Arts journalist, critic and broadcaster Richard Watts joins Liz and Ben on a trip sideways in time with reluctant wizard Mervin (with a V) in Terry Pratchett’s 1995 short story “Once and Future”, originally published in the Arthurian collection Camelot.
As he stands on the beach waiting for the right hopeful king to come along, professional time traveler Mervin recounts his story of how he became stranded in a sideways version of medieval Britain. Here the stories of Arthurian myth are more or less real – though one notable figure is missing… With his knowledge of modern technology, a stash of emergency supplies and help from sharp local girl Nimue, he has a plan to fill the gaps in this other history…
Pratchett explores a new angle on the Matter of Britain, mixing sci-fi and engineering into a story about stories and “a world that’s not exactly memory and not exactly story”. Published in between Interesting Times and Maskerade, but stewing in his head for a decade before that, it features some of Pratchett’s most developed ideas about time travel, and was something he was proud and fond of. He even thought of turning his more extensive writings for it into a novel!
Did you enjoy Pratchett’s take on the practicalities of time travel? Would you have the skills to make it as a time traveler? Does it have the beginnings of a full-length novel? And what’s the best thing you’ve ever found in a charity shop? …we’re not sure where that one fits in either, but you asked so we answered! (Thanks Ryn.) Join the conversation using the hashtag #Pratchat49 on social media.
Guest Richard Watts (he/him) is indeed a titan of the Melbourne arts community. He’s best known as a journalist for ArtsHub, where he is the National Performing Arts Editor, and as the host of SmartArts, 3RRR’s long-running weekly arts programme. As well as being named a living legend of the Melbourne Fringe Festival in 2019, Richard’s contributions to the arts were further recognised in 2021 when he was awarded the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards’ Facilitator’s Prize and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Green Room Awards. He’s also written for roleplaying games including Call of Cthulhu, Elric!, Vampire: The Masquerade, Werewolf: The Apocalypse and Wraith: The Oblivion. You can find Richard on Twitter as @richardthewatts.
As usual, you can find notes and errata for this episode on our web site.
Next episode is our fiftieth – and to celebrate, we’re cracking open Nanny Ogg’s Cookbook! This is Pratchett’s 1999 collaboration with Stephen Briggs and Tina Hannan, the latter of whom is responsible for the actual recipes inside – some of which we’ll be trying out with our very special returning guest, comedian and author Cal Wilson! We’re also hoping to cook up something a little extra to send your way around Hogswatch as well… For now though, send us your questions – about the book, the recipes, Nanny’s etiquette advice or even just doing a Pratchett podcast for over four years. Use the hashtag #Pratchat50, or send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.