Twenty-one today! In this episode, Elizabeth and Ben are joined by David Ryding of Melbourne UNESCO City of Literature as we rejoin Rincewind and some of his old friends in Terry Pratchett’s 17th Discworld novel: 1994’s Interesting Times.
Rincewind, the worst student Unseen University ever had, has quite literally been to hell and back. But when a summons arrives in Ankh-Morpork requesting the presence of “the Great Wizzard”, his old faculty bring him home, then send him to the far-flung Agatean Empire. All is not well on the Counterweight Continent: rebels are (gently) questioning centuries of enforced order, inspired by the revolutionary pamphlet “What I Did on My Holidays”. The ruthless Lord Hong plots to change the Empire forever. The walls have failed to keep out a horde of barbarian invaders – seven of them, in fact. And it’s about to be visited by a very special kind of butterfly…
Pratchett revisits characters from his first Discworld novels, as Rincewind is reunited with Cohen the Barbarian in Twoflower’s homeland. But in 2019, twenty-five years after it was first published, his depiction of a comic fantasy Asia leaves a bit to be desired. There’s plenty going on, and some stirring speeches, but it’s also hard to ignore that nearly all the main characters are white folks “saving” a foreign nation from itself – a nation inspired by real-world Asian countries. Is there a clear message in the book? How does this sit on the evolution of Pratchett’s work from parody to satire? And were you glad to see such old favourite characters return, or could you have done without them? We’d love to hear from you! Use the hashtag #Pratchat21 on social media to join the conversation.
Guest David Ryding has been Director of the Melbourne UNESCO City of Literature office since its establishment in 2014 (though Melbourne has been a City of Literature since 2008). Prior to that he was director of the Emerging Writers Festival, then executive director of the NSW Writers Centre (now know as Writing NSW). You can find out more about what he does at the City of Literature office at cityofliterature.com.au, and they’re also on Twitter at @MelCityofLit. If you’re looking for other great literary podcasts made in Melbourne, you can find some listed on their site here.
You can find the full show notes and errata for this episode on our web site.
We hope you enjoyed our first ever live show, recorded at Nullus Anxietas VII, where we discussed Cohen’s previous adventure in the short story “Troll Bridge”! We’d love to record more bonus episodes in future, and you can help us do it by supporting Pratchat.
In August we leave the Discworld and indeed the land of fiction to read one of Pratchett’s oddest books: The Unadulterated Cat, a 1989 collaboration with cartoonist Gray Joliffe in which he makes the case that the only “real cat” is one that destroys gardens, eats wildlife and makes a thorough nuisance of itself. If you have questions, send them to us via social media using the hashtag #Pratchat22.