterly journal of The Society of Authors, established in 1884, and is the UK’s union for writers, illustrators and literary translators – not just for authors any more! Terry was Chair of their Management Committee from 1994 to 1995, helping to shape their policy and strategy. His time in those meetings inspired the short story “A Collegiate Casting-Out of Devilish Devices”, which we discussed in #Pratchat63. He was also elected as a member of the Society’s Council. Philip Pullman was President of the Society from 2013 until early 2022, when he resigned following some controversy around a memoir. The current Chair is Joanne Harris, best known for her novel Chocolat. Notably both Harris and Pullman were some of the more level-headed voices speaking up about the Roald Dahl rewrite controversy (see below), with Harris in favour of the changes, and Pullman advocating letting Dahl’s books fade away without being republished.
Ben is wrong about one thing in his FAQ footnote: the Pratchett newsgroups (see below) did have an FAQ! You can still find it at lspace.org here. We think this was the last version, updated in 2005; like the Annotated Pratchett File (also see below), it was maintained by Leo Breebaart, who also created the L-Space web.
We’ve previously talked about newsgroups in #Pratchat10 and #Pratchat42, but for context: the Usenet system was created in 1980 as an Internet-based alternative to local Bulletin Board Systems. Setting standards that would later be used by web-based internet forums, they organised posts by users into conversation-like “threads” of messages, which were themselves organised into “newsgroups” under hierarchical categories, similar to (but distinct from) domain names. There were three newsgroups of primary interest to Pratchett fans: alt.books.pratchett for discussion of the books themselves; alt.fan.pratchett (the big one) for general fan chit-chat (though this often included the books); and alt.fan.pratchett.announce, a moderated group for announcements of signings and other events of interest to fans. Pratchett was active on the first two.
Peter says Pratchett started publishing Discworld in about ’88, but we suspect he meant that the Discworld really took off around then, with the publication of the fourth and fifth books, Sourcery and his first really big hit, Wyrd Sisters. The Colour of Magic was first published in November 1983.
Pratchett’s fifth and tenth books (including the three pre-Discworld ones) were The Light Fantastic in 1985, and Pyramids in 1989. The gap in between contained the first big growth spurts of the Internet, but to put them in perspective, Tim Berners Lee only created the first version of the World Wide Web in 1989, and the first widely available web browser, Mosaic, didn’t launch until 1993 – by which time Pratchett was onto his twenty-fourth book, Johnny and the Dead! If you wanted to chat to people on the internet, newsgroups and mailing lists were the go in the 1990s…
In Benjamin Partridge’s monthly comedy podcast, The Beef and Dairy Network Podcast, Partridge plays the unnamed host of the fictional industry body’s podcast. Through mostly unscripted interviews with characters played by various guest actors and comedians, Partridge slowly builds up a bizarre alternate reality over many years. One of the recurring characters is disgraced “Bovine Poet Laureate” Michael Banyan (played by comedian Henry Paker), author of a book of cow poetry titled Crab of the Land, who often tells outrageous stories about partying with Jonathan Franzen.
ChatGPT is an “AI chatbot” created by the company OpenAI and publicly launched in a prototype state in November 2022. It’s capable of producing sophisticated text responses to prompts using the GPT 3 large language model previously created by OpenAI, and as a result has become hugely popular and controversial. It’s not actually intelligent; rather it uses statistical models based on a huge corpus of text (i.e. large parts of the internet up to 2021) to assemble sentences, poems or lines of code which are drawn from that corpus. We’ll probably talk about it some more in the next episode of our subscriber-only bonus podcast, Ook Club.
Pratchett told alt.fan.pratchett he was leaving for the reasons outlined in “this piece”Wyrd Ideas” on the 3rd February 1999, after a user speculated about Sam and Sybil having children (he was writing The Fifth Elephant at the time). This was despite other users in the group (and possibly the version of the FAQ available at the time) asking people not to do this sort of thing. You can see his post here – and thanks to Jo and Francine of The Truth Shall Make Ye Fret, who saved Ben the trouble of searching for this by linking to it from their own episode notes! Pratchett didn’t leave newsgroups altogether; he continues to “lurk” (i.e. read without posting much) on alt.books.pratchett and other newsgroups (mostly about videogames) until around 2008.
We mention several famous writers who published their works in serial form, usually in magazines. But we could have mentioned many more! As well as French authors Jules Verne, Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas, there’s also Charles Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Thomas Hardy, George Meredith, Robert Louis Stevenson and many, many more.
Speaking of Alexandre Dumas, his surname is pronounced “Doo-ma”. He was indeed paid by the line by some of the newspapers who published his stories, though others paid him by episode, leading to very long books rather than very short dialogue. According to some accounts, his publishers eventually caught on to his writing style, and insisted that a line had to fill half a newspaper column to count, supposedly forcing him to kill off a monosyllabic character he’d invented to extend his dialogue. Charles Dickens, by contrast, is said to have written verbosely as he was paid by the word, but in fact he was paid for instalments which had a very specific page count (32 pages in some accounts). Like a first year arts student, he may have used more words to fill the pages faster…a style emulated by Pratchett in Dodger (discussed in #Pratchat6, “A Load of Old Tosh“).
Watch this space for a brief history of fanfic, but in the meantime you can check out Archive of Our Own (aka AO3) for yourself – and yes, there’s an extensive Discworld collection there!
The Nanny (not Nanny Ogg) was a hugely popular American sitcom which ran from 1993 to 1999 – coincidentally the period between “Kevins” and “Wyrd Ideas” – on the CBS network. It starred co-creator Fran Drescher as Fran Fine, a down on her luck Jewish woman from Queens who tries selling makeup door-to-door. She’s hired by high class English Broadway producer and widower Maxwell Sheffield to be the new nanny to his three children, and the two have a will-they or won’t-they relationship aided by Sheffield’s butler Niles and opposed by Sheffield’s business partner C.C. Babcock.
The Neil Gaiman Masterclass on “The Art of Storytelling” is offered as part of the Masterclass streaming video service, which features hundreds of tutorials from famous leaders in their fields covering everything from acting to philosphy, personal style and astronomy. The BBC has a similar series of videos, BBC Maestro, with a class on Storytelling hosted by Alan Moore.
Pratchett used the term “figgin” for the kind of joke Peter describes because he used the word for exactly that kind of joke in Guards! Guards! In that novel, figgin is used by the Supreme Grand Master of the Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night in one of the order’s oaths, secure in the knowledge that none of his flock knows what it means. (In this instance Pratchett doesn’t make us wait until the very end to discover the truth for ourselves; it’s defined in a footnote. In fact he only uses the word eight times in the novel, and three of those are callbacks made after the footnote.)
To avoid confusion, Ben would like to explain that the “sherbert lemon” kind of joke is not an example of shelving, which is when a comedian mentions a concept seemingly in passing so that they can come back to it later in a new context once the audience has forgotten about it and helping the comedy work through surprising recognition. (There’s a reason explaining how comedy works is described as “dissecting the frog”.)
Pratchett is on record (in the APF, of course) that there’s no pun in Twoflower: “[…] there’s no joke in Twoflower. I just wanted a coherent way of making up ‘foreign’ names and I think I pinched the Mayan construction (Nine Turning Mirrors, Three Rabbits, etc.).”
Andrew Harman is the English author of eleven pun-filled comic fantasy novels, published between 1993 and 2000. Most of them are set in the medieval fantasy kingdom of Rhyngill and surrounds, and five, beginning with The Sorcerer’s Appendix and ending with One Hundred and One Damnations, form a loose series following the adventures of the peasant Firkin and his friends. Harman went on to find more creative success as a game designer, founding his own publisher, YAY Games, which specialises in “gateway games” – ones that work well for introducing new people to hobby boardgames.
Fawlty Towers, John Cleese’s classic sitcom farce about long-suffering but obnoxious hotel manager Basil Fawlty, ran for two series in 1975 and 1979 on BBC Two. It is often cited amongst the greatest sitcoms ever made, though its characters and many of the episodes’ premises rely heavily on ethnic and gender stereotypes. The titular hotel is located in the resort town of Torquay in the coastal “English Rivieria” region of Devon. Cleese was inspired to create the setting and main character for the show after an experience with the manager of a real Torquay hotel where the Monty Python crew stayed while filming on location in 1971.
For some perspective on the Roald Dahl rewrite controversy, you could do worse than these pieces from The Conversation:
These are the episode notes and errata for Pratchat episode 64, “GNOME Terry Pratchett“, discussing the 1973 short story “Rincemangle, the Gnome of Even Moor”, with special guest Andy Matthews.
Here’s the Two Ronnies sketch mentioned by Andy in which they use letters (and numbers) instead of words. It’s framed as “Swedish Made Simple”, a “Swedish lesson in Norwegian”, in which the subtitles use only single letters and numbers to represent words. It seems to be from the second episode of the fourth series of the show, broadcast on BBC Two in January 1975 – and please be warned that the sensibility of the sketch reflects the state of comedy in that era, especially in the way it’s ended.
Notes and Errata
The episode title is a play on the “GNU Terry Pratchett”, which many websites – including this one, if our plugin is working correctly – add to a special “Clacks overhead” bit of information. This is a reference to Going Postal, in which a message prefixed GNU is sent up and down the Clacks system forever. John Dearheart’s name is preserved this way, in accordance with the idea in Pratchett’s writing that “a man’s not dead while his name is still spoken”. GNU is also a reference to the Roundworld GNU Project, a cornerstone of the free software movement which set out to create a free Unix-like operating system. In this context, GNU is a recursive acronym for “GNU’s Not Unix!”
We mention a lot of Terry’s other books this episode; here’s a list with our episodes:
In the 1999 film The Matrix, future humanity is enslaved by sentient machines, who use the humans as living batteries after environmental disaster prevents traditional methods of power generation. They keep the humans subjugated by plugging them into an artificial reality known as “The Matrix”, but there are some free humans who present the imprisoned ones with the truth. Famously one of them – Morpheus, played by Lawrence Fishburne – does so by offering a prospective recruit two pills. The red one will allow them to see the truth of their situation, exiting the Matrix, never to return. The Wachowskis, who wrote and directed the film, turned it into a trilogy by making two sequels, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, in 2003. A fourth film, The Matrix Resurrections, was released in 2021.
Owls are indeed mentioned in the Bromeliad – Granny Morkie describes them in Diggers while attempting to “cheer up” the Nomes who’ve gone outside at night to try and rescue Dorcas. In her words: “Cunning’ devils, owls. You never hear ‘em till they’re almost on top of you.” The Nomes who grew up in the Store are terrified.
The four books collecting Pratchett’s early stories are Dragons at Crumbling Castle, The Witch’s Vacuum Cleaner (which contains this story), Father Christmas’s Fake Beard and The Time-traveling Caveman. Most of the stories are from the Bucks Free Press, but Father Christmas’s Fake Beard also contains a number of Christmas-themed stories from other points in Pratchett’s career.
The origins of the name Rincewind are actually known: it comes fromthe long-running humour column “By the Way” in the Daily Express newspaper. Written by various writers under the pen name “Beachcomber”, “By the Way” was a broad spoof of society news, with short snippets of nonsense about various fictional characters. One group of frequently recurring characters were “twelve red-bearded dwarfs” who were highly litigious, and who were at one point given individual names – one of which was “Churm Rincewind”. As mentioned in the Annotated Pratchett File entry for The Colour of Magic, Terry read a lot of the columns in published collections when he was 13, but didn’t realise that’s where he’d picked up the name until his friend Dave Langford pointed it out many years later. So Ben’s dramatic recreation wasn’t too far off the mark…
“Fishing from the same stream” is mentioned in the L-Space wiki, though the specific quote about it is not sourced. Pratchett is said to have invoked this when saying its ridiculous that anyone would suggest a certain famous author had plagiarised him just because they both had schools of magic in their books, since it was an old concept that both had drawn on. “That’s how genres work,” he says, and indeed sites like TV Tropes and All the Tropes would agree.
In the film Jurassic Park, palaeontologist Alan Grant and his young friends escape a Tyrannosaurus rex in part because Grant advises them its vision is “based on movement” – much as Rincemangle advises his fellow gnomes. But Rincemangle is partially correct – cats are ambush predators and while they have excellent night vision are relatively short-sighted. While it’s not true that stationary objects or mice are invisible to them, they are instinctively drawn to movement and use it to identify prey when laying in wait. To see why this is probably a silly assumption to make about T. rex, try to imagine the dinosaur as it appears in the film hiding in the grass and waiting to ambush its prey… Modern thought is that T. rex probably had great eyesight, just like many modern predatory birds, making it able to see prey from quite a long distance and chase it down. The assumption also appears in Crighton’s original 1990 novel, though in that case Grant makes the observation after seeing the live dinosaurs, though this is backtracked in the sequel, The Lost World.
Jorges Luis Borges (1899-1986) was an Argentine writer, and one of the most influential Spanish-language writers in the world. While he’s most famous for his short stories, which came to the attention of English-language readers in the 1970s, he also wrote novels, poetry and nonfiction, and perpetrated a great number of literary hoaxes. His most famous stories were mostly written in the 1940s and 1950s, and include “The Library of Babel”, about a library that contains every possible book that could ever exist, and “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius”, in which Borges discovers that a secret society invented a country and the world of its legends, and by doing so conjured them into being.
More notes coming soon!
Thanks for reading our notes! If we missed anything, or you have questions, please let us know.
These are the episode notes and errata for Pratchat episode 63, “Decline by Committee“, discussing the 2005 Discworld short story “A Collegiate Casting-out of Devilish Devices”, plus some extra discussion of the novel Thud!, with special guest Matt Roden.
Here’s the “Explaining a Board Game” sketch from Australian sketch group Aunty Donna, which Ben has indeed been sent many, many times – including by Matt, shortly after we recorded this episode.
Notes and Errata
The episode title is a pun on the phrase “Design by Committee”, which refers to a situation where no-one is in charge of the design of a product, leading to a lack of direction.
“Trilogy in four parts” is borrowed from Douglas Adams, who described The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy book series this way after publishing the fourth novel, So Long and Thanks For All the Fish. It later became “The Increasingly Innacurately Named Hitchhikers Trilogy” with the publication of the fifth book Mostly Harmless.
You can find the first three parts of our trilogy here:
#PratchatPlaysThud – “The Troll’s Gambit”, about Thud the board game, with Dr Melissa Rogerson
#Pratchat61 – “What Terry Wrote”, about Thud!, with Matt Roden.
#Pratchat62 – “There’s a Cow in There“, about Where’s My Cow?, with Jo and Francine from The Truth Shall Make Ye Fret.
“Nepo baby” was a buzz-term in late 2022. It’s short for “nepotism baby”, a new name for the concept of getting a leg up via a family connection. That’s as old as…well, a very old thing, but discussion of it really took off as younger social media users learned to their surprise that many Hollywood stars and influencers have parents or other relatives they’d never heard of who are also in show business. Matt asks Ben if he read “the article” – Ben hadn’t, but we think Matt meant “What is a Nepotism Baby, Anyway? How a ‘Nepo Baby’ is Born” by Nate Jones for Vulture, which was also a cover story for New York magazine.
Ridcully’s snooker table covered in paperwork appears not in Lords and Ladies, but in Soul Music. A footnote reveals that a wizard’s trick shots can include temporal spin, and that Ridcully once bounced a ball off the Bursar’s head “last Tuesday”.
We’ve listed below the senior faculty members of Unseen University who appear in most of the Wizards books. (We’ve tried to avoid any spoilers here for books not yet covered on the podcast.)
Mustrum Ridcully, Archchancellor
Ponder Stibbons, Head of Inadvisably Applied Magic, Reader in Invisible Writings, and Praelector. (He later acquired more titles, including Reader in Non-Volatile Intelligence, Cantoride Speaker in Slood Refurgance and at least one it would be a spoiler to reveal here.)
A. A. Dinwiddie (aka “The Bursar”), Bursar. His name is revealed in The Truth.
Henry (last name not revealed), the Dean of Pentacles, known as “the Dean”. (His name is revealed in a later book.)
The Lecturer in Recent Runes.
The Chair of Indefinite Studies.
The Senior Wrangler.
Ponder Stibbons and Victor Tugelbend were students taking final exams at the time of the rediscovery of Holy Wood, as chronicled in Moving Pictures. (See #Pratchat10, “We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Broomstick”.) This was indeed also the first appearance of Archchancellor Ridcully, though he doesn’t play a major part in a novel until Reaper Man, which also introduces the rest of the faculty we know best.
The “National Interest Test” (NIT) was a requirement added to the grant application process for the Australian Research Council (ARC) in 2018 by the previous Liberal/National coalition government. The ARC is the independent body which assesses university grant applications for research, and recommends which projects should get grants to the Minister, who generally approves all of them. But the NIT was part of an increasingly commercial agenda of the conservative government to restrict research, and in 2021 further recommendations were given to the ARC to make this more stringent. In late December 2021, Acting Education Minister Stuart Robert rejected six grants which had been approved and recommended by the ARC on the grounds that they were not “good value for taxpayers’ money” or in the national interest. The timing of the announcement – just before Christmas – and the nature of the projects removed (which included subjects like climate change and political activism in China) suggested a political motive for the rejections, which was met with .
The wizard who knows about stories is most likely Ladislav Pelc, Prehumous Professor of Morbid Bibliomancy, whom Moist goes consults about the Post Office’s letters in Going Postal. He has very large ears and no beard, but out of deference to wizarding tradition he wears a false one when in view of the public.
The incident with Windle Poons is in Reaper Man; the other wizards attempt to bury him at the corner of the Street of Small Gods and Broad Way, described as two of the busiest streets in Ankh-Morpork.
There are many schools in Ankh-Morpork, aside from Unseen University itself:
The Assassin’s Guild school appears most prominently in Pyramids and Night Watch.
The Clockmaker’s Guild – which seems to provide more of an apprenticeship – appears in Thief of Time. It’s implied the Thieves’ Guild has a school or apprenticeship program as well.
The Fool’s Guild school is important in Wyrd Sisters and Men at Arms.
The Musician’s Guild may also offer more of an apprenticeship, but they raised and taught Keith, Maurice’s “dumb kid”, as he mentions in The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents.
By the time of Thief of Time, Susan (who herself went to Quirm College for Young Ladies) is teaching at Madam Frout’s Learning Through Play School.
We previously brought up the issue of copaganda – the bias towards showing police in a positive light in news media and popular culture – in #Pratchat52, “A Near-Watch Experience”, though we never quite got around to discussing it. Ben’s not sure we’ve done the discussion justice here, either – he’s had more thoughts since the episode – but the concept pre-dates the word, going back to at least the 1950s and the publicity stunt puff pieces in newspapers about police officers rescuing cats and early friendly neighbourhood policemen characters on television. Indeed, the concept has been used to criticise exactly the friendly English bobby image we talk about in this episode, so perhaps we have some more thinking to do. The origins of the word aren’t easily traceable, and probably it was coined more than once; it definitely dates back to before 2015, but has seen a resurgence in use and popularity in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and increased public awareness of the failings of the police system.
We mention quite a few cop shows this episode, though Ben would like to say he realises we may have been unconsciously cherry picking to support our idea about the difference in pop cultural depictions of cops in the UK and Australia compared to the US (and see also the note above about copaganda). Here are the police films and television shows we mentioned:
The Bill was a British police drama about the life and work of beat officers at the fictional Sun Hill Police Station in metropolitan London. It was broadcast on ITV for 26 series between 1983 and 2010, and was also popular in Australia. A reboot is apparently in the works. The show’s title comes from the slang term for police, “the Old Bill” or just “the Bill”.
Blue Heelers was an Australian drama about the fictional rural Victorian town of Mount Thomas, told from the perspective of the local police officers. It ran for twelve years on Channel 7 from 1994 to 2006, and made stars out of Australian actors Lisa McCune (who left after the seventh series) and John Wood (who was the lead character for all twelve years). Blue heelers are an Australian breed of working dog, and also slang in some parts of Australian for a police officer or the police in general (Australian police uniforms are generally blue).
Police Rescue was an Australian police drama which began life as a 1989 feature film before spawning a television series which ran for five series between 1991 and 1996. It focused on the NSW Police Rescue Squad, who travelled all over the city and the state attending accidents, disasters and other emergencies. It starred Gary Sweet and Sonia Todd.
Water Rats was an Australian police drama focussed on the Sydney Water Police, whose bear is Sydney Harbour. It ran for six seasons on Channel 9 between 1996 and 2001, and featured Colin Friels, Gary Bisley, Aaron Pederson and Jay Laga’aia (who soon after appeared in the Star Wars prequel trilogy as Captain Typho).
Hot Fuzz (2007) is the second of Edgar Wright’s “cornetto trilogy” of comedy action films which began with Shaun of the Dead. It stars Simon Pegg as Sgt. Nick Angel, a hotshot London police officer whose colleagues resent his success and get him reassigned to a small town in Gloucestershire, where he is initially bored before a series of bizarre murders begins. The film also stars Nick Frost as local constable Danny Butterman.
Heartbeat was a British police drama which ran for 18 years between 1992 and 2010 on ITV. It was based on the “Constable” novels written by ex-cop Peter N Walker (using the pseudonym Nicholas Rhea). It was set in mid to late 1960s in fictional Yorkshire village of Aidensfield, and had a number of main characters over its run, but is probably best known for the original pair: young police officer Nick (played by ex-EastEnders heartthrob Nick Berry) and his wife Kate (Niamh Cusack), the town doctor. Other notable characters were Sergeant Blaketon (Yes Minister’s Derek Fowlds), older constable Alf Ventriss (William Simons), a war veteran – partial inspiration for Fred Colon, perhaps? – and local “lovable rogue” Claude Greengrass (Bill Maynard).
Bernard “The Cunning Artificer” Pearson, of Clarecraft and The Discworld Emporium fame, was indeed a police officer in his youth. He was also one of Pratchett’s closest friends and often consulted on various matters, including “his policing “the more arcane policing arts”, as Rob Wilkins puts it in Terry Pratchett: A Life in Footnotes.
Regarding Pratchett’s attitude towards Agatha Christie, Ben mentions this interview for the Bookwitch blog from 2010. (Interestingly he mentions several times that he’s working on I Shall Wear Midnight, and insists it will be the last Tiffany Aching book…) On Agatha Christie, he says: “Well, Agatha Christie; you have to get her out of your system sooner or later. Same with James Bond. And then you realise that not all murders happen in one house containing seven people.” He also describes her work as fantasy in his pieces “Whose Fantasy Are You?” (1991) and “Let There Be Dragons (1993)”, which can be found in A Slip of the Keyboard.
You can find A’Tuin Sneezed’s great, long Twitter thread about Thud! by starting with this tweet:
Thomas the Tank Engine is an anthropomorphic steam locomotive – basically a regular train, but with a human-like face on the front – who is the star of the Railway Series books by Wilbert and Christopher Awdry, written between 1945 and 1972. While the books were very successful, it was the television series adaptation Thomas & Friends that really cemented Thomas’ popularity. The series ran from 1984 to 2021, and used live-action model train versions of Thomas and his friends with narration by Ringo Starr. The human characters – including the “Fat Controller”, who was in charge of the railway system on Thomas’ home, the Island of Sondor – were portrayed by wooden models.
More notes coming soon!
Thanks for reading our notes! If we missed anything, or you have questions, please let us know.
We’re sourcing a good video of a hippo – watch this space!
We might also add some partial images from the book; we apologise this episode was so visual!
Notes and Errata
The episode title refers to the theme song of the Australian version of Play School, a children’s educational and entertainment programme produced by the ABC since July 1966. The first line of the song is “There’s a bear in there”, referring to one of the two staple toys from the show, Little Ted or Big Ted. (See below for more about them.)
The other children’s book to make its way from Discworld to Roundworld is another favourite of Young Sam’s: Miss Felicity Beadle’s The World of Poo. It appears in Snuff, and was published alongside the Corgi paperback edition of the novel. We’ll cover it when we get to Snuff, but it stays much more in-universe than Where’s My Cow?
The rock song that might have inspired Detritus’ line in the book is actually the poetic opening to the Moody Blues’ 1969 album On The Threshold of a Dream. The first words heard are: “I am, I think I am. Therefore I must be. (pause, then uncertainly) I think…”
Ben likens the Sams’ flying chair to the music video for the UK’s 2022 Eurovision song; specifically that’s Sam Ryder’s “Space Man”.
Blackboard is one of the puppet characters from the long-running Australian children’s program Mr Squiggle; we previously referred to him in #Pratchat55, “Mr Doodle, the Man on the Moon“.
The Abominable Snow Baby is a 2021 animated adaptation of Pratchett’s early short story of the same name, produced for Channel 4. It was narrated by David Harewood, and starred Hugh Dancy as Albert, and Julie Walters as his Granny; the picture of Terry Pratchett appears in Albert’s flat, though it’s not clear if he’s meant to be Albert’s grandad or not.
The children’s book about death mentioned by Liz is Duck, Death and the Tulip by German children’s author and illustrator Wolf Erlbruch, first published in English in 2011.
The Amazing Maurice opens in Australian cinemas on 12 January 2023, but if you’ve looked this up very soon after our episode was published, you can get tickets for the 10 December preview screening in Adelaide from the Australian Discworld Convention. Head to ausdwcon.org/amazing for tickets and more info!
More notes coming soon!
Thanks for reading our notes! If we missed anything, or you have questions, please let us know.
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.
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.
If you’re interested in a full count of who dies in the Discworld books, you’re in luck: The L-Space Web fan site has just such a record! Like a lot of things on L-Space, “The Death Lists” wasn’t maintained all the way to the end of the series, but peters out around the time newsgroups and static websites were being replaced by social media and wikis. But, in this case, it only goes up to Thud!so happily (if that’s the right word) it covers most of the books we’ve discussed on the podcast up to this point. Though you might want to take it with a grain of salt – we note the Thud! entry doesn’t seem to include the four mining dwarfs left to die under Ankh-Morpork after hearing what the Cube had to say…
Ben would like to apologise for being needlessly pedantic about the two Discworld books which don’t feature Death, and his roasting at Matt’s hands is well deserved. Despite that, we can confirm he remembered correctly that they are The Wee Free Men (which we covered in #Pratchat32, “Meet the Feegles”) and Snuff. The Reaper Man thing is absolutely not true, do not go back and check or listen to #Pratchat11, “At Bill’s Door”.
The Thing appears in the Bromeliad, mostly the first and final books Truckers (see #Pratchat9, “Upscalator to Heaven”) and Wings (see #Pratchat20, “The Thing Beneath My Wings”). In those books the Thing is a small, seemingly indestructible black cube passed down through generations of Nomes to Old Torrit and then Masklin, which used to occasionally speak and provide advice. When Masklin brings it to Arnold Bros, it recharges itself using the Store’s electricity and reveals that it is “Flight Recorder and Navigation Computer of the Starship Swan”, helping Masklin with a lot of his plans to get the Nomes out of the Store and eventually back to their home planet. Cube-shaped computers and recording devices also appear in other media, most notably in Star Wars, where both the Jedi and the Sith store holographic recordings on “holocrons” which are commonly cube-shaped.
The main mentions of school projects in Pratchett’s work occur in the Johnny books. In Chapter 5 of Johnny and the Dead, Johnny uses the excuse of a school project to ask about the surviving member of the Blackbury Pals, claiming that “You could get away with anything if you said you were doing a project.” He uses this trick again in Johnny and the Dead in order to speak to Mrs Tachyon when she’s in hospital, and his legit history project comes in handy when the kids have to disguise themselves for a trip back in time to the 1940s.
Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971) is a Disney musical blending live-action and animation, much like Mary Poppins. Also like Mary Poppins, its based on novels for children by an English author, in this case Mary Norton’s The Magic Bedknob; or, How to Become a Witch in Ten Easy Lessons (1944) and Bonfires and Broomsticks (1947). The protagonist, Ms Eglantine Price (played by Angela Lansbury in the film, in her screen musical debut), is a single woman living in a coastal village in Dorset during World War II who is, against her will, saddled with some children evacuated from London. They discover Ms Price is learning witchcraft by correspondence, and end up joining her on an adventure to complete her education and locate a powerful spell she believes can aid in the war effort. It’s not specifically included in the list of Pratchett Family Movies (or PFMs) mentioned in a footnote in Chapter 9 of A Life With Footnotes, but it wouldn’t look out of place next to the likes of Time Bandits, The Princess Bride and Ladyhawke.
Irish, British and American actor Angela Lansbury (1925-2022) had a long and distinguished career on stage and screen. She is best remembered as Jessica Fletcher, the crime writer protagonist of the popular American cosy mystery TV series Murder, She Wrote, which ran for twelve seasons between 1984 and 1996, followed by four TV movies up until 2003. But she was also an accomplished singer, and played many famous roles in stage musicals including being the original Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and Mrs Potts in the Disney film Beauty and the Beast. Her last role being a cameo appearance as herself in Ryan Johnson’s Glass Onion in 2022, and she died on 11 October, 2022, not long before we recorded this episode.
In Thud!, while complaining to Cheery about the announcement in the Times that the post office is issuing memorial Koom Valley stamps, Vimes says “Remember the cabbage-scented stamp last month?” This is an unusually direct reference to the events of the immediately previous Discworld novel, Going Postal (see #Pratchat38, “Moisten to Steal”). In Chapter 12, once stamp collecting has started to take off, Junior Postman Stanley Howler presents his own design to Moist for a stamp depicting a cabbage, printed with cabbage ink and using gum made from broccoli: “A Salute to the Cabbage Industry of the Sto Plains”. This directly links the two books as being closer in time than the gap between their publication, and reinforces the basic idea that the Discworld books more or less happen in the order in which they’re published, with a couple of notable exceptions.
Ridcully certainly has a busy month. The above link suggests that there is less than a month between Ridcully overseeing Moist’s race against the Clacks in Going Postal and tricking out Vimes’ coaches in Thud! Ridcully also appears at an important meeting near the end of Making Money, and also has his head printed on the fee-dollar note when Moist introduces paper money in the final chapter. Of note: The Science of Discworld III (see #Pratchat59) and the short story “A Collegiate Casting-Out of Devilish Devices” (see #Pratchat63) were also published the same year as Thud!, so Ridcully may also be dealing with A. E. Pessimal’s inspection and an invasion of Auditors into Roundworld at around the same time. A busy month indeed!
Brian Blessed (b. 1936) is an English actor from Yorkshire who is known for his booming voice. His best-known roles include King Richard IV in the first series of Blackadder, Prince Vultan of the Hawkmen in the 1981 film version of Flash Gordon, and the voice of Boss Nass in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. But he’s been a fixture of British television, stage and film for years, popping up in memorable guest roles in Space: 1999, Blake’s 7, Doctor Who and many more. As well as many cult films of the 1980s, he’s been in Kenneth Branagh’s Shakespeare films Henry V (1989), Much Ado About Nothing (1993) and Hamlet (1996). Of note to Terry Pratchett fans, he appears as William “Bill” Stickers, deceased communist, in ITV’s 1995 adaptation of Johnny and the Dead.
Lord Melchett, played by Stephen Fry, is another character from the British sitcom Blackadder. He appears in the second series, Blackadder II, as an obsequious member of the royal court and Lord Edmund Blackadder’s rival for the favour of Queen Elizabeth I. In this instance, though, Ben is really thinking more of Lord Melchett’s descendent, the Blackadder Goes Forth character General Melchett (also played by Fry), who is more over-the-top eccentric and dangerously in charge of British soldiers on the front line during World War I.
We’ve mentioned Back to the Future before, most recently in #Pratchat54, “The Land Before Vimes”, our discussion of Night Watch. In the film, eccentric scientist Doc Brown creates a time machine using a DeLorean sports car. Its time travel device, the “flux capacitor”, requires the vehicle to travel at 88 miles per hour (about 142 kilometres per hour); when it hits that speed the car and its occupants are instantly transported to the destination point in time, leaving behind flaming tyre tracks. At the end of the first film, Doc returns from a trip to the future to take his young friend Marty “back to the future”; Marty worries they don’t have enough road to get up to 88mph, to which Doc famously replies “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” The DeLorean then begins to fly… Pratchett was a fan of the film – the biography A Life With Footnotes recounts the story of the time he almost bought a replica of the DeLorean time machine – and he previously referenced it in Soul Music, in which Binky leaves flaming hoof prints behind when he travels time-bendingly fast.
George R. R. Martin is the bestselling author of the A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series of books that begins with A Game of Thrones. The series was famously adapted for television by HBO as Game of Thrones. The novels are very long, but don’t all cover the same amount of time; by some estimates, the narrative time that passes varies between as little as a few months to more than a year. And then you have to factor in that the seasons of the world of the book are also irregular, for undisclosed fantastical reasons…
Listener Graeme Kay sent us in his tip that he thinks Koom Valley might be based on a place in Far North Queensland, not least because Pratchett is known to have spent plenty of time on holiday in that part of Australia. The specific place Graeme was thinking of is at Babinda Boulders on the land of the Yidindji people south of Cairns. Graeme mentioned “The Devil’s Pool”, but it’s one of several specific spots at Babinda which are connected by rushing water (the others are “The Chute” and “The Washing Machine”). Despite warning signs and local oral traditions about Siren-like dangers, younger tourists continue to visit those parts of the Boulders. More than twenty people have died there in the last century or so, largely because of underwater hazards that make it very difficult to survive being dragged under by the current. Those hazards do sound very similar to the ones encountered by Vimes in Koom Valley, and which would have surely killed him if not for the influence of the Summoning Dark. Sadly this is not a phenomenon of the past; the latest death occurred in December 2021, and a recent safety review completed in January 2023 recommended better signage to try and prevent more deaths. You can read about that, and see pictures of the location and diagrams of the hazards there, in this ABC news article.
Granny Weatherwax battles with her sister Lily in Witches Abroad. It’s never stated clearly, but it’s suggested that Lily is older than Granny, though her use of magic makes her look younger. She’s never described as her twin.
Granny doesn’t say anything about it, but in Carpe Jugulum when she is fighting the influence of Count de Magpyr, she has to choose between the darkness and the light to escape the lands of Death. In the end, she faces the light…and steps backwards. A very Granny Weatherwax solution, and reminiscent of her dilemma in the mirror dimension in Witches Abroad.
Liz says “Revved up like a deuce”, which is a lyric from “Blinded by the Light”, a song by Bruce Springsteen released on first album, 1973’s Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. It was famously covered by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band on the 1976 album The Roaring Silence, and that version was a top ten hit in several countries.
We’ve previously mentioned Sophie’s Choice, the 1979 final novel by American author William Styron, which was adapted into a film in 1981 starring Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline and Peter MacNicol. While it’s meant to be a surprise revelation in the story, it’s now famous for Sophie – a Polish immigrant who escaped Nazi Germany – having to choose which of her two children would be killed when she was sent to Auschwitz, with both of them being killed if she refused to choose. It’s since entered popular culture as a shorthand for an impossible (or at least very difficult) choice.
We mention a few famous fictional butlers this episode, including Alfred Pennyworth (Batman), Mr Butler (Miss FIsher’s Murder Mysteries), Alfred Pennyworth (not to be confused with Pennywise the Clown), and Jeeves (of Jeeves and Wooster fame). We previously talked about Willikins and the “battle butler” trope in #Pratchat27, “Leshp Miserablés”, when discussing Jingo.
The line about a god of policemen does not actually appear in Feet of Clay (#Pratchat24), and Vimes doesn’t say it – though it is attributed to him. In The Last Hero (#Pratchat55), when Carrot arrives in Dunmanifestin, chief god of the Disc Blind Io asks Carrot if there’s a god of policemen. ‘No, sir,’ Carrot replies. ‘Coppers would be far too suspicious of anyone calling themselves a god of policemen to believe in one.’ There’s also this line from near the start of Night Watch (#Pratchat54), which explains why most Watch members are buried in the Cemetery of Small Gods: “Policemen, after a few years, found it hard enough to believe in people, let alone anyone they couldn’t see.”
Despite his self-doubt, Ben is right: igneous rock is indeed formed by volcanoes. Specifically, igneous rock is formed from cooled magma or lava, forms of molten rock that naturally occur beneath the Earth’s crust but come nearer the surface in volcanos (magma) or are released during an eruption (lava).
Liz and Ben are both sort of right about the difference between concrete and cement. Cement is the binding agent used to make concrete, mortar, stucco and grout. It’s a combination of limestone, clay, shells and silica sand, which is mixed with water and then sets hard when it dries out. It’s not often used on its own, but instead combined with aggregate (a mixture of gravel and sand) to make concrete, which is the hard substance used for footpaths, driveways and structures. Most cement today is “Portland cement”, a fine grey powder developed in the 19th century by father and son Joseph and William Aspdin, who named it for its resemblance to Portland stone from the island of Portland in Dorset in the south of England. It mostly replaced the use of hydraulic lime, or “quicklime”. Cement is also combined with sand to make mortar, the “glue” that holds bricks together, and stucco, also known as render, used as a wall covering and to fashion ornamentations; and grout, used to fill the gaps between tiles. While all three use the same basic ingredients, they use different recipes, techniques and additives to achieve different consistencies suited to each use.
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These are the episode notes and errata for the bonus Pratchat episode “The Troll’s Gambit“, discussing the first Discworld boardgame, Thud by Trevor Truran, with guest Dr Melissa Rogerson.
Notes and Errata
The episode title refers to the 1983 novel The Queen’s Gambit by American author Walter Tevis. The book gained new attention in 2020 when it was adapted as a mini-series for Netflix by American writer/director Scott Frank, and starring Anna Taylor-Joy as Bath Harmon, an orphaned chess prodigy in 1950s America. The series and novel, in turn, take their name from the classic chess opening “the Queen’s gambit“. In a Queen’s gambit, the white player moves the pawn in front of their Queen forward two spaces; then the black player moves their matching pawn (in front of their Queen) forward two spaces; then the white player moves the pawn in front of their Bishop on the Queen’s side forward two spaces. This sets up a situation where one of the players will take the others’ pawn, possibly leading to an opening for the white Queen…and likely a lot more besides, if you’re knowledgable about chess.
We never get around to mentioning the scores of Ben and Melissa’s game in the episode, so for the curious:
In the first round Melissa scored 0 (as the dwarfs) and Ben 16 (as the trolls).
In the second round Melissa scored 20 (as the trolls) and Ben 2 (as the dwarfs).
The final score was 20 to 18, in Melissa’s favour.
There are three editions of Thud, and you can find details of them all on BoardGameGeek. (The specific editions below are also linked to their pages on BGG, but you’ll find most of the details on the main page.)
The original 2002 edition, which has the title and a rune-like symbol on the cover of the box.
The 2005 “Koom Valley” edition, released to tie-in with the novel Thud! It uses a similar box, board and pieces, though the cover and rulebook art is replaced with Paul Kidby’s art for the novel (though it’s reversed from the book), and the rulebook includes an additional Koom Valley variant with very different rules, and a setup for the “King’s Game” that features in the novel.
The 2009 edition comes in a printed cloth bag with a cloth board, and several smaller booklets for the rules. It uses new versions of the pieces: the trolls hold their clubs down, and the dwarfs have a bigger beards. This is the edition shown at Essenspiel, the big German games convention held each year in the city of Essen, with the fancy wooden octagonal board we mention later in the episode.
Agricola is a “eurogame” (see below) by veteran German game designer Uwe Rosenberg. First published in 2007, and still popular today, Agricola has won many awards, including a coveted Spiel de Jahres (Essenspiel’s “Game of the Year”) in 2008, and had many expansions. A revised version of Agricola released in 2016 uses some refinements developed for the 2013 spin-off Caverna: The Cave Farmers, which is basically Agricola but with dwarfs! In either game, each player is a family of farmers who grow crops, breed animals, gather resources and build improvements to get the highest score at the game’s end. It’s a “worker placement” game, in which you have have to place your limited number of worker pieces on specific spaces to take actions each turn – the well to gather water, the mine to get stones etc – but most actions can only be picked by one worker, so you can’t always do what you most want to be doing. A key feature of Agricola and Caverna is that you can use resources to have children who grow up to become additional workers, but you have to grow enough food to feed everyone… Ben prefers Caverna, because you can also send your dwarfs on underground adventures to seek their fortune, but they’re both great.
Eurogames are a style of board game popular in Germany and across Europe. There’s not a precise definition, but they usually feature components in abstract shapes like cubes, often made of wood; themes grounded in the real world and/or history (farming, trains and city building are all popular); and rules which involve the interaction of many systems, but not necessarily much direct interaction between players, making most of them a race to get the most points. While it’s now used as a general descriptor, there used to be quite a “rivalry” between those who loved euros (as they’re called for short), and those who preferred what was derisively named”Ameritrash” – a style of deeply thematic games which feature detailed plastic components and high degrees of player vs player interaction. That term has fallen out of use as the designs of such games has become more sophisticated.
Asymmetric games are games in which players do not have the same pieces, roles or rules. For example, chess is a symmetric game, because both players have the same set of pieces and follow the same rules; Thud is asymmetric, since one player has dwarf pieces and the other has trolls. Many modern games fall between the two with what is sometimes called an “exception-based” design: the players all follow the same general rules, but each has a specific role (or, sometimes, acquires special items or powers) which grant exceptions to the rules (or adding new ones) just for that player.
Melissa mentioned Schachnovelle (literally “Chess Novella”), a 1941 novella by Austrian author Stefan Zweig (1881-1942). It’s been published in English as Chess Story and The Royal Game, sometimes collected with other short stories by Zweig. Among many other things it was notable for its use of algebraic notation to describe chess moves, which was common in Germany at the time but not widely adopted among English-speaking chess players for another few decades. Zweig fled the Nazi rise in power in 1934, first to England and then America and Brazil.
We’ve mentioned the other Discworld board games before, back in #Pratchat30; here’s a reminder:
Watch Out: Discworld Board Game (2004) was the other Discworld game designed by Trevor Truran. Like Thud, it was an asymmetrical game with chess-like pieces, but the board was made of square cards representing Ankh-Morpork locations, and one player controlled eight thieves while the other controlled eight Watchmen. As mentioned, it was never published, though you can find some pictures of it on BoardGameGeek via the link.
Discworld: Ankh-Morpork (2011), designed by Martin Wallace, has the players secretly take on the roles of various Ankh-Morpork characters as factions vie for control of the city in the wake of Lord Vetinari’s disappearance. Published by Wallace’s Treefrog Games, it’s generally regarded as the best of the Discworld games, but is no longer in print. As mentioned, Wallace re-used the rules in 2019 to make Nanty Narking, which is set in Victorian London with characters from period fiction. We’ll try and play that as well when we get to discussing this game!
Guards! Guards! A Discworld Boardgame (2011) was designed by Leonard Boyd and David Brashaw for BackSpindle Games. Players are new recruits in the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, sent to infiltrate one of the city’s guilds to retrieve the Eight Great Spells of the Octavo, which have been stolen from Unseen University.
The Witches: A Discworld Game (2012) is Martin Wallace’s second Discworld game. Players are trainee witches in Lancre dealing with the everyday problems of the local folk. It can be played competitively, cooperatively and even solo.
Clacks: A Discworld Boardgame (2015) is the second Discworld game from Leonard Boyd and David Brashaw for BackSpindle Games, and aside from Thud is the only one still in print. Players are Clacks operators for the Grand Trunk Semaphore Company, trying to win the race against Moist von Lipwig’s newly revitalised postal service, as depicted in Going Postal (see #Pratchat38, “Moisten to Steal“). It also has rules for competitive and cooperative play. It’s popular enough that BackSpindle released a new “Collector’s Edition” in 2021 with a fancier board and components.
Ben will add some more detail when he has time, but for now, here’s a list of the other modern boardgames we mentioned in this episode:
Firefly: The Board Game
Battlestar Galactica – now out of print, but re-implemented as the H P Lovecraft themed Unfathomable
Pandemic and its later versions Pandemic Legacy: Season One, Pandemic Legacy: Season Two and Pandemic: Fall of Rome.
The Exit series of escape room games
Thunderbirds: The Board Game, Forbidden Desert (and its cousins Forbidden Island and Forbidden Skies), and Daybreak
More notes coming soon!
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Steve’s questions aren’t just about Small Gods, but specifically the sequences in that book where Brutha is in Ephebe and learns about the Ephebian gods. They occur around 40% into the book.
The Hide Park line up devised by Glitch1958 includes the ones we mentioned in the episode: English Patella Throwing Weapons; Newly Arrived Wood Pond; Tropical Penguins; Pay ‘n’ Park; Unnerved Nana; and The Quite Warm Spicy Vegetables. Glitch also added Twinkle-Up; In Bus Queue; Open square bracket, Insert new monarch here, close square bracket; Nanny Ogg’s Bananananananarama; Flu-Theater; Irritated with the motor; and No way, sis!
On that last note: the Oasis cover band No Way Sis do exist, but they’re Glaswegian. The Australian one is Noasis.
The quotation “He could think in italics. Such people need watching. Preferably from a safe distance.” is from Men at Arms, about Edward d’Eath. You’ll find it quite near the start, just before Carrot’s finishes his letter home. We the book in #Pratchat1, “Boots Theory“.
Chaz’s question is a reference to “The Queue” – that is, the queue to see Queen Elizabeth’s body while it lay in state at Westminster Hall. For five days leading up to her funeral on 19 September 2022, 250,000 people lined up for as much as 24 hours over a distance of up to sixteen kilometres. Lots of people live-tweeted the Queue’s status, including the dedicated account @QE2Queue. Liz mentioned the TikTok musical, which was the creation of English actor Rob Madge. You can find it on TikTok here:
Many of the conspiracy theories around the Queen’s death originate from QAnon, and include things like her body not being in the coffin, that Queen Elizabeth II had been already dead for months or years, or even Princess Diana secretly being alive, and coming out of hiding to become the next Queen.
We discussed the idea of “lockdown in Ankh-Morpork” in Eeek Club 2021, our special bonus episode in which topics are chosen by subscribers, for the Glorious 25th of May. We also answered some similar questions in our previous all questions episode, #Pratchat30, “Looking Widdershins“.
We mention the following footnotes while answering Manning’s question:
The gold/Glod typo footnote appears in Witches Abroad: Bad spelling can be lethal. For example, the greedy seraph of Al-Ybi was once cursed by a badly-educated deity and for some days everything he touched turned to Glod, which happened to be the name of a small dwarf from a mountain community hundreds of miles away who found himself magically dragged to the kingdom and relentlessly duplicated. Some two thousand Glods later the spell wore off. These days, the people of Al-Ybi are renowned for being unusually short and bad-tempered.
The Amazing Maurice does indeed appear in Reaper Man, but not in a footnote; the Dean complains about being taken in by Maurice’s scam, which had also worked in Quirm and Stopped Lat.
The Light Fantastic footnote about the magic shop: No one knows why, but all the most truly mysterious and magical items are bought from shops that appear and, after a trading life even briefer than a double-glazing company, vanish like smoke. There have been various attempts to explain this, all of which don’t fully account for the observed facts. These shops turn up anywhere in the universe, and their immediate non-existence in any particular city can normally be deduced from crowds of people wandering the streets clutching defunct magical items, ornate guarantee cards, and looking very suspiciously at brick walls.
The definition of the Thaum first appears in The Light Fantastic, and is later recapped in The Science of Discworld III. Here’s the original version: A Thaum is the basic unit of magical strength. It has been universally established as the amount of magic needed to create one small white pigeon or three normal sized billiard balls.
We’ve discussed the Long Earth books in the following episodes:
We haven’t yet given The Carpet People the full Pratchat treatment, but we did talk about the differences between the original and re-written versions in a video discussion for Nullus Anxietas.
Barlowe’s Guide to Extraterrestrials (not Science Fiction, as Ben misremembers) and Barlowe’s Guide to Fantasy are the work of American writer and artist Wayne Barlowe, who also works as a concept artist and creature designer in film and television on works including Galaxy Quest, Pacific Rim, Avatar and Aquaman.
More notes coming soon!
Thanks for reading our notes! If we missed anything, or you have questions, please let us know.
These are the episode notes and errata for Pratchat episode 59, “Charlie and the Whale Factory“, discussing Pratchett’s 2005 collaboration with Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, The Science of Discworld III: Darwin’s Watch.
Feast your eyes on this video of Kat’s extraordinary Pratchett shelf!
Notes and Errata
The episode title is of course inspired by Roald Dahl’s 1964 children’s novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, in which young Charlie Bucket manages to find a “golden ticket” admiring him to the magical factory of weird chocolatier Willy Wonka. We’re not entirely sure if Charlie Darwin would rather have encountered the oddities of Wonka’s factory, but he certainly didn’t seem to have enjoyed seeing the God of Evolution’s whale production line… The book was memorably filmed in 1971 as Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, with Gene Wilder playing the part of Wonka, though Dahl did not like it. It was a modest success at the time, but became a cult classic in the 1980s when it was frequently broadcast on television. A 2005 adaptation using the same title as the book was directed by Tim Burton and starred Johnny Depp as Wonka, but the less said about that the better.
We discussed The Science of Discworld II: The Globe in #Pratchat47, “A Finite Number of Shakespeares“, with guest Alanta Colley. We felt afterwards we hadn’t adequately expressed all of our feelings about it, so we discussed it a bit more in episode seven of our bonus subscriber only podcast, Ook Club, released in October 2021.
We’ve previously mentioned Richard Dawkins in #Pratchat29 and #Pratchat47. His early books on evolution are good, and The Blind Watchmaker, published in 1986, makes a great companion piece to Darwin’s Watch. But in the early 2000s he became more and more focused on being anti-religion, and in 2006, a year after The Science of Discworld III, he published The God Delusion, which argued that any belief in a god was delusional. It became his best selling work. He has continued to attract controversy over the years, thanks to his large audience and his perceived position (until fairly recently) as a representative for atheists, whether they want him or not. He’s made enough problematic statements that there’s an entire Wikipedia article titled “Views of Richard Dawkins“.
Redshift is an increase in the wavelength of electromagnetic radiation, including visible light, that occurs when observing objects which are moving away from us – making the light from very fast moving objects over large distances appear redder than it truly is. This is mostly observed with the light from distant stars as the universe expands. It can happen in the opposite direction too, with the wavelengths getting shorter, which is known as blueshift. Kat mentions Terry’s use of it in Thief of Time; she also mentioned that it appears in Thud! but we cut that as we didn’t want to spoil a book we’ll be covering very soon.
You can get a good overview of Monopoly‘s history as The Landlord’s Game via episode 189 of the 99% Invisible podcast, “The Landlord’s Game“. In recent years there’s been renewed interest in Elizabeth Magie’s original 1904 game, which tried to popularise Georgism, an alternate form of land tax. You can find out way more about it at landlords-game.com. Meanwhile, if you still think the modern game is fair, check out this monopolynerd.com blog post from 2012 which breaks down the probability of getting a full set of properties through luck (i.e. landing on them and buying them, without having to trade with other players), based on turn order.
I’m You, Dickhead is officially available for free here on YouTube. Note that it really lives up to the title; there’s swearing and the protagonist truly is a dickhead.
Bees and wasps (and ants) are members of the order Hymenoptera, a group of insects that includes more than 150,000 species. Spider wasps, the parasitic wasps which prey on spiders, are in the family Pompilidae; there are around 5,000 species of them, most of which specialise in specific kinds of spider.
The telephone is usually attributed to Alexander Graham Bell, who was the first American to be granted a patent for the device in February 1876. But even at the time this was controversial; rival inventor Elisha Gray also filed for a patent the same day, and Bell’s patent was suspended for three months so the matter could be settled – which it was, eventually, in Bell’s favour. But there are plenty of good reasons to think this wasn’t entirely fair or just… (Ben didn’t mean to conflate this dispute with the War of the Currents, but they two conflicts have a very similar vibe.)
Elizabeth Fulhame was a chemist lived in Edinburgh in the late 18th century, though some details of her life are lost to history. The book from which Kat quotes is An Essay On Combustion with a View to a New Art of Dying and Painting, wherein the Phlogistic and Antiphlogistic Hypotheses are Proved Erroneous, which she published in 1794. Catalysis, which she describes in the book, is the now commonplace practice of speeding up a reaction between two chemicals by using a third substance, a catalyst, which isn’t affected by the reaction.
Kat is remembering The Science of Doctor Who, which did indeed star Brian Cox and was broadcast on BBC Two in November 2013 as part of the programme’s fiftieth anniversary celebrations… Which means Ben has it one the Blu-Ray box set he has of all those anniversary specials!
We’ve previously mentioned the cellulose billiard balls way back in #Pratchat1, “Boots Theory” (about Men at Arms), and #Pratchat10, “We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Broomstick“ (about Moving Pictures). The 99% Invisible episode about the invention of cellulose mentioned by Ben is The Post-Billiards Age from May 2015, which we also mentioned in both of those episodes.
More notes coming soon!
Thanks for reading our notes! If we missed anything, or you have questions, please let us know.
These are the episode notes and errata for Pratchat episode 57, “Get Your Dad to Mars!“, discussing the third book in the Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter Long Earth series, The Long Mars, with guest Joel Martin.
(This is the section where we add pictures, where appropriate! Watch this space…)
Notes and Errata
The episode title is a reference to famous Mars sci-fi flick Total Recall – the 1990 original version, that is, directed by Paul Verhoeven, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sharon Stone, and featuring the memorable line “Get your ass to Mars!” The film is (fairly loosely) based on the Philip K Dick short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”. We talked a lot about Dick in #Pratchat56.
Joel was most recently a guest of the podcast in June 2021 for #Pratchat44, when we discussed the second Discworld novel, The Light Fantastic – three and a half years after he first appeared to discuss the first one, The Colour of Magic, in #Pratchat14.
You can find out more about The Dementia Centre at their website, dementiacentre.com, or you can find The Dementia Podcast at dementiapodcast.com. You can also just search for “The Dementia Podcast” in your podcast app or directory of choice.
Warhammer 40,000 – or “40k” for short – is the franchise of science fiction war and roleplaying games made by Games Workshop. A futuristic reimagining of their medieval high fantasy Warhammer setting, it has space alien versions of elves (Aeldari), undead (Necrons), orcs (er…Orks) and more. But the most famous factions are humans – specifically the genetically modified super-soldiers of the various chapters of Imperial Marines. These Space Marines are technologically enhanced stormtroopers fanatically loyal to their undying emperor, and full of more testosterone than strictly necessary. The franchise is still going strong with many tabletop and digital games currently available, despite its “Imperium of Man” being a fascist regime, and most of the other factions aren’t much better. In the “grim darkness of the 41st millennium,” there aren’t really any “good guy” factions, though the alien T’au Empire might come close. (Ben has seldom played, but his favourite faction – back in the second edition at least – were the weird Space Orks.)
Terry Pratchett died on the 12th of March, 2015. The last Discworld novel to be published before his death, Raising Steam, was released in November 2013, while The Long Mars was published on the 19th of June, 2014. His last three novels were the last two Long Earth books, The Long Utopia (18 June 2015) and The Long Cosmos (14 June 2016), and the final Discworld novel, The Shepherd’s Crown (2 June 2016).
A quick guide to the timeline of the Long Earth so far:
2015 – “Step Day”, when Willis Linsay releases the plans for the stepper box on the Internet, giving the masses the ability to visit the Long Earth.
2030 – “The Journey”, Lobsang and Joshua’s trip into the Long Earth which makes up the bulk of The Long Earth. The nuclear bomb in Madison goes off in this year.
2040 – most of the events of The Long War occur in this year, including Maggie’s mission as captain of The Benjamin Franklin, the titular “war”, and the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano.
2045 – the main events of The Long Mars are spread across this whole year.
The Long Mars was indeed originally titled The Long Childhood, but The Long Cosmos did not have an alternate title.
“Stoke Me a Clipper” requires a little bit of backstory: in the sci-fi sitcom Red Dwarf, one of the characters is uptight Arnold Rimmer, a lowly technician aboard the eponymous mining starship who died in an accident with the rest of the crew. Three million years later the Red Dwarf’s only survivor – David Lister, the only technician ranked lower than Rimmer – is awakened from cryogenic suspension by the ship’s computer Holly, who supplies him with company: a computer simulation based on a scan of Rimmer’s brain and projected as a hologram. Their rivalry gives Lister a reason to go on, despite the likelihood of every other human being being dead. In “Dimension Jump”, an episode of the fourth series first broadcast in 1991, the Red Dwarf crew meet “Ace” Rimmer, a version of Arnold from an alternate dimension who is a brave, sexy and successful hero; his catchphrase before embarking on a dangerous mission is “Smoke me a kipper, I’ll be back for breakfast.” Many years later they encounter him again, only this time he shares his secret: there isn’t just one Ace Rimmer, it’s a mantle passed from one alternate version of the Arnold to another, and now the hologram Arnold’s time has come. When he puts on the wig and outfit, he has to act brave, but managed to mangle the catchphrase as “Stoke me a clipper”. This happens in series seven, in the episode also titled “Stoke Me A Clipper”, first broadcast in 1997. (T-shirts featuring both versions of catchphrase were among many designs released at the height of the show’s popularity in the mid-1990s.)
The “Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies” – usually shortened to “the Outer Space Treaty” – was created in 1967 by the United Nations. All the major spacefaring countries then and now have agreed to it, and among its most important clauses is one stating that countries cannot claim sovereignty over any extra-terrestrial body. So while Frank would definitely have planted a flag, surely there’s no way he’d have tried to claim Mars for America – unless, of course, it’s been determined that the Mars of other universes doesn’t count? He’s also not acting on behalf of his country, and there’s been much debate in recent years about what the treaty means for private exploration of space. It does, however, make it clear that States are responsible for any activities conducted in space by their citizens, whether privately or otherwise, and says that outer space shall be “free for exploration and use by all States”, so we’ll have to see if that holds up.
Michael Fenton Stevens is an English actor and comedian. He started out in the Oxford Revue, where his cohort – which included Angus Deayton, Helen Atkinson-Wood and Geoffrey Perkins – followed the time-honoured British comedy pathway of doing an Edinburgh Fringe show which spawned a radio programme (Radio Active) and then became a television series (KYTV). He has since been a fixture around the 1980s guard of comedians, appearing in plenty of sitcoms and radio series, including the later instalments of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy based on the books. His most famous role, though, was probably as a voice artist for satirical puppet program Spitting Image, because he sang “The Chicken Song”. Released in 1986, this was an infamous parody of holiday disco dance pop songs like “Agadoo”, and was written by Red Dwarf scribes Rob Grant and Doug Naylor. It was #1 in the UK for three weeks and was performed live by the Spitting Image puppets on Top of the Pops. As well as reading The Long War series, he also reads the science chapters of the Science of Discworld books (as we’ll mention in #Pratchat59), and played the roles of Spider and one of the Ratcatchers in the 2004 BBC Radio 7 adaptation of The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, alongside David Tennant as Dangerous Beans.
The Expanse is a series of hard sci-fi novels written by “James S. A. Corey”, the pen name of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. They are set in the 24th century, imagining a future in which humans have colonised Mars and the asteroid belt, but in which “belters” who are born and live in low or zero gravity have become an exploited underclass, and Mars has declared independence from Earth, now ruled by a United Nations world government. The series begins with 2011’s Leviathan Wakes, and concludes with the ninth book, Leviathan Falls, published in 2021. Ben is mostly familiar with the popular television adaptation, also titled The Expanse, in which the characters are noticeably more argumentative. The long debates about what to do while in space are a result of the setting’s very realistic spaceflight; while the ships of its future have advanced engines capable of producing massive thrust, there’s no “artificial gravity” or “inertial dampening” technology. Changes in course while travelling involved “multiple G burns” which put enormous stress on the bodies of a ship’s crew, who have to be strapped into special chairs and have fluids injected into their bodies to compensate.
We’ve discussed space elevators before in our episode about The Science of Discworld (#Pratchat35) and The Science of Discworld II: The Globe (#Pratchat47), and we’ll see them again in The Science of Discworld III: Darwin’s Watch (#Pratchat59). The origins of the concept go back to the late nineteenth century, with ideas of building towers tall enough to reach space, but the modern version – where a cable under tension is built down to Earth from a counterweight in geosynchronous orbit – was first described in the late 1950s. Despite this pedigree, they didn’t start appearing in science fiction until two decades later, with the earliest novels to feature space elevators including Arthur C Clarke’s The Fountains of Paradise and Charles Sheffield’s The Web Between the Worlds, both published in 1979. Many novels set on Mars have featured space elevators too, notably Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars, and Larry Niven’s Rainbow Mars – a collection of short stories which started life as a collaboration with Terry Pratchett!
Ben and Joel are both big fans of Disney’s 2012 science fantasy film John Carter, which previously came up in #Pratchat44. The film is an adaptation of the first of Edgar Rice Burrough’s Barsoom books, 1912’s A Princess of Mars, but incorporates elements from the later books in the series as well. The novel is a classic of early space fiction, birthing the genre of “planetary romance”. In both book and film, a veteran of the American Civil War, Confederate solider John Carter, is mysteriously transported to Mars, known to its local population as “Barsoom”. He finds he is stronger there thanks to the lower gravity, and after becoming friendly with the local “green Martians” reluctantly gets involved in the conflict between the forces of two warring city-states of the “red Martians”. It’s pretty great fun, with very watchable performances from Taylor Kitsch as John Carter and Lynn Collins (who should be in way more things) as the Princess of the book’s title, Dejah Thoris. The script is a thoughtful and modern adaptation written in part by novelist Michael Chabon. It’s clearly set up as the first in a series of films, but it was hugely expensive, and was not commercially successful. Fans of the film often credit this to Disney’s failure to adequately market the film, which ironically seems to have been fuelled by their fears it wouldn’t succeed. (Ben often refers to it affectionately as Riggs Takes His Shirt Off on Mars – a reference to Taylor’s previous leading role in the television drama Friday Night Lights as teenage footballer Tim Riggins, and the number of films in which he takes his shirt off, including the infamously bad Battleship film, aka Riggs Takes His Shirt Off at Sea.)
The “Space Jockey” is the giant humanoid pilot of the crashed spaceship encountered in Ridley Scott’s 1979 film Alien, which is where the crew of the human space truck Nostromo encounter the titular alien. The name “space jockey” was a nickname given by the crew, but it’s also the title of an 1947 science fiction story by Robert A. Heinlein about a human space pilot dealing with the everyday humdrum problems of ferrying stuff and people between Earth and the Moon. The space jockey itself remained entirely mysterious until the more recent (and much worse) Alien films, beginning with Prometheus, which reveal it was an Engineer – the species who created both life on Earth and the aliens themselves.
The ad where Martians use photorealistic printouts to fool a Mars rover was “Mars Mission”, made for Hewlett-Packard (not Canon, as we thought), and broadcast (we think) in 1996 and/or 1997. You can watch it on YouTube here.
Twelve humans have set foot on the Moon, all of them NASA astronauts. While Eugene “Gene” Cernan was the last person to stand on the Moon, he was also the eleventh, not twelfth, person to do so: he got out of the lunar module first, and got back in last, after his Apollo 17 crewmate, Harrison Schmitt. Cernan and Schmitt also spent the longest time on the Moon: over 12 days, they spent 22 hours and 2 minutes outside of the module. Cernan died in 2017 (we wonder if anyone told him about the twain in The Long Mars?), but Schmitt is still alive.
We previously mentioned the 1986 My Little Pony: The Movie in #Pratchat21, “Memoirs of Agatea“. The “purple slime” was the “Smooze”, created by villain Hydia (played by Cloris Leachman!) to destroy the ponies’ home. It’s defeated by a magical wind created by the flying Flutter Ponies.
In Stanley Kubrick’s black comedy 1964 film Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, American Air Force Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper becomes delusional and goes rogue. He uses a code known only to him to order a nuclear bombing run on Russia because he believes they put fluoride in the water to corrupt the “precious bodily fluids” of Americans. His aide, Colonel Mandrake (one of three roles played by Peter Sellers), eventually deduces Ripper’s code from the paranoid ramblings in his notes, which repeat “purity of essence”. The film is a classic, and was based (if loosely) on the more serious novel Red Alert.
Ben says “less babies”, and yes, as “baby” is a countable noun, it should be “fewer babies“. He’s sorry about that.
When Ben’s talking about “older Star Trek“, he really means anything made before the new batch of shows that started with Star Trek: Discovery in 2017. Prior to this, the most recent Star Trek show was Enterprise, which finished in 2005. All of those older shows are set in the 22nd to 24th centuries, and yet include conventions of gender, sexuality and relationships which make them feel old-fashioned by today’s standards, making a little difficult to imagine they’re really set in the future. The exceptions often occur in alien cultures, rather than in the future humans – for example the Next Generation episode “The Outcast” tries to deal with the idea of stepping outside gender roles with a character who, like Cheery Littlebottom, comes from a culture which recognises only one gender, but who wishes to be female.
The thinking beagle in The Long War was not Snowy, but Brian – possibly named after the talking dog from American animated sitcom Family Guy. His speech about being weird for a beagle appears near the end of chapter 51.
Sam Allen appears in chapters 18 and 19 of The Long War; he’s in command of the squad who get stranded in Reboot when their gear is mistakenly delivered to the Earth next door, and none of them have brought steppers. He has a confrontation with Helen’s father, Jack Green, nearly starting a fight. Following the incident, Maggie puts him off her ship the first chance she gets.
Page counts and estimates tell us that The Long Earth is the shortest book in the series, at probably around 105,000 words, while The Long War is the longest by a fair margin (approx. 131,000 words). The Long Mars is the second shortest (approx. 110,000 words), with the final two books pretty close to the same length (each is somewhere between 116,000 and 118,000 words), with The Long Utopia the slightly shorter of the two.
Shangri-La is a Tibetan monastery nestled in a valley beneath the mountain of Karakal – both fictional locations drawn from the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by English novelist James Hilton. In the book, a party of four English and American folks crash their plane in the Kunlun mountains (which are not fictional) and find they way to Shangri-La, which is an idyllic paradise. The people living there age very slowly, living as long as 250 years, but if they leave the valley they age and die quickly. Looked at through modern eyes, the story has plenty of problems, not least of which that this supposedly Tibetan “lamasery” is revealed to have been founded by a Catholic monk, who as he is about to die, wishes one of the English visitors to take over as leader. (“Lamasery” itself is an erroneous term used in English for Buddhist monasteries in Tibet, based on the misunderstanding that “lama” means “monk”. Lama is actually a highly revered title, only given to very few Buddhists.) The book gained attention after Hilton’s next novel, Goodbye, Mr Chips (about the life of a schoolteacher) was a big hit. The concept of Shangri-La as a distant, utopian place has been a part of popular culture every since, and has inspired many stories – notably that of The Immortal Iron Fist, a white Marvel superhero who learns his supernatural martial arts after surviving a plane crash in the mountains of Tibet as a child and being brought up by the monks of the hidden mystical city of Kunlun.
Don’t Look Up is a satirical 2021 Netflix film in which a pair of astronomers (played by Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio) discover a comet which will destroy all life on Earth, but struggle to get anyone to take the threat seriously. Its mix of dark humour and unsubtle climate change metaphors split audiences, many of whom thought it was clumsy. But there are plenty of things to like about it – including Mark Rylance’s role of Peter Isherwell, a tech billionaire who wants to mine the comet for rare minerals instead of destroying it.
The Pink Panther series of comedy films began with 1963’s The Pink Panther, directed by Blake Edwards, which focussed on the Phantom, a jewel thief played by David Niven. But Peter Sellers stole the show in his role as a bumbling French detective, Inspector Jacques Clouseau, so he became the main character for four increasingly oddball sequels between 1964 and 1978. A recurring gag that begins in the second film, 1964’s A Shot in the Dark, is that the Inspector has tasked his manservant Cato (Burt Kwouk) to attack him by surprise, to keep him in top fighting condition. Clouseau often survives these attempts on his life only because Cato stops to answer the Inspector’s phone when it rings… While Sellers is the best-known version of the character, there have been others. Blake Edwards went on to make three more Pink Panther films after Sellers’ death with new lead characters, though none succeeded. Earlier, in 1968, the company who owned the rights made their own separate Inspector Clouseau film without any of the original creative team, starring Alan Arkin. Most recently, a reboot of the series starring Steve Martin as Clouseau lasted for two films: The Pink Panther (2006) and The Pink Panther 2 (2009). A new film was in development in 2020, but there’s been little news of it since.
Professor Charles Xavier – known as Professor X – is a Marvel comics character, a powerfully psychic mutant who founds a school, ostensibly to help young mutants master their extraordinary powers. He does do that…but also recruits his young students to reform the image of mutants in the public eye by acting as a team of superheroes, known as The X-Men. This is necessary in part because Xavier’s fellow powerful mutant, Erik Lensherr – aka Magneto, Master of Magnetism – has decided to deal with prejudice against mutants more directly. He creates The Brotherhood of Mutants, more-or-less a terrorist organisation whose aim is to either force humanity to treat mutants as equals, or bow before them as their servants. (In early comics Magneto’s group were named “The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants”, just in case you were wondering if they know they’re being nasty.)
Brave New World is Aldous Huxley’s 1932 dystopian novel that imagines a future where humans are grown in artificial wombs, sorted into distinct castes based on physical and mental ability, and controlled through the use of drugs. Most castes are encouraged to be promiscuous to keep them happy, and the use of contraception is mandatory; they are also subjected to various forms of conditioning to get them to behave in the way the state approves, including encouraging children to engage in sexual play from a young age.
We mention a few classic sci-fi novels during our discussion of the Next:
The Chrysalids is John Wyndham’s 1955 post-apocalyptic novel in which a society practices eugenics to keep itself pure of mutations, and a group of children with telepathic abilities try to keep their abilities secret;
The Stepford Wives is Ira Levin’s 1972 “feminist horror” novel, in which a female photographer moves to a small town and is increasingly disturbed at the way all the women there are uniformly beautiful and subservient to their husbands;
The Midwich Cuckoos is another Wyndham novel from 1957, in which an English village suffers an unusual visitation in which all its residents are made unconscious, after which all the women of the village discover they are pregnant and later give birth to unusual and similar children;
A Clockwork Orange is Anthony Burgess’ 1967 dystopian novel, which we mentioned in #Pratchat55; it depicts a future where gangs of teens speak their own slang language and engage in random acts of “ultra-violence”, and the state tries a new form of aversion therapy on the protagonist;
The Sound of Music (which was not “the one with the children” Ben was thinking of) is the stage musical and subsequent film adaptation based on the 1949 book The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria Augusta von Trapp.
When Liz says “a parasite like a Yeerk” she is referring to the alien foes of the shape-changing Animorphs, teenage protagonists of the Animorph books by K. A. Applegate published by Scholastic between 1996 and 2001. We’ve previously mentioned them in #Pratchat19, #Pratchat25, #Pratchat35 and #Pratchat43…though when we say “we”, we really mean Liz. Ben has never read an Animorph in his life.
In the various Stargate television series, the Goa’uld are a parasitic species who take humans for hosts, granting the body great strength and regenerative properties, and able to live for hundreds of years, changing hosts if necessary over time. Their true form is a snake-like aquatic creature, which wraps itself around the spinal cord of the host to gain access to their brain and motor functions. While the antagonistic Goa’uld System Lords believed they were superior to other lifeforms, using their advanced technology to pose as gods to the humans they sought to enslave, a breakaway faction called the Tok’ra lives in harmony with their hosts, and opposes the ways of the System Lords.
We mention a couple of hologram meetings from films that are similar to the one in the book. The first takes place in the 2014 film Captain America: The Winter Soldier (not The Avengers, though similar technology is later used in Avengers: Endgame), when Nick Fury meets with the World Security Council. The Star Wars one is the meeting of the Jedi Council in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002).
It was indeed Mac talking about war being fun in The Long War, in the middle of Chapter 67.
George Armstrong Custer (1839-1876) was an officer for the United States in the American Civil War, though became most famously known for the Battle of Little Bighorn in Montana, in which he led American army forces against Native Americans and lost, dying along with his entire regiment. This has been romanticised as “Custer’s Last Stand”, and he is sometimes held up as an example of an officer whose decisions caused the death of those under his command. Whatever it’s called it remains an act of colonial aggression, and just one of many examples of Custer’s participation in violence against the First Nations peoples of America, including many incidents we would today regard as warcrimes.
There aren’t any other Cutlers who immediately come to mind, but it is a very common name; like many English surnames, it’s based on an occupation, in this case a maker of cutlery.
When Liz says it’s “just like Lord of the Rings” in reference to Joel’s use of the phrase “just to carry a nuke there and back again”, it’s a double reference – both to the Ring as an allegory for nuclear weaponry, and its prequel The Hobbit, whose full title is The Hobbit, or There And Back Again.
Foundation is Isaac Asimov’s series depicting a future history of a spacefaring human empire. The Foundation of the title is an organisation created by genius Hari Seldon to collect and preserve human knowledge, and prevent the coming of an extended dark age. Seldon does this thanks to his invention of “psychohistory” – an accurate mathematical modelling of society able to predict its future – which allows him to leave instructions for the Foundation on how to alter history’s course. Originally written as a series of short stories, collected into three novel-length books, Asimov later added four more novels, the last of which was published after his death. Foundation covers a vast span of time – about a thousand years – and so necessarily leaves many human characters behind after they die. It was hugely influential, both on science fiction and science, and is clearly one of the influences on The Long Earth series.
A Hohmann transfer orbit can be used to transfer a spacecraft between any two orbits around the same central body, so its not just for travelling between Earth and Mars. You could use this method to travel between any two planets in the solar system, or between a low-Earth orbit and the Moon.
Thanks for reading our notes! If we missed anything, or you have questions, please let us know.
These are the episode notes and errata for Pratchat episode 58, “The Barbarian Switch“, discussing the 1988 short story “Final Reward“.
We’ve so far been unable to find the Edwardian cartoon of the shocked boy reading the final Sherlock Holmes story, but we’ll add it here if we can!
In the meantime though, here’s the Czech short film of “Final Reward” – 2013’s Poslední odměna (The Final Reward), adapted by writer and director Lasidlav Plecitý, and starring Jarek Hyebrant as Kevin Dogger (aka Kevina Jareše), Lenka Zahradnická as Nicky (aka Nikola), Tomáš Matonoha as Dogger’s agent, and Marko Igonda as Erdan the Barbarian (aka Barbara Erdana). It’s in Czech, but there are English subtitles. It’s more of a student film – made with the resources of a film school and many supporters – than a fan film.
Notes and Errata
The episode title was inspired by Netflix’s 2018 Christmas movie The Princess Switch, a romantic comedy remix of The Prince and the Pauper which stars former pop star Vanessa Hudgens. If you like The Christmas Prince and films of that ilk, you’ll love this one. It was popular enough to spawn two sequels, though the first one is (in Ben’s opinion) the best.
The Edwardian era from which Penny’s favourite comfort fiction comes is quite short: it includes the years between 1901 and 1914, beginning with the reign of King Edward VII and concluding with the outbreak of World War I. The books Penny mentioned are:
Pollyanna was written in 1912 by American author Eleanor Porter. The titular orphan girl is sent to live with her wealthy but stern Aunt in Vermont. Throughout her misadventures she maintains “The Glad Game” – a persistent optimism she learned from her father as a coping mechanism. (It’s a bit mean we know use “Pollyanna” to mean “overly or annoyingly positive”.) It was the first of twelve “Glad Books” about the character, though Porter herself only wrote the first two. Pollyanna was hugely successful at the time, ranking in the top ten best-selling books in the US for three years between 1913 and 1915, peaking at number two in 1914.
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm was written in 1903 by American author Kate Douglas Wiggin. Rebecca is not an orphan, but is sent to live with two of her mother’s sisters in Riverboro, Maine to improve her prospects, as her family is large and poor. She also exhibits a joy for life that inspires her Aunts.
We’ve yet to identify the one with the violin-playing child who redeems a crusty old farmer; let us know if you recognise this one!
Little Lord Fauntleroy was written by English-American author Frances Hodgson Burnett, originally in serialised form from 1885 to 1886. That makes it Victorian rather than Edwardian, but it fits in here. Cedric Errol lives in “genteel poverty” in New York with his mother after the death of his English father; his grandfather, a wealthy Earl who was disappointed that his son married an American, offers them a house if they will come to England so Cedric can be raised and educated as an English aristocrat, but of course in the end it’s the Earl who is educated by the boy.
The Secret Garden was also written by Frances Hodgson Burnett, serialised from 1910 to 1911. The protagonist Mary Lennox has a pretty miserable start: her British parents live in India and do not want or care for her, and being doted on by their servants leaves her spoilt and ill-tempered. When her parents die in a cholera epidemic she is eventually sent to live with her uncle Archibald Craven, described as a “hunchback”, who lives in a country house on the Yorkshire Moors.
By Gutenberg Press, Penny is referring to Project Gutenberg – the oldest digital library in the world. It was founded in 1971 by American writer Michael Hart, and is run by volunteers. It works to create and freely offer electronic versions of books which are out of copyright – including all of the above books!
Of note is a recent Twitter thread discussing Pratchett’s allusions to classic children’s fiction:
George MacDonald Fraser (1925-2008) was a British author best known for The Flashman Papers, a series of eleven novels and one story story collection in which Harry Flashman, a bully from Tom Brown’s School Days who was expelled from Rugby School for being drunk, joins the army. It’s probably a bit of a stretch to call Flashman even an anti-hero, as he rarely does the right thing – he’s a drunkard, a rake and a cad. Usually through cowardice, Flashman survives and indeed influences (often badly) many historical battles, and pursues (with varying levels of success) many famous women from history. While he lives into the twentieth century – he is said to have died in 1915, making him around a century old, as Tom Brown’s School Days is set in the 1830s – the books only detail his military career between 1839 to 1894. The final book, Flashman and the Tiger, was published in 2005, but note that the books were not written or published in chronological order.
Cobra Kai is a 2018 streaming series, originally produced for YouTube but now owned by Netflix. It’s a sequel to the original Karate Kid films. In the 1984 original, new kid in town Danny LaRusso trains with his Japanese neighbour, Mr Miyagi, so he can defend himself from the local bullies of the Cobra Kai dojo – including Johnny Lawrence, who he defeats at a tournament at the end of the first film. The new series looks at the events of that time from Johnny’s perspective, but takes place in the present, when Johnny re-opens the Cobra Kai dojo – and his rivalry with Danny. Many other characters from the original films have appeared, most played by their original actors. The show has run for four seasons so far, with a fifth due for release in October 2022.
G.M. – The Independent Fantasy Roleplaying Magazine was published monthly by Croftward Publishing in the UK between September 1988 and March 1989. It lasted 19 issues in competition with the official Dungeons & Dragons magazines, Dragon and Dungeon, and White Dwarf magazine from Games Workshop, the company behind the popular Warhammer tabletop wargames. “Final Reward” appeared in the magazine’s second issue. Issue eleven features the short story “The Exam” – Pteppic’s Assassin’s Guild exam from Pyramids (see #Pratchat5, “Ten Points to Viper House“), with the flashbacks to his life in the Guild edited out, plus the Adventuring in Discworld” article, the bulk of which is an adventure for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, and Pratchett’s response. The adventure has some lovely touches, including a suspiciously familiar plot setup involving a tourist to Ankh-Morpork named “ThreeTree”, the first ever published map of Ankh-Morpork (as far as we can tell), and a section on additions to the AD&D rules which includes the non-weapon proficiencies “Alcohol Lore”, “Mix Cocktails”, “Smell Coins”, “Speak Utter Rubbish”, “Detect Utter Rubbish” and “Dramatic Entrance”. Also of note: this article describes the Discworld books as “classics” in 1988 – contemporary evidence that they really made a splash early, at least in nerd circles! You can find the entire issue 11 of GM in the Internet Archive here.
As it turns out, the G.M. article mentioned above was notthe first Discworld article in a roleplaying magazine. That honour goes to issue 82 of White Dwarf magazine, from October 1986, which included an extract from The Light Fantastic – only a few months after the book was first published. The three pages include the sequence of Galder Weatherwax summoning Death, and Rincewind and Twoflower’s encounter with the gnome in the forest of Skund. It’s followed by a competition in which readers could win signed copies of the first two Discworld novels, plus a copy of the very first Discworld computer game – The Colour of Magic “graphic adventure” (the term used optimistically for text adventures with accompanying pictures at the time, rather than the later era of graphic adventures in the 1990s), published by Pirahna in 1986. The issue also includes “A Stroll Across the Discworld”, written by Ashley Shepherd, which adapts details from the first two novels for play using Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. It includes notes on characters, magic, and creatures, plus a few plot ideas, over five pages, though the first one of those is a full-page reproduction of Josh Kirby’s cover of The Light Fantastic with the title of the article and some very hard to read red text over the top explaining the basic premise of the world. …It sounds very much like a “Discworld roleplaying” episode lies in our future, doesn’t it?
Letters and Numbers is the Australian version of the very nerdy gameshow Countdown, itself the UK’s version of the original French gameshow Des chiffres et des lettres (“Numbers and Letters”), from which the Australian version gets its name. The show alternates between letters rounds, in which contestants request a mix of randomly drawn consonants and vowels and must make the longest word possible, and numbers rounds, in which contestants request a mix of “large” and “small” numbers, which they must use in a series of equations to achieve a randomly assigned target result. Letters rounds were overseen by crossword compiler and previous Pratchat guest David Astle (#Pratchat6), and numbers rounds by mathematician Lily Serna. The Australian version, produced by SBS, ran from 2010 to 2012, and Ben was a contestant on one episode! (He didn’t win, but made a reasonable showing against the multiple-episode champion.) The original Letters and Numbers was hosted by former Australian newsreader Richard Morecroft. In 2021 SBS brought the show back as Celebrity Letters and Numbers, hosted by Michael Hing but with Astle and Serna in their prior roles. The celebrity version retains the original format, if with more time for banter between (and during) rounds.
Dungarees is a slang term in British English for “bib-and-brace” style overalls. The name comes from “dungaree”, the name of a tough calico-like cotton cloth similar to denim, and which was used to make overalls sold in the UK. Since dungarees were originally sold as safety gear for manual labourers, the “women in dungarees” stereotype is one of many that seeks to ridicule women who fulfil traditionally masculine roles.
Zen Buddhism is a meditative form of Buddhism that originated in China and later spread to Korea, Vietnam and Japan. Zen (禅) is the Japanese name; it comes from the original Chinese name, Chánzōng (禪宗), where chán is a short form of chánnà (禪那), itself a translation of the Sanskrit word for meditation, dhyāna (ध्यान). While sitting meditation is a common and importance practise in Zen Buddhism, receiving money for doing so isn’t really a thing. Yen, meanwhile, is the English name for the Japanese currency en (圓 or えん), represented by the symbol ¥. The “Y” comes from historical pronunciations in Japan which used a J sound, which was written down and interpreted by Portuguese missionaries as a “Y”, something which affected the way many Japanese words were written in English too.
Kring the talking sword appears in books two and three of The Colour of Magic, as discussed in #Pratchat14, “City-State Lampoon’s Disc-wide Vacation“. Penny compares him to the magical sword possessed by Michael Moorcock’s anti-hero Elric of Melniboné, Stormbringer (not Stormbreaker as we mistakenly refer to it). Stormbringer gives the usually physically weak Elric great strength, but only by feeding on the souls of intelligent creatures.
“I am Groot” is the only phrase spoken by the character Groot, an alien who is essentially a humanoid tree, in the comics and film adaptations of Guardians of the Galaxy. Like a Pokémon, who can only say its own name, Groot still manages to convey a variety of meanings. It’s even implied in the films that he’s speaking a complex language which his companions, Rocket Raccoon and later Thor, are able to understand – a bit like Chewbacca’s growls in the Star Wars films.
Cosplay – a portmanteau of “costume play” – is a Japanese term which dates back to 1984; the Japanese word is kosupure (コスプレ). This means it was around when Pratchett wrote “Final Reward”, but it didn’t become a common term – certainly not outside of Japan – until the 1990s, so he probably hadn’t heard it then. It can be traced back to an article written by Nobuyuki Takahashi, a Japanese television director, after his experience seeing the “Masquerade” at the 1984 World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon for short) in L.A. “Masquerade” has connotations of “aristocratic” costumes in Japanese, so he coined a new word in a similar way to many Japanese terms. Such costume events had been a mainstay of science fiction and fantasy conventions since the 1960s, and indeed Pratchett had seen some himself in his early attendance of UK cons, including EasterCon.
The Northern Line is a route on the London Underground, coded black on standard underground maps. It runs from Morden in the south all the way to High Barnet in the north, and uniquely has two separate alternate routes. This makes it tricky to place Dogger’s residence, though as its one of the most underground lines (there are a lot of above-ground stations in the underground), and Dogger’s part of the line seems to be surface level, it’s likely he’s somewhere in north London, perhaps in the vicinity of Finchley. Fun stations on the Northern line include Tooting Bec, three of the English Monopoly board stations, and most importantly…Mornington Crescent! (That’s a slightly obscure now British radio comedy reference, so don’t worry if you didn’t get it.)
By 1988, Pratchett had in fact quit his day job to write full-time, and signed his first big publishing contract for a lot of money. Terry had given notice to his manager at the Central Electricity Generating Board in July 1987, in between the publication of Equal Rites and that of Mort, and told Colin Smythe, now his agent rather than his publisher. Smythe solicited a deal for Terry’s next six books, and after some competition between Gollancz and Transworld, Pratchett signed with the former in December 1987 for an advance of £51,000 per book – a total of £306,000 (around £740,000, or more than one and a quarter million Australian dollars, in today’s money). He was definitely doing very well, so it’s little wonder he could write about Dogger doing the same.
The TARDIS – the Doctor’s time and space travelling home in Doctor Who – is meant to blend in with its surroundings by changing shape using its “chameleon circuit”, but since the programme’s invention that circuit has malfunctioned and its been stuck as various designs of 1960s London Police Box. While this sometimes did cause some it to be noticed in the original series, as Liz remarks it’s still invisible to “most people” thanks to the concept of the “perception filter” – a presumably slightly psychic effect that causes those who notice it to treat it as commonplace, in a manner similar to Douglas Adams’ idea of the “Somebody Else’s Problem” field.
Neighbours was Australia’s longest-running and most internationally successful soap opera. Since 1985 it ran daily during the week for just over 8,900 episodes, initially produced for Channel Seven, but then moving over to Ten. It became hugely popular in the UK, where it aired on BBC One for 21 years until 2008, when it was picked up by Channel 5. In 2022 Channel 5 announced they would not be continuing to carry the show, cutting off its main source of funding, and Fremantle Productions were unable to find another broadcaster to pick up the deal. It thus ceased production and went out with a big double-episode finale on 28 July, 2022, featuring the return of many beloved characters from its long history – including big name actors and pop stars who got an early break on the show, like Kylie Minogue, Guy Pearce and Margot Robbie. It’s left a huge gap in the Australian television landscape, as it provided jobs and professional experiences for thousands of production crew, directors, writers and actors.
Houris are mentioned just four times in the Quran, and are (at least in the majority opinion) not mortal women but supernatural creatures of Hannah, the Islamic Paradise. Houris are described as “companions” whose main features are that they have “wide and beautiful eyes” and are “untouched” (which probably means what you’re inferring, yes). The Quran does not promise any specific number of them to anyone, though hadiths – other accounts of the words and deeds of the prophet Mohammed, seen as more or less canonical depending on an individual’s beliefs – describe them in many ways, lots of them pretty weird.
On the subject of characters having a life of their own, the closest thing we could find Pratchett saying is that he often doesn’t know what he’s doing when starting to write a book – writing it is the way he finds out, and “often, one of the characters says something that tells me what the story is about.” This is from the acceptance speech he wrote (but did not personally give) for the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, which he won for Nation in 2009. The speech is collected in A Slip of the Keyboard.
The Hero’s Journey (aka the “monomyth”) is Joseph Campbell’s famous condensation of the Western canon into a single structure, presented in his 1949 book The Hero With a Thousand Faces. While its not nearly as universal as Campbell presumed, it has become canonised and used repeatedly in the construction of modern fiction, most famously when George Lucas explicitly used it as a model for Star Wars. “The Refusal of the Call” is an early stage of the Journey, in which the hero initially refuses to leave their home behind and go on the quest to which they are being called. This is still really common in fantasy fiction, especially urban fantasy, where protagonists often deny that the fantastic world they’re being shown is even real.
“In the beginning was the Word” is that first line of the first first of the Book of John, one of the four canonical gospels in the New Testament of the Bible. It goes on to say “and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” which has been a subject of debate among theologians for centuries. In this context, “the Word” is an English translation of the Greek logos (λόγος), which is usually interpreted to mean Jesus, and so the full verse is the genesis of many Christian beliefs, including the Trinity – that Jesus is God but also separate from God.
100 Story Building is the creative writing centre for children and young people where Ben has worked for the last seven years or so. In their workshops they try to deal with a number of barriers young people face when writing, including the intimidating feeling of staring at a blank page waiting to be filled.
The quote “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” is often attributed to Ernest Hemingway, and sometimes to another author, Gene Fowler. As is so often the case with these things, neither of those is likely to be true. Anecdotally at least a version close to the one attributed to Hemingway was attributed to Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith, whose work was known to Hemingway, making it plausible he might have said it. That version was: “You simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins, and bleed.” But it seems the earliest confirmed version was written by American sportswriter and novellist Paul Gallico (of The Poseidon Adventure fame) in his 1946 book Confessions of a Story Writer, in which he says: “It is only when you open your veins and bleed onto the page a little that you establish contact with your reader.”
Bohemian writer Franz Kafka (1883-1924) did write a letter to his best friend, Max Brod, in which he seemingly requested all his work to be burned. Brod found the letter – described as a “last will” – when going through his desk after Kafka had died of tuberculosis. “Everything I leave behind me…is to be burned unread”, he wrote, though there’s some thought that his applied only to his personal and unpublished writing. Brod did not comply, though its worth noting that Kafka’s most famous story, “The Metamorphosis”, had been published during his life, in 1915. Even that did not find widespread fame, though, until after his death.
Jules Verne’s posthumously published novel Paris in the Twentieth Century – discovered by his great grandson in a safe in 1989, and published in 1994 – thankfully does not seem to be disputed in its authenticity. Tolkien’s later published works are also seen as legit, including the twelve-volume A History of Middle-Earth, compiled by Christopher Tolkien (J.R.R.’s son, not his grandson as we mistakenly say). These books are a compilation of his notes, drafts and other writings, forming a history of Tolkien’s process of creating the world of Middle-Earth (and not, as the title might suggest, a history of the world itself).
Shirley Jackson (1916 – 1965) was an American horror and mystery writer, whose best known work includes the novel The Haunting of Hill House and the short story “The Lottery”. We previous discussed her in Penny’s last appearance, #Pratchat45, “Hogswatch in Grune”. The anthology Penny read is Let Me Tell You: New Stories, Essays, and Other Writings, edited by two of Jackson’s four children and published in 2015. It contains more than forty unpublished (and very likely unfinished) pieces of writing.
“The High Meggas” (discussed in #Pratchat57West5), the short story precursor to Prachett’s Long Earth series, was first published in early editions of The Long Earth in 2012, and then again in the collection A Blink of the Screen later that year. It’s given a date of 1986 in the introduction used in both books, but accounts conflict between Pratchett and his publisher Colin Smythe as to when exactly it was written. See the notes to #Pratchat57West5 for more on this.
Of the collections of Pratchett’s early short stories, only the first two (2014’s Dragons at Crumbling Castle and 2015’s The Witch’s Vacuum Cleaner) have introductions written by Terry, indicating that he had tweaked the stories within a little. They are, though, “mostly as they were first printed”.
English horror writer Ramsay Campbell started writing his first book when he was eleven, and it is this unpublished collection of fiction – titled Ghostly Stories – which contained the infamous sentence “The door banged open, and the afore-mentioned skeleton rushed in.” In an interview given in 2008, he cited it as evidence that he wasn’t yet at the height of his powers though he did submit it to publishers and got some encouragement, if not a contract.
Stephen King’s The Dark Half is a 1989 horror novel about alcoholic author Thad Beaumont, a writer of serious but unpopular “literary fiction” who finds success as “George Stark”, a pen name under which he writes violent crime thrillers about a sadistic serial killer. When Thad is outed as Stark, he and his wife stage a mock burial of the pseudonym…only for him to rise bodily from the grave and go on a killing spree of his own… This does seem to have been prompted by King’s own outing as Richard Bachmann, the name under which King wrote darker, more cynical books. Both pen names were inspired by “Richard Stark”, a pseudonym used by Donald E Westlake.
Subscriber Ian Banks identified a couple of other Stephen King stories relevant to this episode: “Word Processor Of The Gods”, published in Skeleton Crew, has a main character who is gifted a word processor that can reshape reality, while “Umney’s Last Case” (collected in Nightmares and Dreamscapes) is quite similar to “Final Reward”, but told from the point of view of the fictional character.
Inkheart (Tintenherz) is a 2003 young adult fantasy novel by German author Cornelia Funke. It tells the story of Meggie, a young woman whose father, Mo, is a bookbinder who she discovers has a special gift: he is able to bring things out of the world of books, the Inkworld, into the real world – but only if something from the real world goes into Inkworld in return… Inkheart is the first in the Inkworld trilogy, followed by Inkwell (2005) and Inkdeath (2008). Funke announced in 2021 she will return to the series with The Colour of Revenge (Die Farbe der Rache), scheduled for publication in 2023. The first book was filmed in 2006 as Inkheart with a great cast including Brendan Fraser (as Mo), Eliza Bennett (as Meggie), Helen Mirren, Jim Broadbent, Paul Bettany and Andy Serkis.
As Penny alludes, Shirley Jackson’s marriage to college teacher and critic Stanley Edgar Hyman was likely unhappy; her biographers reckon Stanley frequently cheated on her – often with his college students – and eventually made her agree to an open relationship she didn’t really want, and also controlled her finances even though she earned most of the money in the household. Perhaps unsurprisingly he was the first person to publish some of her unfinished work, specifically Come Along with Me. This was an unfinished novel, bulked out with many of her best short stories, published three years after her death in 1968.
Stranger Things – the hit Netflix show drawing on many of the popular “kids on bikes” style horror fantasy films of the 1980s – released its fourth season in two parts in May and July 2022. A new character introduced is Eddie Munson, an older teenager who has failed to graduate from high school several times and is the head of the school’s Dungeons & Dragons club, “The Hellfire Club”. Despite his involvement with D&D, he exemplifies the “nerd jock” role: he bullies the younger members of the club, is disdainful and disrespectful to those who don’t share the hobby, and controls who can and can’t play with them. He also plays heavy rock music and is a known drug dealer at the school, fulfilling many of the negative stereotypes of Dungeons & Dragons players common at the time of the “Satanic panic”, though he does have a kinder side and genuinely seemed to want to help the character who came to him for help.
Tripod vs the Dragon is a musical written and performed by Australian musical comedy trio Tripod, with guest star Elana Stone. Originally titled Dungeons & Dragons: The Musical and renamed for legal reasons, the trio make themselves into adventurers and get caught up in a plot involving a tree from the dawn of time and its guardian, a dragon. Its first proper season was in 2010 for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, alongside two lesser known Dungeons & Dragons-inspired comedy shows, +1 Sword and Dungeon Crawl, starring some weird nerds named Ben and Richard McKenzie… The Tripod vs the Dragon album is available via Bandcamp, and the song Penny mentions is the final track, “Bard”. The show was filmed in 2012, and might still be available on DVD; we’ll find out where from and let you know! But if you can’t find one, there’s a watch party coming up just after this episode is published, on 14 August 2022; see this Tweet for details.
“The Adventure of the Final Problem” was first published in December 1893, and intended by Arthur Conan-Doyle to kill off Sherlock Holmes and be his final story. In it, Holmes tells Watson he has finally proven that many crimes he has investigated are part of the plans of one man: Professor Moriarty, a mastermind who aids other criminals. He avoids several attempts on his life before finally tracking Moriarty to the Reichenbach Falls, a real waterfall in Switzerland that Doyle had visited earlier that year, inspiring the story. Watson is lured away by a false emergency, and when he returns, Holmes has gone – seemingly to his death over the edge of the falls with Moriarty, leaving behind only a letter to Watson. To say this was unpopular with readers of The Strand magazine is a huge understatement; they cancelled their subscriptions in droves, and made their displeasure known in letters to the magazine and Doyle himself. The pressure eventually led him to write The Hound of the Baskervilles (a serialised novel, set before Holmes’ apparent death) in 1901, and later to write more stories – beginning with “The Adventure of the Empty House” in 1903 – which establishes that Holmes had in fact survived, luckily plausible since in the fiction no-one directly saw Holmes die or discovered his body.
Call of Duty is a long-running series of military first-person shooter videogames published by Actvision. They initially focussed on World War II, though later branched out to other fields of conflict. The 2008 game Call of Duty: World at War, and begins the “Black Ops” storyline that would continue through Call of Duty: Black Ops and its sequels. It also introduced the alternate “zombies” mode, an alternate history multiplayer mode in which players must kill hordes of Nazi zombies. This storyline would persist through multiple games as well, and introduces the character of Doctor Edward Richtofen, a Nazi scientist who creates many of the monsters battled in Zombies mode.
Amazingly, frozen mammoth meat was supposedly served at a banquet in 1901 at St. Petersburg, and also in around 1951 at the Explorer’s Club in New York. But in both cases, it seems the story was a lie, even if it is true that the indigenous Evenki people of Siberia did sometimes feed it to their dogs. For more on why it would be a) gross and b) impossible to serve up mammoth steak, see Sarah Zhang’s great article “What Happens to Meat When You Freeze It for 35,000 Years“, written for The Atlantic in December 2019.
Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen (1892 – 1918), aka The Baron von Richtofen or the Red Baron, was a notorious German World War I flying ace who shot down around eighty enemy planes, a huge number for the time. In Germany he was known as Der Rote Kampfflieger, “The Red Fighter Pilot”, and this was the title he used for his 1918 autobiography. The “Red” came from the bright colour of his aircraft; his squadron were known as the “Flying Circus”, both for their bright colour, and the fact that they moved around to different stages of the war using tents wherever they set up an airfield. (And yes, this was the inspiration for the Monty Python series.) He’s been played by many actors, notably Adrian Edmondson in an episode of Blackadder Goes Forth, where he is shot by rival fighter pilot, Rik Mayall’s Lord Flashheart.
We’d have to make a whole podcast to get through all the Sherlock Holmes stuff we mention this episode (not that Ben, as a Holmes fan, would mind that…), so we’ll instead just list our references here:
August Derleth’s Solar Ponds appeared in thirteen books’ worth of short stories between 1928 and 1971, and then some more written by Basil Copper.
Arsene Lupin was created by French author Maurice Leblanc, and is one of several “gentleman thief” type characters created in part as an answer to Holmes. He first crossed paths with Holmes in 1905 in “Sherlock Holmes arrive trop tard” (“Sherlock Holmes Arrives Too Late”), and he was indeed renamed “Herlock Sholmes” (or “Holmlock Shears”), and Watson “Wilson”, at the time (though modern reprints often revert their names, since copyright concerns are no longer as pressing).
Holmes doesn’t appear in Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney, but in its historical spin-off series, The Great Ace Attorney, set in the Meiji Restoration period of Japan, which coincides with the Victorian era of Holmes. In the original Japanese, Sherlock Holmes appears alongside ten-year-old Iris Watson, Watson’s daughter, after John is murdered. They are renamed Herlock Sholmes and Iris Wilson in international translations.
In 2020 the Conan-Doyle estate sued several authors for copyright infringement, including Nancy Springer for her books starring Holmes’ young sister, Enola Holmes. The estate claimed that the final ten stories (set after The Final Problem) were not yet in the public domain, and specifically citing the more emotional nature of Holmes in those stories as a comparison point. The suit was dismissed; of note, Holmes already passed into the public domain in the UK in 2000, seventy years after Conan-Doyle’s death, but copyright law varies in different places. In the US, where the Holmes stories were published at the same time as in The Strand, all of the original Holmes stories (and thus the characters themselves) will be out of copyright by 2023.
Mr Holmes is a 2015 film adaptation of the 2005 novel A Slight Trick of the Mind by American author Mitch Cullin. It’s set in 1947, with a retired 93-year-old Holmes – played by Ian McKellen – trying to remember the details of the last case he took on before retiring 35 years earlier.
The chimera is a creature from Greek mythology, a fire-breathing hybrid monster most often depicted as a lion with a goat’s head growing from its back and a serpent’s tail (sometimes with a snake’s head at the end). It appears in The Iliad, among other accounts. Most famously, when the hero Bellerophon rejects the advances of King Proetus’s wife, Proetus (who is told Bellerophon approached the Queen) seeks revenge by sending Bellerophon to slay the Chimera, in the hopes he will die in the attempt. Advised by a seer, he captures Pegasus the winged horse and attacks the monster from above, using trickery to kill it. The word chimera is from the Greek Χίμαιρα, Chímaira, meaning “she-goat”. In English the word is now also used to mean any creature (or sometimes any thing) made up of different parts.
Upstart Crow is Ben Elton’s TV sitcom starring David Mitchell as William Shakespeare, which has run for three series since 2016. A stage play was also performed in 2019.
Ben touches on the idea of heteropessimism, the acceptance that heteronormative relationships must be awful by heterosexual couples. It’s explored in this article in The Conversation from July 2022.