These are the notes and errata for our bonus live episode “Twice as Alive“, revisiting #Pratchat1 and the 1993 Discworld novel Men at Arms.
The episode title is a reference to the teaser at the start of #Pratchat1, in which both guest Cal Wilson and Liz declared that they didn’t think of werewolves as undead, but rather “twice as alive”.
The Lost Con was intended “as an 8 hour taster for the non-virtual convention in Sydney next year” – the Australian Discworld convention, Nullus Anxietas 7a (NA7a). The Lost Con was free to all members of the 2022 convention, whether full or supporting, and ran from 4 PM to midnight on Saturday, July 3rd – the original weekend planned for NA7a, which was last year postponed from 2021 to 2022. The move was prudent – Sydney is currently experiencing a serious outbreak of the Delta strain of COVID-19 and has been in lockdown since 26 June, with several stages of local restrictions imposed before that. This is the first major lockdown experienced by Sydney since the nation-wide lockdown in early 2020. From your hosts in Melbourne – we really hope you can get out of it faster than we did last year. Our thoughts are with you all.
The theme of Nullus Anxietas 7a will be “Ankh-Morpork: Citie of One Thousand Surprises”. (The theme of NA7 was “Going Postal”.)
#Pratchat1, “Boots Theory“, was released on the 7Ath of November, 2017 – three years and eight months ago in real time, or 237 years ago in COVID time, at release of this podcast.
Members of The Lost Con Zoom chat were split over whose pronunciations they preferred. The folks from Discworld Monthly informed us that according to Stephen Briggs, there were definitely disagreements over pronunciation for the audiobooks. You can find his guides for some pronunciation in the front of some of his play adaptations; for example in Jingo he specifies that Angua’s name should be pronounced with a hard “g”, but either “Angwa” or “Ang-you-ah” is listed as acceptable.
One of the perils of not actually having time to re-read the book (or even re-listen to the entire previous episode) is that we forget little details. Like the fact that Carrot does indeed pick up the gonne, and after a brief look smashes it against a wall, destroying it. As he says when Vimes warns him not to touch it: “Why not? It’s only a device.” Of note: he leaves the broken bits in the clocktower of the Assassin’s Guild.
The western roleplaying videogame with the spittoons that Ben mentions is West of Loathing, a spin-off from the online game Kingdom of Loathing.
Liz’s Detritus pun, which Ben didn’t pick up on at the time, was “inflammation of the d’être“, as in raison d’être, a French term meaning “reason to be”. It’s commonly used by English speakers as an alternate way of referring to something so important if gives them a reason to be alive. Note that in French it’s not really pronounced in such a way that makes the pun work, but English speakers often say it that way.
Detritus’ brain-cooling helmet makes later appearances in Jingo (where it breaks down trying to keep his brain cool in the desert) and The Truth, where he switches it on in order to think clearly about how to deal with William de Worde asking journalistic questions.
The two-player roleplaying game Ben is discussing is Tin Star Games’ Partners, released in digital form in 2021 following a successful Kickstarter campaign.
We discussed Jingo in #Pratchat27, “Leshp Miserablés“, released in January 2020.
Hitchcock and Scully are the two rusted-on detectives who serve in the 99th precinct of the New York Police Department on the sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine, portrayed by Dirk Blocker and Joel McKinnon Miller respectively. They are notoriously incompetent, unhealthy and lazy, concerned primarily with snacks and other food. Originally supporting characters, they became a staple of the show and feature in the opening credits as of season six, the second episode of which (titled “Hitchcock & Scully”) explored their backstory as hotshot detectives in the 1980s.
The Ankh-Morpork Archives, Vol. 2 was published on the 29th of October, 2020, collecting material from the Discworld’s Ankh-Morpork City Watch Diary 1999, the Discworld Fools’ Guild Yearbook and Diary 2001, the Discworld (Reformed) Vampyres’ Diary 2003 and Lu-Tze’s Yearbook of Enlightenment 2008. Ben is right that the City Watch diary, published in September 1998, came out after Jingo (November 1997) and before The Fifth Elephant (November 1999).
Asimov is one of Liz’s cats, who along with her other cat Huxley and Ben’s cat Kaos are collectively known as the “Pratcats”. Huxley and Kaos are relative newcomers, but Asimov has been around since the beginning; as well as hearing his bell jingling in the background of many episodes, he was featured as a guest on #Pratchat22, “The Cat in the Prat“.
The cult in Guards! Guards! are the Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night (not to be mistaken for the Illuminated and Ancient Brethren of Ee). We discussed their similarity with incels and other “alt-right” groups in #Pratchat7A (see the next point).
As per the excerpt from #Pratchat1, our original suggestion was that Vetinari become a vampire, but we have previously discussed the idea of a zombie Vetinari…though we’re not entirely sure when! Possibly it was in #Pratchat30, “Looking Widdershins“, which is also where we first discussed the possibility of Moist Von Lipwig being groomed as the next Patrician (as suggested by listener Luke Jimenez).
The “critical Black Mass” joke in The Light Fantastic, as discussed in #Pratchat44, “Cosmic Turtle Soup“, refers to a collection of “books that leak magic”.
Ben and Liz both discuss their Pratchett origin stories in #Pratchat9, “And the Winner is…“. Liz realised her first was not in fact The Fifth Elephant just after recording #Pratchat7A, as discussed near the start of #Pratchat9, “Upscalator to Heaven“.
Early versions of “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” go back to as early as 1913, in press releases in various American magazines from a lobby group aligned with gun manufacturer Colt. These were designed to counter growing public concern about the availability of cheap mass-produced firearms, especially pistols, and the resulting escalation in deaths by shooting, which even back then were leading to calls for more regulation and control of guns. While earlier versions included things like “it’s not the gun, it’s the man behind the gun”, the current version is the most recognisable, and seems to have first arisen in the 1950s or 1960s. It’s nonsense, of course; no-one ever suggested that a gun could kill someone on its own. The point of the phrase is to make guns themselves seem neutral, neither good nor evil, but also to paint the perpetrators of gun deaths as obsessed murderers: killers who will use any means necessary, whether they have a gun or not. This ignores the fact that guns are deadlier than other weapons, and indeed the fact that guns even are weapons, i.e. devices designed only to harm living creatures. If you want to know more, the phrase is also the title of a very useful 2016 book on the subject: “Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People” and Other Myths About Guns and Gun Control, by Dennis A. Henigan.
The gonne influences Vimes by telling him that All that you hate, all that is wrong, I can put right, and Vimes finds it difficult to resist. He also remembers it pulling its trigger by itself, dragging his finger along with it, and only ends up putting it down and not shooting the villain because Carrot orders him to attention.
These are the episode notes and errata for episode 45, “Hogswatch in Grune“, featuring guest Penelope Love, discussing Pratchat’s 1987 short story, Twenty Pence, with Envelope and Seasonal Greeting.
The episode title – and our choice of short story – is inspired by tradition of “Christmas in July“, Hogswatch being the Discworld equivalent of Christmas (see our Hogfather episode, #Pratchat26) and Grune being the Discworld month that comes after June. In Australia, and the rest of the Southern hemisphere, December 25 occurs during Summer, and so workplaces and friendship groups here and in New Zealand sometimes celebrate a gathering during the Winter, when the colder weather makes it feel a little closer to a traditional European Christmas (and makes it more palatable to eat enormous Christmas dinners). Much to our surprise, this tradition turns out to have begun rather more ironically in America in the 1930s or 40s, though mostly as a marketing ploy rather than an actual gathering of loved ones.
Call of Cthulhu by Sandy Petersen is a horror roleplaying game, and one of the oldest RPGs still in print: the first edition was published by Chaosium in 1981. The current 7th edition was first published in 2014. The world of the game is based on the “Cthulhu Mythos”, drawn from the stories of horror writer (and, sadly, infamous racist) H P Lovecraft and his contemporaries and successors, including Frank Belknap Long, Robert E Howard and August Derleth. It’s theme is “cosmic horror” – as Penny says, the players generally discover they live in a universe where immensely powerful and ancient beings could easily destroy our world – and the characters’ grip on reality. The game uses a version of Chaosium’s Basic Roleplaying System, modified to track each character’s “sanity” – which they lose as they glimpse the awful truths of the universe – alongside their skills and abilities. The default setting for the game is 1930s America, where Lovecraft’s stories are set, but play in many other eras and locations is also supported – including, via one of the books Penny worked on, Australia.
Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, aka P G Wodehouse (1881 – 1975) was an English author best known for his humorous novels, especially those chronicling hapless toff Bertie Wooster and his hyper-capable valet Jeeves, whose name has become synonymous with the image of the unflappable English manservant. He also wrote Broadway musicals, and worked for a time in Hollywood, though he felt his own talent and that of many others was being wasted there, and said so publicly. He moved to France to avoid paying taxes in the UK, and as a result was captured by the Germans; he was later released and made speeches over German radio, leading to outcry in the UK and effectively sending him into exile, living out the last decades of his life in the US.
Wodehouse is pronounced “Woodhouse”; Ben is getting it wrong, and Penny knows what she is talking about. This is a pattern for much of the episode.
The Code of the Woosters (1938) is the third full-length novel to feature Jeeves and his employer, Bertie Wooster. It’s a sequel to 1934’s What Ho, Jeeves and as well as returning character Gussie Fink-Nottle, it also introduces Roderick Spode, a broad parody of British fascist Sir Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists.
Pratchett’s very first professionally published story was actually “The Hades Business”, originally published in Science Fantasy vol. 20, no. 60 in August 1963. That story is collected in Once More* * With Footnotes, A Blink of the Screen and a few other anthologies. The serious story Ben is thinking of is his third published story, “Night Dweller”, which was published in New Worlds volume 49, #156 in November 1965 – at the time edited by Michael Moorcock (more about him in a bit). You can find a digital facsimile of the original magazine at the Internet Archive. We previous talked about both stories in #Pratchat39, “All the Fun of the…Fish?” (Note that we are not counting the stories Pratchett had published in his school newspaper, the Technical Cygnet, but also note that he was fifteen years old when he had this incredibly competent and actually pretty creepy space-based horror story published in a professional magazine!)
There have been several “facsimile” editions of the Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan-Doyle, which were published between 1887 and 1927 in The Strand Magazine. The Strand featured short fiction – either complete stories, or short serialised novels – and general interest articles, and was published monthly in London for sixty years, from 1890 to 1950. It was also published in the US from 1891 until 1916. In London it had a circulation of around half a million readers. The name comes from the major London street the Strand, which was near the offices of the magazine on Burleigh Street and later Southampton Street. Conan Doyle was a frequent contributor, and published 121 short stories in the magazine, as well as nine novels (including the Sherlock Holmes ones), 70 non-fiction articles, two interviews and one poem!
We’ve previously mentioned Pratchett’s love of “gl” words; he writes about this in both The Wee Free Men (see #Pratchat32, “Meet the Feegles“) and
The epistolary novel – one presented as a series of documents, most often letters or diary entries – has a long tradition, with famous examples of the style including Les Liaisons dangereuses, The Screwtape Letters,The Color Purple, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾, The Martian, Bridget Jones’ Diary, World War Z and the Illuminae trilogy by Jay Kristoff and previous Pratchat guest, Amie Kaufman. Bram Stoker’s Dracula features letters, diary entries and even transcripts of wax cylinder recordings, but it was popular for horror novels too – in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the doctor’s story is relayed by Captain Robert Walton (who finds him in arctic waters) to his sister in a series of letters.
Lovecraft used the epistolary style in several stories, most notably The Whisperer in Darkness (1931) and The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (1941). Some of his other stories, including The Call of Cthulhu (1928), also include newspaper excerpts or other documents without being told entirely in that style.
Verisimilitude in fiction is the believability of the work, or its contents, either in comparison to reality (“cultural verisimilitude”) or the work’s genre (“generic verisimilitude”). Victorian horror stories often strive for believability in terms of how the characters react to the bizarre and horrifying beings and situations they encounter, whereas modern horror – especially in films – often has the characters behave in unbelievably stupid ways to further the plot.
We mentioned Michael Moorcock just last month, when guest Joel Martin brought up his novel-length essay “Wizardry and Wild Romance: A Study of Epic Fantasy”. As well as publishing one of Pratchett’s first stories (see above), Moorcock is best known for his fantasy novels, many of which depict a cosmic battle between the forces of Law and Chaos. These often feature an incarnation of “the Eternal Champion”, whom we compared to Rincewind’s “Eternal Coward” role in #Pratchat29, “Great Rimward Land“, and discussed Elric of Melniboné, one of those incarnations, in #Pratchat14, “City-State Lampoon’s Disc-Wide Vacation“.
While best known for Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle also wrote science fiction and horror. Such works include the novels and stories starring scientist Professor Challenger, most famously The Lost World, and many short stories such as “The Case of Lady Sannox”, “The Leather Funnel” and “The Horror of the Heights”.
Creepy collections of Victorian Christmas cards did the rounds on social media in 2015, resulting in multiple articles like this one at the BBC and this one in online magazine Hyperallergenic. Both contain excellent examples of the grotesque, bizarre and just not-quite-right illustrations which just don’t quite say “Merry Christmas”. The frogs on display there aren’t musical, but are doing a murder on each other; the one Ben discusses is actually American, but from the same era. You can find it (if you dare!) in this American Antiquarian article.
We discussed Pratchett’s Dickens homage/pastiche Dodger in #Pratchat6, “A Load of Old Tosh“.
To explain Ben’s “nerdy roleplaying game reference“, the Planescape campaign setting for Dungeons & Dragons features a city, Sigil, which is located on the inside of a torus (basically a ring) floating at the top of an infinite spire (don’t think about it too hard). Known as the City of Doors, it allows travel to and from the other planes of existence, and is ruled by a mysterious supernatural figure known as the Lady of Pain. She is generally permissive, but suffers the worship of no gods in her city; doing so, or otherwise invoking her ire, often leads to being “mazed” – placed inside a unique labyrinth-like pocket universe, which can only be escaped by traversing the maze. A lot of her victims die in the attempt.
We discussed Pratchett’s more sexual explicit writing in our previous episode, #Pratchat44, “Cosmic Turtle Soup“, in the context of some comments about Rincewind’s sexual experiences – solo and otherwise.
The tradition of the “saucy seaside postcard” (sold throughout the UK) was largely the work of one artist, the prolific Donald McGill (1875-1962). He produced more than twelve thousand postcard designs over his career, from 1905 through to his death in 1962. During World War I, he produced anti-German propaganda designs, but his most famous postcards feature cartoons of men and women making suggestive double entendres, not only at the seaside but in many other situations. He ran afoul of the “war on smut” in the 1950s, put on trial in 1954, but later helped to revise the Obscene Publications Act 1857. His most famous postcard, featuring the joke “Do you like Kipling?”; “I don’t know, you naughty boy, I’ve never kippled!”, reportedly holds the record for the world’s best-selling postcard, with claims it had sold over 6 million copies. A museum was opened in 2010 in Ryde on the Isle of Wight, celebrating his work, but has since shut down.
Penny comments that the Oxford scholar’s end was “very Pickwickian“, a delightful adjective described by the Oxford Dictionary as meaning “Of or like Mr Pickwick in Dickens’s Pickwick Papers (1837), especially in being jovial, plump, or generous.” It is used in the novel itself to describe a word or phrase that is misused or misunderstood, which is said to be using such a phrase in “the Pickwickian sense”.
L’Île mystérieuse (Mysterious Island) is an 1875 novel written by Jules Verne; it is a sequel not only to Vingt Mille Lieues sous les mers (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea), but also his 1867 novel Les Enfants du capitaine Grant (In Search of the Castaways). In the story, a group of prisoners of the South in the American Civil War stage a daring escape via hot air balloon, but are blown out to sea and crash on an island. They encounter many dangers and adventures, including rescuing a castaway from a smaller island nearby (a character from In Search of the Castaways), but are mysteriously helped by an unseen force, who saves them on multiple occasions. This turns out to be none other than Captain Nemo, who survived the maelstrom at the end of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – though this makes no chronological sense since 20,000 Leagues is set after the Civil War had ended. This book reveals his origin story as an Indian Prince, something not alluded to at all in the first novel. The book doesn’t contain any giant animals, but the 1961 film – starring Herbert Lom as a distinctly non-Indian Nemo – features a giant crab, flightless bird, bees, plants and octopus, all explained to be the results of Nemo’s genetic experiments. The creatures were stop-motion animated by Ray Harryhausen.
“The Shadow Over Innsmouth” is one of Lovecraft’s most famous stories, originally published in 1936. In the story, the narrator tells of his investigation into the port town of Innsmouth some years previously. He discovers much superstition and mystery surrounding the town, where its founding father Obed March started a cult, and many of the inhabitants have “the Innsmouth Look” – unusually flat noses, bulging eyes and narrow heads. It’s eventually revealed that they are hybrids, born of humans cross-breeding with the “Deep Ones”, fish people who live in an underwater city and worship the foul god Dagon.
Penny’s Lovecraft quote “things he cannot and must not recall” is from the 1925 story “The Festival”:
They were not altogether crows, nor moles, nor buzzards, nor ants, nor vampire bats, nor decomposed human beings; but something I cannot and must not recall.
H. P. Lovecraft, “The Festival”; Weird Tales vol. 5, no. 1 (January 1925): 169–174.
The article Ben mentions about Dickens’ inventing modern time travel fiction may have been this BBC piece by Samira Ahmed in 2015, or this one, by Joshua Sargeant for SF Gate. (He’s not sure – it wasn’t as recent a read as he thought!) A Christmas Carol (1843) definitely pre-dates The Time Machine (1895), and is the first story we know of to depict someone seeing their own future and subsequently changing it. There are many earlier tales featuring a kind of time travel, including Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle (1819), which set up the tradition of one-way travel into the future via magical sleep.
Dickens’ story “The Signal-Man” was first published in the 1866 Christmas edition of Dickens’ weekly magazine All the Year Round. He started the magazine in 1859 after he had a disagreement with the publishers of his previous magazine, Household Words, who he sued to win control of the name and then shut down, with a final issue announcing it would be merged with All the Year Round. His sub-editor was William Henry Wills, who also worked on the previous publication; they co-founded and co-owned the new magazine, but Dickens had much greater editorial control. All the Year Round kicked off with the first part of Dickens’ serialised novel A Tale of Two Cities and was an immediate success, with a first series of twenty 26-week long volumes running under Dickens’ control until 1868, though he wrote less in the magazine as he spent more time doing public readings of his work. He hired his own son, Charles Jr, as a subeditor on the “new series”, then bequeathed the magazine to him; Charles Jr edited it until at least the end of the second series in 1888, with a third series running until 1895.
“Obverse” isn’t actually a synonym for “reverse”, but it’s opposite, generally used only when referring to the faces of coins or other two-sided objects. Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable defines it as “The side of a coin or medal that contains the principal device” – i.e. the “heads” side for traditional European-style coins. In the context of the story, though, it’s used to simply mean “the other side” – as the blank sides with the writing are said to be the “obverse side” of the “windows”, which are clearly the illustrated covers of the cards.
Shirley Jackson (1916 – 1965) was an American horror and mystery writer, most famous for her 1959 novel The Haunting of Hill House (since adapted many times for the screen) and 1948 short story “The Lottery”, which was first published in The New Yorker (and is currently in development as a feature film). The story about being trapped in a painting is “The Story We Used to Tell”, which was potentially unpublished until 1996, when it appeared in the collection Just an Ordinary Day with other rare stories discovered by her children. It is currently in print as part of the collection Dark Tales, and you can also hear it read by LeVar Burton in the October 20, 2020 episode of his LeVar Burton Reads podcast.
There are no shortage of “creepy things kids say” articles on the Internet. We couldn’t find a definitive or best one, so we’ll leave you to google them for yourself…if you dare. Please share your favourites with us!
As Ben and Penny mention, the names of the three wise kings (or magi) are traditionally given as Melchior, a Persian scholar; Balthazar, an Arabian king; and Caspar (aka Kaspar or Gaspar), a King from India. The magi are only mentioned once in the Bible, in Matthew 2:1-12, without names or number; it just refers to “wise men from the East”. Most likely they are counted as three to match the number of named gifts: the famous gold, frankincense and myrrh. Their names are said to come from a Greek manuscript written around 500 CE. The magi also feature in Amahl and the Night Visitors, a one-act opera we discussed briefly back in #Pratchat23, “The Music of the Nitt“.
Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” is a short horror story first published in the November 1846 issue of the American women’s magazine, Godey’s Lady’s Book. It’s one of many stories of the time to revolve around someone being buried alive.
Snoopy is the beagle who features in the comic strip Peanuts, written, drawn and coloured solo by American cartoonist Charles M. Schultz (1922-2000). Peanuts is considered the most popular comic strip in history, originally running from 1950 through to 2000 (around a month before Schultz’s death) in syndication in newspapers in the United States and across the world. Its popularity led to several animated television movies, most famously A Charlie Brown Christmas in 1965, the first full-length adaptation of the characters, which along with others themed after other holidays are indeed still shown on television every year in the States. The strip follows the adventures and social interactions of a group of children, with the two main characters being determined anxious failure Charlie Brown (whose closest thing to a catchphrase was his frequent utterance “good grief”), and his dog, Snoopy, who first appeared in the third strip on October 4, 1950. Snoopy doesn’t speak, but has human-like thoughts, written as thought balloons in the comic strip but communicated through non-verbal grunts in animation. Snoopy often retreats into his imagination and adopts various alter-egos, most famously a World War I flying ace who is always shot down by the Red Baron. During the 1970s, Snoopy’s increasing popularity led to a greater focus on him in the strip. Toys and other merchandise of the main characters, especially Snoopy, have been available since the late 50s, and by the 1980s Snoopy was ubiquitous.
Candy canes have been associated with Christmas since at least the nineteenth century. An unsubstantiated origin story in folklore traces the tradition back to 1670, in Cologne, Germany, where a choirmaster supposedly wanted to give “sugar sticks” to children to keep them quiet during a recreation of the nativity scene, and justified this by asking for them to be made in the shape of shepherd’s crooks. Gingerbread men are a form of confectionary popular in Europe since the sixteenth century. They are made and eaten at various festive occasions and holidays, and especially Christmas, when they are sometimes hung from Christmas trees as edible ornaments.
We previously discussed Garfield, the orange cat and star of Jim Davis’ comic strip Garfield, in #Pratchat22, “The Cat in the Prat“. Garfield is one of the few comic strips to seriously rival Peanuts in popularity, the other main contender being Bill Waterstone’s Calvin & Hobbes.
The “Kitten of the Baskervilles” is a reference to The Hound of the Baskervilles, Arthur Conan-Doyle’s third and most famous novel-length Sherlock Holmes adventure, which was serialised in The Strand Magazine between August 1901 and April 1902.
“Kitten Kong” is the seventh episode of the second series of The Goodies, originally broadcast on November 12, 1971. The Goodies is a television comedy written by and starring Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie, using a hybrid sketch show and sitcom format in which the three “Goodies”, whose motto is “Anything, Anytime”, take on a variety of weird jobs and schemes. In “Kitten Kong”, they start a business looking after “loony animals” that leads to a number of misadventures, culminating in feeding too much growth formula to a kitten which grows enormous and threatens to destroy parts of London. A re-edited version of the episode with extra gags, “Kitten Kong: Montreux ’72 Edition”, won the Silver Rose at the 1972 Rose d’Or Festival, held in Montreux, Switzerland. (The Rose d’Or is a European television award, held annually since 1961.)
The original horror short story “The Birds” was written by Cornish author and playwright, Dame Daphne du Maurier, Lady Browning, DBE (1907-1989). It was first published in her 1952 collection The Apple Tree, so a bit later than Penny’s guess of the 20s or 30s (though du Maurier was definitely active then; her most famous novel, Rebecca, was published in 1938). As well as Alfred Hitchcock’s famous 1963 film adaptation, it has also been adapted several times for radio and television, and even for the stage!
The Irregulars is a British mystery show created for Netflix by British screenwriter and playwright Tom Bidwell. It is very loosely based on the Sherlock Holmes stories, but centred on “the Irregulars” – four homeless youths who fulfil the role of the “Baker Street Irregulars” from the Conan Doyle stories. In the series they are not merely informants, but do all the detective work, contracted by Dr John Watson. The series has them investigating various mysteries with supernatural causes. The Irregulars was cancelled after its first eight-episode season.
Liz’s ghost story about person who haunts a vague acquaintance is “There in Spirit“, published in June 2020 in The Saturday Paper. (You’ll need a subscription to the paper to read it.)
Shaun of the Dead (2004) is a romantic zombie comedy film (or “rom-zom-com”) directed by Edgar Wright, written by Wright and Simon Pegg, and starring Pegg and Nick Frost, with Kate Ashfield, Lucy Davis, Dylan Moran, Bill Nighy, and Penelope Wilton. Pegg stars as Shaun, a retail assistant whose life is already going nowhere when a zombie apocalypse comes. He tries to rescue his ex-girlfriend Liz, her flatmates and his parents with the help of his equally aimless friend Ed (Frost). It started life as an episode of Pegg and Wright’s sitcom Spaced, in which Pegg’s character Tim hallucinates a zombie apocalypse while taking drugs and playing videogames. It’s the first film in the “Three Colours Cornetto” trilogy of films, which while unrelated in plot share core cast and crew and couch a relationship comedy in the context of a genre film.
Grabbers (2012, dir. Jon Wright) is a horror comedy starring Moist von Lipwig himself, Richard Coyle, as an alcoholic Garda (Irish police officer). His new partner gets them assigned to a remote Irish island, which they soon discover is under attack from voracious tentacled aliens who need bood and water to survive. Like Shaun of the Dead, despite the comedy it doesn’t shirk the gore.
Tremors (1990, dir. Ron Underwood) is western/sci-fi/horror/comedy film starring Kevin Bacon in which the residents of a small desert town in Nevada are attacked by giant worm-like creatures that burrow through the ground and eat people. The film was a hit and spawned six sequels, as well as a short-lived television series, though Kevin Bacon isn’t in any of them. One of the characters from the basement scene Penny describes – Burt Gummer, played by Family Ties Dad Michael Gross – does return in all of them, including a prequel set in the Old West in which Gross plays his character’s ancestor.
Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette is a 2017 one-hour stand-up comedy show, which was filmed at the Sydney Opera House and released on Netflix in 2018. It deconstructs comedy and also tells some honest stories of Gadsby’s experiences growing up queer and gender non-conforming in conservative rural Tasmania.
Montague Rhodes James OM FBA (1862 – 1936), better known as M R James, was not an Oxford don; sorry Penny, but he went to “the other place”: he was a provost (a senior academic administrator) and later Vice Chancellor of the University of Cambridge. He is best known for his work as an author, with a style so distinctive it has often been emulated and described as “Jamesian”. Penny specifically mentions his stories “Lost Hearts” (1895) and “O Whistle and I’ll Come to You My Lad” (1904).
Charles Dickens was involved in the Staplehurst rail crash. At 3:13 PM on the 9th of June 1865, a train travelling to London on the South Eastern Main Line derailed when it crossed an aqueduct where part of the track had been removed for works. A worker was present to flag down trains, but was only about half as far from the missing section as required by regulations, and the train could not stop in time. Fifty people were injured, and ten of those died – some while being tended to by Dickens. He was hugely affected by the incident – his son said he never really recovered from it – and his story “The Signal-Man” was published a year after the accident, in the Christmas 1866 edition of All the Year Round. It may well have been influenced by the Staplehurst crash, though the train crash detailed in the story is more likely modelled after Clayton Tunnel crash of 1861. Perhaps not coincidentally died, Dickens died on June 9, 1870 – five years to the day after the accident.
The JibJab dancing elves Ben remembers is the company’s website Elf Yourself, which launched in 2007 and still exists.
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale was released in 2010 and was written and directed by Jalmari Helander. It is based on two earlier short films, Rare Exports Inc and Rare Exports: The Official Safety Instructions. It’s not included in any streaming services but you can rent or buy it on Apple TV, YouTube, Fetch and several others.
The Krampus is a mythological figure from the Alpine region of Europe. The horned beast is said to accompany Saint Nicholas on his rounds, scaring children who have been badly behaved and, in some versions, punishing them by whipping them with birch rods or even kidnapping them and taking them to hell. His origins are unclear, but he might be inspired by pre-Christian beliefs, and he was outlawed in Austria for a time. The Krampus has more recently found international fame after featuring in the 2015 Christmas horror film Krampus, written and directed by Michael Dougherty and starring Adam Scott and Toni Collette as the parents of a boy who unwittingly summons the Krampus.
A great example of the “kids drawings made real” genre is thingsihavedrawn.com, the website where Photoshop artist Tom makes “real” versions of the drawings made by his kids Dom and Al.
The BBC has adapted several of M R James short stories for television as part of A Ghost Story for Christmas – and also Dickens “The Signal-Man”! This series of shorts originally ran at Christmas between 1971 and 1978, but was revisited in the 2000s with several new adaptations of M R James stories, including “Whistle and I’ll Come to You” in 2010 and “Mezzotint” in 2021.
It’s A Wonderful Life (1946, dir. Frank Capra) is based on the 1943 short story “The Greatest Gift” by American author Philip Van Doren Stern, itself inspired by A Christmas Carol. In the film, George Bailey, a selfless resident of the town of Bedford Falls, thinks of killing himself, but his guardian angel – on his first assignment to Earth – intervenes, showing him what life would have been like for the people of the town if he got his wish to have never been born.
The Bon Jovi song Liz refers to is “Livin’ on a Prayer”.
These are the episode notes and errata for episode 44, “Cosmic Turtle Soup“, featuring guest Joel Martin, discussing the 2nd Discworld novel, 1986’sThe Light Fantastic.
The episode title is references Joel’s comments that this book is the “primordial soup” of the Discworld books yet to come, the analogy of the “cosmic ocean” put forward by Carl Sagan in his book and television series Cosmos, and of course Great A’Tuin the World Turtle himself.
The term “hat-trick” does indeed originate with cricket, where it means taking three wickets (i.e. getting the batter out) on three consecutive deliveries (i.e. a single bowl of the ball). It has since spread to other sports and to mean more generally three successful attempts in a row. (In football, it specifically refers to a player scoring three goals in one game.) The term dates back to 1858, when English cricketer Heathfield Harman Stephenson performed the first recorded hat-trick; fans collected up money for him and used it to buy a hat, which they presented to him to commemorate the achievement. While this story seems well-documented, if Helen Zaltzman (see below) has taught Ben anything, it’s to be suspicious of neat etymological explanations…
The custom of throwing hats in the air to celebrate a victory or achievement is said by multiple sources to be a military tradition: cadets graduating to officer status would be given new hats, or at least no longer need to wear their old cadet ones, and they would symbolically throw them away. At least one story says this started specifically at the US Naval Academy with the class of 1912.
Helen Zaltzman is a comedian, writer and podcaster best known for the long-running comedy podcast Answer Me This? with fellow comedian Olly Mann, and her more recent show, The Allusionist, which explores language in as many different ways as possible. The Allusionist started out as part of the Radiotopia Network, but went fully independent in 2020 as part of Helen putting her money where her mouth was in backing diversity and inclusion in podcasting. If you enjoy the show, please consider supporting The Allusionist via Patreon. Oh, and we nearly forgot: Helen also makes a Veronica Mars recap podcast called Veronica Mars Investigations! Helen is the best.
“Commitment to the bit” and “commit to the bit” is common phrase in comedy circles; it means to stick with a joke or comic premise all the way to the end, rather than shy away from it because it is doesn’t immediately work, or is impractical or (for comedians unconcerned with their own or their audience’s safety) uncomfortable. It’s obviously not always good advice; a recent example would be Iceland’s choice at Eurovision 2021 to employ actor Hannes Óli Ágústsson to relay their jury’s points for the contest in character as Olaf Yohansson, his character in the comedy film Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. His character’s whole shtick is to awkwardly and angrily demand the title band play the only song he likes, “Ja Ja Ding Dong”; at the contest he tries to give Iceland’s 12 points to the song twice, causing a much-hated delay in giving out the real points.
The Colour of Magic was first published on the 24th of November, 1983 (one day after the 20th anniversary of Doctor Who!), and so its 25th anniversary was two weeks before #Pratchat14, published on December 8, 2018. It originally had art of Great A’Tuin swimming through space by Alan Smith; the Josh Kirby art first appeared on a second edition published in 1989. The Light Fantastic was first published on the 2nd of June, 1986, so we’re a bit closer to the anniversary this time around!
Liz’s “double book” is the combined edition of The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic published in 2008, to tie in with The Mob’s two-part television adaptation The Colour of Magic, which combined both books. They had previously been collected as a single volume in 1999 as The First Discworld Novels.
Liz’s annoyance with the “cosmic turtle business” at the start of many of the earlier Discworld books is well documented in many previous episodes.
In The Colour of Magic, Krull’s spaceship the Potent Voyager is only vaguely described as being made of bronze and looking “like a great flying fish”. The graphic novel depicts it as fish shaped, but without the wing-fins of a flying fish.
The Rocket Clock is one of the two clocks used by the Australian version of Playschool in its early days to help tell the time, the other being the Flower Clock. As you might expect, it resembles a space rocket, with a clock on the top section, and a bottom section which rotates to reveal a small diorama connected to a theme of the episode. The original version of the clock, used from 1966 to at least the 1980s, is now in the collection of the National Museum of Australia.
Mr Squiggle was a long-running Australian children’s program starring puppet character Mr Squiggle, “the Man in the Moon”. It ran for forty years between 1959 and 1999. Mr Squiggle, who would arrive in “Rocket“, his smoke-belching impatient rocket ship, had a pencil for a nose. He would use it to turn “squiggles” – scribbles sent in by children – into pictures. Because he was a marionette, puppeteer Norman Heatherington was watching upside down from above, so a lot of his drawings were upside down. This led to him having to tell his assistant, who was holding the puppet’s hand to keep him still, that “Everything’s upside down, Miss Jane”.
In the tabletop roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons, players create characters whose power is measured in “levels”. As they accumulate experience, they gain levels of power and new abilities. In the current edition all characters can reach up to level 20, with wizards learning more and more powerful spells as they level up. Ben has mentioned Dungeons & Dragons many times, as far back as #Pratchat4; his article “What Even Is Dungeons & Dragons?” is a good primer for the novice, though note it’s a little sweary.
The Necrotelicomnicon is mentioned in several books, including The Colour of Magic, Sourcery and Moving Pictures. It’s a pun on the Necronomicon, a fictional book of evil magic written by the “Mad Arab Abdul Alhazred” that appears in the stories of H. P. Lovecraft.
“Vancian magic” is the sort used in older editions of Dungeons & Dragons, in which a wizard must study their spell book and memorise a spell, fixing it in their mind, before they can cast it. Once cast, the spell leaves their mind entirely, and they must memorise it anew to cast it again. The name comes from the source that inspired this form of spellcasting, the “Dying Earth” books by American writer Jack Vance.
You can listen to the State Swim jingle right here:
The comic with several different Joker origin stories is probably 2020’s Three Jokers, by Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok, which revises the story to suggest there have been several Jokers over the years. But there have been many others; this article from Screen Rant runs through many of them.
In case the pun is lost on you, timber is wood that’s been prepared for building, usually by being sawn into planks. Timbre is the quality of tone of a sound, especially a voice or musical instrument. You can think of it as all the things that distinguish two sounds of the same frequency from each other.
The Tooth Fairy – well, one or two of them – plays a major part in Hogfather (#Pratchat24). Buggy Swires is a gnome exterminator living in Ankh-Morpork; he returns in several books, starting with Feet of Clay (#Pratchat24). The pictsies known as the Mac Nac Feegle first appear in Carpe Jugulum (#Pratchat36).
Toadstool houses are the traditional homes of Smurfs, small blue creatures invented in 1959 by Belgian cartoonist Peyo. We previously talked about them in #Pratchat9, “Upscalator to Heaven“, about Pratchett’s second tiny people book, Truckers; and in #Pratchat36, “Home Alone, But Vampires“, about the book that introduced the Nac Mac Feegle, Carpe Jugulum. (There’s more detail about the Smurfs in the show notes for #Pratchat36.)
Lonely Planet is a prominent publisher of travel guides for tourists on a budget. In the pre-smartphone days every backpacker bought a Lonely Planet guide to the country where they were headed, but in recent years – especially since the global pandemic – their business has waned. The company was started in Australia by Maureen and Tony Wheeler in 1972, but was later sold to the BBC and is now owned by Red Media, the company behind CNET, Metacritic and GameSpot, among other prominent online media outlets.
Pratchett writes about tiny people many times, including in his first novel The Carpet People, the Bromeliad trilogy (Truckers, Diggers and Wings), and the various tiny denizens of the Discworld, most prominently gnomes and pictsies.
While houses made of food or confectionary date back further, the gingerbread cottage appears in the fairytale of “Hansel and Gretel”, collected and published by the Brothers Grimm in 1812. “Hansel and Gretel” is the archetypal story of Aarne–Thompson–Uther type 327A. Pratchett returns to the idea in the witches books, especially Wyrd Sisters (#Pratchat4). The witches refer to Aliss Demurrage, aka “Black Aliss”, as a witch who worked some of the greatest magic, but also as a cautionary tale: she built a gingerbread cottage, a sure sign she’d gone to the bad, and by the end was making poisoned apples before she was pushed into her own oven by children she was trying to eat. (Her cottage is also said to be in Skund, leading some Pratchett fans to suggest that Granny Whitlow was an alias she used to lure children.)
The Rite of AshkEnte is performed here, and also in Mort (when it summons Mort as well as Death), Reaper Man, and Soul Music (where it summons Susan). Death tends to show up without needing to be asked in later books.
We have a play with the famous “you have my sword” sequence from the film Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, which doesn’t appear in the book. (Frodo does say “I will take the Ring to Mordor!” and then “Though I do not know the way” in the book, but Elrond decides who will accompany him after the council is over.) Here’s the dialogue from the movie:
Frodo: I will take it. I will take it. I will take the Ring to Mordor. Though… I do not know the way. Gandalf: I will help you bear this burden, Frodo Baggins as long as it is yours to bear. Aragorn: If by my life or death I can protect you I will. You have my sword. Legolas: And you have my bow. Gimli: And my axe!
The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (2001, dir. Peter Jackson)
The Last Continent was published twelve years after The Light Fantastic, in 1998, so Liz was pretty close with her guess of ten years.
Liz suggests the Luggage might have “a chamber full of pigs?” in reference to the “having your enemies’ corpses eaten by pigs” method of getting away with murder. This features prominently in the television series Deadwood and Guy Richie’s film Snatch. You can find a list of uses as the “Fed to Pigs” trope on TV Tropes. Ben also mentions a bath full of (Hollywood style) acid, most famously used by Walter White in Breaking Bad.
Pratchett uses the Megalith pun in Lords and Ladies: “It was always cheaper to build a new 33-MegaLith circle than upgrade an old slow one.” This is a pun on MegaHertz (MHz), the unit used to measure the clock speed or clock rate of computer processors – in simple terms, how many instructions they execute per second. In the 1980s, home computers used chips like Intel’s 386, which had speeds of between 16 and 40 MHz. While it was used heavily in marketing, clock speed was not a sure measure of computer performance.
Pratchett moved to Broad Chalke in Wiltshire in 1993, seven years after The Light Fantastic was published. Before that he lived in the village of Rowberrow, Somerset, about 67 kilometres (or about 42 miles) to the northwest. He was never very far from many sites of ancient interest, but Broad Chalke was only a stone’s throw (sorry) from Stonehenge.
There are several stone circles better than Stonehenge, depending on who you ask and how you define better, but the one at Avebury is about 30km to the north and much, much bigger. Tom Scott made this video about it.
The Small Faint Group of Boring Stars is mentioned again in The Last Continent; the wizards travel quite far back in time, to an age when the stars were much closer and less faint (though possibly not less boring).
The Free and Sovereign State of Yucatán is one of the 52 states of Mexico. There are several theories behind its name, and there are two versions of the “Your Finger You Fool” type: one involves the Mayan phrase Ma’anaatik ka t’ann, or “I do not understand you”, and the other uh yu ka t’ann, or “hear how they talk”. Another involves the casava plant, known locally as yuca (see #Pratchat41, “The Adventures of Crab Boy and Trouser Girl” for more on this plant) which was cultivated in the area, the name Yucatá meaning “land of yucas”. A third one suggests the name comes from the local Chontal Maya people, who call themselves the Yokot’anob or Yokot’an, meaning “the speakers of Yoko ochoco“.
Cohen is not in fact mentioned in The Colour of Magic; this is the first time we meet him.
The famous “What is best in life?” dialogue was made famous by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1982 film Conan the Barbarian, based on the Conan stories of Robert E Howard. The lines in full are below; they don’t appear in Robert E Howard’s stories, but are instead inspired by words attributed to Genghis Khan himself…
Mongol General: Hao! Dai ye! We won again! This is good but what is best in life? Mongol Soldier: The open steppe, fleet horse, falcons at your wrist and the wind in your hair. Mongol General: Wrong! Conan, what is best in life? Conan: To crush your enemies, see them driven before you and to hear the lamentation of their women.
Conan the Barbarian (1982, dir. John Milius)
The people around the breakfast table in The Truth are Mr Windling and the other lodgers at Mars Arcanum’s guest house, where William de Worde lives. He doesn’t tell them he’s the editor of The Ankh-Morpork Times. (We covered The Truth in #Pratchat42, “Truth, the Printing Press and Every -ing“.
The “uncanny valley” describes the discomfort felt at seeing an artificial creature that is very like, but not mistakable for, the real thing. It can apply to anything living but is strongest – and most often used – to refer to the effect produced by androids and computer-generated representations of faces. There are many theories that try and account for why these things creep it out.
In Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film version of The Shining, based on Stephen King’s 1977 novel, a pair of creepy twins appear as ghosts. The “Grady twins” are not twins in the book, but sisters aged 8 and 10, and are only mentioned, rather than appearing as ghosts. In the film, they appear to the young psychic Danny Torrance, dressed identically and speaking to him in unison saying “Come and play with us” – now a famous classic line of horror cinema. Though Kubrick denied it was intentional, many have pointed out that the look of the twins in the film resembles the photograph Identical Twins, Roselle, New Jersey, 1967 by American photographer Diane Arbus.
Mort was published in November 1987, so about seventeen months after The Light Fantastic. Liz’s guess of seven months is spot on for the third Discworld book, though – Equal Rites was published in January 1987!
It was announced on April 28, 2020 that Narrativia had made an exclusive new deal with Motive Pictures and Endeavour Content to produce “definitive” and “absolutely faithful” Discworld adaptations for the screen. So far no actual productions have been announced, but the Narrativia website now has sections for all of the major Discworld screen projects of the last decade or so. The page about the new Discworld deal still lists only the initial agreement.
The extra space in Death’s House is described near the start of Soul Music, when Death watches Albert flit from the edge of his impossibly large office to the edge of the carpet around his desk:
Death gave up wondering how Albert covered the intervening space when it dawned on him that, to his servant, there was no intervening space…
Pratchett, Soul Music (1994)
By season three of The Good Place, the humans who are at the centre of the show have been exposed to a lot of the weirdness that exists beyond the material world. Near the end of the season, an accident in the “Interdimensional Hole of Pon-cakes” sends Chidi briefly to another realm, and when he returns he describes it like this:
Chidi Anagonye: I… I just saw a trillion different realities folding onto each other like thin sheets of metal forming… a single blade.
Michael: Yeah yeah, the Time-Knife. We’ve all seen it.
The Good Place, season 3 episode 12, “Chidi Sees the Time-Knife” (2019)
The Untempered Schism is “a gap in the fabric of reality from which can be seen the whole of the Vortex” of space and time. It’s introduced at the end of the third season of the revived Doctor Who in the penultimate episode, “The Sound of Drums”. The Doctor explains that it’s an initiation rite for young Gallifreyans, who at the age of eight must stare into it; according to him, “some would be inspired, some would run away, and some would go mad.” He says he ran away; the Master instead went mad, constantly hearing “the drumming”, though this is later revealed to be more than it seems.
The Doctor Who universe influencer jokes refer to the city of New New York, as introduced in the episode “New Earth”; the “EarPods” used by alternate universe Cybermen to control and convert humans, as seen in the two-part season two story “Rise of the Cyberman”/”The Age of Steel”; and the Adipose, a species of creatures whose cute babies could be incubated in a human body by accumulating fat tissue, under the guise of a diet pill, as seen in the season four opening episode “Partners in Crime”.
Icelandic names are subject to some fairly strict conventions, overseen by the Icelandic Naming Committee. There’s a list of around 4,000 traditional Icelandic names which can be used freely, but new names must be approved by the committee. In addition, by convention Icelandic people take either their father’s or mother’s name as a surname, appended with -son, –dottir or (since 2019) –bur for son, daughter or child, respectively. Episode 87 of The Allusionist podcast, “Name v. Law”, covers some of this in detail, though note it was released in 2018, before the change allowing non-gendered suffixes.
“That bit in The Hobbit” is Chapter II, “Roast Mutton”, when Bilbo is scouting ahead of the company of dwarves and comes upon three trolls named William, Bert and Tom. Bilbo is caught picking a troll’s pocket (Tolkien trolls wear trousers!), and he and the dwarves are caught. Gandalf manages to keep all three trolls arguing with each other, distracting them until the sun comes up and turns them to stone.
5G, short for fifth-generation, is the name given to the newest mobile communications network technology being rolled out around the world. 5G is capable of far greater data transfer speeds than its predecessor 4G, at least at short range. It has been the subject of many conspiracy theories that claim it causes health problems in humans, despite a lack of any evidence that this is true. These theories mutated during 2020 to suggest that 5G caused or spread COVID-19, and they were believed enough that 5G towers in several countries were vandalised.
Lackjaw does indeed describe himself as “of the dwarfish persuasion“.
The magic shop trope can be traced back as far as H. G. Wells’ stories The Crystal Egg (1897) and The Magic Shop (1903). TV Tropes lists it as “The Little Shop That Wasn’t There Yesterday” and has many other examples. Pratchett revisits it in a more traditional way in Soul Music (discussed by us in #Pratchat19, “It Don’t Mean a Thing if It Ain’t Got Rocks In”), where Buddy buys his guitar. It’s not the same shop, though – the proprietor is an old woman who seems quite happy with her lot, and she seems to sell only musical instruments.
We keep mentioning Howl’s Moving Castle, so it’s probably a good idea for us to do that Diana Wynne Jones episode we keep talking about. Previous episodes where this book have been mentioned include #Pratchat17, #Pratchat26, #Pratchat30 and #Pratchat43. In a nutshell: Howl is a wizard who lives as a recluse in a castle that not only can move from place to place, but has a magical front door that can open in one of several fixed locations.
The ridiculous fight between Xander and cheerleader-turned-vampire Harmony, occurs in Buffy: the Vampire Slayer‘s fourth season, in the seventh episode “The Initiative”. But you can see it on YouTube:
The “critical Black Mass” pun is not about wizards or gods, but rather books of magic. It comes up in a description of the library as Trymon heads there to bribe the Librarian while the wizards are still speaking to Death.
Bethan is not mentioned in Interesting Times. Rincewind does mention in Sourcery that he was a guest at Cohen’s wedding to “a girl of about Conina’s age”, but Bethan isn’t mentioned by name and Rincewind gives no indication that he knows how the marriage went.
Rincewind will return in The Last Hero, The Science of Discworld II: The Globe, The Science of Discworld III: Darwin’s Watch and The Science of Discworld IV: Judgment Day. He’s also a minor character in Unseen Academicals, and mentioned briefly in Raising Steam.
Michael Moorcock’s “Wizardry and WIld Romance: A Study of Epic Fantasy” is less an essay, and more of a book, first published in 1987. An expanded edition, now 206 pages long, was released in 2004.
Blades in the Dark is a tabletop roleplaying game written and designed by John Harper and published in 2015. It’s set in an “industrial-fantasy” world, and players form a company of criminals who try to stake a claim for themselves in the inescapable city of Duskvol, surrounded by horror and haunted by deadly ghosts. Among its distinctive features are a system of retroactively planning heists and packing gear, which gets you into the action quicker. If industrial-fantasy isn’t your thing the system has also been used to make several other games in other genres.
Campaign settings are the various fantasy worlds used for Dungeons & Dragons and other games which aren’t tied too much to a specific universe. D&D has a large number of these covering various sub-genres of fantasy, from the post-apocalyptic sword and sorcery of Dark Sun to the gothic horror of Ravenloft. There are too many to list them all, since aside from the dozens of official ones there are many more published independently. (Ben’s favourite is probably Planescape, which both ties together all the others in a weird multiverse, and introduces an interdimensional hub city on the inside of a ring in the theoretical centre of everything.)
Mage: The Ascension, first published in 1993, was the third game in the World of Darkness series of modern horror roleplaying games, following Vampire: the Masquerade and Werewolf: the Apocalypse. Mage is also effectively a sequel to the earlier game about medieval wizards, Ars Magicka, but in the modern world therise of science and rational thought means magic doesn’t work like it used to.
Cavaliers of Mars by Rose Bailey is the latest in a fine tradition of games that seek to emulate the “planetary romance” genre of fiction. These were science fiction or fantasy stories from around the turn of the twentieth century in which the fantastic adventures take place on other worlds – either in our own solar system as in A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs (adapted as the hugely underrated film John Carter), or in other galaxies entirely – for example, James Herbert’s Dune is sometimes classified as a planetary romance.
The Old-School Renaissance or Revival – usually abbreviated to OSR – is a movement in roleplaying game communities which prefers the early versions of Dungeons & Dragons and similar games from the 1970s and 1980s. There are now many games that seek to recapture the feel of those games, either by re-implementing the original rules (a genre known as “retro-clones”) or writing games with more modern rules but the old-school philosophy in mind. Exactly what that philosophy is varies according to who you ask, but it usually means a smaller set of rules, and more reliance on both player skill (as opposed to rules which emulate the skill of the characters being played) and rulings by the Game Master (who OSR games often call the referee). Famous examples include Torchbearer, The Black Hack, Dungeon Crawl Classics and the Old School Reference and Index Compilation (OSRIC). Dungeon World isn’t usually counted as an OSR game, but it has many similarities. (It’s a translation of the now super popular “Powered by the Apocalypse” framework, created by Meguey & Vincent Baker for their post-apocalyptic RPG Apocalypse World, into a more D&D-like fantasy context.)
The six flavours of quarks are up, down, charmed, strange, top and bottom. “Flavour” is the name given to unique combinations of other characteristics like spin and charge; it’s sometimes also called “species”. Quarks form other particles, like neutrons and protons, when three of them are combined in different flavour combinations.
The World War II realtime Twitter account is @RealTimeWWII. It tweets “on this day” war events from the years 1939 to 1945, and is currently up to 1943 on its second time around.
In Chinese numerology, four – 四 (Anglicised as sì or sei) – is inauspicious because it sounds like the word for “death”, 死 (sǐ or séi). This causes as serious an aversion as Europeans traditionally have to the number thirteen, and just as some might have triskaidekaphobia, in China and other parts of East Asia, tetraphobia is common enough that buildings do not number floors using the digit 4.
These are the episode notes and errata for the bonus episode Eeek Club 2021, answering questions from our Eeek tier subscribers.
In Ankh-Morpork, the “Glorious 25th of May” is the date of the “Glorious Revolution”, commemorated only by a small number of people who were there. They wear lilac in memory of those who died. It is covered in much detail in Night Watch, which we’ll be reading for our December 2021 episode. On Roundworld, Pratchett fans have adopted the date as a celebration of Discworld and Terry Pratchett, often wearing lilac (the flower or the colour), and sometimes raising money for Alzheimer’s research. May 25th is also Towel Day, a celebration of Douglas Adams, which began two weeks after his death in 2001, and “Geek Pride Day”, which was started in Spain in 2006. That the Ankh-Morpork revolution shares a date with the former may not be a coincidence, since Night Watch was published in 2002.
Our big open slather questions episode was #Pratchat30, “Looking Widdershins“, released on the 8th of April, 2020.
James Spader provides the voice of robot protector-turned-exterminator Ultron in the 2015 Marvel superhero film, Avengers: Age of Ultron.
The lockdown-related Discworld questions in #Pratchat30 begin around 1 hour, 5 minutes and 41 seconds in.
The first lockdown in Melbourne – and the rest of Australia – began on March 29, 2020. Melbourne had subsequent lockdowns from July 9 to October 26 2020, February 12 to 17 2021, and from May 27 until – at the time of last update – at least June 10, 2021.
Ben says The Truth, but means The Times, as in The Ankh-Morpork Times, the first newspaper on the Discworld. It features in the novel The Truth, which we discussed in #Pratchat42, “Truth, the Printing Press and Every -ing“.
The Sto Plains – which occupy the area directly hubwards of Ankh-Morpork, on the opposite side to the Circle Sea – include many city-states, like the kingdom of Sto Lat (ruled by Queen Keli), the Duchy of Sto Helit (as in Duchess Susan Sto Helit), and the protectorate of Sto Kerrig. Sto Lat is probably closest, only about 20 miles from the Hubwards Gate of Ankh-Morpork. Their populations aren’t known, but it seems likely the plains’ residents don’t outnumber the million people who live in Ankh-Morpork. The various kingdoms and smaller towns and cities of the plains are all independent of the city, but most of them use Ankh-Morpork dollars as their currency, and certainly look to Ankh for guidance in matters of culture, technology and commerce.
The Trans-Tasman Bubble is the quarantine-free travel arrangement between Australia and New Zealand, countries with similarly low COVID-19 cases, separated by the Tasman Sea. It was announced as a possibility early on in the pandemic, but officially took affect on April 19, 2021. The day this episode was released (May 25, 2021), new cases were announced in Melbourne, leading to the reinstatement of some restrictions and a 72-hour pause on the bubble for travel from Melbourne.
“Young Igor” is our affectionate name for the Igor who joins the Ankh-Morpork City Watch in The Fifth Elephant; he is the nephew of the Igor who worked for the Morporkian embassy in Überwald. We last saw him in The Truth, where he was tending to the wounds suffered by the Patrician and his clerk, Drumknott.
Rincewind’s age isn’t definite, but a good guess is that he was 32 during the events of The Colour of Magic, and 57 by the time of The Last Hero, so Ben is probably right about him “pushing 60”.
Melbourne’s second lockdown lasted 112 days, from July 7 to October 28, 2020. During most of that time, residents were only allowed to leave their homes under very limited conditions, and restricted in how far they could travel from home. It’s probably stretching it a bit to say these were some of the harshest lockdown conditions in the world, but it was reported that way at the time.
Liz’s comment about “trips to Aspen” refers to multiple incidents from March 2020, at the start of the pandemic, when wealthy Australians returning from a skiing holiday in Apsen, Colorado tested positive for the virus but did not self-isolate, causing a cluster of new cases.
Though he does walk with a cane, the Patrician is not as old as he seems; clues from various books (primarily Night Watch) place him as somewhere between 50 and 55, but it seems the assassination attempts of Men at Arms, Feet of Clay and The Truth have taken their toll and he’s not as strong as he used to be. Or at least, that’s what he’d like his opponents to think…
The Bubonic plague is a disease caused by infection of the lymphatic system with the bacteria Yersinia pestis. Usually a human is infected by a flea bite; several flea species can carry the bacteria, and spread among human populations via rats. The plague is responsible for three major pandemics: the plague of Justinian in the 6th century, which killed around 25 million people; the Black Death of the 14th century, which may have killed as many as 200 million people in Europe – about a third of the population; and the plague of the mid-19th century, which caused the deaths of around 15 million people in mainland Asia. (For comparison, as of May 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic has officially caused 3.6 million deaths, though the estimated total death toll is 7.7 million.) Untreated, Bubonic plague is very deadly, killing half or more of those infected. Thankfully it can be treated effectively with antibiotics, reducing its mortality rate to 15% or much lower. These days cases are very rare, though the disease has not been entirely eradicated.
Here are some links to the very excellent The Truth Shall Make Ye Fret head canon Twitter threads:
Aunty Donna are an absurdist sketch comedy group based in Melbourne and formed in 2011. Their latest work is the Netflix series Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House of Fun. You can find out more about them at auntydonna.com.
Equal Rites is the third Discworld novel, and the first to feature Granny Weatherwax. It tells the story of Eskarina Smith, a girl based in (large) part on Pratchett’s daughter Rhianna, who becomes the Disc’s first female wizard. We discussed it in #Pratchat25, “Eskist Attitudes“. The subject of the gender split in magical society comes back in the later Tiffany Aching books.
Ben mentions “VCAL“, which is the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning. This is a more practical alternative to the standard Victoria Certificate of Education (VCE), a qualification which is more likely to lead to a university degree; VCAL is instead intended to prepare students for an apprenticeship, TAFE course or similar directly vocational training.
Most of the captains depicted in the various Star Trek television series go on “away missions“, i.e. missions in which they leave their ship (or equivalent). This is especially true of Captain James T Kirk of the original Star Trek, though its hinted that this practice is frowned upon by the time of Star Trek: The Next Generation, in which Captain Picard’s first officer, River, leads most of the away missions. Captains Janeway and Sisko go on plenty of missions too, though…
Speaking of Star Trek, the episode Ben is thinking of is indeed called “The Measure of a Man“. It’s the ninth episode of season two of Star Trek: The Next Generation, originally broadcast in February 1989. It’s frequently cited as one of the show’s early greats, even if the legal proceedings are a bit suspect. The book The Metaphysics of Star Trek, which uses Star Trek scenarios to illustrate various metaphysical concepts, was later republished as Is Data Human?, as one of the chapters of the book deals with the issue of “personhood”.
Final Death is the term used in the roleplaying game Vampire: The Masquerade (and its cousin, Vampire: The Requiem) for the ultimate destruction of a vampire, who is already undead. They are not nearly as impossible to kill as the vampires of the Discworld; see for example our discussion of Carpe Jugulum in #Pratchat36, “Home Alone, But Vampires“.
The Sesame Street song about being alive – or at least the one Ben is thinking of – is “You’re Alive“, first broadcast in 1980. It’s not quite how Ben remembered it, but Sesame Street has tackled the topic several times, always using the measures of eating, breathing and growing.
Alan Alda, best known for his years playing trauma surgeon Hawkeye Pierce in the Korean War sitcom M*A*S*H, established the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science in 2009. The Flame Challenge launched in 2012, with the aim of answering the question “What is flame?” in a way that an 11-year-old could understand, as judged by actual 11-year-olds – all because Alda himself received an uninspiring answer from his sixth grade teacher when he was eleven. The winner was announced at the World Science Festival, and the competition was successful enough to inspire several more over the next few years, for new questions picked by 11-year-olds, including “What is time?” and “What is colour?” Sadly the websites for the challenge and the Alan Alda Center no longer exist, but you can find the winners on YouTube with a bit of effort.
We’ve previously talked about Beauty and the Beast villain Gaston and his fate, perhaps most significantly in #Pratchat28, “All Our Base Are Belong to You“.
The Beast’s age can be worked out from two bits of evidence. First, the enchanted rose, which will only bloom “until his 21st year”; this implies he is aging during his curse, and the rose is wilt during the events of the film. Second, Lumiere – the maître d’ of the house, transformed into a candelabra – who says that they’ve been waiting for “ten years” since being cursed. Why the curse affected the servants is not clear, but muddying the waters is the portrait Belle finds of the Beast, in which he looks exactly like his 21-year-old self. Regardless Chip’s birth remains a mystery.
The original Beauty and the Beast was written in 1740 by Parisian novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. Her version is long, detailed and contains and many characters, including Belle being one of twelve children. Most later retellings are based on a greatly pared back version rewritten by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont and first published in 1756. These originals draw on the story of Cupid and Psyche, and do not include an equivalent of Gaston, who was added in some later versions. Assuming the Disney version happens around the time the oldest stories were written, Liz is right that they would have lived to see the French Revolution in 1789.
Anti-racism is is active opposition to racism, and can take many forms. While the idea has gained more visibility in recent years, with books like Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be Anti-Racist and renewed momentum behind the #BlackLivesMatter movement, it’s certainly not a new idea.
The “Captain Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness” appears in Men at Arms, which we discussed in #Pratchat1, “Boots Theory”. We plan to revisit Men at Arms in our upcoming live appearance at The Lost Con; watch out for details in our next episode!
Thanks to listener Steve Leahy, who pointed out that there is at least one alien on the Discworld: Tethys, the sea troll, who crash-landed there after falling off his own watery world of Bathys. He appears in The Colour of Magic, which we discussed in #Pratchat14, “City-State Lampoon’s Disc-Wide Vacation.” (We’re discussing the sequel, The Light Fantastic, next episode.)
“Literary fiction” is basically a synonym for “high brow”, “serious literature” or “worthy of awards”, and is used to distinguish supposedly more sophisticated and “important” writing from so-called “genre fiction”. As we discuss, it can get in the bin.
Ben tried and failed to find a source for the story of the student with the Terry Pratchett book who was dismissed by a lecturer, only to turn things around by revealing they’d written a thesis on his work. If you know where to find it, please let us know!
The “sort of neolithic spaceship” Potent Voyager was dropped off the Rim in Krull in The Colour of Magic; it is already falling, with Twoflower inside, when we encounter it at the start of The Light Fantastic.
Mutter’s Spiral is not a real world name for the the Milky Way; it’s the name given to it by the Time Lords in Doctor Who, as mentioned in the 1976 story The Deadly Assassin (yes, they really named it that). You are right to infer this means Ben has spent too much time thinking about Doctor Who.
We previously mentioned The Homeward Bounders by Diana Wynne Jones in our discussion of The Long Earth in the afore-mentioned #Pratchat31, “It’s Just a Step to the Left.”
These are the episode notes and errata for episode 43, “Big Wee Hag: Far Fra’ Home“, featuring guest Dr Sally Evans, discussing the 32nd Discworld novel, and the second to feature Tiffany Aching, 2004’sA Hat Full of Sky.
The episode title is a parody of the popular Marvel Cinematic Universe film, Spider-Man: Far From Home, released in 2019. Tom Holland starred as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, who tries to leave his superhero life behind when he goes on a school trip to Europe. It…doesn’t work out.
Bonus episode note: Ben’s working title for this episode was “I’m Gonna Be the Big Man Who’s Hivering to You”, a reference to Scottish band The Proclaimers biggest hit, “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)“, from their 1988 album Sunshine on Leith. It was initially only a big hit in the UK, Australia and New Zealand (it reached number 1 in the charts down under), but had a second lease on life in the US when it was featured on the soundtrack to the 1996 film Benny & Joon. The second verse includes the lines “And if I haver/Then I know I’m gonna be/I’m gonna be the man who’s haverin’ to you”; Ben always thought “haver” was Scots slang for vomiting (the preceding lines are about getting drunk), but actually it means to speak nonsense, especially when flirting or complimenting someone. So also something you do when drunk.
Red Dwarf is a British science fiction sitcom, created Rob Grant and Doug Naylor for the BBC. It stars Craig Charles as David Lister, the lowest ranked crew member of the deep space mining ship Red Dwarf, who is placed in suspended animation for refusing to hand over a cat he smuggled on board. He wakes up to find that a radiation leak has killed the rest of the crew and that Holly, the ship’s now-senile computer (Norman Lovett and later Hattie Hayridge), kept him in stasis for three million years. He is joined by a descendant of his cat, evolved into humanoid lifeform known simply as Cat (Danny John-Jules); his hated bunkmate, Arnold Rimmer (Chris Barrie), who died and is now a hologram computer-simulation; and later Kryten (Robert Llewellyn), a domestic service android. It originally ran for eight series on the BBC between 1988 and 1999, and was resureccted by UK digital channel Dave in 2009 for a mini-series, “Back to Earth”, and three more series and a telemovie between 2012 and 2020. In the early years of The BBC series, Grant and Naylor – under the pseudonym Grant Naylor – wrote two Red Dwarf novels, essentially a revised version of storylines from the first few series without the limitations of a television effects budget.
Ben Elton was a star of the 1980s alternative comedy scene, who later gained success as a television personality, sitcom writer (he joined Blackadder from the second series) and comic novelist. His science fiction novels include Stark (1989; also adapted for television in 1993), This Other Eden (1993) and Blind Faith (2007).
The Last Continent was first published in May 1998, and Jingo in November 1997, so Sally’s guess is right on the money. We discussed those books in #Pratchat29, “Great Rimward Land” and #Pratchat27, “Leshp Miserablés” respectively.
We’ve spoken before about Enid Blyton and Liz’s feelings on loving an author whose work we can now see contains a lot of problematic stuff. Her school story books included the “Naughtiest Girl” series, starring spoiled rich girl Elizabeth Allen, who is sent away to a progressive boarding school when her bad behaviour at home causes her governess to quit. They started with The Naughtiest Girl in the School in 1940, and followed by three more in the 1940s. Six more, beginning with The Naughtiest Girl Keeps a Secret, were written by Anne Digby between 1999 and 2001. She also wrote the “St Claire’s” books about twins Pat and Isabel O’Sullivan, who go to the titular boarding school. The original series consisted of five novels written between 1941 and 1945, beginning with The Twins at St. Claire’s. As with the Naughtiest Girl books, they were later continued by another author, with Pamela Cox writing two more books in 2000 and another in 2008.
The Baby-Sitter’s Club was a series of novels by Ann M. Martin (and later several ghostwriters) chronicling the adventures of four teenage girls – Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia and Stacey – who run a babysitting service in their (fictional) home town of Stoneybrook, Connecticut, later joined by many other characters. The original series was published between 1986 and 1999, and included 131 books, of which the first 35 were written by Martin herself. There were also a huge number of specials and spin-offs, including the popular Baby-Sitter’s Club: Mysteries series. The main series was adapted for television in 1990, and ran for 13 episodes; a new series was released on Netflix in 2020, with a second season expected in 2021. There are quite a few Baby-Sitter’s Club podcasts re-reading the books; if you’ve listened to any, we’d love to hear which ones you rate!
The Nancy Drew Mystery Stories is a series of mystery novels starring fictional teenage detective Nancy Drew, beginning with the 1930 book The Secret of the Old Clock. Nancy herself was originally 16, headstrong, impulsive and sometimes violent, but in later books – and revisions of the earlier ones – she was changed to be nicer. The series was created by publisher Edward Stratemeyer and ghostwritten by various authors as “Carolyn Keene”, with around 175 books published between 1930 and 2003. This setup was the same strategy Stratemeyer used for his earlier Hardy Boys mystery books. There have been several screen adaptations, including several short “B-films” in the late 1930s, a 1970s The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries crossover series for television (considered by some the most faithful adaptation), a 1995 television series which updated Nancy as a 21-year-old criminology student, the 2007 feature film Nancy Drew, and most recently, the film Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase and the unrelated television series, a modern re-imagining titled Nancy Drew, in 2019. There’s still plenty of life in this investigator!
Tom Swift Jr was, it turns out, another series of ghostwritten children’s books created by Edward Stratemeyer! They were a continuation of the original Tom Swift series, in which the younger Tom’s father was the main character, though many supporting characters appear in both. The original series was written under the pseudonym Victor Appleton, and the Tom Swift Jr books under Victor Appleton II. In all there are over 100 Tom Swift books, beginning with the original series of forty books published between 1910 and 1941, and the 33 original Tom Swift Jr books, published between 1954 and 1971. (These are the ones Ben read as a kid.)
We previously discussed Just William and the William Brown books, and Pratchett’s love for them, way back in #Pratchat6, “A Load of Old Tosh” (and especially in the notes for that episode). Written by Richmal Crompton between 1922 and 1969 (with the last one published after Crompton’s death in 1969), each book is a collection of short stories chronicling unruly schoolboy William’s various adventures. He is always eleven years old, but the stories are always set in the present day – i.e. the time at which they were written. So as well as scrumping for apples, William – along with his band of friends and accomplices, the “Outlaws” – also “Does His Bit” during the years of the Second World War, pretends to be on television and discovers the wonders of the National Health Service in the late 1950s, and get confused by a bunch of hippie spiritualists at the end of the 1960s.
Paul Jennings is an Australian author best known for his collections of short stories, often with fantasy elements and always containing a twist. His most famous books are the first nine volumes of these, published between 1985 and 1998, with titles like Unreal!, Uncanny!, Unbelievable! and Unmentionable! (Ben still has his copies of the first five or so.) He’s also written a large number of children’s chapter books, picture books and novels, some in collaboration with another famous Australian author, Morris Gleitzman. Based on the popularity of his short stories, the Australian Children’s Television Foundation created Round the Twist, a television show adapting stories from a variety of Jennings’ books. It revolved around the Twist family – widowed father and sculptor Tony, teenage twins Pete and Linda, and youngster Bronson – who move into an old lighthouse, where all kinds of weird stuff happens to them. It ran for four series between 1990 and 2001, moving from Channel 7 to the ABC, though with lots of cast changes as the child actors grew up. It was a massive hit in Australia and the UK, remembered for its theme song as much as the show itself.
Paul Jenning’s memoir is Untwisted, published in 2020. The title is a play on his most famous books, and the TV series they inspired.
Primary school happens at roughly the same age in most places, but the way the years are numbered are quite different. It’s not even consistent between Australian states! But it is common across Australia for children to enter year 1 (also galled grade 1, or first grade) in the year they will turn 6, usually after a year of pre-school that goes by various names (kindergarten, prep, reception etc). Most states consider high school to run from years 1 to 6 (when most children are 12 years old), and high school from years 7 to 12 (most students turning 18 in their final year). So in year 11, most Australian students would be in their second last year of primary school, year 5.
We’ve often talked about British author Diana Wynne-Jones; see #Pratchat17, #Pratchat26 and #Pratchat30 for more about Howl’s Moving Castle, plus #Pratchat22, #Pratchat31 and #Pratchat37, where we discuss her other books, especially the Chrestomanci series. In the original Howl novel, protagonist Sophie is the eldest of three sisters who all work in their father’s hat shop. Sophie, aware of the fairy tale conventions of the world she lives in, expects to live a boring life compared to that of her sisters. The middle child Lettie, the most beautiful, becomes an apprentice pastry chef, while the youngest and smartest, Martha, becomes apprentice to Mrs Fairfax, a witch who would probably get along very well with Nanny Ogg. They do indeed have some adventures of their own, but we won’t spoil those for you here.
Anges Nitt is a young witch who first appears in Lords and Ladies (see #Pratchat17, “Midsummer (Elf) Murders“) as a member of a goth-like “coven” who meddle in the powers of fairies. While a minor character in that book, she nonetheless catches the eye of Granny and Nanny as one with true talent. In Maskerade (#Pratchat23, “The Music of the Nitt“), she has gone to Ankh-Morpork to become an opera singer, and the elder two witches just happen to be going there anyway, and of course they wouldn’t dream of telling her she should come home and take up witchcraft. By the time of Carpe Jugulum (#Pratchat36, “Home Alone, But Vampires“) Agnes is more-or-less the third witch in Granny and Nanny’s trio, though she doesn’t appear to be officially being taught or apprenticed by either of them. She has however taken over the cottage in Mad Groat which once belonged to Magrat and Magrat’s mentor, the research witch Goody Whimper.
Tiffany’s “see me” trick is described in Chapter 1 like this: “It felt as if she was stepping out of her body, but still had a sort of ghost body that could walk around.”
On “hiver” being a reference to acne or pimples, the closest word is probably “hives” – itchy, swollen and often red areas of skin, usually caused by an allergic reaction. They can indeed sometimes resemble acne, though they’re not often mistaken for each other.
Liz makes a reference to the horror film It Follows (2014, dir. David Robert Mitchell), in which college student Jaime (Maika Monroe) is pursued by a supernatural creature which wants to kill her – a curse passed on to her by a boy she sleeps with. A key unnerving thing about the creature is that it can appear as any person, but only the victim of the curse can see it.
Queen Elizabeth first met Prince Philip in 1939, when she was 13 and he was 18. They were engaged in 1947, at ages 21 and 26.
The Uffington White Horse, briefly mentioned by Pratchett in his author’s note, is the oldest such “hill figure” in Britain, dated as being around 2,500 to 3,300 years old. Though called a horse for around 1,000 years (the oldest written history of any hill figure in the UK), there’s some debate over whether it was originally meant to be a horse. It’s made of crushed chalk, laid in trenches dug into the hill, and needs to be regularly maintained or it becomes difficult to see. The Uffington White Horse inspired many other similar horse figures around the UK, though the others are all much newer; the oldest is the Westbury White Horse in Pratchett’s home county of Wiltshire, which can’t be reliably traced back before the late 18th century.
The “beetle” in Disney’s Mulan (1998, dir. Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook) is actually a lucky cricket named Cri-Kee, bought by Mulan’s grandmother to give her luck in her visit to see a Matchmaker. After that goes horribly, she tries to release him, but he sticks around, becoming a sidekick to her family’s guardian spirit, the dragon Mushu. You’ll be pleased to know he doesn’t explode during the film, but survives to feature in the direct-to-video sequel. He doesn’t appear in the 2020 live-action remake, but an archer character named Cricket does appear as a reference to him.
Anne Geddes is an Australian photographer who rose to fame in the 1980s and 1990s with her photographs of cherubic babies involving elaborate props and costumes. These were incredibly popular, and her photos sold millions of greeting cards, calendars and coffee table books. She lived in New Zealand for much of the height of her fame, and in 2004 was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit by the Queen for services to photography, though she also has a history of philanthropy. Since 2015, though, she’s made much less work – with social media all but killing the calendar and greeting card market, like many artists Geddes has turned to Patreon to continue making a living.
Mr Sheen is the tiny, bald-headed and bespectacled mascot of the Mr Sheen household cleaner, invented in Australia in the 1950s. It was the first aerosol-based cleaner to be sold in Australia, and continues to be popular in Australia and several other countries. His theme song was quite memorable, too, and remained largely unchanged for decades.
Black Books is a British sitcom created by and starring Irish comedian Dylan Moran. Moran plays Bernard Black, a misanthropic, drunk bookshop owner, who in the first episode hires an optimistic and naive assistant, Manny (played by one of Ben’s all-time favourite comedians, Bill Bailey). Together with their friend Fran (Tamsin Greig) they have various misadventures. The show won wide following and ran for three series between 2000 and 2004, broadcast on Channel 4. In the third episode, “Grapes of Wrath”, Kevin Eldon plays a distinctly creepy Cleaner hired by Manny to tidy up the shop. This YouTube clip of his first appearance will give you the idea…
The “hive mind of mushrooms” Liz mentions is known as a Mycorrhizal network. Some species of fungus grow large structures underground, connecting to other forms of plant life, transferring nutrients and water and possibly information of a sort between trees, leading to the nickname the “Wood Wide Web”. See this Science article from 2019 for more.
On Roundworld the Doctrine of Signatures dates back to ancient Greek and Roman physicians, but was popularised in the 15th to 17th centuries, especially via Jakob Böhme in his book The Signature of All Things. It’s perhaps most obvious in the common names of many (supposedly) medicinal plants, including eyebright, lungwort and birthwort (thought to resemble the uterus, and unfortunately a carcinogen). Modern thinking suggests that those medicines that do work were probably attributed a physical similarity after the fact. In any case you have to squint pretty hard to see the doctrine at work…
We’ve previously talked about shape-changing teenagers the Animorphs and their foes, the parasitic alien Yeerks, in #Pratchat19, #Pratchat25 and #Pratchat35. They are the stars of several related series of books written for teens by K. A. Applegate (a psuedonym for Katherine Applegate and her husband Michael Grant),and published by Scholastic between 1996 and 2001.
The Body Keeps the Score is an influential 2015 book written by Dutch psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk, about the causes and possible treatments for trauma.
The “Cloak of Billowing” appears in the 2017 sourcebook Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, for the fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Its only magical ability is to “billow dramatically” on command.
Tree of Life is an Australian chain of “boho fashion” stores cultivating a “carefree hippie ethos”. It began in the early 90s in Balmain, Sydney, and was started by John and Wendy Borthwick, followers of the Indian spiritual leader, Meher Baba. ISHKA is a similar store started by Michael Sklovsky in Melbourne in the early 1970s, initially selling both Michael’s own craft as well as items sourced from overseas. Both sell a variety of clothing, knick-knacks and accessories made in India, Nepal, Thailand and other countries in the Middle East and Asia. While both brands have statements on their websites outlining a strong ethical stance, it’s unclear how they maintain this, and they do not seem to use any standard FairTrade practices (e.g. labelling goods with details of their supply chains).
Sigmund Freud believed that the reason we don’t remember our births is that it was too traumatic (and sexual, because, you know, Freud). But while that’s been debunked, it is definitely true that humans have “infantile amnesia” – an inability to remember facts and personal events from our first few years of life. We still don’t have a definitive explanation, but it does seem likely to be related to the enhanced rate of brain development that goes on at that time.
While the experience of phantom limbs – the sensation of feeling from a limb one no longer has – is common in amputees (even non-human ones), it’s not a “syndrome”. Ben is using the word incorrectly.
In Equal Rites (discussed in #Pratchat25, “Eskist Attitudes“) a wizard passes on his staff to the eighth son of an eighth son…who is actually a daughter. The child, Esk, is sent to apprentice with Granny Weatherwax, who eventually realises that regardless of gender, wizard magic and witch magic are not the same. Granny takes Esk to Ankh-Morpork to convince the Unseen University to take on their first co-educational pupil. Nonetheless, Annagramma – and Mrs Earwig herself – are perhaps exhibiting some internalised misogyny when they say that witchcraft should be done in the wizard manner to be “proper”, since the two traditions are still largely split along gender lines. (This is a theme that will be revisited in later Tiffany books.)
We previously mentioned the Country Women’s Association (CWA) while discussing the short story “The Sea and Little Fishes” in #Pratchat39, “All the Fun of the…Fish?“
Ben is conflating two folk tales in his explanation of the third wish. The talking fish is from “The Fisherman and His (Greedy) Wife”, (catalogued in the Aarne–Thompson–Uther Index as type ATU 555), and importantly they don’t have a limited number of wishes, nor do they undo them with a final one; instead the fisherman is pushed to ask for grander and grander things until they go too far, and the wishes are undone with a crack of thunder and no explanation. The story with the sausage on the nose is “The Ridiculous Wishes” (ATU 705A), in which a poor woodcutter is given three wishes; his wife urges him to wait and think about the wishes, but while hungry that night he idly wishes for sausages. His wife is understandably upset, but when they argue he unthinkingly wishes the sausages were attached to her nose; in the end they must use the third wish to undo the second, leaving them only with the sausages.
While it’s clear that Granny has experience of the Black Desert, this book is the only time we see her actually go there. Her conversations with Death in Witches Abroad and Carpe Jugulum occur in the real world, and her metaphysical struggles in those books occur in the weird mirror dimension and inside her own mind.
Willow is a 1988 fantasy film produced by George Lucas, written by Bob Dolman and directed by Ron Howard. It stars Warwick Davis as Willow Ulfgood, a farmer and aspiring sorcerer of the Nelwyn people. He and his family find a Daikini (i.e. human) child set adrift on a river, which unknown to them is part of a prophecy that will dethrone the evil sorcerer-queen Bavmorda (played by Jean Marsh). Along the way Willow and his friends recruits the Daikini mercenary Madmartigan (Val Kilmer) and have various fantastic misadventures. While the film wasn’t a big box office success, it won a firm place in the heart of nerds everywhere. A television series returning to the world of the film is coming to Disney+ in 2022, with Davis reprising his role as Willow.
We previously explained the Leonardo DiCaprio pointing at the screen meme, in #Pratchat36, “Home Alone, But Vampires“. It’s taken from the film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019, dir. Quentin Tarantino), in which DiCaprio’s character, actor Rick Dalton, points at a movie screen when he sees himself.
Yes, we goofed: Tiffany does not keep Granny’s old hat; she keeps the one she bought from Zakzak Stronginthearm, though it is also temporary. Granny shows her the new hat she is constructing to make the point that witch’s hats aren’t permanent.
The Secret of Monkey Island is the classic 1990 graphic adventure videogame created for LucasArts by Ron Gilbert, Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman. A comedy (and one of Ben’s favourite games), the player takes on the role of Guybrush Threepwood, a young man who wants to become a “mighty pirate” during the golden age of piracy. Pratchett was certainly playing videogames by this time and it was such an influential and popular game its hard to imagine he wouldn’t have played it. In the game, he meets the “Amazing, Adventurous, Acrobating, and Exceedingly Well-Known, Fabulous, Flying Fettucini Brothers”, Bill and Alfredo. While it’s clear some of their appearance is just an act, it’s not specified if they changed their names as Ben misremembers. In the 1992 sequel, Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge, there’s also a reference to the “Linguini Brothers”.
The Monster Book of Monsters, a magical school textbook for third year Care of Magical Creatures students, first appears in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, published in 1999. That’s five years earlier than the LIBER IMMANIS MONSTRORUM in this book, though surely bonus points are awarded for the Latin.
The historical John Snow (1813 – 1858) was an English doctor who is famous for his work in epidemiology and anaesthesia. In a time before germ theory was accepted and understood in Europe, he was skeptical of the prevailing “miasma theory”, and as well as disabling a pump to prevent further cholera infections, also mapped cases to help determine how they were spreading. His work was influential enough to inspire the John Snow Society, who hold an annual “Pumphandle Lecture” at which a pump handle is symbolically removed and replaced. His work also influenced the design and use of public drinking fountains, and you can hear more about that in episode 188 of the podcast 99% Invisible, “Fountain Drinks“.
Modern vaccines use a variety of methods to create an active agent which appears to the body to be a specific virus or bacteria. This allows the body to develop an effective immune response to the real thing, without having to actually contract the disease. The precursor to vaccination was variolation, which goes back at least 1,000 years when it was first used in China. This is deliberate infection with a small dose of the actual disease, originally smallpox, with hope of achieving immunity after a mild illness, and it was used up until the 18th century. Modern vaccine agents do not use a live sample of the actual disease, but instead an agent created in a number of ways. These methods include material from dead or irradiated pathogens (known as “ghosts”), modified or naturally occurring viruses which are very similar to the dangerous one but do not harm the host (as in the case of cowpox being used to in smallpox vaccines), or most recently RNA vaccines, which use messenger RNA to more directly help the body create appropriate proteins that can act as antibodies.
Wittgenstein’s Ladder was described by the German philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein () in 1921. In his own words (or at least, in an English translation of his own words): “My propositions serve as elucidations in the following way: anyone who understands me eventually recognizes them as nonsensical, when he has used them—as steps—to climb beyond them. (He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder after he has climbed up it.)”
You can see Prince Philip’s self-designed Land Rover hearse in this BBC article.
You probably already know we love The Mummy, the 1999 film starring Brendan Fraser as adventurer Rick O’Connell, and – most relevant to this discussion – Rachel Weisz as librarian and historian Evie Carnahan. We’ve previous talked about it in #Pratchat11, #Pratchat19, #PratchatNA7, #Pratchat21, #Pratchat23, #Pratchat36 and #Pratchat42. And yes, we are seriously considering a short spin-off series of podcasts discussing those films.
On the subject of Esk being based on Rhianna Pratchett, less than a week after this episode was released, Rhianna Pratchett replied to a tweet asking what her Dad’s favourite of his books was, and for her own favourite. She replied that the witches and Tiffany books were among her faves, as was Nation (Terry’s own choice), and further that Equal Rites was the first of his books that she read – probably why it was dedicated to her! She confirmed that Esk is based (in part) on her in reply to a follow up tweet, in which she said that there was “more than a little” of her in the character… We’ve included the relevant tweets below.
These are the show notes and errata for episode 42, “Truth, the Printing Press and Every -ing“, featuring guest Stephanie Convery, discussing the 25th Discworld novel, 2000’sThe Truth.
The episode title is a riff on Douglas Adams’ most famous joke in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. When a race of “hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings” build a supercomputer to answer “the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything“, it takes seven and a half million years to confidently announce the Answer is…42. A subsequent computer is built to work out what the question actually is so the answer can be understood.
As a side note, this episode marks the point at which there are more episodes of Pratchat than there are Discworld novels, a weird and bittersweet milestone. Thanks for sticking with us.
Stephanie was last a guest on #Pratchat2, “Murdering a Curry“, discussing Mort. It was released on December 8th, 2017 – that’s three years and four months ago.
The book 42, subtitled “The wildly improbable ideas of Douglas Adams”, is edited by his friend and collaborator Kevin Jon Davies. It will feature facsimiles of Adams’ writing taken from the archive of his work donated to his old college after his death, with added notes for context and explanations. A publication date has yet to be confirmed but it has hit its crowdfunding goal on both Unbound and Kickstarter, and at the time of publication you still have a couple of weeks to get in on it. Later in the episode Ben mentions this extract published in the Guardian UK.
Nominative determinism is the idea that one’s name will subtly influence you to do things that match your name, the most famous example perhaps being Thomas Crapper, an English engineer and plumber who made several important refinements that became standard in modern toilet design. (This is contrary to popular belief, which suggests he is the reason “crapper” is a euphemism for toilet, but this seems to pretty clearly pre-date his…er… contributions.)
Movable type is mentioned in more than one earlier Discworld book, but tracking down which ones is proving tricky. We’ll list them here when we find them out!
The Watergate scandal ended the Presidency of Richard Nixon in 1974, after it became clear he both knew about and tried to cover up his administration’s involvement in a break-in at the Watergate Office Building in Washington. The break-in was part of illegal wire-tapping to gain intelligence on the Democratic party; the Democratic National Convention HQ was in the Watergate building. Key evidence against Nixon were recordings he had made of conversations in the Oval Office, especially one known as the “smoking gun” in which he agrees to the cover up plan. The story was uncovered by journalists, especially Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, who aided by anonymous sources including one who called himself “Deep Throat” and met with them in a carpark… You can see the references piling up, can’t you? The Truth also references the 1976 film about the scandal, All the President’s Men, based on the 1974 book by Bernstein and Woodward.
Pulp Fiction is Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 hit black comedy film which tells several crime stories set in Los Angeles. Two of the characters in the film are Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winfield (Samuel L Jackson), enforcers and hit-men working for a ruthless crime boss. Most of the references to the film are to their characters, who between them discuss what a Quarter Pounder burger is called in France, have a wallet with “Bad-Ass Motherfucker” written on it, extoll the virtues of dogs and declare they are going to “get medieval on yo ass”.
Mr Croup and Mr Vandemar, “the Old Firm”, appear in Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, the story of unremarkable Scot Richard Mayhew, who, when he refuses to abandon a seemingly homeless girl on the pavement, discovers the invisible “other London” world of London Below. Neverwhere first saw life as a television series in 1996, in which Croup and Vandemar were played by Hywel Bennett and Clive Russell. It has since been a novel, a comic book, the basis of several stage productions and most recently a radio adaptation by the BBC starring James McAvoy, in which Croup was played by Pratchat favourite Anthony Head! Gaiman is currently writing a sequel. Terry himself grew tired of the frequent comparisons between the two Firms; as he says in the Annotated Pratchett File: “Fiction and movies are full of pairs of bad guys that pretty much equate to Pin and Tulip. They go back a long way. That’s why I used ’em, and probably why Neil did too.”
Yes, Stephanie – intertextuality is indeed a word! It refers to the way that works of art, especially literature, draw on and influence each other.
Ben makes a mistake here; the Watergate activities were the work of the Committee to Re-Elect the President, which is mostly important to note because it was quickly shortened to CREEP once the scandal broke.
The Skulls (2000; dir. Rob Cohen) stars Joshua Jackson (of Dawson’s Creek and Fringe fame) as a poor law student who scores a rowing scholarship to Yale University, and is invited to join “the Skulls”, a secret society for the rich and powerful. It’s based on the real life student society called the Skull and Bones, which was founded in 1832 and is one of three major student organisations at Yale, the others being similarly ominously-named the Scroll and Key and the Wolf’s Head. The Skull and Bones have their own meeting hall called “the Tomb” and own a small island, once luxurious but now considered a dump, in the St Lawrence river in upstate New York. Plenty of conspiracy theories involve the Skull and Bones; their members, or “Bonesmen” (women have only been admitted since the 1990s) certainly include many powerful people like major league sports stars and Presidents.
We couldn’t turn up anything Terry might be referencing with the high-backed chairs and circle of candles; if you find something, let us know!
“Disruption” is a popular buzzword amongst entrepreneurs, especially in the tech sphere, where the idea is that they don’t invent a new product or service, but a new way to organise an old one – often with complete disregard for how this might affect the livelihood of people involved in the existing industry. Uber is the most-often cited example; their system allowed anyone with a car to operate as a taxi driver for rides booked through the app, undercutting existing taxi services and circumventing licensing rules in the process. In Australia and many other countries taxi drivers do not have a union, and so they were powerless to do much about it; the owners of taxi companies and cars eventually tried to act, but with little success.
There are two calendars used on the Discworld: the Imperial Ankh-Morpork calendar (AM), which counts full-years (a full revolution of the disc) since the founding of the city, and the University Calendar (UC), which counts half-years (one full set of seasons), and starts with the founding of Unseen University. The University calendar begins in AM 1282. The years given in The Truth use the University Calendar, which supplementary material tells us is preferred by most folk since it actually matches the seasons. As for the Centuries, it seems they might use the other calendar, since it is clearly the Century of the Anchovy by the time of Going Postal, but in Moving Pictures and it is still the Century of the Fruitbat, and based on a number of clues The Truth seems to happen in the late 1980s or possibly 1990, the first year of the Century of the Anchovy. (For more on how seasons and so on work on the Disc, see the show notes for #Pratchat14, “City-State Lampoon’s Disc-wide Vacation”.)
You can find out more about the State Library of Victoria’s newspaper collectionon their website.
Trove is an online digital archive created by the National Library of Australia and other libraries around Australia. It really does have an amazing collection of stuff!
Liz refers to the “folly” at Werribee Mansion; a folly is an architectural feature or building constructed purely for decoration, especially one that is expensive and/or made to look like it serves a function, even though it doesn’t.
Otto’s surname may also be a reference to Max Schreck, the German actor who portrayed Count Orlok, the vampire in F. W. Murnau’s 1922 silent film classic Nosferatu. Nosferatu was an unauthorised adaptation of Dracula, and most of the prints were destroyed after legal actual by the Bram Stoker estate, but the surviving print turned it into a cult film.
Clippit – not Clippy, though that’s what everyone called it – was the default form of the Microsoft Office Assistant, an “intelligent assistant” introduced in Office 97. Clippit was an animated paperclip, and famously would pop up asking if you wanted help with a variety of common writing tasks based on the content of your current document. Most people did not want help, but also didn’t know how to turn Clippit off. While the assistant could have other forms, Clippit was the default and most recognisable. The assistant was based on research showing that people interacted with computers as if they were people, but the inclusion of a person-like assistant made things worse as it felt like one person too many! After widespread user dissatisfaction and industry mockery the assistant was turned off by default in Office XP in 2001 – accompanied by ads saying Clippit was out of a job! – and then removed entirely in Office 2007 (and Office 2008 for Mac).
The accident-prone vampire who may or may not be Otto does indeed appear in Feet of Clay. He takes jobs as a holy water bottler, garlic stacker, pencil maker, picket fence builder and sunglasses tester.
Here’s the original version of the menboys tweet:
In Victor Hugo’s novel Les Miserablés – and its famous musical adaptation – protagonist Jean Valjean struggles to find work as an ex-convict and is taken in by the Bishop of Digne. In the middle of the night, Valjean decides he may as well live up to everyone’s expectations of him and steals the church’s silver, but he is caught and the next morning brought before the Bishop…who tells an astonished policeman that he gave the silver to Valjean – going so far as to hand over two silver candlesticks he claims Valjean forgot! He tells Valjean he must use the silver to become an honest man, as he has bought Valjean’s soul for God, convincing the bitter Valjean to change his life around. (As a side note, Ben is a big fan of the West End production of the musical, and in the not-as-great film, Hugh Jackman plays Valjean – and London cast Valjean, Colm Wilkinson, shows up as the Bishop of Digne!)
Before social media or web-based forums, there were Usenet newsgroups, the first internet equivalent to local bulletin board systems. Started in 1980, the Usenet system allowed for “threads” of messages posted by various users, organised into groups that were categorised in hierarchies similar to domain names. The “alt.fan” category became a popular meeting place for fans of all kinds of different media, discussing their favourite TV shows, comics and books, and posting documents – like the famous Annotated Pratchett File (APF) – that would later be hosted on websites or wikis instead. Pratchett himself was known to lurk on alt.fan.pratchett and occasionally answer questions, many of which are quoted in the APF.
The Guardian is a British daily newspaper originally founded in 1821, and notable as it is funded by a charitable trust which aims to preserve its independence. As well as the print paper in the UK, it has online publications there and in the US and Australia. The Saturday Paper is a similarly independent weekly paper produced in Australia by Schwartz Media since 2014, who also publish Quarterly Essay and The Monthly, which focus on long-form journalism and opinion, and the podcast 7am, a weekday podcast which tries to give a deeper look at a single story from the week.
Ben is remembering a story from design podcast 99% Invisible, but the streets under the streets aren’t in San Francisco, they’re in Seattle. It’s the last story in episode 290, “Mini-Stories: Volume 4“, from 2018.
The story of Darwin embracing Christianity on his deathbed is commonly told by anti-evolutionists, as it also claims he recanted his theory at the same time – but it was invented by a woman who hadn’t been there. This New Yorker article is a good account of the truth.
Pascal’s wager was the posthumously published argument by French philosopher Blaise Pascal in which he used ideas of probability theory, decision theory, existentialism, pragmatism, and voluntarism to argue that all humans should try and believe in God, since the reward if He exists is infinite, and the loss if he does not is negligible.
The character of Benny in Pratchat favourite movie The Mummy (1999) first tries to ward off Imhotep the undead monster with a cross, but when that doesn’t work he reveals a collection of religious charms for which he knows accompanying prayers. (We think we last mentioned The Mummy in #Pratchat23, “The Music of the Nitt“, but there are many earlier examples too. See also the next note.)
While there is a Scorpion King 4: The Quest for Power, and it was released on Netflix, that was in 2016. The one recently added to Netflix Australia was Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption. There’s also a fifth film, The Scorpion King: Book of Souls, a direct sequel to Scorpion King 4. (We previously mentioned the Scorpion King franchise in #Pratchat36, “Home Alone, But Vampires“.)
Hood ornaments on cars were originally invented because in early designs the radiator cap protruded from the front of the car. Instead of a boring functional cap, some manufacturers made small ornaments and used those as the cap; once they became a symbol of the brand, like the Jaguar jaguar and the Rolls Royce angel, they continued to be attached to the hood even once the radiator was relocated to entirely inside the hood. They disappeared in part due to changing tastes, but also because of pedestrian safety standards in Europe.
Mulder and Scully are the protagonists of the television series The X-Files, which we previously mentioned in #Pratchat36, “Home Alone, But Vampires“. The pair are FBI agents who investigate cases which are supernatural or otherwise unexplained. Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) is a profiler and believer in aliens and conspiracies, while Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) is a doctor and a skeptic; the professional and later romantic and sexual tension between them was a popular part of the show. They eventually begin a relationship during the last few seasons of the show’s initial run, and they try to stay together through the subsequent films and revival seasons.
Stephanie is right: The Truth (2000) comes a few years and five Discworld novels before the first Tiffany book, The Wee Free Men (2003). We discussed the latter in #Pratchat32, “Meet the Feegles“.
Privilege comes from the Latin “privilegium”, which does indeed means private law; in many legal jurisdictions, a privilege is still defined as a “private law” that affords a particular entitlement or protection to a person or class of persons.
The one who thinks in italics is, as suggested by Liz, Edward d’Eath, the antagonist of Men at Arms. The book says of him: “He could think in italics. Such people need watching. Preferably from a safe distance.” (We discussed Men at Arms in #Pratchat1, “Boots Theory“.)
The use of eyeglasses goes back to at least the 13th century, with the earliest records show them in Pisa, Northern Italy. There’s some contention about whether they may also have been invented around the same time or earlier in China or India, but unlike many other inventions which were clearly found in Asia first, the evidence for this isn’t clear.
Douglas Adams died in 2001 at the age of 49. He began writing professionally in around 1974, primarily in radio and television, and wrote ten books (including seven novels) between 1979 and 1992 (though it’s probably fairer to count it as nine, since The Deeper Meaning of Liff is really an extended version of The Meaning of Liff). The Salmon of Doubt was published after his death, containing a collection of fiction and non-fiction, some of which had not been published before.
While the form of “gazette” adopted into English does come via French, it ultimately derives from the Venetian phrase “gazeta dele novità“, or “a gazeta of news” – gazeta being the cost of the short paper, equivalent to a half-penny. It’s therefore not quite right to remove the -ette suffix, but we could offer “gaz” or even “megagaz” as the bigger equivalent?
Green Left, previously Green Left Weekly, is an Australian socialist newspaper founded in 1990. It is associated with the political party Socialist Alliance, though it is run independently by the Green Left Association.
The episode title is riffing on the title of The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D (2005, dir. Robert Rodriguez). It references Mau’s feeling of being like a hermit crab, looking for a bigger shell to live in, and Daphne’s status as a “trouserman”.
For listeners outside of Australia, some brief background on our opening acknowledgement: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples never ceded sovereignty of Australia to English colonisers in the 18th century. The English used the legal concept of terra nullius to claim the land belonged to no-one, and could be claimed for the Crown. Over two centuries later, in 1992, the High Court of Australia ruled in the case Mabo v Queensland (No 2) that indigenous peoples’ traditional ownership could be legally recognised, introducing the concept of “native title”. While this has not yet resulted in Australia or any of its states signing treaties with indigenous peoples, it has since become common practice for an “acknowledgment of country” or “acknowledgment of traditional owners” to be given at events, paying respect to and publicly naming (if they are known) the custodians of the land on which the event takes place. We’d like to thank Charlotte for providing wording to appropriately acknowledge the history of indigenous science.
Lost is a television drama created by by Jeffrey Lieber, J. J. Abrams, and Damon Lindelof in 2004. It follows a large ensemble cast of plane crash survivors who are lost on an island in the South Pacific. They are threatened by weird creatures, supernatural occurrences, a mysterious organisation and other inhabitants of the at first seemingly empty island. It was famous for its ongoing supernatural mystery with complex storylines; use of flashbacks and flash-forwards; and, ultimately, for failing to provide a satisfying conclusion to the mystery after six years of buildup.
Terry said Nation was his favourite of his books in many interviews, but perhaps most famously in the acceptance speech for the 2009 Boston Globe-Horn Award, which Nation won. As Ben reads out in a footnote, he said “I believe Nation is the best book I have ever written or will ever write”, and doesn’t appear to have changed his mind afterwards. The entire speech appears in his non-fiction collection A Slip of the Keyboard. (This is a also a good source for his comments about feeling the need to write Nation.)
In nautical terms, a schooner is a ship with two or more masts with “fore-and-aft” rigged sails; to avoid more nautical jargon, this means the edges of the sails point at the front and back of the ship, rather than sticking out over the sides as in square-rigged ships. Interestingly this is the sort of rigging used by Austronesian sailors thousands of years ago – including the “lobster-claw” sails mentioned in the book (presumably a relative of the crab claw sails of our world).
In beer terms, a schooner is…certainly a size of beer glass used in Australia. The sizes of beer glasses and their names are notoriously varied across Australia’s states and territories, though “schooner” is almost universally used for a glass which holds 425 millilitres (or 15 fluid ounces), though they’re not commonly served in some states, including Victoria. We say “almost universally” because in South Australia the 425ml glass is called a “pint” (even though every other state uses a standard 570ml glass for pints), and they use “schooner” to mean the common smaller sized glass of 285ml. In Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane this is called a “pot”, while in Sydney and Canberra (where standard schooners are more common) it’s a “middy”. Learning to work in a bar in Australia is quite an education.
We’ve so far covered a few of Terry’s standalone novels, most of which came at the start and end of his career. They include the early sci-fi novels The Dark Side of the Sun (see #Pratchat18) and Strata, his first novel The Carpet People, Good Omens with Neil Gaiman (see #Pratchat15), Nation and Dodger (see #Pratchat6).
Fight Club began life as a short story by author Chuck Palahniuk before being expanded into a novel published in 1996, and adapted into a film in 1999 by David Fincher starring Edward Norton, Brad Pitt and Helena Bonham Carter. The story follows an unnamed insomniac protagonist who is tired of his normal, numb existence. When his home is destroyed, he moves in with soap salesman Tyler Durden and the pair start “Fight Club”, an underground group in which men physically fight each other in order to feel something. Famously, both the first and second rules of Fight Club are “Do not talk about Fight Club.”
There are many creation stories found in the Pacific Islands; Ben is taking some time to research them for signs of inspiration for those of the Nation. The idea of human souls becoming dolphins, though, is not a Polynesian one; dolphins are considered lucky and to be respected in many sailing traditions, though, and feature in many stories of Greek mythology, where it was taboo to kill them.
The Russian flu is a name sometimes used for the flu pandemic of 1889-1890, also known at the time as the “Asiatic flu”, though neither name is used in literature now. It killed around 1 million people worldwide, but what caused it isn’t known for sure. The Spanish flu of 1918-1920 was much worse, killing between 17 and 100 million people; it was caused by the H1N1 influenza A virus, which was also responsible for the 2009 “swine flu” pandemic.
12 Monkeys is a 1995 time travel film directed by Terry Gilliam and starring Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe and Brad Pitt. Inspired by the French short film La Jetée, it follows James Cole, a prisoner in the virus-ravaged future of 2035, where humanity is forced to live underground. A group of scientists select Cole as a test subject to be sent back in time to stop the release of the virus, which they think was engineered by a terrorist organisation known as the Army of the Twelve Monkeys. The film was later adapted into a television series which ran for four seasons from 2015 to 2018.
Charles Darwin (1809-1882) made his famous voyage on the Beagle from 1831 to 1836, and by the time of his return to England was already well-known in scientific circles. The Origin of Species was first published in 1859. All of this marries well with the idea that the book takes place in the 1860s, though there’s plenty of room to move.
Disinfectant in the nineteenth century was still pretty new, since germ theory was still catching on. We don’t know what the dripping red substance was, though it probably smelled much worse than crushed up roses.
A tsunami is a series of huge waves caused by displacement of large amounts of water in a sea, ocean or other large body of water. They are primarily caused by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Pratchett was initially inspired by the aftermath of the Krakatoa eruption, but not long after he had the idea for Nation there was a tsunami in the Indian ocean which killed more than 20,000 people on Boxing Day, 2004. He postponed work on the story. The name tsunami is Japanese, and means “harbour wave”. It is the preferred scientific term, rather than the older term “tidal wave”, since tsunamis are not caused by tides.
Daphne’s father, Henry Fanshaw (later King Henry IX), is Governor of Port Mercia in the Rogation Sunday Islands.
Survivor guilt – the feeling that one has done something wrong by surviving when others have died – is a common expression of post-traumatic stress disorder.
The Tattersalls Club Charlotte mentions is a private gentlemen’s club founded in Brisbane in 1865 by, in their own words, “a group of gentlemen who were prominent in both business and in the thoroughbred horse racing industry”. In December 2018, after some public protest that they still only allowed men as members, a vote was held which passed by a margin of only about 1% to allow women to join, but a group of members were so against this they appealed to the Brisbane supreme court, asking for a recount thanks to some rules technicalities. Their appeal was denied in February 2019, and the club now accepts women as members.
In case you’ve been living in one, an “echo chamber” refers to any situation in which a group of people only listens to others who agree with their own views, amplifying their believe that they are right and shielding them from criticism or debate. It is especially applied to social media, where one’s curated list of who you follow can create a “bubble” of only like-minded opinions.
To answer Liz’s question, no, Terry didn’t draw the illustrations for Nation. They are by children’s book illustrator and author Jonny Duddle, who is credited as the sole illustrator for the UK edition of the book. Duddle drew everything, including the maps, the chapter illustrations and the in-character drawings by Mau and Daphne. (He also did extra endpaper designs featuring a hermit crab for the “Special Numbered Collectors’ Edition”.) As far as we can tell he also illustrated the original cover, though his art was not used in the US edition, which has a cover by Bill Mayer. We’re not sure if the US edition has any of Duddle’s art – not even the bits that seem important to the plot! The current UK edition of the book has a new cover by Laura Ellen Anderson, but we think it still has Duddle’s art inside. We don’t have access to those editions, so we’d love to hear from you with details if you do!
It is indeed true that right up until the 19th century most sailors did not know how to swim. This was both because there was little chance a ship could turn around fast enough to get them if they fell overboard, even if the captain chose to try, and because very few of them were professionals anyway – they were temporary hires, or drafted or press-ganged into service. Also, in the time before fast travel and public swimming pools, only people who lived by the sea or a lake would swim recreationally, so it wasn’t a common skill.
The history of bathing suits goes back to the 16th century, when they were actually used for bathing in public baths, but even when they started to be used for swimming their initial purpose was to hide women’s bodies. By the time more form-fitting styles were desired, the only material that could really be used was wool, since synthetic materials hadn’t yet been invented and everything else sagged or became too heavy in water. This article at Swim Swam covers the history of wool swimsuits in great detail.
Sweary parrots turn up in lots of places, including Tintin, the film Deep Blue Sea, the videogame Neverwinter Nights 2 and, indeed, real life – including – and we checked this with a few sources – US President Andrew Jackson’s pet parrot, Poll, who had to be removed from Jackson’s funeral because it was swearing too much.
Pratchett not only had the comedy parrot in Eric, but in Moving Pictures the directors abandon using parrots to add sound to their clicks because the dialogue always ended up naughty. We covered Eric in #Pratchat7, “All the Fingle Ladies“, and Moving Pictures in #Pratchat10, “We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Broomstick“.
Bridgerton is Netflix’s wildly successful 2021 series about the Regency-era Bridgerton family and their daughters’ quests for love and marriage. The series is an adaptation of the Bridgerton novels by American author Julia Quinn, which begin with 2000’s The Duke and I. The series contains a great deal more sex than anything written by Jane Austen; none of the Bridgerton sisters are likely to vaporise in their rooms…well, probably not while alone, and certainly not quietly.
Spoiler alert: Ben is talking about the character Mrs Landingham, who dies in the penultimate episode of The West Wing‘s second season, “18th and Potomac”. The scene Ben recalls with President Jed Bartlett in the church is in the following season finale episode, “Two Cathedrals”. Both aired in 2001.
We’ve previously mentioned 1970s Swedish pop sensations ABBA back in #Pratchat14, “City-State Lampoon’s Disc-wide Vacation”, which came out the same month as the band’s reunion single “I Still Have Faith in You”. The song “Waterloo” was their winning entry for the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest, and the start of their rise to international fame. “Nina, Pretty Ballerina” was from their pre-Eurovision first album Ring Ring, released in 1973 under the name Björn & Benny, Agnetha & Anni-Frid (or, in Austria, Björn & Benny, Anna & Frida).
Studies in 2017 and 2020 concluded that regardless of culture or language, babies recognise and prefer baby talk (or “Infant Directed Language”) to regular speech.
In Mort the two prominent female characters are Death’s adopted daughter Ysabell, and Queen Keli of Sto Helit. Mort is instantly infatuated with Keli, but eventually marries Ysabell, with whom he has bickered for the entire book. You can hear our thoughts about all this in #Pratchat2, “Murdering a Curry“.
The Wee Free Men (discussed in #Pratchat32, “Meet the Feegles“) was published in 2003, five years before Nation. The later Tiffany Aching book Wintersmith, published a couple of years before Nation in 2006, has the now 13-year-old Tiffany deal with her first real boy trouble.
We know you’re wracking your brain to think of it too, but the “motorcycle dominos” appear in so many films and television series that they are a trope. Ben probably saw it in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985, dir. Tim Burton), but you’ll also find it in the Clint Eastwood movie Every Which Way But Loose, 80s slasher film Friday the 13th Part III, and even an episode of Scrubs.
How long has the Nation existed? Daphne counts 102 dead Grandfathers in the cave by the time they can no longer see the entrance, and later loses count after “hundreds”; the prose mentions “hundreds and thousands” – possibly a thought of Daphne’s – but that’s inconclusive. But even assuming there are only 1,000 of them, and that a handful of Grandfathers are put in the cave per generation, using the general estimate of one generation per 25 years tells us the Nation’s history goes four or five thousand years, if not tens of thousands. Not at all far-fetched when we consider that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures stretch back at least 50,000 years, and that they were likely the first peoples to ever cross an ocean.
Ben is using the term “cargo cult” a little loosely. It comes from World War II, when Japanese and then Allied forces visited places in Melanesia – the nations and islands of the southwest Pacific Ocean, northeast of Australia, many of which had had little contact with other peoples. The soldiers brought with them goods and technology that had never been seen by the locals before, sometimes trading with them, but left after the war ended. In the hopes that the visitors and their cargo might return, some local peoples developed rituals in which they imitated the soldiers, integrating stories of their visitation into their existing beliefs. Many earlier examples have been found, and some still persist today.
Despite that fact that only Charlotte can remember its title, Liz and Ben discussed The Fifth Elephant only a month earlier, in #Pratchat40, “The King and the Hole of the King“.
Ben refers to the “Battle of Wits” between the Man in Black (Cary Elwes) and Sicilian kidnapper Vizzini (Wallace Shawn) in the 1987 film The Princess Bride, directed by Rob Reiner and adapted by William Goldman from his 1973 novel. In the scene, Vizzini has Princess Buttercup at knifepoint, but cannot resist when challenged to a battle of wits to the death. After Vizzini pours two glasses of wine, the Man in Black pours a deadly poison, “iocane powder”, into one of the glasses; Vizzini will decide which one, and then they will both drink. The scene is the basis for one of Ben’s favourite party boardgames, one of several games based on the film published by Game Salute. We previously mentioned The Princess Bride in #Pratchat17 and #Pratchat36.
Atlantis is a fictional island nation invented by Plato for his books Timaeus and Critias. The Atlantean civilisation was described as powerful, and the Atlanteans themselves as “half gods”, but they grew too proud and the gods sunk their island beneath the sea in the space of a single day. The myth has proven popular for centuries, with versions since the twentieth century often imagining Atlantis as possessing advanced technologies – and perhaps causing their own demise, rather than it being a punishment of the gods.
We didn’t end up coming back to the map, but of note is Terry’s decision to split Australia in half, as Nearer Australia and Further Australia. It’s not mentioned in the novel, so we’ll have to decide for ourselves whether this is accurate and thus representative of some unknown alternate universe calamity, or is a reference to the fact that early European maps of Australia were often very incomplete, since they rarely sailed around the entire continent. (None split it in two, but many leave a big gap in the middle where South Australia is as if to say “who knows?”)
The Mythbusters did indeed test what happens when shooting into water, in episode 34, “Bulletproof Water“. They listed the muth as “partly confirmed” – high velocity sniper rifle rounds disintegrated in less than a metre of water, but bullets from smaller guns needed more water to slow down enough to be safe; the Mythbusters said at least 8 feet. Firing at an angle into the water means the target doesn’t need to be as deep to be safe, though, so Mau being safe stands up until Cox is right on top of him at the end.
Mutant superhero Quicksilver, played by Evan Peters, has epic super-speed sequences in the films X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) and X-Men: Apocalypse (2016), both written and directed by Bryan Singer. Quicksilver moves so fast that everything else appears to him to be in slow motion, so he easily redirects bullets fired at his allies so that they miss. Charlotte was miming the famous sequence from the original The Matrix (1999, dir. the Wachowskis) in which protagonist Neo, now aware he is inside a complex computer simulation, breaks the rules of physics and dodges bullets. The technique used to film this, now known as “bullet time”, involved still cameras being activated in sequence, allowing a slow-motion sequence in which the point of view moved around.
We’ve previously explained the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, which is quite something considering we’re a book club podcast. Check out the show notes for #Pratchat37, “The Shopping Trolley Problem“.
“A shrubbery!” is the first of many ludicrous demands made by the imposing Knights Who Say “Ni” as tribute, in the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Mau’s list of demands is very reasonable by comparison.
The tree-climbing octopus may have been inspired by the sadly fictitious “Pacific Northwest tree octopus”, an Internet hoax dating back to 1998. It was said to live in the Olympic National Forest in Washington State, right in the northwest corner of the USA, and that its main natural predator was the sasquatch. The original spoof site Save the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus, created by “Lyle Zapato”, has been used to teach children Internet literacy.
Sadly it seems that no octopuses have learned to count. If you want to see the adorable and very smart things they do learn, Ben recommends you check out OctoNation, the world’s biggest octopus fan club.
The character with the coffin in Moby Dick is Queequeg, who is the son of a Polynesian chief. After he becomes friends with the novel’s narrator, Ishmael, Queequeg joins him on Ahab’s ship, the Pequod, where he becomes a harpooner under the First Mate, Starbuck. When a casting of runes predicts his death, he has a coffin made for himself and refuses to eat or drink. When the whal Moby Dick sinks the Pequod, Queequeg goes down with the ship, but Ishmael survives by clinging to the floating coffin until he is picked up by another ship. It seems pretty clear Cookie’s previous shipmate is a nod to the character in Herman Melville’s book.
The Pratchett interview excerpt about fantasy that’s lately been doing the rounds is from an interview he did with The Onion in 1995. This is before The Onion went online, of course, but a few months after Pratchett’s death in 2015, fantasy author Patrick Rothfuss transcribed it on his blog as part of his tribute to Terry.
Heart of Darkness is a 1899 novella by Joseph Conrad. Protagonist Charles Marlow becomes a steamboat captain for an ivory trading company and travels up the Congo river, where he becomes obsessed with another employee of the company, Kurtz. Kurtz, now sick and close to death, is revered as a success, but his habits and methods are extreme. It was most famously adapted by Francis Ford Coppola as Apocalypse Now, with the setting relocated to the Vietnam war and the US Army replacing the ivory company.
The Blue Lagoon (1980, dir. Randal Kleiser, of Grease fame) is an adaptation of the 1908 romance novel written by Henry De Vere Stacpoole. In the story, two young American cousins – Richard (Dicky in the novel) and Emmeline (you’ll see in a moment why Daphne rejects the name) – are marooned on a South Pacific Island island with the ship’s cook. The cook dies, and the two grow up on the island alone, eventually “falling in love” and having a child together before being rescued. The movie, which starred Brooke Shields as Emmeline, was critically panned but did very well at the box office. There were two previous film adaptations in 1923 and 1949, and once since in 2012, as well as a 1991 sequel to the 1980 film, Return to the Blue Lagoon, starring Milla Jovovich and Brian Krause; it’s basically a retelling of the original story, with the twist that Krause plays the son of Richard and Emmeline, and he and Jovovich’s character decide to stay on the island after they encounter a crew of sailors.
Is mother of beer a real thing? Sort of! Listeners Felix and Elizabeth both contacted us about masato, a drink made in the Amazonian basin from the yuca plant, also known as cassava or manioc root. In traditional preparation, the yuca is peeled and soaked or boiled in water, then chewed by women who spit the juice into a bowl. Their saliva converts the starch in the juice into sugar, and wild yeast or bacteria ferments the sugar into alcohol. Raw yuca is poisonous, but it’s not the spit that makes it safe to drink – the soaking or boiling does that. Masato is basically a form of chicha, a drink made through similar means throughout Latin America from less poisonous vegetables, most often corn.
Beer is made from cereal grains, most often barley which has been malted (soaked in water to make it germinate, then dried out with heat to stop it growing, and usually mashed into a powder). The malt is mixed with warm water, and usually hops (the flowers of the hop plant) to add bitterness and flavour, before yeast is added. The yeast ferments the sugars in the malt into alcohol. Beer is one of the oldest documented foods, and has been made by humans for around 13,000 years or more.
To put Charlotte’s comment that “where humans exist, grains are” in context, evidence found in the last decade or so makes it pretty clear that grains have been part of the human diet for probably at least 100,000 years.
Kava is a plant that grows in the pacific islands; its root is made into a drink with a sedative effect. It’s hugely important in many places, drunk for medicinal, religious, political, cultural and social reasons. It’s effect is described as very different to that of alcohol, caffeine or nicotine.
It was guest Myfanwy Coghill who said anyone can learn the skill of singing; you can hear this and many other amazing insights from her in our Maskerade episode, #Pratchat23, “The Music of the Nitt“.
Our Llamedos Holiday Camp on the Clacks panel, “Podcasting Discworld”, was held online at 3 PM UK time on Sunday, March 7 (which was 2 AM Monday the 7Ath, Australian Eastern Daylight Time). As well as Liz and Ben, the panel featured Joanna Hagan and Francine Carrel of The Truth Shall Make Ye Fret, Colm Kearns of Radio Morpork, and Al Kennedy of Desert Island Discworld.
The Answer, in Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, is shorthand for “the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything”. It is revealed by hyper advanced supercomputer Deep Thought to be…42. This doesn’t make sense, but Deep Thought also solves that problem: no-one actually knows what the Question is. Hence he builds another computer to figure it out, and causing no end of trouble for one Arthur Dent.
These are the show notes and errata for episode 40, “The King and the Hole of the King“, featuring guest Richard McKenzie, discussing the twenty-fourth Discworld novel, 1999’s The Fifth Elephant.
The episode title is a play on the repeated phrase from the book, “the thing and the whole of the thing”, used to refer to the Scone of Stone. While “the thing and the whole of the thing” sounds like it’s a reference to or riff on something, it originates with Pratchett as far as we can tell.
Magic: The Gathering is the world’s first and still most popular trading card game, designed by Richard Garfield in 1993. Each player collects the cards for the game in randomised (or themed) packs, and creates their own deck. Each card represents a creature, spell, source of power (known as “mana”) or other part of the game’s multiverse, and contains rules text that explains its effect when played. There are now more than 200,000 different cards, and so the number of possible decks – and strategies – is massive.
Scrabble – the classic word game in which players place letter tiles that form interlocking words to score points – was originally invented in 1938 by American architect Alfred Mosher Butts. There are thousands of dedicated Scrabble clubs, and in serious competition things can get fierce. Knowing the two-letter words helps because it lets you lay two words parallel by connecting them with shorter words – letting you score all those connecting letters twice. But as Liz points out (and which we elaborate on in a longer discussion which might end up in a future Ook Club episode), this makes you a “Scrabble dickhead”, since it also makes it quite hard for your opponent to find space for longer words.
We previous talked about the dinosaur-killing comet of the KT extinction event in our The Science of Discworld episode, #Pratchat35, “Great Balls of Physics“.
Raising Steam, the fortieth and second-last Discworld novel, does indeed introduce steam trains to Ankh-Morpork and the region of the Circle Sea, completing the Disc’s journey into steampunk. We’ll probably be discussing it in another year or two.
The most obvious inclusion of the “treacle mine” joke in the Discworld is the name of the street on which the old Watch-house sits: Treacle Mine Road! The building even used to house an entrance to the mine, which accessed deep deposits of treacle below the city. The Fifth Elephant mentions deposits of treacle as well, formed from ancient compressed sugarcane.
We discussed the previous Watch book, Jingo, in #Pratchat27, “Leshp Miserablés“, a little over a year ago.
For more about the Clacks, see our Going Postal episode, #Pratchat38, “Moisten to Steal“.
Police boxes were basically small blue sheds of various sizes used by police officers throughout the UK in the 1950s and 60s. Some housed a telephone which the public could use to summon aid, but they also served as a dry place for officers on duty to wait out the rain, contains various useful equipment, and some could even be used to temporarily hold an arrested suspect. They are no longer in use, but their memory is kept alive by Doctor Who, whose title character’s miraculous vehicle is disguised as one. (Ben somehow resisted the urge to mention this when Liz brought it up, which maybe means he gets to take a drink?)
WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal and iMessage are instant messaging apps which offer end-to-end encryption – meaning that no-one, not even the company who makes the app, can see what you’re writing. There’s some variation in their levels of security, but even on WhatsApp – owned by Facebook since 2014 – you can be sure Facebook isn’t collecting keywords in order to advertise to you. (At least, not as of when this was written in February 2021…)
On the subject of dwarfs vs dwarves in Tolkien and Pratchett, it seems Pratchett might have been correcting an error – though Tolkien used “dwarves”, he admitted it should have been “dwarfs”. In his defence he noted that the really old archaic plural of dwarf was “dwarrow”, and used the same word in an in-universe explanation for the use of “dwarves”. You can go down the rabbit hole (dwarf mine?) on this one via this great question and answer on the Sci-Fi StackExchange.
Llamedos is the Disc’s equivalent of Wales, located immediately turn wise of the Sto Plains, the area surrounding Ankh-Morpork. While none of the stories are set there, it is the home of Imp “Buddy” Y Celyn, musical protagonist of Soul Music. We talked about that book in #Pratchat19, “It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got Rocks In“.
There are a lot of different types of fat; here are a few we mention or which appear in the book:
Rendered fat is any meat fat turned to liquid by being cooked slowly over a low heat. (Faster, hotter cooking makes it crispy instead.) It’s also known as dripping, since it drips off the meat.
Lard is rendered pork fat; it is usually clarified, a process in which the liquid fat is strained, then boiled and allowed to cool (via numerous different methods), resulting in greater consistency and fewer impurities (BCBs?). The equivalent made from the meat of cattle or sheep is called tallow.
Ghee is a form of clarified butter which has been made in India for centuries. It is sometimes flavoured with spices.
Suet is the raw, hard fat from around the loins and kidneys of cattle and sheep.
As promised, here is Liz’s vegan recipe that tastes like bacon – which, it turns out, is a recipe for vegan bacon, aka facon!
Slice the tofu quite thinly then dab as much moisture away as possible with paper towels
Marinate slices in soy sauce
Sprinkle smoked paprika on both sides, rub into the soy sauce
Fry until a little crips
There it is – facon!
The Scone vs Scone debate has been going on for decades, alongside the newer debate over whether you should put the jam or cream on first. We won’t wade into the second one, but as mentioned in the footnote, the split in pronunciation is geographical. You can see a great map of where people say what in the UK, created by Reddit user bezzleford based on data from Cambridge university. As noted in the accompanying description, Australians predominantly rhyme scone with “gone”, while it seems Americans prefer it to rhyme with “cone”.
The clan Mackenzie (in Gaelic MacCoinneach, “son of the fair bright one”), dates back to at least the 15th century and possible the 12th. Their ancestral lands are in Kintail and Ross-shire in the Highlands of Scotland. The current clan seat is Castle Lead, but the castle Richard describes is their oldest one, Eilean Donan Castle, which was ruined but later rebuilt during the twentieth century. It is indeed on an island, Eilean Donan, which is on the western Highland coast, at the meeting of the three sea lochs Loch Duich, Loch Long and Loch Alsh.
In addition to the potted history given by Ben in the footnote, the Stone of Scone has many similarities with the Scone of Stone, not least that it is rumoured to have been destroyed and replaced more than once. But always the current Stone is considered the true one – “the thing and the whole of the thing”, one might say.
Greek migration to Australia started in the 19th century, but the biggest wave of migration occurred in the aftermath of World War II, from the 1940s until the early 1970s. This was initially part of Australia’s encouragement of mass immigration under the banner “populate or perish”, which made it easy for citizens of specific (and mainly European) nations to come to Australia. This was under the “White Australia policy”, a series of immigration initiatives specifically designed to stop people of colour from settling in Australia, beginning shortly after federation in 1901. The last of these policies was only removed in 1973.
The population of Ankh-Morpork has several times – including in Small Gods, Mort and Guards! Guards!, to list those books in chronological order – been given as around one million, though it’s usually framed as a joke involving souls:
“Ankh-Morpork! Brawling city of a hundred thousand souls! And, as the Patrician privately observed, ten times that number of actual people.”
In the 2017 TV series Star Trek: Discovery, the USS Discovery‘s crew complement has varied considerably. It’s original standard crew numbered 136, but during the “red burst” crisis of 2257 it accommodated more than 200 personnel, many from the USS Enterprise. In 2258, it underwent a risky mission and only 88 of the original crew remained aboard; they only seem to have added two more to the crew since then, but its possible we just haven’t met any further additions.
Jurassic Park’s gamekeeper is Robert Muldoon, portrayed by the late English actor Bob Peck. He is one of the few characters employed by John Hammond who never underestimates the dinosaurs, but even he is outsmarted by the velociraptors.
Surprisingly, trope-listing sites All the Tropes and TV Tropes don’t have an entry for someone being continually interrupted when trying to convey important news. Sybil’s attempts in this book to tell Vimes of her pregnancy are listed under the trope “Hint Dropping”.
Trolls in the WarCraft videogames created by Blizzard Entertainment are an ancient species of tall, lanky humanoids with long ears and large tusks. They have adapted to many environments, and have a tribal culture. They are depicted as speaking with various Caribbean or African accents. They are notable for possessing regenerative abilities, healing quickly from all but the most serious wounds – something they have inherited from the trolls of Dungeons & Dragons, in turn inspired by the 1950s fantasy novel Three Hearts and Three Lions, which also provided D&D with its version of Paladins and the concept of alignment. Pratchett’s trolls owe more to Tolkien’s, who turned to stone in sunlight, but they weren’t creatures of living stone. None of these fictional trolls are particularly close to the ones of Scandinavian folklore, where the word and concept originate – though to be fair, like a lot of ancient monster stories, they aren’t big on detailed or consistent descriptions.
Caligula was the nickname of third Roman Emperor Gaius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, who ruled from 37 CE until he was assassinated in 41 CE. Sources from the time – while not entirely trustworthy – say he turned cruel, sadistic and erratic after his first six months in the job. The most famous stories are of his sexual perversions and his attempt to appoint his horse as a Consul. We’re not sure what he’d do with an orange…
“Sonky” seems to have become a genericised trademark – a brand so successful it has become a common synonym the product it represents. Real world examples include biro (for ball-point pens), Aspirin (an early trademark for the painkiller acetylsalicylic acid) and in the US, jello (for jelly, from the brand Jell-O).
Condoms have been around since the mid 16th century, but were first made from rubber in 1855. These days most are made of latex, but “lambskin” condoms are still available, made from sheep intestines; they are primarily used in cases of latex allergy.
“Black cat freak-out” is Richard’s term for that moment in a film when the character is spooked by something seemingly horrible…but it turns out to be something innocuous, often a black cat. Weirdly this doesn’t appear on the tropes sites, but we did find this supercut on YouTube of moments in film where it happens…
The CSI franchise began in 2000 with CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, featuring a CSI team led by Carl Grissom in Las Vegas. Its theme song was indeed “Who Are You?” by The Who, and it ran for 15 seasons and a two-part telemovie finale, finishing up in 2015. It launched the sping-offs CSI: Miami in 2003 (which used The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” as its theme) and CSI: Cyber in 2014 (which used “I Can See For Miles”), spun off via “backdoor pilots” – an episode of an existing program doubling as a proof of concept for a new show. CSI: Miami introduced another spin-off, CSI: NY in 2004 (with the Who song “Baba O’Reilly”). CSI: Miami‘s lead investigator was Lieutenant Horatio Caine (played by David Caruso); he famously removes his sunglasses when making a dramatic statement about a murder. Also of note: the early working concept for what became The Watch TV series was, indeed, CSI: Ankh-Morpork, a show which would feature new stories about the established characters of the books.
The red briefcases Ben is thinking of are the distinctive despatch boxes – aka “red boxes” – used by government ministers in the UK to carry official documents – and not just briefing notes. “Despatch box” itself refers to a number of different types of box used for governmental purposes. The red boxes are required for transport of anything with a security level above “Confidential”, and are still in use, though travel versions are not necessarily red.
The modern briefcase evolved from satchels, carpet bags and gladstone bags, first appearing around 1850. The name dates back to around 1925, and is just a compound of case and brief, in the sense of the kind of document often carried inside. The attaché case – what we’d now recognise as the dominant briefcase design – is indeed called that because it was traditionally carried by attachés.
Ben’s quip about “The Real Werewolves of Überwald” references The Real Housewives franchise, which began with The Real Housewives of Orange County in 2006. It and its various American and international sequels were conceived as reality television versions of the drama Desperate Housewives, and follow the relationships and tensions between wealthy socialite women.
The Osbournes was a reality show documenting the lives of Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne and his family – his wife and manager Sharon, and their children Kelly and Jack. It ran for four seasons on MTV from 2002 until 2005.
The Jackal (1997, dir Michael Caton-Jones) stars Bruce Willis as an international hitman hired to kill a powerful American target. It’s a remake of the 1973 French film Day of the Jackal, itself an adaptation of the 1971 novel by Frederick Forsyth. In the French film, set in 1963, the target is the French President. As well as Jack Black as the typically ill-fated weapon maker, the 1997 version also stars Richard Gere and Sidney Poitier, but it was not well-received.
The term “latte-sipping liberal” is, surprisingly to us, an American import! It rose to prominence after a 1997 article by US conservative writer David Brooks about “latte towns” where “liberalism is a dominant lifestyle”. It’s part of a longer campaign that seeks to paint left wing politics as elitist and out of touch. Comparable phrases are “champagne socialist” in the UK, and gauche caviar in France. This strategy was named the “latte libel” by Thomas Frank in his 2004 book, What’s The Matter with America?
“That scene” in Beauty and the Beast is the one in which Belle, berated by the Beast for going into a forbidden area of his castle, runs outside and is attacked by wolves; he saves her but is injured in the process.
While we mention the term “alpha wolf“, its important to note that the theory that wolf packs have “alphas” – a specific leader – is at best controversial, and more likely a load of nonsense. It was popularised by David Mech in his 1970 book The Wolf, but he later learned that the sources he relied on were based on observation of unrelated grey wolves in captivity, and no reliable. In the wild wolf packs are generally family groups with the parents more or less in charge.
We previously discussed the Mary Celeste in #Pratchat34, “Only You Can Save Deadkind“. In brief: the American merchant brigantine Mary Celeste was discovered adrift in the Atlantic Ocean in 1872. The crew were all missing and never found, but the ship was oddly untouched –
The Hulk holds up an entire mountain range – not just a single mountain! – to save the Avengers in Marvel Secret Wars issue #4 from 1984. As well as appearing within the issue, it’s also on the cover – accompanied by the caption “Beneath 150 billion tons, stands The Hulk — and he’s not happy!”
Several Twitter users compared the storming of the Capitol on January 6, 2021 with Nicholas Cage’s antics in the 2004 adventure film National Treasure (dir. Jon Turteltaub). In the film, Cage plays an historian and amateur cryptologist named Benjamin Franklin Gates who believes a huge cache of invaluable artefacts and treasure was hidden by the Freemasons during the Civil War and never claimed. Most of the clues that lead to the stockpile are hidden in code on the Declaration of Independence, the document signed by representatives from various American colonies in 1776 which formed the United States of America and declared it independent of Great Britain. Cage’s character opposes stealing it, but the authorities don’t believe him when he tells them his partner Ian (Sean Bean) intends to do so, prompting him to steal it himself from the National Archives Museum in Washington, D.C. There’s a 2007 sequel, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, in which Cage’s character defends accusations of his ancestor being part of a conspiracy to kill Abraham Lincoln by kidnapping the current President (no really), and after many years of speculation and “development hell”, a third film is said to be currently in the works. Here’s the iconic tweet, from US sportswriter Adam Herman:
“Chad” is Internet slang for a typical “alpha male”. While its become more generally used, often in a mocking way, the term has awful, eugenicist origins in the misogynist incel movement. We previously discussed incels in #Pratchat7A, “The Curious Incident of the Dragon and the Night Watch“.
The Hunt was released in March 2020, just before cinemas closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s politics seem somewhat confused; the hunter characters are “elitists” and describe their prey as “deplorables”, which seemingly casts them as caricatures of “latte-sipping liberals” rather than Republicans. Their motives are revealed as non-political, however, and critics seem to agree the film fails as any kind of satire.
We had Amie Kaufman as a guest for #Pratchat9, “Upscalator to Heaven“, discussing the first book of the Bromeliad, Truckers.
In chapter 13 of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, protagonist Katniss hides from the “Career” contestants thanks to her superior tree climbing abilities, meeting and befriending the youngest contestant, Rue, who is hiding in the same tree.
In the original 1969 British heist film The Italian Job, Michael Caine’s Charlie Croker organises a sophisticated plan to steal gold in Italy. While preparing his team, one of them tests explosives on an armoured car and blows the whole vehicle to bits; Croker responds with the iconic line “You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!” It became one of Michael Caine’s best-known lines (at least in the UK; the film was not initially a big success in the US), and he later titled his 2018 memoir Blowing the Bloody Doors Off: And Other Lessons in Life.
An “Agatha Christie moment” as Liz means it is the moment in a mystery where the surprising solution is revealed. An “Aldi version” is a cheap knock-off of a better known brand, as sold by the German discount supermarket chain Aldi. We previously discussed them in #Pratchat37, “The Shopping Trolley Problem“.
Ben entirely misunderstood Liz’s dogfighting joke, for which he apologises. Its origins in describing air fighter combat come from its previous use to describe any kind of deadly close combat, originally between people. The modern official military term is “air combat maneuvering”, or ACM.
Liz and Ben make reference to the Sherlock Holmes story The Final Problem, in which Holmes tracks down criminal mastermind Moriarty. The pair fight at Richenbach Falls and seemingly perish when they both fall over the edge.
Cyberpunk 2077 is a 2020 videogame from CD Projekt Red starring Keanu Reeves, and based on Mike Pondsmith’s 1988 tabletop roleplaying game, Cyberpunk. It features all the tropes we now identify with the genre, including cybernetic body modification.
The Ship of Theseus is an ancient philosophical thought experiment derived from the legend of Theseus, the Athenian who defeated the Minotaur. He returned home in a ship but forgot to change the sails as a signal to his father that he had succeeded, resulting in calamity. The ship was supposedly preserved for many generations, with its old planks replaced over time such that philosophers were divided over whether it was truly the same ship Theseus had sailed or not. Similar quandaries include the “grandfather’s axe” (as explained by the Low King), and Pratchett talks about the ship of Theseus in the Bromeliad and The Carpet People.
The trope in which someone hates others like themselves is identified by All the Tropes as the “Boomerang bigot“. They also list several other Discworld examples. In the real world, this idea is often used – potentially quite harmfully – to accuse conservatives who label homosexuality as evil as closeted themselves.
The unstoppable horror film villains Jason and Freddy are undead machete-wielding, hockey mask-wearing slasher Jason Vorhees, of the Friday the 13th franchise (1980-2009), and demoniac dream murderer Freddy Kreuger, of the Nightmare on Elm Street films (1984-2010). The pair faced off in the crossover film Freddy vs Jason in 2003.
Young Igor’s pet “Eerie” is a reference to the Vacanti mouse, which became headline news in the mid 1990s after photographs of it went viral via email. The hairless laboratory mouse seemingly had a human ear growing from its back, and led to protests against the misuse of genetic engineering, but in actual fact the ear was formed from cartilage cells in a biodegradable mould, placed under the mouse’s skin and supported by an external splint which was removed for the famous photo. It was not an actual human ear, and no genetic engineering was involved.
The Hurt Locker (2009, dir Kathryn Bigelow) is a war movie about an American bomb disposal squad during the Iraq War. It was written by journalise Mark Boal, based on his experience being embedded with soldiers during the war.
In the sci-fi TV series Firefly, the future human society who have colonised another solar system speak English and/or Mandarin. The main characters mostly speak English peppered with Mandarin curse words and other short phrases.
Lisa Simpson gets lost in Springfield’s “Russian district” in the 24th episode of The Simpson’s ninth season, “Lost Our Lisa”.
Twilight, the first in the series of vampire novels by Stephenie Meyer, was not published until 2005, six years after The Fifth Elephant. For more on those books, see the notes for #Pratchat36, “Home Alone, But Vampires“.
The inspiration for “heart in a box” is song “Dick in a Box“, the first single from comedy trio The Lonely Island (Akiva Schaffer, Andy Samberg and Jorma Taccone). It features Samberg and Justin Timberlake crooning the instructions they used to make a Christmas present for their girlfriends by…well. It does what it says on the tin. It’s on YouTube here.
These are the show notes and errata for episode 39, “All the Fun of the…Fish?“, featuring guest Marc Burrows, discussing the third Discworld short story, 1998’s The Sea and Little Fishes.
The episode title was inspired by the fete or fair-like atmosphere of the Witch Trial, and by UK singer David Essex’s album, song and jukebox musical “All the Fun of the Fair”.
The Sea and Little Fishes was first published in a promotional “sampler” alongside the The Wood Boy by Raymond E. Feist. Both then appeared in the novella collection Legends, along with other new work by the likes of Stephen King, Ursula Le Guin, George R. R. Martin and Anne McCaffery. At just over 13,500 words, it’s maybe a little short for a novella, but very long for a short story.
The two-part television adaptation Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather was made by British production company The Mob, and first broadcast on Sky1 in the UK on the 17th and 18th of December, 2006. We talked about it and the other Pratchett adaptations to date briefly in #Pratchat30, “Looking Widdershins“. We discussed the novel Hogfather back in #Pratchat26, “The Long Dark Mr Teatime of the Soul“.
On the subject of swears appearing early on in the books, Rincewind tells Bravd the Hublander to “bugger off” in The Colour of Magic. “Shit” appears four times in Guards! Guards!, but we couldn’t find any swears in the first ten pages or so; Marc might have been thinking about another book.
Douglas Adams (1952-2001) was an English radio and television writer and novelist, best known for The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, which…well you know. We’ll probably talk about it in more detail another time.
Robert Rankin is another British author of comic fantasy whose books are loosely connected by the (fictional) English village of Brentford, where many of them take place. These kicked off with his first novel, 1981’s The Antipope, part of “The Brentford Trilogy”; he is currently working on the final book of “The Final Brentford Trilogy”, which began with The Lord of the Ring Roads in 2017.
A quick bit of errata: Enid Blyton was born in East Dulwich, but by 1938 had moved to Beaconsfield, where Pratchett was born, and lived and worked there for the rest of her life. Terry was born in 1948 – twenty years before Blyton’s death in 1968, at the age of 71! They could have met, but it seems like the sort of thing Marc would have discovered when writing his book. The pair had a few other things in common: Blyton was also a workaholic, writing more than 700 books during her career, and also suffered from Alzheimer’s disease towards the end of her life.
G K Chesterton (1874-1936) was an English writer best known for his Father Brown series of mystery stories. He was born in Kensington in London, but moved to Beaconsfield in 1909, by which time he was a successful author.
Kirsty MacColl (1959-2000) was a British singer/songwriter who is best known to many for her performance on “Fairytale of New York”, a very non-traditional Christmas song performed by The Pogues, produced by her husband of the time, Steve Lilywhite – a probable source for the criminal brothers’ surname in Hogfather? One of her many hits was 1981’s “There’s a Guy Works Down the Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis”, the lead single from her debut album Desperate Character. You can see her performing it on YouTube.
Pratchett’s first published story was The Hades Business, in which the Devil engages a shady marketing executive named Crucible to advertise Hell. It’s reprinted – with an author’s note full of embarrassment – in A Blink of the Screen, but first appeared in Science Fantasy volume 20, #60 in August 1963 (a few months before the debut of Doctor Who). You can find it online at the Internet Archive, where you can also find the never-republished Night Dwellerin New Worlds volume 49, #156 from November 1965.
“Theatre of Cruelty” was the second Discworld short story, written in 1992 for a publisher’s magazine and later collected in The Wizards of Odd in 1996. It features Captain Vimes and Corporal Carrot of the Watch investigating the murder of a children’s entertainer.
“The Sea and Little Fishes” is presumably set before Carpe Jugulum, and as discussed about 1,000 words were cut and later repurposed as a scene in that novel. Granny’s worries about her growing power and propensity for darkness in Carpe Jugulum fit in well as a consequence of this story. Tiffany attends her first Witch Trial in her second novel, A Hat Full of Sky, which features the return of several characters from this story including Letice Earwig and the dwarf Zakzak Stronginthearm. We later discussed A Hat Full of Sky in #Pratchat43, “Big Wee Hag: Far Fra’ Home“.
Ben’s comment “I’m too old for this shit” is referencing the line made famous by Danny Glover as aging police detective Roger Murtaugh in the Lethal Weapon films, beginning with 1987’s Lethal Weapon. Glover has used the line in several other roles and cameo appearances as well.
We previously discussed whether Nanny Ogg was the more powerful witch in our Wyrd Sisters episode: #Pratchat6, “Enter Three Wytches” with Elly Squire.
Marc is referring to the original 1971 edition of The Carpet People, Pratchett’s first published novel, which he sold at the age of 23, though it came from much earlier writings. We covered The Dark Side of the Sun back in #Pratchat18, “Sundog Gazillionaire“. And don’t worry – we’ll get to his other pre-Discworld sci-fi novel, Strata.
The Country Women’s Association formed as separate chapters in Australian states in 1922, with a national body (the CWAA) formed in 1945. They’re still incredibly important in rural Australia.
The witches go to the opera in Maskerade (#Pratchat23), and the theatre came to them in Wyrd Sisters (#Pratchat4).
Willow’s disappointing meeting with her college’s disappointingly mundane Wiccan group, the “Daughters of Gaea”, occurs in the season four Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode “Hush”. We previously talked about this way back in #Pratchat4, “Enter Three Wytches“.
The word “grok” comes from Robert Heinlein’s 1961 novel Stranger in a Strange Land. Human Valentine Michael Smith is born on Mars and raised by Martians, learning their ways, which he later tries to teach on Earth. The Martian word “grok” (invented by Heinlein) is very important in his teachings; it literally means “to drink”, but metaphorically means a deep and empathic or intuitive understanding. The term was popularised on the non-fictional planet Earth by nerds and hippies, who embraced the novel and many of its messages.
The weasel-word phrase “You might very well think that; I couldn’t possibly comment” was made famous by the character of politician Francis Urquart, protagonist of the novel and television series House of Cards. In the original English series, he is played by Ian Richardson; when he later voiced Death in The Mob’s television adaptation of Hogfather (see above), they gave him a very similar line as an in-joke.
Kermit the Frog is the most famous of Jim Henson’s puppet characters, the Muppets. Performed by Henson himself until his death, he made his debut in 1955 as a lizard-like character on Henson’s first television show, Sam and Friends, though he wasn’t specifically referred to as a frog until the 1960s. He is best remembered as a reporter on Sesame Street, the host of The Muppet Show and the central character of the subsequent Muppet films, the first of which – 1979’s The Muppet Movie – tells the story of his rise to fame. The film memorably opens with him singing “The Rainbow Connection”, accompanying himself on a banjo.
The frog from the famous Merry Melodies cartoon was later named “Michigan J Frog“, though it is not given a name in the original cartoon, 1955’s One Froggy Evening. He was later revived as the mascot of Warner Brothers cable network in the 1990s.
Margaret Hamilton (1902-1985) played the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz. She suffered burns to her face and hand in the scene where she vanishes in a ball of flame, which was achieved with real flame while she dropped through a trapdoor. She took six weeks to recuperate, but is reported to have said: “I won’t sue, because I know how this business works, and I would never work again. I will return to work on one condition – no more fire work!”
Marc is referring to the scene near the end of Ghostbusters (1984, dir. Ivan Reitman), when the heroes are confronted by Gozer, herald of a supernatural “Traveller” who will take on a form chosen by one of its victims. The Ghostbusters try not to think of anything, but Ray Stantz (Dan Ackroyd) can’t manage that. Instead he tries to think of the least dangerous thing possible – and unwittingly summons a giant killer version of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, a confectionary mascot.
Room 101 appears in George Orwell’s novel 1984 as the feared location where a prisoner of the state is taken to receive the ultimate, personalised torture. As government agent O’Brien explains to Winston Smith: “The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world.” It inspired a BBC radio and television show of the same name, in which celebrity guests are asked to discuss their pet hates, trying to persuade the host to put them in Room 101 where they will never been seen again. (Which isn’t really the spirit of the original, but the show is often funny.)
Fuck has long been considered the most versatile swearword. George Carlin has a famous routine about its many uses, which was widely copied and remixed and sent around via fax and email in the 1980s and 1990s. Fuck is also the subject of the first episode of the Netflix series History of Swear Words, hosted by Nicholas Cage.
To untangle the superhero confusion: Ben referred to Liz as Ms. Marvel; while this is an older name used by Captain Marvel (aka Carol Danvers, played by Brie Larsen in the recent films), Ben meant the current Marvel superhero of that name, Kamala Khan, who has shapeshifting abilities, which she uses in her early stories to make her fists bigger while fighting bad guys. Liz mentions being married to “Yon-Rogg“, an alien Kree warrior who mentors Captain Marvel in the Captain Marvel film; he’s played by the always dishy Jude Law. They’re not married, but we can all dream. (Thanks to listener Claude, who helped Ben realise this is who Liz was talking about – he thought she said “Ioan Gruffudd“, the also handsome Welsh actor, whose only superhero role was as Reed Richards, aka Mr Fantastic, in the 2005 film Fantastic Four. He also has stretching powers that would also allow him to make his hands bigger. The character’s wife is Susan Storm, aka the Invisible Woman, who is played in the film by Jessica Alba.)
Marc’s band, The Men That Will Not Be Blamed for Nothing, was founded by Andy Heintz and British anarchist and occult comedian Andrew O’Neill, with whom Marc has also toured as a stand up.
The Manic Street Preachers, subject of the anthology book Marc is editing, are a Welsh punk and alternative rock band formed in 1986. They’ve been as famous for their “controversial” behaviour as their music, especially in the case of former member Richey Edwards, who disappeared in 1995. The band’s single “If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next” and the album This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours reached number one in the UK charts in 1998.
English musician Marc Bolan (1947-1977) was lead singer of the glam rock band T. Rex, and is credited by many for starting the glam rock movement when he appeared on Top of the Pops in 1971 dressed in glitter and satin. He died in a car crash in London just before his 30th birthday. (We’re gonna guess you know who David Bowie is.)
These are the show notes and errata for episode 38, “Moisten to Steal“, featuring guests Nicholas J Johnson and Lawrence Leung, discussing the 33rd Discworld novel, and the first to feature Moist von Lipwig, 2004’s Going Postal.
The episode title plays on the phrase used to refer to envelopes you have to lick in order to seal them – “moisten to seal”.
Ben is actually thinking of the music video (or “film clip” as he calls it) for Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”, the third single from Jackson’s 1982 album Thriller. The dance fight in question takes place during the guitar solo, and you can see it on YouTube here. (You can also see a parody of it in the music video for Weird Al Yankovic’s “Eat It”.)
Though the first editions of The Colour of Magic were published by Colin Smythe in 1983, it likely wasn’t available in Australia until the release of the Corgi paperback edition in 1985. This isn’t easy to verify though, so if you have any information on this, let us know!
We’ve previously discussed all three books in the Book of the Nomes trilogy, aka “The Bromeliad”: Truckers, Diggers and Wings.
We discussed Mort all the way back in our second episode, #Pratchat2, “Murdering a Curry“.
The Terminator is the titular protagonist of James Cameron’s 1984 science fiction film The Terminator. Arnold Schwarzenegger starred as the Terminator, a cyborg sent back in time by the artificial intelligence Skynet to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton). By doing so it hopes to alter the future in which her unborn son leads a resistance movement against Skynet’s machine army. The film was a success, and its direct sequel Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) even more so, resulting in a franchise of comics, novels, videogames, a TV series (The Sarah Connor Chronicles starring Lena Heady) and three further feature films. Cameron himself was only directly involved with the most recent film sequel, 2019’s Terminator: Dark Fate, which while getting the best critical response of the later films made the least money. Schwarzenegger appears in nearly all of the films as a version of the Terminator, creating an iconic character with his accent and deadpan delivery.
David Lynch’s 1984 film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s novel Dune is famous for many things, including British singer Sting’s supporting role as Feyd-Rautha, sadistic nephew of the evil Baron Harkonnen. He is introduced stepping out from jets of steam wearing only a pair of winged metal underpants, as captured in this gif:
Several news outlets, including The Guardian, reported in September 2020 that Australia Post management asked its office workers to volunteer to deliver mail – in their own cars – to help clear a backlog of deliveries.
The Clacks first appear in 1999’s The Fifth Elephant (discussed in #Pratchat40), forming an important part of the plot. By the time of that book, semaphore towers have proliferated across Ankh-Morpork. The Watch seem to have their own system, but the Clacks stretches as far as Uberwald and has caught on quickly since its invention. The Grand Trunk company does not yet have a monopoly on the system, though a trunk to Genua is being planned. It may also be the Dearheart system was just so superior that it outperformed all rivals, though it is more likely from the description of Gilt and co’s business tactics that they bought up the competitors after they took over the company.
On Roundworld (i.e. our world), the earliest kind of semaphore tower first appeared around the 4th century BCE in Greece. Rather than a symbolic system of flags or lights, they used vessels of water which were emptied for an amount of time indicated by the sender through torch signals. The water would run out until it reached the level marked with the message the sender wanted to transmit. The more modern kind of tower, which resembles the Clacks, was the optical telegraph, inspired by military semaphore of the time – see the note below.
Le Comte de Monte-Cristo (in English, The Count of Monte Cristo) is a French serialised adventure novel written by Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870) and first published between 1844 and 1846. The hero, honest sailor Edmond Dantès who is on his way home to marry his fiancée, is framed as a traitor in 1815 and sentenced to imprisonment in an island fortress. There he is mentored by a fellow prisoner, who helps him identify the three men who betrayed him. Dantès escapes, and secures the hidden treasure belonging to his mentor, but ignores his advice and uses it to seek revenge, disguised as “the Count of Monte Cristo”. One of his revenge plots includes Dantès bribing the poorly paid operator of an optical telegraph tower to send a false message, which is picked up by an official and passed indirectly to the Count’s victim.
There have been multiple versions of the optical telegraph. The best-known is the French system created by engineer Claude Chappe for the Revolutionary government in 1793, which is the one appearing in Dumas’ novel. Inspired by naval semaphore flags, Chappe created a system of pulleys that moved one large beam with a smaller rotating beam on each end; these could be quickly moved into many different shapes. He also devised the code used by the telegraph, and a set of rules for its operation, so he would likely have got along well with the crackers of the Smoking Gnu! The Clacks grid of shutters is probably mostly based on the system invented by Lord George Murray for the British admiralty in 1795, though this was superseded in 1816 by the simpler and easier to see system invented by Sir Home Popham.
Channel 4 sitcom The IT Crowd is set in the IT department of Reynholm Industries, where nerds Moss (Richard Ayoade) and Roy (Chris O’Dowd) end up with a new manager, Jen (Katherine Parkinson), who knows nothing about computers. It ran for four series from 2006 to 2010, plus a double-length finale in 2013. In the episode “The Speech” from series 3, Jen makes Roy and Moss write her an acceptance speech for an award; they decide to embarrass her by convincing her that a small black box with a blinking light is “the Internet”.
ADSL is a type of Digital Subscriber Line, a technology allowing fast transfer of digital information over old copper telephone lines by using frequencies not used by standard voice communication. The A stands for Asymmetric – ADSL provides a much faster speed for downloads than for uploads. Because there may be a great deal of noise on the line, depending on the gauge and quality of the copper network, ADSL is not suited to long-distance use so it is only deployed for up to a few kilometres from an exchange – and you are likely to get less noise over shorter distances, so if you’re closer to the exchange your signal will be clearer and consequently your speeds will be faster.
1973’s The Sting, directed by George Roy Hill and starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford. It won a slew of Oscars in 1973 and was so influential that according to Nick, there are two kinds of con artist films: those made before The Sting, and those made after! We don’t want to give anything away here, but if you want to know more, check out episode 21 of Nick’s old podcast Scamapalooza, in which he discusses the film with American author Matthew Specktor.
We’ve talked before about The Shawshank Redemption, Frank Darabont’s 1994 adaptation of the Steven King short story starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. It’s one of Liz’s favourite films; you can find some of the biggest mentions in #Pratchat14 and #Pratchat28.
Lawrence Leung’s Sucker began life as an award-winning solo comedy show in 2001, but was adapted into a feature film in 2015, starring John Luc as young Lawrence, Timothy Spall as a conman known as “the Professor”, and Lily Sullivan as his daughter, Sarah. It’s narrated by Lawrence as “The Real Lawrence Leung”.
Christopher Nolan’s 2005 film Batman Begins presents a bit of a departure from the standard origin story of Bruce Wayne; his parents’ murderer Joe Chill is caught and goes to prison, but is paroled when he testifies against mob boss Carmine Falcone. Now a young adult, Bruce plans to murder him but is beaten to it by a hitman working for the mob. It’s a conversation with Falcone himself that convinces Bruce to become a symbol of fear to criminals, but even after his return to Gotham he faces significant setbacks on the road to becoming Batman.
In the 2008 Bond film Quantum of Solace – referred to rather rudely by certain people on this podcast as “the shit one” – Bond is driving an investigation into a secret criminal organisation known as Quantum. They successfully frame him for murder and he is cut off from MI6, forced to go it alone.
Frank Abagnale Jr was a notorious conman of the 1960s who spent six years between the ages of 15 and 21 scamming banks, stealing money through elaborate schemes, and pretending to be a doctor, a lawyer and even an airline pilot. After he left prison he helped the FBI catch other conmen and eventually became a security consultant to banks and other organisations, helping them avoid being scammed. His 1980 autobiography Catch Me If You Can was adapted into a 2002 Hollywood film directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Frank and Tom Hanks as an FBI agent trying to catch him. It was also adapted into a Broadway musical in 2011.
Ferdinand Waldo “Fred” Demara (1921-1982) was another impostor who not only pretended to be a doctor but also a school teacher, a psychology professor and a Christian Brother. He was caught several times but continued to assume new roles until he began to make money from his fame; television appearances on game shows made it more difficult for him to pretend to be someone else. In his later years he apparently tried to go straight, but was dogged by his past actions. He still managed to be friends with many high profile people, including the actor Steve McQueen. His life story was adapted into the 1961 film The Great Impostor, starring Tony Curtis.
We’ve previously talked about Giacomo Casanova (1725-1798) and his Discworld dwarfish counterpart Casanunda in our episodes about Witches Abroad, Lords and Ladies and Carpe Jugulum. The real Casanova left an indelible mark on Western culture by publishing a no holds barred autobiography, Histoire de ma vie (Story of My Life), which as well as giving us an accurate idea of 18th century European society made his name synonymous with “womaniser”.
The “Jedi mind trick” first appears in the original Star Wars (1977). Obi-Wan Kenobi uses the Force to convince some Stormtroopers that C-3PO and R2-D2 “aren’t the droids you’re looking for”, and explains to an impressed Luke Skywalker that “the Force can have a strong influence on the weak-minded.” Luke, Qui-Gon Jinn and Rey all use similar mind tricks in later films, but they don’t always work. It was first referred to as a “mind trick” by Jabba the Hutt in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.
These show notes were delayed by Ben moving house in December, but he’s catching up!
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