Terry Pratchett aka the man in the big Black hat – one of the UK’s former leaders in fantasy/sci-fi but also popular with the international populace in general. He expired on 12.03.15 at age 66.
I was thinking about the Scone of Stone recently – from his books it’s a dwarf made bread that’s so hard it’s only edible as a last resort and used as a weapon more often, the Scone of Stone however was sat on by a ‘Low King’ (since they live underground low actually means high, and higher than a regular provincial king in the hierarchy) of the dwarves 1500 years ago when it was still soft and so left an impression. Hence ever since the Kings (and remember this is a race where being female is taboo so they mostly pretend to be men) have sat on said stone. (Well it’s not as bad as sitting on a popular public transport route seat I guess that’s had millions of bums on it.)
The above reminded me of the ‘London Stone’. Every time I passed its box at 111 Cannon Street (a highstreet, and that address has seen many shop changes) I’d stop and stare at it for a while and it was like I’d slowed down to think whilst masses of people would just walk by like it wasn’t there, never existed and was insignificant. There are more stones like that in the UK and Ireland including the Stone of Scone that the current Elizardbeth like many before her was coronated with it under her butt.
Now look at this cover, what is out of place?
Yes I noticed it at first too and thought “why is that here, that’s weird” and promptly put it out of my mind o_o I’d just been looking at it every day and reading a bit for the past week.
Then I wrote ‘Saturn and Kali or Ka & L‘ post and the next day Mum said to me:
“Look at that”
“eh? Por quoi?”
“Look at that [plonker]” *pointing at the cover*
“Oh my gosh!”
“Finish reading it and see if it’s in there”
*Does as told, she gets tired waiting…”
“This is the answer [stupid]!” *turns book around to reveal:*
“Oh. My. Gosh”
“You’re so silly, how could not notice it!?”
“Eh…. … But… But you told me to read it and you were right, to check it just in case!”
“I was testing you!”
“But I still have to finish it!”
“I’ve already found the answer [dopey]”
*I continue reading anyway* “There’s more to it, look at the border, see it looks like a castle or cave and that statue in the bottom left, and the Blue computer spiral like a fingerprint in the background.”
… Time passes by, no mention of Saturn…
“I found where the border came from but not the centurions”
“The Watch” *pointing them out*
“The Watchmen there in the bottom right.”
“The Watch, the police, the Ankh-Morpork police force!”
“What do they matter?”
“They’re not in the artwork in the book for one, they’ve been added to the scene, and look at their expressions they’re scared and ready to attack.”
“Scared of what?”
“Look their scared of him, their Maker/Creator, the writer with his books [knowledge]. Whilst he’s surrounded by Death’s domain and when he looks up he can see Saturn looking down at him with its polar vortex, the ‘Eye of Saturn’ [the All Seeing Eye]**”
“We already knew that”
I ALREADY KNEW [BECAUSE I’M OMNIPOTENT, OMNIPRESENT AND OMNI-EVERYTHING. SO THERE].
And just so you know, this is the back inlay cover:
The important thing here is that as aforementioned Saturn isn’t any of the stories within, a couple of possible allusions but they don’t relate to it in their context. Also the majority of Pratchett’s work was hand illustrated by Josh Kirby (died 2001, age 72) followed by Paul Kidby (still living). The image of Saturn however is not in the illustration of Death’s domain, it’s a photograph and/or cgi. It’s an eyesore design wise, out of place, not part of the background photo with the books because it’s not in the perspective plus it’s clear and they’re blurred, what would be the point of leaving it sharpened? It’s meant to be there imposingly.
Also the picture of Death in disco gear (which is funny because Mum’s favourite style ever is Punk – which combines her other two faves Goth and Biker but looks like it vomited fluorescence over them and doesn’t need to go together in any way, yet is still cool – and she was saying this morning how she’s going to look Punk again. I told her that Death is wearing 70’s clothing but she’d already been there, done that, didn’t want to talk about it again and said “it’s still punk and I’ve been talking to you about massive shoes for a while haven’t I, especially Red ones”, “Yes, you have.” *Deep breath*.) As I was saying, the picture of Death at the disco is actually from the story ‘Turntables of the Night’ (1989):
The story features a couple of guys, one a music aficionado collector who collects for the sake of collecting every piece of music that’s ever existed on vinyl, and the other his mate who looks after him. Death visits a Hallowe’en party they’re DJ’ing at to raise money for the church… And only the collector can see him but his friend notices a space on the dancefloor that people aren’t avoiding exactly, they’re just not going into it like they don’t notice it, but seeing the state his friend is in he braves it. In doing so he can almost see but definitely hear Death’s voice in and around him asking to be introduced to his friend. Once he and the collector get talking Death states that he too is a collector, he has all the greats; Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon…
“Fairly wide spread, musically… Have you got the complete Beatles?”
Apparently due to an overload of sockets, connectors irresponsibly put together and bad/old wiring there’s an electrical fire and the church burns. The collector’s friend and the other guests are outside but the collector is nowhere to be seen, no remnants of him at all. That is very strange for Death the Grim Reaper who usually cuts the soul away and leaves the body.
** The All Seeing Eye/Eye of Saturn is a hexagram that later became known at the six pointed star in masonic symbolism.
Many people credit Pratchett for his imagination but anyone who knows about world culture/customs/religion/history knows he knew too. Like other authors he did his research, in his case it started early, the first published short story in this book was written in 1963 (an important number and indeed date for some) when he was 13 (again another important one and indeed it’s known as ‘Kali’s number’ though like many old things has been twisted over time). In that story a boy named Crucible plays double agent making a deal with both God and the Devil (‘The Hades Business’) and highlights Pratchett’s knowledge of religion and folklore (one of his companion books mentions a comprehensive book of mythology and folklore he bought as a young boy). He continued to build upon and use that knowledge for his characters/situations/world building, sometimes he just changed names, others the info got twisted and added to. When he parodied (which is the point of Discworld and Ankh-Morpork [London]) it stood out to people who were/are educated in those areas like his books about Macbeth and The Phantom of the Opera did to even more people.
What he was great at was re-packaging, making the stories relatable and hilarious. His work had layer after layer of info, even the jokes needed to be read over. His name was a master tinkerer (like The Borrower-esque characters he wrote about separate to Discworld), not original in substance but in style.
‘A Blink of the Screen’ was published in 2012, the same year a ‘The Long Earth’ co-written with Stephen Baxter (expanded from Terry’s short story ‘The High Meggas’ – 1986 – where characters are ‘stepping’ (like the ‘jaunting’ of ‘The Tomorrow People’ UK tv show 1973-79) through the layers of reality on Earth), a book I’ve previously said disappointed me greatly for in my opinion towing the masonic ‘party line’, but this collection of short stories has more of his usual style. There’s something in here for everyone topic wise but a few are very ‘dark’, the ones in first person where the protagonist is an ‘average guy’ not too bright or imaginative but has his feet on the ground witnesses and becomes involved in the strangest things; to killing his own creation (hero in a book) who then turns up on his door step to receive his reward and the reward plus reality gets inverted (‘Final Reward’ – 1988), another where virtual reality and ‘real’ reality again get confused but apparently people thought it a safe and fun hobby at first reducing crime because people were doing it in their heads instead including getting rape off the streets for an increase in virtual prostitution (akin to raping whilst the victim is unconscious), making zombies out of the people playing and even though it doesn’t leave physical bruises it can still cause massive stress and kill them but apparently it’s romantic and loving for the creator of such reality. An entertainment addiction for everybody else (‘#ifdefDEBUG + ‘world/enough’ + time’ – 1990). Then another where Merlin oops Mervin is a time traveller who got stuck in Albion, rigs the sword in the stone looking for Arthur ‘Artos the Bear’ but ends up with Ursula (remember my post about Disney’s ‘Brave’), Latin for Bear (‘Once and Future’ – 1995 – there’s a marker around the page number 174), the constellations and an old form of Mother Goddess worship. Interestingly enough he also mentions women’s suffrage in that and women water bearers, he shows that the recommendation to pipe the water directly to people’s homes wouldn’t be allowed because the men don’t carry the water and so wouldn’t see the point in it (remember my mention of Aquarius in my previous post – water bearers are traditionally female and Aquarius used to be represented just by a vase pouring water but changed to a male carrier but it is seen as a heavy, tedious and inferior job for males. Another reason is that the Earth was sacred and female, so only women could mine for metals or carry it’s life giving elements for example, otherwise it was raping Mother Earth – but not many people remember that and those hard jobs became of many that most people didn’t want to do so fobbed it off on those who they call/think of as weaker than themselves). And a poem where he tried to write like his 13 year old self again, about how parents teach their kids about life and death via pets (‘The Secret Book of the Dead’ – 1991).
The person who wrote the foreword had a similar experience as I did with Pratchett’s work, we were both offput by the artwork so avoiding reading them until we finally did and were hooked. That was strange for me as I don’t usually judge a book by it’s cover, Mum however does and sometimes brings selections of books for me to read, one of which was either ‘The Colour of Magic’ or ‘The Light Fantastic’. I said to her it was a two-parter and when she went to the library could she get me the other one, after that the next time I went to the local (and others) I came back with armloads of them. One of the librarians had said “cor, I like Pratchett but I’ve never read so many at once, how are you going to carry them?” A man at a bookstore gave me a knowing nod and said “good choice”. After reading many of the books, I realized that the grotesque characterizations in the artwork were fitting. I never made it to one of the Discworld conventions though even before I knew about all the symbolism I’d intended to go as Death, it being my favourite character, followed by the Nac Mac Feegle and The Luggage. I wonder how I would have replied had that librarian said “ook”. That said I’m not as reverential as Byatt is in his foreword.
Additionally if I were Tiffany in ‘The Shepherd’s Crown’ I wouldn’t enlist the help of the old guys who helped make/perpetuate the problem let alone the Elf King and give the Dark Mother’s steading to Geoffrey. I dinnae like most of those witches either 😉