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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later.Support Elizabeth on Patreon.

39 Comments

  1. Andrew Plotkin
    October 18, 2015 @ 1:20 pm

    “No other character would work here…”

    On the contrary, there’s one that would have and should have: Lord Vetinari.

    The three absolutely unkillable characters of Discworld — as introduced — are Granny Weatherwax, Lord Vetinari, and Death. They are indispensable. Lancre would fall apart without Esme Weatherwax, Ankh-Morpork would fall apart without the Patrician, and our understanding of life, the universe, and everything would collapse without Death.

    (Vimes was never indispensable. The Watch was always more important than he was.)

    Well, you can’t kill off Death. The end of Death is not a Discworld story. (Maybe a Sandman story, certainly a Culture story, but not a Discworld story.) Granny’s death did not have to be told but it could be told and Pratchett did it.

    Vetinari’s death should have been told and I am forever now going to blame Pratchett that it wasn’t. Vetinari’s whole plan as tyrant and evil overlord of Ankh-Morpork was to create an Ankh-Morpork that did not require a tyrant or overlord to keep it running. We caught wind of that in Guards Guards; it ran through the Moist books and the books that mentioned the Undertaking. Vetinari could always see, somewhere ahead, the point where he could die and the city would run on without him. At this point in the series, we can see it as well.

    Raising Steam would have suited that storyline perfectly. I wanted it to. Maybe Pratchett had a better idea lined up. I don’t know. I needed those two mirror-facing elements of closure, Esme and Havelock, and I got only one of them because, in the end, Discworld comes with no more of a guarantee of satisfaction than Roundworld does. I grieve Pratchett and this is part of that.

    Reply

    • Aylwin
      October 18, 2015 @ 5:51 pm

      I’m not sure I agree about Lancre. Ankh-Morpork, yes – it’s an inherently venal and violent place, whose previous and “natural” state is the tyranny punctuated by bloody upheaval which is alluded to in various books, and which we see in Night Watch. Its current condition is the product of Vetinari’s efforts to make it into something better, which are frequently threatened from within the ecology of the city itself, generally by reactionary elements which would take it back to the bad old days. For that not to be the outcome when Vetinari does die, something has to change.

      But Lancre’s nature is basically to go on being pretty much as it is – it was much as it is long before Granny Weatherwax was around, and there was never any particular reason to expect it to stop being so once she wasn’t. It gets threatened, but the threats tend to be external, and can be said to appear only so that there can be more stories about Granny seeing off the monsters – so, in a sense, it’s only ever in danger because she’s there to protect it. In that way, the witch books are fundamentally more conservative than the Watch ones.

      Reply

    • phuzz
      October 19, 2015 @ 5:10 am

      The plot of Reaper Man was basically “the end of Death”, but it didn’t stick obviously.

      Reply

    • Daibhid C
      October 19, 2015 @ 9:49 am

      Good point about Vetinari’s death; I hadn’t thought of that.

      I can see why it didn’t happen in Raising Steam though; he was already writing Shepherd’s Crown, and the “everyone reacts to Granny’s death” chapter really needed Vetinari in it; Drumknott giving the news to “the new Patrician” wouldn’t have had the same effect.

      (And yes, the Captcha is evil and hates us.)

      Reply

  2. Andrew Plotkin
    October 18, 2015 @ 1:21 pm

    (Geez, it only took me seven tries to get through that captcha. Anybody else having trouble commenting?)

    Reply

  3. John Peacock
    October 18, 2015 @ 2:27 pm

    I’m not sure that The Shepherd’s Crown is an award-winner, at least not as it stands. It’s not the book’s fault that that’s the case (and not the author’s either, as he had other things to contend with). It does give a fascinating insight into Pratchett’s methodology: the whole book is there linearly, but needs to be filled out laterally. Particularly the confrontation with the Elves is quite cursory (and if I had limited resources I’d concentrate them on the bits that are important or interesting or fun, too).

    The problem with Geoffrey is that he’s a little too perfect, a little too clean. Were I to demand such a story from an author who wasn’t actually dying, I might suggest that the first boy to become a witch should be messy and complicated and difficult and not always right and not immediately loved by everybody, someone who challenges Tiffany’s preconceptions and prejudices from a less than exalted position. And, yes, should actually become a witch. I’d expect that given the chance and with time Pratchett would have come to the same conclusion. But neither opportunity nor time were available.

    At least he got to pay off the gag with the “I aten’t dead” card.

    Reply

    • Daibhid C
      October 19, 2015 @ 9:55 am

      Yeah, those are valid points. As Rob says, the book has a beginning, middle and end, but it doesn’t quite have as much of an “inside” as we’re used to.

      Reply

  4. Dave
    October 18, 2015 @ 10:05 pm

    Read “The Dusty Hat” the other day when I heard Jack was reviewing it. What a damn story! I admit I was probably going to like it as soon as Mieville started dropping Marx puns, which is the political version of a fannish impulse, but I’m not sure if I’m as ashamed of that as would usually be. The political saturation of the story, jargon and all, is part of the reason it feels so fresh, a few decades into the hegemony (in writers’ workshops and the like) of the liberal idea that compelling writing disavows analysis and stays at the level of experience and object. Of course, Dusty Hat is a deeply visceral story, but the conceit allows Mieville to phrase embodied Weird narrative in terms of lefty discourse, which is hilarious in itself.

    Also to phrase politics physically, which I agree is one of the most interesting bits. “Capital’s like a glass spike up through things, he said, an accumulative rhythm to which we might find antiphase, create interference.” Reminds me a bit of some of Robert Biel’s recent thermodynamics-themed work–new kinds language to use against the systems we want to negate.

    The psychological ambiguity/polysemy that comes with this form (structurally it’s classic Weird, owes a lot to Borges and the like) also makes what might be the bleakest joke of all–what might it be like if someone had a mental breakdown while immersed in the Swappy schism(s)? We radical types are awfully fond of projecting our quirks and pathologies on the universe at large, after all.

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