These are the episode notes and errata for Pratchat episode 72, “The Masked Dancer”, discussing Terry Pratchett’s 1989 short story “Turntables of the Night” with guest Andrew McClelland.
Notes and Errata
- The quest for this month’s episode title was a long one, but we settled on this riff on The Masked Singer, a popular reality gameshow based on a format originating in Korea. In the show, celebrities perform songs in elaborate costumes that hide their identities and a judging panel and the audience try to guess who they are while also voting for their favourites, with the singer with the fewest votes being unmasked and eliminated each round. Appropriately enough, the Australian show’s most recent season which finished the day before this episode was published featured a singer dressed as the Grim Reaper, who turned out to be Darren Hayes of Savage Garden fame!
- The Vengaboys are a Dutch Eurodance group who were huge in the late 1990s, best known for the songs “We Like to Party” and “Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom!!”, the former of which includes the line “The Vengabus is coming”. Ben’s memory is sketchy but he thinks Liz is referring to a comedy bit Andy used to do about the nature of the Vengabus, painting it as something more ominous. (We’ll check up on this and update this note!)
- Gilbert and Sullivan are dramatist W. S. Gilbert (1836–1911) and composer Arthur Sullivan (1842–1900), who wrote a series of comic light operas in the Victorian era which have since become world famous. Andy’s love for them was expressed through his most recent comedy show with Martine Wengrow: The Very Model of a Modern Major Musical, a two-person performance of his own full-cast opera in the distinctive Gilbert and Sullivan style which he wrote during the lockdowns of 2020.
- Truckers, published in 1989 (the same year as “Turntables of the Night”), is the first book in Terry Pratchett’s trilogy about a band of tiny Nomes trying to survive in the human world. We discussed it way back in #Pratchat9, “Upscalator to Heaven”.
- Good Omens is Pratchett’s famous 1990 collaboration with Neil Gaiman about an angel and demon who share an unlikely friendship and try to avert the impending apocalypse, a task made more difficulty when they mislay the Anti-Christ. We discussed it in #Pratchat15, “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Nice and Accurate)”.
- The Long Earth is Pratchett’s collaboration with sci-fi author Stephen Baxter, a sci-fi series based on an idea he had around the time of The Colour of Magic about a string of infinite parallel Earths devoid of humans. We’ve discussed four out of the five books; for an overview of the plot of the first three, see #PratchatPreviously, “The Long Footnote”.
- Actor and comedian Peter Serafinowicz is probably best known for his film and television work in things like Look Around You, Black Books, Shaun of the Dead and The Tick. He has a distinctive deep voice (a feature of his guest role on Black Books), and was famously the speaking voice of Darth Maul in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (Maul was physically played by stunt performer Ray Park). He played the demon Crowley opposite Mark Heap’s Aziraphale in the 2014 BBC Radio adaptation of Good Omens before going on to perform the voice of Death in all forty recently released Penguin Discworld audiobooks (they didn’t do The Last Hero), which are otherwise read by a different narrator for each sub-series. (Bill Nighy also appears in every book, reading the footnotes.) Serafinowicz also voices Death in the animated feature film The Amazing Maurice.
- Harry Harrison (1925-2012) was an American science fiction author best known for his character the Stainless Steel Rat, an interplanetary con man and rogue who starred in several short stories and novels beginning with “The Stainless Steel Rat” in 1957. The final book, The Stainless Steel Rat Returns, was published in 2010.
- Harry Turtledove is an American speculative fiction author best known for his works of alternate history. Andy mentions Turtledove’s 1992 novel The Guns of the South, in which time-travellers from 2014 South Africa supply advanced arms to the Confedercy, allowing them to win the US civil war. He is also known for the similar Southern Victory series, in which the Confederacy wins thanks to one small difference in history (no time travel is involved), and the Worldwar series, in which aliens invade Earth in 1942 during World War II.
- Hidden Turnings was published in February 1989 and included works by Pratchett, Diana Wynne Jones, Roger Zelazny (best known for The Chronicles of Amber), Tanith Lee and many others. You can find all the details of the book and the stories within at its Internet Speculative Fiction Database entry.
- We’ve talked many times of British fantasy author Diana Wynne Jones (1934-2011), and especially of her Chrestomanci series about a connected series of parallel magical worlds; Howl’s Moving Castle and its sequel; and her parody of both travel guides and fantasy tropes, The Tough Guide to Fantasyland.
- The panel Ben featuring Terry Pratchett and Diana Wynne Jones was “Whose Fantasy” at the Institute of Contemporary Arts. (Ben found it after we wondered if the two were friends in #Pratchat46, “The Helen Green Preservation Society”). The talk was indeed chaired by Neil Gaiman, and also featured John Harrison and Geoff Ryman. Ben was on the money when he said it was from around the time of “Turntables of the Night” – it’s from the same year, 1988!
- The Flying Sorcerers is a 1997 (not 1996) anthology of comic fantasy stories, organised into three sections: “Hordes of the Things: Comic Fantasies”, “Deadly Nightshapes: Tales of the Supernatural” and “Vacant Space: Stories of Science Fiction”. As well as Pratchett’s story it features work from P. G. Wodehouse, Mervyn Peake, C. S. Lewis, Kurt Vonnegut Jr, Michael Moorcock, Roald Dahl, Stanislaw Lem and Angela Carter and many others. You can see the full list of stories on the Internet Speculative Fiction Database.
- Peter Haining has edited and written introductions for a long list of books, mostly compilations of previously published works. As well as The Flying Sorcerers he also published Pratchett works in Space Movies II, The Wizards of Odd and Vintage Science Fiction. He also compiled five major nonfiction books about Doctor Who in the 1980s, including the 25th anniversary book 25 Glorious Years in 1988. Haining’s full bibliography can also be found on the ISFDb.
- The Wizards of Odd was published in 1996. It was also edited by Peter Haining, featured a previously published piece by Terry Pratchett as its first story, and used a Josh Kirby illustration for that story as its cover art. In this case it was “Theatre of Cruelty”, which we just discussed in #Pratchat70, “Punching Up”. The full contents are (you guessed it) on the ISFDb.
- Hordes of the Things was a 1980 BBC radio series written by Andrew Marshall and John Lloyd (who had just written and produced The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy with Douglas Adams), under pseudonyms with three initials to emulate J R R Tolkien, and starring Simon Callow and Paul Eddington. A fairly broad parody of Lord of the Rings set in the kingdom of Albion as it faces an invasion of the “Dark One”, it was also loose political satire.
- Small caps can be simulated by modern word processing and desktop publishing software, but this is usually unsatisfactory since scaled-down capital letters have a lighter weight (i.e. because they’re shrunk the lines are thinner), whereas proper small caps should have the same weight as full size lower case letters.
- Death’s dialogue has varied a bit between editions; in some, like the Corgi paperback of The Colour of Magic and the collector’s library editions of many of the books, he speaks in all small caps – i.e. only small capital letters. In others, like the first hardcover edition of Hogfather, he speaks in mixed small caps, with regular capitalisation. It’s only in anthologies like The Flying Sorcerers where he seems to speak in all caps.
- Roger Zelazny (1937-1995) was an award-winning American science fiction writer. His Chronicles of Amber series, consisting of two sets of five novels published between 1970 and 1991, is about a group of immortals, the Princes and Princesses of Amber, who rule their one “true” world of Amber. They are able to walk between “shadows”, the infinite alternate realities given order and substance by the Pattern, a mystic labyrinth; the royals of Amber gain their shadow-walking ability by walking the Pattern. They organise into several factions and scheme amongst themselves to take the throne. A hugely popular roleplaying game of the 1990s, Amber Diceless Roleplaying, was based on these stories; player characters oppose each other, vying for power, and instead of using dice are simply ranked in order of who is best at what during an “auction” at the start of the game.
- “Kalifriki of the Thread” is a short story about Kalifriki, more or less an assassin who can travel between dimensions (called shifting into the “side-by-side lands”) and whose signature method of killing is the Thread, an unusual and seemingly multidimensional weapon or force. In the story, Kalifriki is hunting the Kife, another shifter who inhabits the bodies of others. The character returns in the short story “Come Back to the Killing Ground Alice, My Love”, first published in Amazing Stories in 1992. Both stories were collected into one volume in 2022.
- DJ Ian Bell was not only a DJ, he was also a photographer, a music historian, and a record store worker and owner. He died in May 2023. You can hear him talking about his history in this 2019 segment from ABC Radio in Adelaide, played again the week after his death.
- Since 2021 Taylor Swift has been re-recording and releasing new versions of her first six studio albums, in part because she regretted signing away ownership of the master recordings as a teenager (she was 15!) in her original contract with the label Big Machine in 2005, and subsequently became responsible for something like 80% of their revenue. After a series of disagreements, including not being able to buy the masters rights, and Big Machine selling out to her former manager, Scooter Braun, she enacted the re-recording plan under her new and much more favourable contract with Republic Records. Because she wrote her own songs, she owns the composition rights, and so controls who can record new versions of the songs – including herself. The new releases are subtitled “(Taylor’s Version)” and so far have included Fearless, Red, Speak Now and 1989, and they’ve plummeted streams and sales of the originals as her loyal fans stick to her versions.
More notes to come soon!
Thanks for reading our notes! If we missed anything, or you have questions, please let us know.