‘Do you think it’s possible for an entire nation to be insane?’
'That’s a very…interesting question, sir,’ he said. 'You mean the people–’
'Not the people, the nation,’ said Vimes. 'Borogravia looks off its head to me, from what I’ve read. I expect the people just do the best they can and get on with raising their kids, which, I might say, I’d rather be doing right now, too. Look, you know what I mean. You take a bunch of people who don’t seem any different from you and me, but when you add them all together you get this sort of huge raving maniac with national borders and an anthem.’
Ankh-Morpork “Chocolate” Bonbons, from Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett!
It was a tossup between this or rancid yak butter tea (also from this book), and between you and me rancid yak butter is hard to come by in disgusting heathen America. I was also craving chocolate-covered nuts, which are either incredibly waxy fake chocolate with dessicated nuts, or hideously expensive and dispensed only by mystical chocolate gurus atop Mt. Godiva.
Anyway, let the Guild of Confectioners describe their thinly-veiled distaste:
Ankh-Morpork people, said the guild, were hearty, no-nonsense folk who did not want chocolate that was stuffed with cocoa liquor and were certainly not like effete la-di-dah foreigners who wanted cream in everything. In fact, they actually preferred chocolate made mostly from milk, sugar, suet, hooves, lips, miscellaneous squeezings, rat droppings, plaster, flies, tallow, bits of tree, hair, lint, spiders, and powdered cocoa husks. This meant that, according to the food standards of the great chocolate centers in Borogravia and Quirm, Ankh-Morpork chocolate was formally classed as “cheese” and only escaped, through being the wrong color, being defined as “tile grout.”
it’s honestly never occurred me before– when sam vimes arrests the armies in jingo, he created international human rights law. because you can’t arrest an army, right? except you can. and he did.
he didn’t mean to create it, but that’s what he did. and he did it again in snuff. and when he went to borogravia, although he didn’t want to, he took william de worde and otto chriek with him. he created international human rights law and now war is being documented in his wake. sam vimes is everything.
factoid “average vampire drinks 3 cups of coffee per day” actually just statistical error. vampire mal, who lives in borogravia and drinks 10,000 cups of coffee per day, is an outlier adn should not have been counted
Hey. I heard that Discworld is good, but I don't know what it's about. That, and it's 40-something books and I'm not sure about starting another long series. Help?
Oh man you’d better make your peace with starting a long series because there is literally no way I’m going to not tell you to read Discworld, especially not today.
Okay, so Discworld is actually several series following several sets of characters and some standalone books about other characters, all taking place on the Discworld, which is an entirely flat, circular world sitting on the shoulders of four elephants who stand on the back of a gigantic space turtle. It’s a world a bit off the edge of the reality curve, and yet while Sir Pterry uses (used no no don’t cry it’s just the past tense DO NOT FUCKING CRY ABOUT THE PAST TENSE) uses it to tell fantastical stories, he also uses it to drop the realest shit on you (one of my favourites being “So many crimes are solved by happy accident–an overheard conversation, the wrong phone call, someone of the right nationality just happening to be within five miles of the scene of the crime without an alibi…). He has (had *sobs*) a huge love of wit and wordplay and his writing is jam packed with puns, jokes and twists.
Before I go off on a giant rant, I should mention that Mark Oshiro is doing a “Mark Reads Discworld” series and that if you’re unsure it might be worth popping onto Youtube and listening to him read a few.
There are several main character sets and if the series at large seems too intimidating it might be good to pick one and start with that.
The Watch: Guards! Guards!, Men At Arms, Feet Of Clay, Jingo, The Fifth Elephant, Night Watch, Thud!, Snuff
Books following the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, the equivalent of the police for the sprawling twin city of Ankh-Morpork, which is one of the central locations of the whole series. While the Discworld at large is fantasy, the Watch books dip into the Crime genre as Captain (later Commander) Sam Vimes and the other various members of the Watch solve crimes and face major social issues such as racism, sexism, cissexism (no really, one of the characters is a dwarf who decides to express herself as openly female even though traditional dwarfish society is one where everybody has a beard and twelve layers of chainmail and is referred to as “he”, and the way her “coming out” is treated by other dwarves and her feelings about it strike a lot of chords with coming out as transgender–or so I’ve been told, not being transgender myself but I can see the parallels), political subterfuge (Jingo was written during the first Gulf War and it’s still so horrifyingly relevant) and rich people thinking they’re above the law (Sam Vimes disagrees). Also Night Watch is a huge homage to Les Mis with morally-flipped Javert and Valjean and it’s amazing, but also equally amazing even if you’re not familiar with Les Mis (which I wasn’t the first twenty times I read it). Along with werewolves, dwarves, trolls, vampires, zombies and Nobby Nobbs (who was disqualified from the human race for shoving), the series will introduce you to my ultimate Life Goal, Lady Sybil Ramkin, a mightily-built woman who breeds pet dragons and is kinda the living embodiment of “do no harm, take no shit”.
The Witches: Equal Rites, Wyrd Sisters, Witches Abroad, Lords and Ladies, Maskerade, Carpe Jugulum
If you like fairy tales and folklore and the power of stories, these are the books for you. Following the Ramtop Witches–predominantly the fierce and powerful old witch Granny Weatherwax; her best friend and cheerful matriarch of a minor army of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Nanny Ogg; Magrat Garlick, the somewhat soppy, pathetic and dreaming young(ish) witch (I identify with Magrat like WHOA so when she gets her moments of power–and she gets at least one per book and when she does DAYUM–it’s so, so wonderful); and the fat, powerfully-voiced junior witch Agnes Nitt. They fight mad dukes (Wyrd Sisters has a plot that’s some kind of amazing hybrid between Hamlet and Macbeth), fairy queens, fairy godmothers, and any force of story that tries to force people into what they should be instead of accepting what they are. As well as the power of stories, they also deal with some heavy moral themes (Carpe Jugulum has an amazing conversation between Granny Weatherwax and a somewhat lost priest about the nature of sin that has had a huge formative effect on me) and has a lot of basis in theatre (aside from all the Shakespeare, Maskerade takes place in an opera house in Ankh-Morpork).
Tiffany Aching–The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith, I Shall Wear Midnight
Kind of a subset of the Witches books, these books predominantly follow Tiffany Aching, who starts off nine in the first book and ages two years between each subsequent book. They’re YA (but I mean that in a good way I swear) and they were actually my gateway drug to the Discworld. Tiffany is a little girl from the farming country who has read the dictionary from cover to cover and thinks about things too much and in general is a perfect candidate to be a witch, even though when the books begin they’re outlawed where she lives after the Baron’s son disappeared and everyone decided that the strange old lady who lived alone in the forest was to blame. Tiffany isn’t quite buying that old story, though (and every time she talks about this poor old lady it’s fucking heartbreaking), and it’s good that she doesn’t because fairies are coming to her land, and if you think that’s a good thing you are about to learn very differently. However, she has some help in the form of MY VERY FAVOURITE SPECIES ON THE ENTIRE DISCWORLD: the Nac Mac Feegle, the thievin’, drinkin’, fightin’, six-inch-tall blue Pictsies who were thrown out of Fairyland for being Drunk and Disorderly. They’re FLIPPING HILARIOUS.
I’d say these books are kiiiiinda Discworld Lite? Except A Hat Full of Sky goes some kinda dark places and then I Shall Wear Midnight is DARK AS HELL LIKE WOW I WOULD LET KIDS READ THE FIRST THREE BOOKS BUT MOST DEFINITELY NOT THIS ONE. But they’re all hella good and I think they’re a good first choice of series to go with.
The Wizards–The Colour of Magic, The Light Fantastic, Sourcery, FaustEric, Interesting Times, The Last Continent, The Last Hero, kinda Unseen Academicals
Predominantly following the chronic-failure-of-a-wizard Rincewind, the wizard books are mostly earlier books (The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic being the first two Discworld books chronologically, though personally I wouldn’t recommend starting with them–I tried reading The Colour of Magic a few times and couldn’t get into it until I’d read The Wee Free Men and a bunch of others) and are the most about the nature of magic and cover the widest expanse of the Discworld, because Rincewind is extremely good at getting into massive trouble and then running away from it. Rincewind kinda moves out of centre stage in later books in favour of the rest of the colourful faculty of Unseen University in their misadventures. Your favourite character will be the Librarian. The Librarian is everybody’s favourite characters. He’s an orang-utan. There is a reason for this, but nobody cares. He’s an orang-utan and everybody loves him. Ook.
Death–Mort, Reaper Man, Soul Music, Hogfather, Thief of Time
These books are all about the Death of the Discworld–seven foot tall, skeletal, black robes, scythe, tends to show up under unfortunate circumstances–and his friends and family. Death is one of the best characters in Discworld but I feel too emotionally compromised to talk about him right now, so let me talk about his granddaughter Susan because she’s the deuteragonist of Soul Music, Hogfather and Thief of Time and she’s amazing. She’s partly human, partly… not, and she keeps trying to carve out a normal life and never quite managing it as she invariably gets drawn in when things are happening that are strange even by the Discworld’s standards (for example, Soul Music is about what happens when Rock Music gets invented, and Hogfather is about what happens when your Santa-equivalent winter figure goes missing and Death has to fill in for him). The stories deal strongly in themes of creativity, imagination and belief, especially Hogfather, and tend to be really, really beautiful. Death cameos in just about every book, but his character development arc across these books is one of the best in all of Discworld. AND HE ALWAYS TALKS LIKE THIS, IN ALL CAPS WITH NO QUOTATION MARKS. YOU ALWAYS KNOW WHEN HE’S SPEAKING TO YOU.
There are a bunch of other standalone books (there are three about Moist Von Lipwig but that’s not a series you want to get to until way later) and my absolute favourite that you should definitely read, if you read nothing else, is Monstrous Regiment. The premise is fairly basic: Polly cuts her hair and pretends to be a boy to join the army and find her brother in the backwards militaristic nation of Borogravia. If you know what the title’s from, it pretty much spoils the plot, but you may have seen it cross my dash enough times to get it anyway if you’re following me :P You want canon lesbians who don’t come to a horrible end? You want varying neurodivergent characters treated with love and respect? You want crossdressers and transgender characters and how to tell the difference? You want major discussion and consideration of gender issues and a Joan of Arc homage who doesn’t get burned? Read Monstrous Regiment. You also get a vampire hallucinating that they’re in the Vietnam War on a world where Vietnam doesn’t actually exist when they run out of coffee.
TL;DR (but please do read): Pick one of the series and read it. I’d highly recommend Tiffany Aching, but The Watch and The Witches are also good starts. The characters and locations and such do intertwine with each other sometimes, but the majority of the books are specifically written so that you can pick them up and enjoy them without having read any of the others.
And you will enjoy them. They’re sweet, they’re sad, they’re terrifying, they’re funny as hell, they’ll really make you think and you’ll be quoting them forever. Don’t be scared of how much is ahead of you: be grateful you have so much to experience for the first time. I guarantee you that once you’ve read them all, it won’t be enough. There could never be enough. But what there is is a gift.
There was always a war. Usually they were border disputes, the national equivalent of complaining that the neighbor was letting their hedge grow too long. Sometimes they were bigger. Borogravia was a peace-loving country in the midst of treacherous, devious, warlike enemies. They had to be treacherous, devious, and warlike, otherwise we wouldn’t be fighting them, eh? There was always a war.
Each player gets divine inspiration from Nuggan, and recieve four abominations as revelations (i.e. the player makes them up). These are written on individual cards and put in the hat, so nobody can see them.
Each player makes up a character for themself, usually a Borogravian citizen, noting a few details like gender, race, age, occupation, and name.The players should write this down on their notepad.
The players decide on the order of play (clockwise around a table, say) and who is first.
Each player presents him-, her- or itself, stating the descriptions they’ve made up. It’s probably a good idea to make note of who the other player characters are.
The aim of the game is to be the last to be condemned to Hell for indulging in abominations. This requires keeping all abominations in mind, keeping track of what the other players have revealed about their characters, and trying not to incriminate yourself.
At the start of each round, four abominations are drawn from the hat and read out loud. (Any previously drawn abominations are still in force, of course.)
Taking turns, each player reveal another fact about their character. This can be a new fact, or an amendment of a previously stated fact (although too drastic changes, like changing age, gender, race, station in life enormously etc. are not allowed).
After a player has revealed this new fact, the other players can each ask them a question about their character if they so wish (if they don’t, they’ll say “Pass”).
Should any fact be known that indicates an abomination, any other player can state so, adding “which is an abomination unto Nuggan!”
The accused player can then attempt to defend themself, but unless all other players agree it was a groundless accusation, the accused player recieves a black mark. Any player can only be accused of the same abomination once.
After a player has recieved eight black marks, that character is irrevocably on the road to Hell, and the character is out of play. The player may still participate as usual in asking questions, making accusations, and writing more abominations.
At the end of the round, each player writes one to three more abominations that are put in the hat and mixed with the others, and the next turn starts with four new abominations.
When writing abominations, limit yourself to one to four words. You can name things (turnips, clogs, hats, the sound of sneezing, etc), or activities (playing fiddle, twiddling thumbs, snoring, etc).
Try not to be ridiculously generic. “Living” for instance, will catch (almost) everyone, as will “nipples”. The only result of this is that everybody will get a black mark for the same abomination, and it’s not much fun for anyone.
If you want to target another player, that’s perfectly fine.
Abominations can be saved between games and re-used, so the players don’t have to write them all themselves during the game.
Player 1: “I’m a male, middle-aged woodcutter called Thomas”.
Player 2: “I’m a teenage female bar maid called Penny”.
Player 3: “I’m an old dwarf miner called Thorstein”
Abominiations drawn from hat: “Ice cream”, “running water”, “flying”, “raising one eyebrow”.
P1: “I have an axe”
P2: “Where do you live?”
P1: “In a wood cabin”
P3: “Is it next to a stream?”
P2: “I have a pink skirt”
P3: “Do you serve ice cream in the bar?”
P1: “Do you wash glasses and cups?”
P1: “If you do you, you’ll be pouring water, which is running water, which is an abomination unto Nuggan!”
P2: “No, because I wash them by just wiping them with a cloth.”
P3: “That’s reasonable.”
P3: “I live in a mine”
P1: “Is there an underground river in the mine?”
P2: “Are there bats in the mine?”
End of round. No black marks have been given out. The players write more abominations and put in the hat.
New abominations: “names starting with T”, “dyed clothes on women”, “trolls”, “cabbages”
P1: “I change my name to Bob”
P2: “What do you eat?”
P3: “Do you catch the fish yourself?”
P3: “So when you pull them out of the water, water will be running off them, which is an abomination unto Nuggan!”
P1: “Um… yes. Sorry.”
(Player 1 gets a black mark)
Borogravia, Nuggan, and Nuggan’s ever-expanding list of abominations were invented by Terry Pratchett in the novel “Monstrous Regiment”, and the copyright for them belongs to Terry and Lyn Pratchett.
The concept of the game, the rules, and the examples were invented by Orjan Westin.
Awake ye sons of the Motherland!
Taste no more the wine of the sour apples
Woodsmen, grasp your choppers!
Farmers, slaughter with the tool formerly used for lifting beets of the foe!
Frustrate the endless wiles of our enemies
We into darkness march singing
Against the whole world in arms coming
But see the golden light upon the mountain tops!
The new day is a great big fish!
Tiffany Aching is on her way to bring Mrs Altworthy her medicine when she realises there is something quite urgent she must do. She delivers the medicine first, of course – any task worth doing will understand why it has to wait until after that.
Then she goes home, pulls a chair up close to the bed, lights a candle, and
gets out a book to read. She is not going to sleep tonight, she knows.
There is a watch to keep. Something is owed tonight, and it is the
witches’ duty to pay the debt.