We take a last-minute step (or five) to the West, as Liz and Ben delay their chat about The Long Mars to go back to where it all began: Pratchett’s original 1986 short story “The High Meggas“.
Larry Linsay, who perfected the belt technology that allows humans to move between parallel Earths, has shunned civilisation. He’s living near the coast of what would be France in a world in the “high meggas”, the weirder Earths a million or so removed from the original. Like all the other Earths, it’s devoid of human life – or it was, until two guards from Forward Base, the nearest human settlement many worlds away, arrive in Linsay’s world. The first one he finds, Joshua Valienté, claims he’s chasing the other one: a terrorist who poisoned the other fifty personnel at Forward Base. Trouble is, that’s exactly what she says about him, too…
When we had to change plans at the last minute and delay our episode on The Long Mars, we decided to take the opportunity to produce a bonus episode about the story where it all started. “The High Meggas” was written in between the first two Discworld novels and never published until its ideas became a novel, and it’s a fascinating look at how Pratchett’s idea evolved. Some things are very similar – names like Linsay and Valienté, the concept (though not the name) of the Long Earth. Others are tweaked – the belts become boxes, movin‘ becomes stepping. And then there’s some which are flipped entirely – compare the “Sideways Doctrine” to the idea of US Aegis.
Do you prefer the more technological version of “stepping” in the original story? Does the central drama of the story work for you, or is the villain too obvious? And what do you think Pratchett’s career would have been like if The Colour of Magic hadn’t been a success, and this had been his next big project instead of The Light Fantastic? Join the conversation using the hashtag #Pratchat57West5 on social media.
As usual, you can find notes and errata for this episode on our website.
This bonus episode won’t stop us from discusses the third Long Earth novel, The Long Mars, with returning guest Joel Martin! …or at least that was the idea. #Pratchat57 was to be released the same month as this one, but unfortunately some further technical problems complicated the editing process, so we’ve delayed it until the 25th of August. For our regular August episode, #Pratchat58, we’ll be reading another short story: 1988’s “Final Reward”. Send us your questions using the appropriate hashtag on social media, or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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