Neil Gaiman on Terry Pratchett's anger


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Saw this on The Guardian.
Link

Scarab Sages

This is gorgeous and beautifully written, thank you for posting it.


I second Duiker's sentiments - that really was great. Touching too. Thanks for sharing!


Thanks for sharing.

-TimD


The thing that has been chewing at me when I hear of Pratchett's sickness is how he wishes to choose the manner of his leaving before he becomes a shell of himself and the arguement often brought up against this is that ther emight be a cure right around the corner that he will never get if he does tha. I believe that any cure, even if it came out the very next second would never get to him in time due to all of the approvals, delays and whatnot. So we will have to witness him being unable to know who he is and where he is. Along with forgetting his family and what he has done.


A cure for Alzheimer's is at the very least five years away, and that would be with a complete understanding of the pathology, an ideal drug candidate and an extremely fast track study and approval process. We have none of these. Even if we did, it is very unlikely that any such cure would be able to restore things already lost.

Sovereign Court

It's true, Pratchett's writing is far from mere jolly japes.

If he'd been interested in flattering the egos of the mighty by directly satirising individuals then he'd probably be held up as a modern Swift.


MannyGoblin wrote:
The thing that has been chewing at me when I hear of Pratchett's sickness is how he wishes to choose the manner of his leaving before he becomes a shell of himself and the arguement often brought up against this is that ther emight be a cure right around the corner that he will never get if he does tha. I believe that any cure, even if it came out the very next second would never get to him in time due to all of the approvals, delays and whatnot. So we will have to witness him being unable to know who he is and where he is. Along with forgetting his family and what he has done.

This is one of the reasons I hate laws against such things. When and how to die is absolutely a decision people should be able to make for themselves. It sucks to see someone who was a great person slowly but surely turn into nothing more than a husk that has to be tended to every minute of every day.


GeraintElberion wrote:

It's true, Pratchett's writing is far from mere jolly japes.

If he'd been interested in flattering the egos of the mighty by directly satirising individuals then he'd probably be held up as a modern Swift.

I think the most amazing part is that it can be read both ways. You can read it as just an amusing romp about fantasy land or you can read it as a fairly vicious satire of the boss/cop/lawyer/politician/beaurocrat you are currently ticked off at.

Terry Pratchett is one of my 3 favorite authors. Right up there with Brust and Weber. I really like the Jhereg and Honor stories, but in some ways Pratchett is the best of the 3.

No matter how bad a mood I'm in, I can pick up a Diskworld book and it will almost always make me smile. When some jerk at work is really torqueing me off, it often reminds me of scene from one of his books. That helps to remind me that at least I'm not alone dealing with that crap and others recognize it for the idiocy that it is.

The Exchange

While it's a nice piece, I think all Gaiman is really saying is that Terry Pratchett is a multi-faceted human being, like all of us. To be honest, getting a bit grumpy about missing a radio interview is hardly a blow against the military-industrial complex. I haven't read all of Pratchett's stuff (though I've read a few) and there are certainly undercurrents there, of course, and I understand Jingo is quite an angry, if also fairly unfunny, book (don't know, haven't read it). But like all authors Pratchett is also reflecting the times in which he lives.

About a quarter of a century ago, when Pratchett was really hitting his stride with the popularity of his books, people who used to go to gaming conventions used to have a joke that the most valuable convention progammes to keep afterwards were the ones that HADN'T been signed by Terry Pratchett. So jolly old elf, angry man of comedic fantasy, over-eager self-publicist... They are all Terry Pratchett, and so are lots of other things too, no doubt. We'll all be worse off when he can no longer write but I'm thinking that maybe Gaiman's piece as as distorting a view as any other that simply emphasises a single trait to describe an individual human being.

The Exchange

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I disagree - I see that anger at injustice peeping through a lot. In almost every book, really: the distinction between the Discworld and ours (aside from, you know, all the others) is that in his universe, the pompous and the self-righteous and, above all, the blithely wicked get what's coming to them. The fact that they don't here is what kind of ensured that he'd never run out of material*. He never comes out and says it - he's telling a story, not a parable - but it's hard to read, say, Small Gods without being reminded unfavorably of real-world fundamentalist violence, or Jingo without comparing it to real-world 'imperialism in self-defense'. He wants you to think about how G*****n unfair these things are, even as you laugh.

* Roy Rogers, stand-up comedian: "I'll never run out of material, folks. Congress is working day and night to ensure it."


I have disliked the over-poweredness of characters like Weatherwax,Carrot, and Ventrinari. Carrot was a naive, overly-literal guardsman who morphed into a kind of earth walking deity who manipulates people in a benevolent but kinda unsettling way. Weatherwax goes from village witch to bullying dwarves into moving mountains and having tea with Death.


I think Pratchett has a problem with his own writing. I mean, he clearly favours the 'little guy'. The protagonist is almost always a "normal" guy, preferably a little dumb. But by the end of the story they win, they come out on top, and they turn into the sort of successful character (well, unless you're Rincewind) that Pratchett doesn't seem to enjoy writing about.

That's why, I think, that the Discworld series doesn't have a lot recurring protagonists*. Previous protagonists become a part of the established cast, sure, but usually as part of 'the establishment'.

*) I know there are a exceptions, but even a clear favourite like Sam Vimes is mostly relegated to background character, when he's involved at all.


I don't know what you two are talking about.

@MannyGoblin: Carrot has royal blood, which apparently enables you to do these things on the Disc. That was hinted at as early as in "Guards, Guards!" He still is very affable, but has grown as a character

Esme Weatherwax always was powerful, but scared of using that power, because she doesn't want to end up like Black Aliss. Even so, she's shown to be terrified of both the Lords and Landies as well as the Vampyres (she even goes into hiding in the case of the latter).

@Slaunyeh: The Discworld series are (because there are multiple) almost all recurring characters. You've got the Wizards, the Watch, the Witches, Susan Sto Helit, Moist von Lipwig as well as Tiffany Aching. These make up roughly 80% of characters. Sure, some of them appear in other series as secondary characters, but that doesn't mean they have been abandoned.

As for the characters themselves, they are not generally show as "a little dumb". They always feel in over their head, though. Susan is far from "normal" from the very beginning, as is Rincewind. And the witches don't fit that description in any way.

Also, Vimes clearly is a successful character (as is Moist von Lipwig) and he's the protagonist of more novels than the others.

The Exchange

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I agree with the Neil Gaiman article, although his evidence is much weaker, being drawn from Pratchett's life, than the evidence in Pratchett's books.

How can anyone read Pratchett's Night Watch and not think he has a lot of darkness in his soul? Yes, he is sending up torturers and secret police, but...he's sending up torturers and secret police!

I recently re-read his Monstrous Regiment. The part where Tonker says, "Yes, they were very good at seeming," about the Poor Girls Working House is just like a punch to the gut.

Anyone who calls Pratchett a "jolly old elf" is clearly not thinking about Terry Pratchett's elves.


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This has always been my take, really. Pratchett began as a journalist. You need something to drive you in that line of work. In every book, then, it has been a question of caring or not caring, and to my mind, perhaps the best example is Small gods.

Spoiler:
Chief exquisitor Vorbis, the most brutal and terrifying man around, expert in every kind of pain, is given a very lonely afterlife, lasting until Brutha dies, who is able to guide Vorbis away from loneliness by accompanying him along the way.


@Fabius It has been pointed out by the characters that Carrot has set up situations in ways that I really don't like. Remember when they went to Ubderwald and met that nazish werewolf whose name I can't remember? There was this big alpha wolf that came along with them and I think was hinted at a potential rival to Carrot in regards to Angua. Carrot set things up so the wolf was killed in a fight against the werewolf.(Carrot went HtH and got his butt kicked by the werewolf when that is not even the last thing he would do.)

Sovereign Court

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You can't ascribe malice to Carrot. He has none.


MannyGoblin wrote:
@Fabius It has been pointed out by the characters that Carrot has set up situations in ways that I really don't like. Remember when they went to Ubderwald and met that nazish werewolf whose name I can't remember? There was this big alpha wolf that came along with them and I think was hinted at a potential rival to Carrot in regards to Angua. Carrot set things up so the wolf was killed in a fight against the werewolf.(Carrot went HtH and got his butt kicked by the werewolf when that is not even the last thing he would do.)

I'm not sure how much you remember about the book, but that is in no way supported by the story. Gavin (the wolf with the unfortunate name) is as noble as Carrot and attacks Wolfgang the Werewolf to save Vimes, not Carrot. How would Carrot go about setting that up?


As I remember, Carrot put his fists up and started punching Wolfgang, Wolfgang proceed to almost put his fist through Carrot's chest which resulted in cracked ribs for Carrot. Carrot never seemed to be the one to purposely get himself into that situation since it is terribly cliche, he is more someone who would take advantage of cliches to win.(Kind like like the Indy/Swordsman fight, why get into claw range when you can drop something heavy on them for an ironic/funny win?)


Interesting that someone like Gaiman would declare his vision of Pratchett the One True Terry. News flash, Neil: You can be at turns jolly and furious. Both are part of who you are.


I kind of got the opposite impression. Though he was using absolute terms, I found it more of a "shed the one sided view you have" kind of a thing rather than "he was never ever jolly" kind of a thing.


MannyGoblin wrote:
As I remember, Carrot put his fists up and started punching Wolfgang, Wolfgang proceed to almost put his fist through Carrot's chest which resulted in cracked ribs for Carrot. Carrot never seemed to be the one to purposely get himself into that situation since it is terribly cliche, he is more someone who would take advantage of cliches to win.(Kind like like the Indy/Swordsman fight, why get into claw range when you can drop something heavy on them for an ironic/funny win?)

That's the point of the character. Carrot is Noble, like Gavin. Gaspode comments that the wolf follows unwritten rules in the fight with Wolfgang, while Wolfgang does not; Vimes thinks the same about Carrot vs. Wolfgang. Carrot started out as a walking clichée (he's got The Birthmark and The Sword, after all) and Pratchett decided to make that the character's defining trait by modeling Carrot's psyche after it.

Sovereign Court

Also, you have to be very complex to appear that simple to people.

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