Terry Pratchett Discussion 10/20/2017 St. Elmo's Fire 217 Comments As per request. Discuss Discworld, other works, and related topics. Housekeeping discussion, Discworld, Terry Pratchett 217 Comments St. Elmo's Fire says: October 19, 2017 at 8:57 pm So since y’all are chomping at the bit for my Discworld opinions, here’s a hot take that’s relevant to the post that brought it up: I think Pratchett gets a lot more credit for his female characters than he deserves. He clearly has good intentions, but he’s even more clearly mired in strong notions of gender essentialism. He’s very good at writing women in traditionally feminine roles — I do love how active and full of personality the love interests tend to be. But whenever he tries to push outside of that, things get really awkward really fast. His attempts at including women in traditionally masculine spheres immediately run smack into “how do u rite girls” before giving up and defaulting to “men with boobs” anyway. Angua and Susan feel really empty to me; Susan in particular feels like a cardboard cutout of a person, which is particularly ironic in a series about human nature and beings that are so apart from humanity. Every time she sneered at the Auditors all I could think was “Wow, they sound a lot more human than you.” Angua is more substantial, but it’s abundantly clear he has absolutely no idea what to do with her — she is completely useless and extraneous in everything but Feet of Clay, where she’s in conflict with the only other female character, and in the one book where it looks like she’ll finally get the spotlight, Vimes straight-up steals her entire character arc and she ends up a miserable afterthought. I do like the witches, and the dwarven gender politics, but the series is really awkward on women everywhere else. (And the side characters keep being all men. This is one of the things I respected about Sunless Sea — if you fight that intrinsic urge to default to men and just put women everywhere, that can be better for representation than a pittance of major characters you agonize over.) Reply Report comment SpoonyViking says: October 19, 2017 at 10:00 pm Yeah, Susan was pretty much “meh” in “Thief of Time”, sadly. I’d recommend “Soul Music” for the best Susan novel. I strongly disagree with Angua being a cardboard cutout, but I agree that she needed a plotline of her own. Personally, what I want is to read the witches of Lancre series. I’ve only read “Equal Rites”, which is the first and, apparently, the weakest in the series, but damn it, importing books is really expensive! The Tiffany Aching series is pretty good, though, and it has great representation for female characters. Incidentally, have you read Tansy Rayner Roberts’ series on Pratchett’s female characters? Reply Report comment Roarke says: October 19, 2017 at 10:04 pm He calls Susan the cutout, not Angua. And yes, the Witches get so much better after Equal Rites, which is really just him toying with the idea rather than diving into it. Also, can’t you just like, Kindle them? Or the like? Are there barriers to digital distribution you need to deal with? Reply Report comment SpoonyViking says: October 19, 2017 at 10:20 pm So he does! My bad, I haven’t been sleeping much. Amazon.br doesn’t have all of them in English, and I hate switching languages mid-series (plus, Pratchett’s humour relies on wordplay so often I really don’t want to risk losing any jokes). Still, I do buy the books whenever I can, it’s just a slow process. :-) I actually lucked out on the Tiffany Aching books, I found the complete series in English at an excellent price! Reply Report comment Roarke says: October 19, 2017 at 10:34 pm Wow, that’s really weird. I wonder why Amazon does that. Reply Report comment SpoonyViking says: October 19, 2017 at 10:43 pm Publishing rights, maybe? Reply APen says: October 20, 2017 at 12:45 am Really? I think I have all the Pratchetts on my kindle (in English). Reading Pratchett in translation is a really interesting study in translating humor and wordplay though. Reply St. Elmo's Fire says: October 20, 2017 at 9:08 am Eh, to be honest I’m not that big a fan of the Witches series. They get really, really repetitive, and Granny gets just a bit too much author favoritism. I liked Wyrd Sisters and Lords and Ladies, though. Reply Report comment CrazyEd says: October 19, 2017 at 10:15 pm I could never get into Terry Pratchett. His writing always struck me as thinking it was far more clever than it actually was, and his humour was that distinctly British sort of humour where the joke was how clever the writer was, so it just never stuck with me. Reply Report comment CrazyEd says: October 22, 2017 at 11:48 pm Can I just say how glad I am to be reading all this actual criticism of Terry Pratchett? I’ve never been much of a fan of his, so even thought y’all are actually fans, it brings me so much joy to see that there are other people who don’t think he’s some perfect god of fantasy writing that everyone should absolutely slaver over or else they’re a wrong fun-hating monster. Reply Report comment Roarke says: October 19, 2017 at 10:29 pm He’s very good at writing women in traditionally feminine roles — I do love how active and full of personality the love interests tend to be. But whenever he tries to push outside of that, things get really awkward really fast. What do you think is missing? Like, I don’t disagree at all: I think society is a little quick to congratulate men for writing women with any competence. But this issue is one of those things where my comprehension blurs and I also end up going ‘how do you rite girls’. Even when I was reading Le Guin’s commentaries I wasn’t fully able to parse how ‘protagonist wants to fully live a woman’s life, so she abandons magic to marry a farmer and have kids’ lines up with ‘write women well outside their gender role’. I dunno. Maybe I’m crazy and this is all simple or I’m especially dense even after years reading the blog. Edit: Like, thinking about the Broken Earth series that Act recc’d folks, the author resolved the gender role problem in part by creating a new box to put people in – specifically, an extremely rigid caste system. The caste system had its own injustices and prejudices, but men and women were interchangeable in it. Is the solution just ‘to break the box of gender roles, write a new box?’ Reply Report comment illhousen says: October 19, 2017 at 11:42 pm I’m reminded of this post: https://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?468442-In-Which-I-Watch-Sailor-Moon&p=10888427#post10888427 Tl;dr: traditionally “girly” traits and things as tools of empowerment. Reply Report comment Roarke says: October 20, 2017 at 12:06 am Mm, yeah, that’s a good breakdown of it. It’s tough with all the contradicting messages, impulses, and goals floating around to actually figure out what people want. Like, the obvious pit trap most dudes fall for writing women outside their gender role is for them to be misogynists and hate the ‘girly’ trappings of their gender, so I see how the message ‘girly things are powerful’ is a more unifying one. Reply Report comment illhousen says: October 20, 2017 at 12:13 am Incidentally, In Which Shadowjack Watches Sailor Moon is a great watchthrough that you should read as it made me reevaluate the show: https://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?468442-In-Which-I-Watch-Sailor-Moon It’s preferable to read the whole thread to get inside jokes. Reply Report comment Roarke says: October 20, 2017 at 12:17 am I… almost certainly won’t do that to be honest. I can’t do watchthroughs and the like not having seen the material. Like, you may notice I’m not interacting with Umineko. I can tell the person’s got a good head on their shoulders from that post, though. Must be good stuff. Reply illhousen says: October 20, 2017 at 12:30 am You should, though, as it’s done in a play rewrite format. With occasional comics. So you can engage with it as with original content if you aren’t familiar with the show. Reply CrazyEd says: October 20, 2017 at 12:27 am Just because she writes one woman as operating within traditional gender roles doesn’t mean she’s not good at writing women that operate outside of them. Reply Report comment Roarke says: October 20, 2017 at 12:44 am I mean, I guess it’s my fault if I suggested or implied that Le Guin was unable to write women operating outside their traditional gender role, but, to be clear, I don’t think writing one woman as such makes you incapable of doing otherwise. Reply Report comment CrazyEd says: October 20, 2017 at 12:56 am Then where’s the confusion? She can write women outside traditional gender roles well… she just, for that specific character, did not write her outside the traditional gender roles. Reply Report comment Roarke says: October 20, 2017 at 1:08 am The confusion is that writing women well within their traditional gender role sometimes feels, to me, to contradict or be at cross-purposes with writing them well out of their gender role. In that sense, most of the writers I read write one well or the other, not both, and I personally find it difficult to put my finger on why. This is why I asked Mini ‘what’s missing’ from the non-gender-conforming women Pratchett wrote. Like, I’m not questioning Le Guin’s level of ability to write women; I’m asking about what’s lacking in Pratchett’s. I assumed Le Guin was fine, but her commentary about her protagonist seeking a traditional gender role over the ‘sexless’ life she had earlier felt to me like a good place to question the contradiction. She also touched upon it when she described the various motivations that can be ascribed to ‘feminism’ in terms of departing from or embracing traditional gender roles. Reply Act says: October 20, 2017 at 9:28 am I think it’s a bit of the Strong Female Character phenomenon. People are used to and comfortable in writing a certain type of woman, and even do it quite well. But then they decide to write a different kind of woman, and instead of just doing what they do and writing a fully-formed charcater, they focus on writing a Strong Female Character and it turns into kind of a parody of itself because obviously women who do one thing aren’t fundamentally different from women who do another thing nor are either from men, because we’re all people. I think the breakdown tends to happen when people focus on writing STRONG WOMEN instead of just women. On the other hand, I think you get people who write active women quite well, but don’t have anything against inactive female characters, but at the same time the feeling that either a) these women are lesser for being inactive and/or b) they can’t separate real-world feelings of resenting from in-world characters, and you get someone who can write active female characters quite well but starts to flounder with women in traditional roles. I think it’s when you feel just as comfortable doing both well that egalitarianism has been reached. 2 Reply Act says: October 20, 2017 at 8:49 am RE: Le Guin, I think this was specific to Tenar’s character. My interpretation was that Tenar had had a ‘normal’ life taken from her when she was forced into that cult, and when she was finally free she wanted normality, and to her that was the traditional female role as her society saw it, not more magic adventures with Ged. But once she goes through the motions she realizes it wasn’t really freeing or fulfilling like she thought and then the fourth book happens, where she wonders why that’s what women are expected to do and why their society is so restrictive to women but free for men, and then she returns to adventures with Ged, which was what actually made her happy. edit: fuck i upvoted myself 2 Reply Report comment illhousen says: October 20, 2017 at 10:36 am It’s important to love yourself. 3 Reply Report comment St. Elmo's Fire says: October 20, 2017 at 9:30 am What do you think is missing? Susan is a Strong Female Character, which I think is an issue we’ve already covered extensively. For Angua… I actually think she almost works, and I liked the conversations she had with Cheery in Feet of Clay. I guess the biggest problem with her is external factors — she keeps getting written out of the plot, so she never gets enough focus to be developed properly. So instead her personality just ends up flat and filled in with cliches — she’s basically just Vimes with extra angst. What it seems to be is that Pratchett’s willing to write female characters into his stories about men, but when it really comes down to it he likes the men too much to let them share the stage. (This might be why Cheery is better — she’s not an action hero, so she doesn’t have to compete with the men and can develop within her own sphere.) Edit: Is the solution just ‘to break the box of gender roles, write a new box?’ I think that’s more of a sidestep than a solution, but I believe it’s valid if you don’t think you’re qualified to deal with real-world gender issues and just want to include women in a fantasy story. Reply Report comment Roarke says: October 20, 2017 at 1:23 pm I mean part of the problem dealing with real-world gender issues is that some people do consider breaking away from gender roles entirely to be part of/the solution, and I can sometimes see their point when I think about how damaging they are both to people that don’t conform and to people who do. Like, the author who I used as an example, N. K. Jemisin (read her books!) is well-qualified to deal with real-world gender issues, but she made that choice and it didn’t feel like she was sidestepping the issue, as it were. She dealt with both sexes really well. Reply Report comment Act says: October 20, 2017 at 2:27 pm This is something I think about a lot in my own work. Is the responsible way to write making everything issuefic? Is just writing a story a copout when media is so important to the formation of culture? Can there really be art for art’s sake? I’m not sure. A work where there’s absolutely no engaing in negative tropes for anyone, with a realisticly diverse cast, is still in and of itself radical because the world isn’t egalitarian; I don’t think you have to be Making a Statement to make a statement implicitly. But I also don’t think not proposing sweeping societal solutions to get us to that point is skirting the issue. I think avoiding negative portrayals, even if it is an active, counter-culture choice, is enough for a writer who just wants to write. But I’m also not sure it’s possible to not say anything by way of egalitarianism. Broken Earth is a good example of that, as is Southern Reach. 1 Reply Report comment illhousen says: October 20, 2017 at 2:41 pm Well, all stories are inherently political. Who are the protagonists, who are the antagonists, how the conflict is framed (is it a good vs evil, “both sides are wrong,” shades of gray, etc.), what character actions are rewarded by the narrative and what are punished, what traits are portrayed with sympathy and what are meant as negative flags, etc., etc. – all such factors tell us something about how the world is or how it should be. I don’t think it’s necessary to directly engage with social issues to avoid contributing to them, but I do think you should be aware of them and know how your story fits into the social context because otherwise you lose control over what you’re saying. 2 Reply Roarke says: October 20, 2017 at 3:03 pm Yeah, I feel that. Media, especially popular media, effects change regardless of its message or even its intention of sending a message. With that in mind, sometimes Making a Statement can almost be counter-productive. I think bad satire makes that mistake – overselling the Statement. I wouldn’t even say that perfect representation is radical – decent representation makes people go apeshit. Reply CrazyEd says: October 20, 2017 at 6:12 pm As someone who has expressed having a Shoulder Farla whispering about social topics in one wear and a Shoulder Mini-Farla whispering about grammar in the other, I’m pretty sure that thinking this far down this road leads to nowhere but madness. Reply illhousen says: October 19, 2017 at 11:48 pm That is a fair criticism. And while we’re on topic of criticism, I would say that I think Pratchett was at his best in the middle of his writing career. The early books are readable but nothing special, and the latter books grow way too self-indulgent, concerned more with keeping internal memes alive (like Vimes being BADASS, ALL CAPS) rather than telling a good humorous story. I think in most of his series, there is a sweet spot where he hits his stride but doesn’t yet turn them into novel-length exsercises in character adoration. Though one thing I like from early books is wizards. Perpetually murdery fantasy wizards are way more interesting than silly toothless academia from later books. Fight me. Reply Report comment Roarke says: October 19, 2017 at 11:53 pm Moist von Lipwig was pretty late but it’s some of my favorite stuff to be honest. They might be the best of his late career, at least. I liked Moist as a penitent criminal who did grow to care for others but always jumped to subterfuge and other underhanded means to solve problems. ‘The tiger doesn’t change his stripes’ indeed. Reply Report comment illhousen says: October 20, 2017 at 12:05 am Yes, I think his late books that aren’t continuations of ongoing series and star original characters are good. Though I did find the book about trains to be rather long and meandering and not particularly interesting or funny, but I ffeel it has less to do with self-indulgence and more to do with it just not being very good, which, considering the circumstances, is not really something I can blame Pratchett for, but… Reply Report comment Roarke says: October 20, 2017 at 12:12 am SPOILERS MINI/FARLA DON’T INTERACT Yeah, that must have been an ugly way to die for him. I didn’t actually read the last one. It was about trains? Interesting. I feel that part of the reason his original late books are good and the others aren’t is sort of like what you said: he got trapped by his own continuity and in-jokes. He frequently complained about writing books in Ankh-Morpork because the Watch is there, for instance. I think part of what seems like self-indulgence is him throwing bones to fans who really did love him for his old stuff. Like, probably the last good Vimes book was either Night Watch or… no, definitely Night Watch, and that’s the one that made him an uber badass, isn’t it. See, it really worked that time, for me, because this was the biggest tragedy of his life thus far and had shaped him so much as a kid, so facing it as an adult this time and overcoming the despair gave it the feeling of an actual payoff. 1 Reply Report comment illhousen says: October 20, 2017 at 12:26 am Night Watch was good, and it had such a great villain. By contrast, do you remember the villain from Snuff? …Wait, do you remember anything from Snuff? Because I don’t. I see what you mean about Pratchett being trapped by the franchise, though I wouldn’t really speculate on his motives. Either way, the end result is what I call TVTropes Awesome Sickness: events happen not because they make thematic sense or resolve narrative tension but because they look good on TVTropes Awesome Moments page. DF is a good example of it, with undead T-Rex and other such matters. 1 Reply Roarke says: October 20, 2017 at 12:36 am I don’t remember the villain of Snuff’s name, no. Carcer was a good name. A lot of Discworld has been fading from my memory, actually. Getting old. I don’t even remember any of like, the first ten books aside from Mort. Though Small Gods was number 11 or 12 (Google says 13) and I remember that one easily. Reply APen says: October 20, 2017 at 12:36 am Snuff was just painful to read. I think Vimes reaches the height of his character arc in Nightwatch, and should really have moved out of central focus after that. Though that said, I really do love Thud. Yeah, the Vimes-being-badass parts are a bit much, but I think Thud picks up on the threads of Jingo to make one of the series’ strongest statements about war and conflict. Reply SpoonyViking says: October 20, 2017 at 9:07 am The main villain in “Snuff” never even showed up onscreen, only his father, Lord Rust (the same one from “Jingo”). “Snuff” was such a disappointment on so many levels, but I give it all the passes considering Pratchett’s “embuggerance”. Reply APen says: October 20, 2017 at 12:36 am Ahem, I think you mean that the tiger doesn’t change his shorts. Reply Report comment Roarke says: October 20, 2017 at 12:46 am Yeah, probably. I’m getting old. Reply Report comment APen says: October 20, 2017 at 12:54 am Well, as you pointed out, there are too many in-jokes to easily keep straight. Reply Negrek says: October 20, 2017 at 5:40 pm Yooo, just posting to say that the Moist books are my fave, or at least Going Postal/Making Money… like Ilhousen said, the one about trains (Raising Steam) is… not good. Like at all, in part because IMO most of the characters don’t sound like themselves. But yes! Moist is fantastic. Reply Report comment Roarke says: October 20, 2017 at 6:27 pm *high five* Moist is great. I was so, so happy that him being a penitent criminal in Going Postal didn’t all revolve around him – I thought the book did such a good job shoving in his face that it was other people’s suffering that was tragic about his past, not his, and how that revelation rocked the core of his self-identity. It’s like the opposite of the Dresdenverse – there, you get other people paying the consequences for Harry’s actions but it’s really just there to show what a poor woobie Harry is and how he tries so. hard. Reply Report comment Negrek says: October 20, 2017 at 7:11 pm Ooh, yes. The speech Pump 19 gives him about not being a murderer is one of my favorite Discworld moments of all time. ‘Do you understand anything I’m saying?’ shouted Moist. ‘You can’t just go around killing people!’ ‘Why Not? You Do.’ The golem lowered his arm. ‘What?’ snapped Moist. ‘I do not! Who told you that?’ ‘I Worked It Out. You Have Killed Two Point Three Three Eight People,’ said the golem calmly. ‘I have never laid a finger on anyone in my life, Mr Pump. I may be– all the things you know I am, but I am not a killer! I have never so much as drawn a sword!’ ‘No, You Have Not. But You Have Stolen, Embezzled, Defrauded And Swindled Without Discrimination, Mr Lipvig. You Have Ruined Businesses And Destroyed Jobs. When Banks Fail, It Is Seldom Bankers Who Starve. Your Actions Have Taken Money From Those Who Had Little Enough To Begin With. In A Myriad Small Ways You Have Hastened The Deaths Of Many. You Do Not Know Them. You Did Not See Them Bleed. But You Snatched Bread From Their Mouths And Tore Clothes From Their Backs. For Sport, Mr Lipvig. For Sport. For The Joy Of The Game.’ 2 Reply Roarke says: October 20, 2017 at 7:55 pm Yeah, that’s definitely one of the best Discworld speeches. I remember that, after the quoted bit, Moist brought out the rationalization that he mostly just scammed people who thought they were scamming him, and Mr. Pump shut that down. ‘You Set Out To Trap Them, Mr. Lipvig’ It was such a beautiful, thorough repudiation of Moist’s identity up to that point, all the comfortable lies he told himself for years, and it really set up his later remorse towards Spike and his resolve to actually do the right thing for once. Reply APen says: October 20, 2017 at 12:52 am Oh, also, Mark Reads has been doing a Discworld read for some time now. He’s up to #28, I think. I think in general his site does a good job on gender/ social-inequality critique, without being super attentive on other issues in fantasy books, like worldbuilding or larger messages. Reply Report comment Farla says: October 22, 2017 at 2:55 pm Though one thing I like from early books is wizards. Perpetually murdery fantasy wizards are way more interesting than silly toothless academia from later books. Fight me. The impression I got overall is that he throws down the most awesome ideas he has first but often the most awesome ideas and the ones that lend themselves to a continuing series conflict. The wizards suck more and more as time goes on, but they also work better and better as side elements in the kinds of stories the future books are about. This is true for a whole lot of the original depiction of the city, which was heavy on the gritty low fantasy chaotic neutral murder-hobo filled den of scum and villainry and absolutely hit that out of the park…but wouldn’t work for the more complex and modern setting his later plots needed. It’s also what went wrong with Vimes – the guy goes from a lowly guard to a hero marrying nobility in the space of one book, because that was the coolest idea for a single book, but it wasn’t sustainable at all. Reply Report comment illhousen says: October 22, 2017 at 3:10 pm Um… did you mean to post anything below the quote? Reply Report comment Farla says: October 22, 2017 at 3:18 pm Yes. Dammit. I wrote a whole thing. Shorter version, the books have the problem that he goes with the coolest idea first, but because it’s so cool he writes more books, but the cool idea often doesn’t work well over a longer stretch, so it gets replaced with a less cool idea that will. Vicious murder wizards kept in check only by the fact they’re busy murdering each others is great but not conductive to his later plotlines. Same for the city at large being full of chaotic neutral murder hobos – he absolutely knocks that out of the park, but then he wants to do stuff focused on the city growing and developing, and so he needs it to be more stable and functional and without people getting killed every five minutes. Or dwarves just being chill no-nonsense people who don’t do drama. And same for Vimes – his meteoric rise works great as an end to a novel, but results in Vimes being in a much worse position to start the next novel. Reply Report comment illhousen says: October 22, 2017 at 3:40 pm Yeah, I see what you mean, though I think there are two separate problems present. The first is genre transition from fantasy parody into soft satire, which rendered some of the old concepts (like, sadly, murdery wizards) unusable when combined with new elements. Another issue is debris collected as individual series progressed. Characters rising in social status and accumulating a large support cast and things like that. It is especially prominent in Watch novels with Vimes, of course. Like, we squee over Nightwatch above, but part of the reason it worked was because Vimes was removed from his support network, so Pratchett didn’t need to make nods towards his ever-increasing social status and could turn him into an underdog again. Nightwatch itself, likewise, returned to its roots as shambling barely-held-together organization, which made it massively easier to make them engaging and sympathetic as they struggled to be better than they were. Reply SpoonyViking says: October 22, 2017 at 7:12 pm On the other hand, “Night Watch” is where Vimes truly became the Goddamn Batman of Discworld. Justifiable because of his knowledge of the future, and it’s not as if the book lacks tension, but in “Thud” and “Snuff” – SPECIALLY “Snuff” – he never really seems to be in as dire straits as he did in the earlier Watch novels. Reply SpoonyViking says: April 30, 2018 at 2:24 pm Huh. You know what’s weird? This comment randomly showed up for me earlier, but now it’s gone again. I guess the transdimensional shifter is acting up again? Reply Report comment APen says: October 20, 2017 at 12:43 am [He’s very good at writing women in traditionally feminine roles — I do love how active and full of personality the love interests tend to be.] I think the strongest female characters are most definately found in the Witches books (and the Tiffany Aching series). The Witches books are set in a world focused on women, so it’s not simply the main characters being women, but almost all of the characters. On the other hand, there’s nary a woman to be seen in the later Wizards books, except the university’s housekeeper, which is kind of the point. Reply Report comment St. Elmo's Fire says: October 20, 2017 at 9:16 am The Witches books are set in a world focused on women, so it’s not simply the main characters being women, but almost all of the characters. Nooot… really? Most of the recurring villager characters are men, and every single book is about them empowering a male guest star because they can never solve the problem directly. The only books with significant female side characters are Witches Abroad and Lords and Ladies, and in both cases they’re in opposition to the protagonists. Reply Report comment APen says: October 20, 2017 at 10:11 am You haven’t read any of the Tiffany Aching books yet, right? They blur together in my head with the “main” witches books, and I suppose they’re more what I was thinking of. Lords and Ladies is my favorite of the witches books. I especially love Magrat and Granny’s showdowns with the queen of the elves. I’m more meh about the other Witches books – Masquerade especially has never done anything for me, though that may be because I’m not into opera. Reply Report comment St. Elmo's Fire says: October 20, 2017 at 10:17 am Maskerade is a perfect example of why he shouldn’t have reused protagonists so much. The threat level is so different from the last book that bringing in Granny and Nanny is absolute overkill, and they end up overshadowing Agnes when the book is supposed to be about her, just like Vimes does in every Watch book. I do actually like it, but it would have been better with Granny and Nanny more in the background. Reply Report comment APen says: October 21, 2017 at 5:06 am Maskerade is pretty hazy in my memory, but I remember that a major component of the book is the battle of wills between Agnes and Granny over who Agnes is going to be — witch or opera singer. So Granny and Nanny aren’t just overpowered allies, but really almost antagonists to Agnes. If I remember correctly (again, have not reread this book in a while), there’s a parallel between Agnes trying not be shaped by Granny and Walter by Mr, Salzella. The real conflicts are mostly psychological — the nonpsychological conflict is written as a bit of a farce (heh, an opera). And in the end, when Agnes comes back, there’s this sort of tension over whether Granny has won, or whether this isn’t a case where winning and losing have any meaning. In the end, Agnes chooses to come back on her own, and that’s winning enough: that she chose to leave, and she chose to come back. Reply illhousen says: October 21, 2017 at 5:41 am Sure, but the same theme can be explored without direct Granny’s presence by making it all about Agnes’ mental life and how she catches herself thinking witchy thoughts in contrast with opera people’s behavior and thinking whether she could fit among the new crowd and whether she should if it means changing herself that much, etc., etc. Reply St. Elmo's Fire says: October 21, 2017 at 8:11 am You guys watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer? There’s one episode that hands the spotlight to the wussy sidekick character who’s often sidelined in main plots due to having no special abilities. The protagonists’ side of the episode plays out like a typical Buffy episode, with a big supernatural threat they have to band together to defeat, but the sidekick has to stop this ridiculous mundane threat that none of them know about. Farla proposed that Maskerade should have been like that — Granny and Nanny can still be there, but they’re kept separate from Agnes until the denoument and solve a more minor conflict. I think that would have worked very well — Granny can still be there in some capacity, she just shouldn’t be able to solve everything. Reply SpoonyViking says: October 20, 2017 at 11:42 am To be fair, even the Aching books have quite a bit of gender essentialism. Reply Report comment EC says: October 25, 2017 at 4:15 am “Most of the recurring villager characters are men, and every single book is about them empowering a male guest star because they can never solve the problem directly.” That’s really not true. Equal Rites: No. Wyrd Sisters: No. The witches put things to an end by messing with the actors performing the play. Mostly things just sort of happen in this book, they don’t successfully mastermind anything much. Witches Abroad: Not really. I suppose there’s the zombie god guy? Not their doing, though, and the ultimate showdown is between the Weatherwax sisters – and before that, between Granny and Gogol. Maskerade: Not really, and it’s also not really a relevant prism to look at this book through. “The problem” or conflict in this book doesn’t really revolve around a bad guy. In any case, the witches know who the villain is and are perfectly capable of dealing with him directly. Granny has Walter deal with him for his own benefit. The primary conflict of the book, between Agnes and the other two witches (mainly Granny), has nothing to do with him, either. Lords & Ladies: Pretty much. The only person actually empowered by the witches is Magrat, who tries to solve the problem in about a direct a way as possible. This one is the closest, though, because the Queen is ultimately defeated by the King, who Nanny cajoled into helping. Carpe Juggulum: No. Are you thinking of the priest, Oats? His contribution to solving their problem is getting Granny to the castle in the first place, which happens before and during Granny’s particular brand of pep talk. While he fights after that, he’s just one of may people doing the same thing (including the other witches). His subplot doesn’t ever graduate to solving the problem. Granny, the phoenix and the old count take down the vampires. Reply Report comment St. Elmo's Fire says: October 25, 2017 at 7:04 am Wyrd Sisters: Verence. Witches Abroad: Baron Saturday. Lords and Ladies: King of the Fairies. Maskerade: Walter. And yes, the Ghost is the primary conflict of the book. It may have been intended to be a deep thing where Agnes’ personal issues are the “real” conflict, but Terry did not pull it off. Agnes gets way less screentime compared to the senior witches dealing with the Ghost mystery. Carpe Jugulum: Yes, Oats. Granny did effectively beat the vampires already, but he’s still a main character who hogged a lot of screentime. Most of the villagers are male. Whenever a crowd scene or gag comes up, it always seems to be about Nanny’s sons or male craftsmen. The Witches books all involve the witches being unable to directly solve the plot because the author says so, and needing to rely on someone else. The only exception is Carpe Jugulum, which, again, still had a male guest star who Granny coddles into a personal epiphany. Reply Report comment EC says: October 25, 2017 at 9:34 am “Most of the villagers are male.” Sure, fine. I didn’t respond to that the first time partly because I have nothing substantive to say in response. – Verence really doesn’t do anything other than appear conveniently so that he can be crowned. The witches certainly don’t empower him; they don’t really know he exists until shortly before the end. Again, the plot is solved by using magic to make the actors perform what really happened. Again, Baron Saturday doesn’t defeat Lilith, Granny does by breaking the mirror. He’s also, let’s be honest, not really a character, but more of a weapon that Gogol has made. “but he’s still a main character who hogged a lot of screentime.” You might well dislike that, but there’s no force of alchemy that can turn ‘hogging screentime’ into ‘resolved the problem for the main characters’. They’re distinct criticisms. The witches are capable of solving the problem ‘directly’ without Walter and Oats, and in the second case they do. I think if you want to take issue with it, you might take issue more generally with Pratchett’s writing, because having the main protagonist not directly win the final confrontation is very common in his work – usually the climax is where he brings the side plots back into the central narrative, often playing a pivotal role. Reply APen says: October 20, 2017 at 1:00 am Housekeeping question — would you mind starting a seperate thread for misc Terry Pratchett discussion? It’s getting kind of cluttered here on misc discussion. Reply Report comment Cosmogone says: October 21, 2017 at 4:17 pm St. Elmo’s Fire, if I might infer, I pretty much agree with what you’ve said, but. >>defaulting to “men with boobs” This is an… unfortunate turn of phrase. You’re referring to bland “empowered” female characters, as I gather. Was it really neccessary using a term coined to attack GNC women? Reply Report comment St. Elmo's Fire says: October 21, 2017 at 5:31 pm The etymologies are unrelated, I believe. Though I don’t doubt the term can have transphobic connotations, I’ve only ever seen it used in this context. Reply Report comment Cosmogone says: October 21, 2017 at 6:20 pm This term was popularised in feminist circles by Anita Sarkeesian specifically to criticise women for performing a masculine gender role or even exibiting traits she considers “male ones”. She doesn’t actually use the exact words “men with boobs” until starting her video series, but you can read about her bizarre views on gender and gender roles on her Master’s thesis, if it’s still online. The gist of it is that stepping outside gender roles is good, unless a female character is potrayed as being independent, rational, assertive, resourceful, etc. Then she’s a man. It’s basically WASP conservatism rebranded as pseudo-feminism, just with less lesbo- and transophobia, presumably. Besides, the problem with Strong Female Characters isn’t that they’re potrayed as masculine, because they aren’t. Reply Report comment Nerem says: October 21, 2017 at 6:37 pm In the case I was referring to elsewhere (and how I believe St. Elmo’s Fire was referring to it) is instead the practice of having ‘good’ (as in, the author approves of them) female characters display all the traits an author sees as masculine (even in-setting), and as little, or no, traditionally feminine traits. Like in Honorverse pretty much all the good female characters are purely masculine with little to no feminine traits. Like the only time Honor wears dresses is when she’s forced to by the Good Sexist Planet she starts living on. And the main feminine characters that stick out in my mind are evil or ‘silly’. Like the Liberal Women in Crown of Slaves who GASP and FAINT at the idea that skin-color slavery use to exist, and then we later find out that they’re pretty much the main group in the Good Guy Kingdoms to be secret slave-owners. Reply Report comment Cosmogone says: October 21, 2017 at 7:12 pm Yeah, I get what you’re referring to, but “Strong Female Character” covers this phenomenon just fine and doesn’t have unfortunate connotations. The other half of the problem is that describing characters like these as “men” is somewhat misleading. The “male” traits they display are always very cherry-picked. After all, it’s not like sexist authors declare that all Good Women have to be full-on iron butches. No, a Strong Female Character has to be a cold, ruthless alpha killer, while still being waifish, effortlessly hot and submissive in bed. You know the trope. Although… I think the problem isn’t even this particular combination of traits. They could be written organically to create an engaging and sympathetic character. The problem is rather authors not giving a damn about their character’s personhood. Reply Nerem says: October 22, 2017 at 12:55 am No I’m talking about losing anything that could be female-like because it’s bad. Though, you aren’t ENTIRELY wrong as the writer of Honorverse basically described picturing Honor as a supermodel but his descriptions of her in the books always downplay any femininity she might have. It was a big point in the Books About The Sexism World that being forced to wear dresses made her like them a little. Beyond small stuff like that, you could nameswap her with, say, Horatio Hornblower and replace gender pronouns with ‘he’ and people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. We are referring to something else, in short. Related, but not the same. I’m definitely talking about literally having as few feminine-qualities as possible, even in secret because those traits are seen as bad so in a world with ‘full equality’ everyone will be masculine as a default in every way. Does that explain where I’m coming from? Reply Cosmogone says: October 22, 2017 at 8:23 am Mm, I see. I personally use Anita Blake as the prime example of the trope, as I haven’t read the Honor Harrington series. >>you could nameswap her with, say, Horatio Hornblower and replace gender pronouns with ‘he’ and people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. That’s not actually a bad thing, y’know. On one hand, this one sounds at least better that the usual gender-essentialist route. On the other hand, it’s probably just Anita Blake with less dresses. >>It was a big point in the Books About The Sexism World that being forced to wear dresses made her like them a little Nevermind, it’s just Anita Blake. Though now I’m interested if swapping pronouns would actually keep the narrative the same. Not that I think you’re exagerating, but some things are only noticeable once you go through with the test. Reply Nerem says: October 22, 2017 at 10:29 am It really has a fair amount of gender essentialism in it, it’s just less noticable because it treats Honor and the other women we’re suppose to root for more like men who abide by ‘manly’ qualities. Whereas most of the women we’re suppose to dislike are explicitly very feminine. The only place where this doesn’t hold up so much is the Super Sexism Planet, where we learn that being extremely traditionally feminine or masculine is a great thing. I really get the impression that Weber thinks he created the perfect religion, though some of the reasons WHY he thinks that are pretty laughable. (It’s basically Fundamentalist Christianity with Mormon Polygamy whose ‘big advancement’ that makes it so amazing is that it’s tolerant of other Christian denominations. Not other religions, oh no, not one bit. But other Christian denominations. The villians of the stories about this planet are Evil Muslims with a strange amount of Jewish qualities.) I stopped reading them at the part where all the Evil Muslim Rape Victims return and it turns out that rape isn’t that bad and it was mostly thinking that it was bad that made it so bad or something stupid like that. Reply Nerem says: October 22, 2017 at 10:34 am I actually specified Horatio Hornblower because the stories are literally Horatio Hornblower In Space!!! As A Woman!!! which sounds very cool but it’s basically Horatio Hornblower except Honor is better than Horatio in every single way. She even gets to marry her aristocratic love interest and it’s even sanctioned because she convinced the Space Pope to let it be a polygamic marriage where the dude’s original wife can now be the third because supposedly he super loves her but Honor is half her age and has working legs. Reply Nerem says: October 22, 2017 at 10:35 am (Also I never read Anita Blake so I can’t confirm or deny how correct you are.) Reply Cosmogone says: October 22, 2017 at 11:44 am What in the actual… Space fundies? What. This sounds like an amazing trainwreck and I almost want to read the series. Anita Blake is basically Harry Dresden with bad costume porn, worse porn porn and Anita both being coerced and coercing others into sex. IT’S BAD. And the authors have a weird dick-waving contest, which is the prime reason they should have a crossover book. Reply Nerem says: October 22, 2017 at 12:06 pm The Space Fundamentalists are basically the Goodest Of the Good Guys too. Like their entire thing is that they were anti-technology fundamentalists who decided to escape Earth to a new world on a colony ship and ended up on a death world. And somehow this made them the best technologists, with the Evil Muslims With Jewish Trappings being a splinter group who didn’t want technology again. I don’t know if they are intentionally Not-Mormons, but they have the same kind of feeling for how Literally Whitebread they are in every way and how super traditionalist they are. And we basically get presented that being SUPER TRADITIONAL is how to be happy because THESE guys are the GOOD chauvinists. Reply Act says: October 22, 2017 at 10:44 am The gist of it is that stepping outside gender roles is good, unless a female character is potrayed as being independent, rational, assertive, resourceful, etc. Then she’s a man. […] Besides, the problem with Strong Female Characters isn’t that they’re potrayed as masculine, because they aren’t. This is a big misreading of this criticism. She’s not saying ‘it’s bad when we give women agency because agency is male,’ she’s saying ‘it’s bad when we assign the cultural idea of maleness to female characters instead of deconstructing it and writing actual people.’ That agency is considered a masculine trait is incidental. The problem with this paticular subtype of Strong Female Character is that they’re written like men not in the sense of being full, well-rounded characters, but in the sense of performing masculinity and misogyny, among other things, while then being incompetent at anything traditionally feminine because it’s still seen as lesser. That this also tends to come hand-in-hand with plot activity is beside the point. No one is critisizing these characters for being active. Katniss is the qunessential example of this — she’s obsessed with policing other women’s looks and actions, sees women as evil liars and competitors unless they worship her, and major plot points revolve around her being a shitty healer in comparison to her mother and sister. She also hunts. Woohoo. These characters exist in a world where Masculine and Feminine are still clearly defined in traditional ways, they’re just shuffled into the opposite category they would have been otherwise. That is the problem, not that the characters serve active plot roles. Reply Report comment Nerem says: October 22, 2017 at 11:15 am Yeah exactly! Reply Cosmogone says: October 22, 2017 at 11:44 am This is how she tries to present her argument, all right, but it’s not how it reads. Considering Sarkeesian’s work ethics, I’m not going to give her the benefit of the doubt. Also, “Mirror’s Edge’s controls are too hard for us wimminz!” I apologise for derailing the tread, by the way. Reply Act says: October 22, 2017 at 11:53 am This is actually on me, because I always forget we have GGers who for some reason come here and instead assume people are discussing in good faith. My apologies. Reply Cosmogone says: October 22, 2017 at 12:01 pm Naturally. Advance any sort of criticism against Anita and you’re a gamergater. She said demeaning things about both female gamers and female developers, but that’s okay, of course. Reply Farla says: October 22, 2017 at 2:41 pm Naturally. Advance any sort of criticism against Anita and you’re a gamergater Yes, that is pretty much how it goes. You’re having a perfectly normal conversation about books and suddenly someone brings a person who says basic stuff about videogames of nowhere over and over, and their grasp of feminist crit is so limited they think she’s the one who popularized common terms. And I realize you’re probably sincerely trying to have a conversation here, but it’s not the same conversation anyone else was having. It’s like walking into a discussion about GMO crops and talking about how you won’t eat tomatoes from those upsidedown tomato planters. Reply Cosmogone says: October 22, 2017 at 3:02 pm That’s not how any of this went, but whatever. Saying that as a lesbian I’m uncomfortable with a certain term and trying to discuss it’s roots and implications is a hate crime. Reply Farla says: October 22, 2017 at 3:08 pm If you don’t like a term, say, “I don’t like that term because (reason)” instead of “I don’t like that term because (reason) but also let me tell you why I hate a person doing youtube videos on videogames and she is behind it all.” Reply Cosmogone says: October 22, 2017 at 3:22 pm I think I was pretty clear the first time. When asked to elaborate on my distate for it, I did so, using Anita’s series, because that’s where I heard it used by a feminist the first time. I freely admit to reading her ideas in an uncharitable light. Shockingly, this this is not a confession of violent misogyny. Reply Farla says: October 22, 2017 at 4:57 pm If the first time you heard it was from the youtube devilwitch you already hate so you figured it was a slur, then yes, it’s exactly like talking about how those upsidedown GMO tomatoes should be banned. It’s a common term, it’s been around ages, and I’m pretty sure Youtube offers other videos so find feminist stuff that doesn’t grate on your nerves and watch that instead, like everybody other than GG does. Men with boobs = This character doesn’t seem to interact much with feminine things, be it literally avoiding/being comically baffled by/actively spitting upon commonly feminine activities, treating other women like an alien species while hanging among bros with no issues, or being completely shocked by basic sexism two or three decades past the age every other woman found out about it. (Sometimes debatable with settings where there isn’t much of gendered divide in the first place. Also, ironically, straight up taking a male character and saying they’re female now can result in good things, so long as it’s not the only form of female character avaliable.) Actually, an interesting comparison here would be Brienne of ASOIAF – described derisively as a man with boobs, but extremely aware of her own gender, the way she doesn’t/can’t perform femininity correctly, having her gender color her interactions with men and women and the way she views knighthood… A “man with boobs” character would be a female knight who nobody had any real issue with and wanted nothing much to do with those frilly noblewomen who were so totally useless. A debatably “man with boobs” character would be female knight in a setting where nobody else was female and frills didn’t exist. Reply Cosmogone says: October 22, 2017 at 5:33 pm Eh. I see your point, but only half agree with it. To be more specific: >>This character doesn’t seem to interact much with feminine things, be it literally avoiding/being comically baffled by/actively spitting upon commonly feminine activities This isn’t a problem in itself, as nothing is iherently “feminine” or “masculine”. The problem is when it’s enforced by the narrative that 1) feminine/masculine are divinely ordained laws, rather than social constructs and/or 2) one is better than another. This criteria (i.e. narrative enfircement) also applies to a female character outright hating other women, obviously. I also feel like the term is both defined inconsistently between people and often indicates very different phenomena. Specifically, going by this definition, it doesn’t really apply to Pratchett’s characters, does it? Reply Farla says: October 22, 2017 at 6:50 pm This isn’t a problem in itself, as nothing is iherently “feminine” or “masculine”. The problem is when it’s enforced by the narrative that 1) feminine/masculine are divinely ordained laws, rather than social constructs and/or 2) one is better than another. This criteria (i.e. narrative enfircement) also applies to a female character outright hating other women, obviously. …yes. That’s meant to be understood. That’s why this conversation has been about “things considered feminine” and not “if a girl doesn’t like dolls she’s objectively not a real girl”. In the case of “men with boobs” the thing that often stands out most to me is simply that this character doesn’t seem to have had shared female experiences. If women sew, then whether or not the character personally enjoys doing so, she should have been taught the bare minimum and she should know sewing is an important and necessary skill that somebody has to do, not a made up job women do to avoid anything interesting happening. It’s like in Huck Finn when he’s pretending to be a girl – it’s not his innate boyness that shows through in his attempts to thread a needle, it’s the fact a girl would’ve been taught to do it a different way. I also feel like the term is both defined inconsistently between people and often indicates very different phenomena. Specifically, going by this definition, it doesn’t really apply to Pratchett’s characters, does it? Sure it can. You’ll have to wait for someone who actually remembers Susan to discuss her, though. I would forget she was in her own books, so I’m not the person to speak on specifics. But to talk about something that struck me very much, the dwarves! I think they’re a really good example of both success and failure at writing a feminist storyline. The introductory parts of the some-dwarves-want-to-bedazzle-their-axes subplot comes with a generally gender-bendy setup, with other stuff like Nobby dressing up in feminine clothing and interacting in a non-sexual way to extremely feminine and exclusively sexualized women. As such, there’s the sense that dwarvish culture is oppressive in the sense they only value certain traits (which happen to usually be considered masculine by human society) and some dwarves want to have the social freedom to embrace other traits (which are ones usually considered feminine by human society). The thing plays out in a way that seems very much a trans story, complete with a name change. As it continues, though, it’s more and more attached to sex – the dwarves who put on dresses are assumed to be the dwarves with vaginas, the dwarves who secretly pine for dresses are the dwarves who secretly have vaginas, and in fact vaginas are so secret dwarvish courtship is all about figuring out what genitalia is attached to the other party and apparently which parent actually gives birth is never known to anyone else. And even assuming charitably that genitalia doesn’t come into it and it’s just gender identity, it’s treated like a yes/no question – nobody wants to wear both or wear dresses but want to still be a “he” or dress traditionally but be “she”. While there’s a positive message there about how liking feminine things isn’t lesser or something to be ashamed of, it’s got a gender-essentialist implication that women inherently like dresses and men don’t. 1 Reply Cosmogone says: October 22, 2017 at 8:14 pm >>…yes. That’s meant to be understood. It needs to be specified. You’d be surprised how many people go directly to “a girl with a sword is internalized misogyny” with their reasoning. >>this character doesn’t seem to have had shared female experiences Huh, thats actually a good one. I haven’t thought in this direction. You’re spot-on on the dwarves storyline. I don’t think Pratchett was meaning to say something sexist – rather, he stepped on his own foot here. Cheri’s story plays very well in the book it’s introduced, and it’s a finished story. But Pratchett tried to give it a sense of continuity maybe and, instead of elaborating further facets, he retold the same thing in a more drawn-out way, going in a very weird and uncomfortable place in the process. Reply Farla says: October 22, 2017 at 11:14 pm It needs to be specified. You’d be surprised how many people go directly to “a girl with a sword is internalized misogyny” with their reasoning. This is not the whole of the internet, though. It is our small section of it, and if we have to disclaim every bad idea everyone on the rest of the internet ever had before saying anything more, we’d never get anywhere. If nobody’s saying swords are for boys only, assume good faith that nobody means it. And if you can’t tell, just ask directly if that’s what we mean. But Pratchett tried to give it a sense of continuity maybe and, instead of elaborating further facets, he retold the same thing in a more drawn-out way, going in a very weird and uncomfortable place in the process. Yeah, I generally wish more of it was stand-alone because it seems like he always does the first version best. The fact it’s a comedy pastche gets in the way too – battle ax but high heels is a funnier image than having the dwarves just start branching out in fashion in their own way and it’s also a lot easier to understand, especially when you need to keep the plot going in new books but don’t want to bore old readers by saying the same stuff and don’t want to bog down the story with a longer explanation. Plus it’s riffing off established jokes about if dwarves are all male or not, as well as the very well-established male/female dialogues in our culture while trans anything pretty much didn’t exist in the average conversation until recently and boys just doing feminine things is still unacceptable. (Cheri’s story does seem so strongly trans that it seems intentional, but maybe it’s trying to be inclusive by just saying all dwarves in dresses are really definitely girls no further questions and it just doesn’t come across properly.) The longer something’s in the books, the more jokes, the more likely it pulls a joke about how women are, and when there are enough jokes about how women are, it crowds out the other aspects. (That’s pretty much what ruined the wizards, the need for relatable jokes over cold murdering.) I think it’s notable that Monsterous Regiment, which has time to explore the topic and also isn’t tied to a multi-book plotline, shows variety in both personalities and gendered expectations far better, and ends on the uniform – should it be a dress, because being a girl is nothing to be ashamed of? Should it be pants, because being a girl is nothing different? It has room to breathe and ask questions. Reply CrazyEd says: October 22, 2017 at 11:45 pm I also think that, as far as Discworld is concerned, you should give Pratchett the benefit of the doubt in these sort of matters. I’m not the biggest fan of his writing, and have read basically none of his books as a result of it, but it definitely seemed like all of these unfortunate implications were entirely accidental on his part and if you pointed them out he’d probably have been apologetic for saying them even by accident. When reading both his works and things about him, I don’t get the feeling that he ever meant any of this from a position of malice. Reply Farla says: October 23, 2017 at 12:14 am Oh sure. When the very worst that can be said for a plotline is, “This generally positive thing has aspects the author probably wasn’t aware of that might, in the future, become an issue…” it’s pretty great overall. Reply Cosmogone says: October 23, 2017 at 7:38 am Heh, one of the best Oglaf pages. I’m glad this is resolved, tbh. I should just stop assuming everyone is a borderline terf and immediately becoming antagonistic. >>Cheri’s story does seem so strongly trans that it seems intentional That it does. I personally think that the dwarves thing is indicative of one of Pratchett’s writing vices: he really beats jokes into the ground. Take Angua, for example: the whole “Angua going against these thugs is dangerous… for them!” was somewhat amusing for a split second, but the books just wouldn’t drop it. If you look at the dwarven gender hang-ups as a single joke that spans over several books, them being assumed to be an all-male species works as a solid build-up and Cheri’s story is a great punchline. He tried to keep this theme in later books, but there was really nowhere to go with it. Im not saying he should have dropped the dwarf jokes altogether, but eh. I haven’t actually read Monstrous Regiment and don’t know anything about it except that it’s about an army of women posing as men (pretty interesting) and has a general anti-war theme (terribly boring and the reason I haven’t read the book). Is it worth the read? Reply Nerem says: October 25, 2017 at 8:37 am You know, rereading this I was suddenly reminded of the series Simoun, set in a world where for some reason everyone is born female, but it isn’t a single-gender world. At coming of age, a child chooses their final gender, and a lot of the conflict of the setting is that this isn’t an actual intended thing of their race. Something happened to cause it and all the countries have been trying to deal with it in their own way. Notably this leads the country the main characters live in to be better off than others, because they have access to magic (in the form of a spring) that allows them to become their gender slowly, magically. The other countries have to use other, less pleasant methods and they are desperate for the magic spring to solve their problem, which the protaongist’s nation hoards jealously. The protagonists are the priestesses of a fighter-craft-equivilant squadron and the officers on board the carriers that ferry them around. With the priestesses being required to work the magicc ships they use for combat, to the point that they’re almost all much older then the usual ‘choose your gender’ cut-off, but are required to put it off to retain their combat abilities. Reply Cosmogone says: October 25, 2017 at 10:20 am Nerem, I don’t know who you are addressing on this tread, so apologies for interfering, but – isn’t Simoun that one waifu bait anime? The premise sounds intriguing, but how was it executed? Reply Joe says: October 25, 2017 at 2:06 pm Are you thinking of Strike Witches? That’s the thing that comes to mind when you’re talking about creepy magic plane fanservice. Simoun, iirc predates 4chan waifu culture and is mostly mentioned in relation to ths gender thing or from people going through Mari Okada’s wikipedia page. This isn’t an endorsement, I haven’t seen it. Reply Nerem says: October 25, 2017 at 7:38 pm “That one waifu anime” could be a lot of things, but not this really isn’t it. It’s more of a shoujo (for-girls-demographic) anime than anything. But yeah I mentioned it because it fits in to the gender/transgender discussions. Reply Cosmogone says: October 26, 2017 at 8:44 am *snaps fingers* Wait, I get it: I was thinking about the right anime, but completely misunderstood what it was about. I’ve always seen it listed under “harem” tag for some reason. Yeah, this does sound quite interesting. Thanks for recommendation.) Reply Nerem says: October 26, 2017 at 9:34 am H.. Harem?? Really?? What gave them that idea? Literally nothing in it is even harem-like. It doesn’t sound like YOU misunderstood what it was about. (No problem. Someone has to actually listen to one of my dumb recommendations one of these days!) Reply uh says: October 27, 2017 at 1:45 pm It’s not about connotations or etymology. It is inherently transphobic to throw around the phrase “man with boobs” like there is anything wrong with or even incongruous about that, because many men do have boobs! That was likely not something that people had much awareness of when the phrase was coined, so I don’t fault more dated feminist sources for using it. But insisting that it’s okay to continue to use it now that we know better because those sources used it when they didn’t is trivilialzing and dismissing trans people and their stake in the ongoing conversation about gender. Reply Report comment Act says: October 27, 2017 at 2:02 pm Yeah, someone flagged this discussion so I’ve been reviewing the thread, and this is where I fall as well. I’m super not a fan of doublespeak in trope names, because you never know what turn of phrase could really get to someone and if harmful words can be avoided they should be (‘slut-shaming’ is another term I really dislike for this reason). I understand the intent was originally ‘well this is how misogynistic men see it’ and I don’t think, right now, it falls into the category of ‘you’ll get a commenting strike’ since as far as I’m aware it is what academia still seems to be using so it’s understandable people would continue to say it, but I think moving toward something else here should be the goal. That said, these can be super hard to change once they stick; I’ve been tyring to think of if this subtrope of Strong Female Character has any other names, or what an appropriate one would be, and the best I came up with was ‘reskinned men’. Not super catchy, but does I think get the idea across. Does anyone know if TV Tropes calls it something else? Or if there’s an alternative term on the rise in academia? (As an aside, I find it to be not just transphobic, but also misogynistic in a world where women will have their husbands leave them after masectomies.) Reply Report comment Roarke says: October 27, 2017 at 2:24 pm IIRC there’s a trope called ‘The Lad-ette’ which might mean what you’re looking for – a woman characterized by her complete departure from, and often disdain for, traditional feminine behavior. I think it’s based on some British slang for like, fratboys or something. Basically, not only is the woman not feminine, she is aggressively masculine. Strong Female Character doesn’t seem to exist as a trope, by the by. I checked the Gender and Sexuality Tropes Index, which is something of a horror show all its own. Reply CrazyEd says: October 27, 2017 at 3:39 pm Ladettes are more just like… the adult version of tomboys. Joanna is closer to a ladette than Strong Female Character Katniss. Reply Act says: October 27, 2017 at 3:52 pm TVT seems to cal the SFC ‘Action Girl’ for some reason (and oh my god the article is a mess: “In real life, at least in western society, most people are okay with the idea of a woman defending herself”). None of the sub-tropes seemt to fit. The bulk of them aren’t actually ‘sub-tropes’ anyway, just aspects of all SFCs. TVT is such shit. Reply Nerem says: October 28, 2017 at 2:00 pm I’ll try to use reskinned men! I’m sorry for using ‘men with boobs’ before. Just I didn’t have a better term to explain it. But that’s a better term, I think, in every way. Reply CrazyEd says: October 31, 2017 at 12:06 am Except for, unfortunately, the most important one: It’s not nearly as catchy. You’re never going to replace the term unless you can find one that’s at least as catchy as it. Even if it’s a more accurate term, it also has to be catchier, or the old one is gonna stick. Reply Y says: October 31, 2017 at 7:42 pm I think I’ve seen somebody (maybe even somewhere on this blog) use the term “honourary man,” which I think sounds a bit nicer than “reskinned” while getting the same idea across Reply CrazyEd says: October 31, 2017 at 7:54 pm That’s somewhat more catchy, but I don’t think it’s quite as descriptive (what makes them honourary men?), and I feel as if the people unsatisfied with “men with boobs” would be unsatisfied with “honourary men” as well. It totally was used to describe Katniss in the Hunger Games review, though. Reply St. Elmo's Fire says: October 31, 2017 at 9:20 pm honourary men Oh, I actually really like that one. It accurately gets across the core problem, which is men only drawing on their uniquely male experiences when writing women. It’s also evocative of the “one of the boys” problem, which is a related issue. Reply Farla says: October 31, 2017 at 10:53 pm Reskinned man seems pretty close, but has the issue that there’s a genre of criticism that actually is doing videogame reskins and similar. It also seems like the whole line of argument is lousy with people back-and-forthing about if female characters can have masculine characteristics full stop, and it seems like that’s going to be a chronic issue with any similar term. I was pondering “bubble women” or “bubble character”. It has no obvious meaning to anyone, but that means it’s less likely anyone would mistake it for a different argument. Reply CrazyEd says: October 31, 2017 at 11:31 pm I would definitely avoid that genre of criticism as hard as possible, but if you just invent a term with no obvious meaning or connection to it like that, you’re going to have to explain it each and every time, which sort of defeats the purpose of creating a concise term for it in the first place. Reply Cosmogone says: October 28, 2017 at 2:48 am Well said! Reply Report comment CrazyEd says: October 22, 2017 at 1:56 am Forgive me, but what are “GNC women”? I’ve never heard that term before. Reply Report comment Cosmogone says: October 22, 2017 at 8:23 am It’s “gender non-comforming”. Imo, it’s not a very helpful term most of the time, as it can refer to basically anything from butch women, to a woman working as a doctor, depending from a culture (same for men, obviously). I do find it very useful for discussing media, though, because, unlike in real life, there’s always a well-defined list of what the author considers unfeminine. Reply Report comment SpoonyViking says: October 20, 2017 at 9:31 am Speaking of Pratchett, did anyone else who read “Interesting Times” feel really uncomfortable when Rincewind – fully supported by the narrative – goes on and on about how Asian evil – sorry, Agatean evil is so much worse than European – I mean, Ankh-Morporkian evil? That somehow the latter was cleaner? Reply Report comment St. Elmo's Fire says: October 20, 2017 at 9:38 am This should go here now. But also: yes. Reply Report comment Act says: October 20, 2017 at 9:43 am I’ll move it, hold on. edit: I HAVE THE POWER 2 Reply Report comment St. Elmo's Fire says: October 20, 2017 at 9:48 am Gasp! I did not know you had that power! Can you move the other thread here too? Reply Report comment Act says: October 20, 2017 at 9:49 am It is a recent addition to my arsenal of magic. Yeah, I’ll pop the other one over. I’m not sure if you have permissions to do it or if it’s just me and Farla, but if you do, when you go to Comments > Edit, the option will be at the bottom of the screen. Reply Report comment St. Elmo's Fire says: October 20, 2017 at 9:47 am So I’ve just finished Thief of Time. Still a ways to go. My current favorite is Reaper Man. I actually find myself feeling like the early books were a lot better, and the series is losing steam over time. It’s very clear that Discworld was never planned to be a long-running series, so when he suddenly tries to make it one by revisiting past protagonists, there’s just nowhere to go. They already had complete character arcs in their introductory novels. It feels like all the best ideas have already been used. It makes me wonder what compelled him to keep doing it when the standalone novels are so much better. Reply Report comment illhousen says: October 20, 2017 at 10:29 am Money and fan demand, probably. Same reason Fate is a bigass franchise despite being the weakest Nasuverse thing. Another factor could be that the very early novels are written very differently from later ones, with the emphasis on pretty straightforward fantasy parody and oddball worldbuilding over more satirical style he developed in the process, so there could have been a desire to revisit old characters in the new light. Speaking of standalone novels, though, you should read Good Omens, which is co-written by Pratchett and Gaiman. 2 Reply Report comment St. Elmo's Fire says: October 20, 2017 at 10:43 am Another factor could be that the very early novels are written very differently from later ones, with the emphasis on pretty straightforward fantasy parody and oddball worldbuilding over more satirical style he developed in the process, so there could have been a desire to revisit old characters in the new light. I can see this, but that in itself produces a problem, because characters written for madcap comedy aren’t going to transition well into a more serious genre. (Carrot is probably the worst example of this; he becomes a completely different person between Guards! Guards! and Men at Arms.) I think what might have worked is if previous characters stuck around but the focus character changed every book — so, the Watch books could focus on various other characters instead of being about Vimes all the time. Reply Report comment SpoonyViking says: October 20, 2017 at 11:41 am Heh. I’ve often made that remark myself, though I can’t remember if I made them here. Carrot’s changes can be attributed to off-screen character development, though, just from living in Ankh-Morpork specifically and general maturing, in addition to us not getting even a glimpse into his inner narration in “Guards! Guards!”. The thing about Vimes is that Pratchett fell in love with the character (for instance, Carrot was originally supposed to be the protagonist of “Guards! Guards!”, but was replaced in that role by Vimes – which, to be fair, led to what is probably a better story than what would have been). Reply Report comment Roarke says: October 20, 2017 at 1:16 pm Ah, Good Omens. That book is just a delight. The Urbanite Devil was never done better than Crowley. Reply Report comment APen says: October 21, 2017 at 4:47 am They’re going to be adapting Good Omens into a mini-series for 2018. Neil Gaiman seems to be in full creative control, but I’m pretty nervous about how it’s going to turn out. I’m not enamored with the choice to cast David Tennant as Crowley. Maybe it’s just one of those real-life can never match head-canon things, but I really wish they’d gone with a less well-known actor. Reply Report comment illhousen says: October 21, 2017 at 5:37 am I remember reading about the first forays into negotiation of adaptation where Gaiman and Pratchett were basically going, “What. No. What. Are you stupid?” every time producers were proposing a new change, like placing the events of the book in America (despite them not being set in America being a joke). Reply Report comment CrazyEd says: October 21, 2017 at 5:46 am To be fair, what would be a better joke than setting the adaptation of a book where not being set in America was a joke in America? Reply APen says: October 21, 2017 at 9:42 am Oh man, have you heard that story about a proposed adaptationof Mort, where they told Pratchett, “we love it, all ready to go, only one thing – can we lose the death angle?” … 1 Reply illhousen says: October 21, 2017 at 9:49 am I think I remember it, yeah. It’s, like, when people abstractly talk about soulless moviemaking machine (primary about Hollywood), I often think this attitude is kinda out of proportion, of course an adaptation would need to change the source material in some ways, etc. Then I read stories like that and, nope, turns out at least some producers really don’t have souls. Reply Roarke says: October 20, 2017 at 7:39 pm I’m looking at the books now and I think that honestly Pratchett might not have had a single best stretch of books. Like, 3 of his latest books are Night Watch, Going Postal, and Making Money (Night Watch is 27th and the other two are around the 30th+), and those are super good. And Mort might be one of my personal favorites, ignoring everything else. At worst I’d say he was just hit-and-miss for his entire run, for different reasons at different times. Reply Report comment APen says: October 21, 2017 at 5:20 am I agree about there being no best stretch, though I think it also depends on the “series”. The Rincewind books keep up the tone of his earlier books even late in Discworld, and the Death books are thoughtful from the get-go. I do think the City Watch books are particularly strong through Thud, less for Vimes than for the issues they explore. Reply Report comment SpoonyViking says: October 20, 2017 at 11:41 pm Out of curiosity, which of the Death books have you read? Reply Report comment St. Elmo's Fire says: October 21, 2017 at 8:05 am Uh, all of them. I’m reading in order. Reply Report comment SpoonyViking says: October 21, 2017 at 11:06 am But you still think Susan is a Strong Female Character? I think you’re either misusing the term or being way too uncharitable with the character. 1 Reply Report comment St. Elmo's Fire says: October 21, 2017 at 12:08 pm Oh I’m definitely pigeonholing, but I’d still argue it’s a close approximation. Susan is more a collection of personality traits than a person. She is Spunky and Snarky and Gets Things Done. She also has no other emotions or human behavior at all. Like I said, cardboard cutout of a person. She feels more like the idea of what a Confident Proactive Female Protagonist should be than a well-rounded character who happens to fill that role. Reply Report comment SpoonyViking says: October 21, 2017 at 12:31 pm See, if you had read only “Thief of Time” (possibly “Hogfather” as well), I’d understand you. But “Soul Music”! Reply St. Elmo's Fire says: October 21, 2017 at 12:44 pm No, see, that’s the problem. Her behavior is reasonable in Soul Music, but that’s because she’s a teenager there. She never changes or matures, even when she’s supposed to be in her 20s. It’s like she’s caught in some kind of Eternal YA Protagonist Syndrome. Throughout the entirety of Thief of Time all I could do was marvel at how much more mature 17-year-old Lobsang was compared to 23-year-old Susan. Reply Roarke says: October 21, 2017 at 12:58 pm Eternal YA Protagonist Syndrome Always a disheartening diagnosis to make, that. Reply SpoonyViking says: October 21, 2017 at 2:41 pm Refresh my memory, please: how so? Reply St. Elmo's Fire says: October 21, 2017 at 2:51 pm On what exactly? Lobsang’s maturity? Lobsang repeatedly displays kindness and dedication to the people around him even when they look down on him. He understands the importance of his mission and responsibility even as he displays human moments of doubt and weakness. He’s inquisitive and, basically, he cares about stuff. He’s still learning, but I’d say he’s a shockingly well-adjusted teenager. (His final spar with Lu-Tze shows this pretty well, I think — Susan would never have done what he did. Susan probably wouldn’t have cared about the fifth surprise in the first place, because Susan doesn’t care about anything.) Susan, meanwhile, is just an arrogant, petulant dick to absolutely everyone. Her mentality of “I’m so much better and more logical than these stupid plebs” is just SUCH a teenager mindset. Pretty much the only thing she feels she lacks is human companionship… and small wonder, when she can never seem to stop sneering at everyone. She is absolutely 100% that pretentious teenager you find in every high school who thinks they’re better than everyone else because they’re so ~logical~. Reply SpoonyViking says: October 21, 2017 at 6:01 pm Oh, wow. That’s a terribly uncharitable view of Susan. Reply St. Elmo's Fire says: October 21, 2017 at 6:26 pm I really don’t think so, sorry. I can see the outline of the more nuanced character she was supposed to be, but it really just isn’t there. Any arguments you can make about how it’s intentional because she’s not fully human or whatever fall flat in the face of Lobsang and even Death acting way more human than her. Edit: Oh yeah, there’s another thing I really disliked about her. One of my favorite Discworld passages is the bit in Going Postal (I read it before the rest of the series), where Moist thinks of how callous it would be to make a quip at the villain he just killed, and instead he throws up. I thought that was an incredibly powerful statement. But Susan would have made the quip. She does, in fact, when she punches Teatime in Hogfather. Reply Roarke says: October 21, 2017 at 6:51 pm Are you saying you read Going Postal before the rest of the series, or just that specific bit of Going Postal? Because either way, Going Postal is money, friend. It’s even more money than Making Money, which is also money. Reply St. Elmo's Fire says: October 21, 2017 at 7:31 pm Indeed! I consider it the only one that can give Reaper Man a run for its money. (I did not like Making Money as much, as it happens — I think it’s another example of Pratchett using up all his good ideas in the intro novel and only having one good idea for the sequel.) Reply Roarke says: October 21, 2017 at 8:33 pm Yeah, Pratchett’s talent really lies in standalone novels, which is hilarious considering Discworld. He can’t maintain a consistent quality in part because he always starts out so strong with his newer ideas. Though there are exceptions to this. You may have noticed us crowing over Night Watch, and that is like the sixth Vimes book. I haven’t read Reaper Man in a really long time, but I think Death is generally one of the best characters. His reflections on life and his purpose in it are always awesome. Reply Keleri says: October 22, 2017 at 9:42 pm TERRY IS PERFECT AND ALL THIS CRITICISM IS FALSE FALSSSSSSSSSEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE I think my favorite thing about Pterry is his humanity, kindness, and hope for the future. It’s something a lot of “realistic!!!” fiction misses out on. A lot of his early books still hold up very well; “Strata”, the proto-Discworld book, is a blistering “Ringworld” parody, and I liked the YA “Johnny” series a lot. 4 Reply Report comment Farla says: October 22, 2017 at 10:16 pm That’s valid! Not about Strata though – yeah, the concept was terribly clever and the whole rigid species thing was intentional but like Earthsea’s evil religion turning out to be evil, sometimes I don’t want clever takes on what other people are doing, I just want a new thing. The idea of really polite and gentle ginormous carnivores is hilarious because that’s basically what humans are to so many animals, it doesn’t need the biology-is-destiny of them going on uncontrollable murder sprees. Same for the idea that religious beliefs vary by species so it’s a contradiction to believe yourself human souled according to alien religion. But mostly the polite ginormous carnivore murder spree thing. Reply Report comment Keleri says: October 23, 2017 at 9:52 pm The idea of really polite and gentle ginormous carnivores is hilarious because that’s basically what humans are to so many animals Ha! Yeah, like a lot of early Pratchett, the Hangry Murder Walrus is a bit of a one-note joke– hilarious if you know what the refrance (Niven’s grody Kzin aliens), but doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny. Discworld started out like this as well but achieved greatness by going beyond the jokes and questioning early assumptions. I was talking to someone about what the Redwall books would have been like if they’d done as much, and, damn. I’m also surprised that more religious fundamentalists haven’t latched on to the “no no, god created the world to be 4.6 billion years old 6000 years ago” thing, but perhaps it takes an elasticity of thinking that fundamentalism can’t survive on. Reply Report comment SpoonyViking says: October 22, 2017 at 10:28 pm I think my favorite thing about Pterry is his humanity, kindness, and hope for the future. Hear, hear! 1 Reply Report comment CrazyEd says: October 22, 2017 at 11:41 pm I think the best place I’ve ever seen that problem summed up was in Digibro’s review of Kobayashi’s Maidragon. The video is like 30 minutes long so I won’t look for the exact spot, but he was talking about the scene where Tohru uses her dragon powers to immediately incapacitate a purse-snatcher and pound him into the ground. For a moment, they’re both absolutely terrified that people will be shocked and fear Tohru for her amazing power… but then everyone congratulates her for apprehending the thief and gives her gifts as thanks of gratitute. And yet, even afterwards, Kobayashi keeps holding Tohru’s hand so long as the scary thought of what could have happened is in her mind, to reassure her that everything is okay. He summed it up pretty plainly: Sure, it’s realistic that sometimes, bad things happen to good people; but it’s just as realistic that sometimes, good things happen to good people. A lot of times in Kobayashi, something will happen, and Miss Kobayashi will immediately consider the worst possible option, and then be pleasantly surprised when the best possible option happens. That’s actually kind of the way she lives her life. That old saying about being a pessimist who is pleasantly surprised to be wrong, ya know? What I’m saying is that Kobayashi’s Maidragon is a good series with a very well adjusted adult protagonist. And also giant dragon boobies. Reply Report comment Keleri says: October 23, 2017 at 9:54 pm Oh I forgot to say, an up and coming writer who I think has Terry’s chops, imagination, humor, and love of footnotes is Ursula Vernon, and she gets it Right about women, gender, and race while also expressing a profound humanity. She also created the LOLWUT pear. HIGHLY recommended. Reply Report comment St. Elmo's Fire says: October 24, 2017 at 6:45 am Oh, yes! I read Digger and enjoyed it immensely. I’ve been meaning to get into her books. Reply Report comment CrazyEd says: October 31, 2017 at 12:09 am I think pages like this are a perfect summation of why I can’t get through a Terry Pratchett novel. He takes… what? A third of the page, half even? And dedicates it to a bad joke about how clever he is to realize that an unrealistic fantasy cliche is unrealistic? Reply Report comment APen says: October 31, 2017 at 1:45 am I mean, that’s the second Discworld book you’re quoting there. And the whole book (as a direct sequel to the Color of Magic) is basically a pastiche of pointing out unrealistic fantasy cliches. Considering how this female character and others ended up being rendered in the initial cover art for the books, the point was not as obvious at the time as we might hope it would be. But if devoting pages to building up a joke bothers you, yeah, that’s never going to go away, it’s kind of Pratchett’s thing. Reply Report comment CrazyEd says: October 31, 2017 at 4:01 am unrealistic fantasy cliches Even in 1986, the people writing chainmail bikinis knew it was unrealistic. They just didn’t care. The reason why cover artists drew them was to entice people to buy the books with the sexy ladies on them. The reason why Seabury Quinn (and probably many others, like Robert. E Howard, but I know for a fact Quinn did it on purpose) put so many scenes of scantily clad women and bondage in his Weird Tales stories was because he knew it’d be more likely to make his stories good subjects for Margaret Brunage’s cover art, and cover stories got authors more money. But that said, if that’s the entire point of the book, pointing out unrealistic fantasy cliches… What fantasy (which typically depicts a high medieval vision, so about 1050 through to 1300 or so) commonly means when they think of “short swords”, that is to say, arming swords or even longswords with a two foot long blade, are totally unrealistic. The closest thing, at least in a high medieval European martial context, are things like the viking sword (which was already on its way out by the start of the eleventh and basically dead by the twelfth) and its ancestors like the spatha and gladius. But even if they did, they could hardly be called “sensible”. You want a longer blade on horseback to better reach the ground. With such a short blade, you’re only going to be using it against other cavalry soldiers, who will probably be wielding longer blades to better hit people on foot (especially if they’re bandits or other ne’er-do-wells). And in terms of weapon lengths, size does matter. The Japanese used to say a swordman needed three times the skill with a sword as a spearman does with his spear to have a chance of victory. As for her armour, chainmail is terribly uncomfortable. Even when you use a belt to take some of the weight off your shoulders, that shit does not distribute its weight very well at all. If she’s expecting combat, and has the money for it, she should really be wearing a coat of plates. It was a series of large plates sewn onto the inside of a quilted foundation garment. If she’s not expecting to get into a fight, but still wants to be safe just in case, a gambeson (basically, said foundation garment without the metal plates) would be much more comfortable and far less fatiguing than chainmail. Chainmail byrnies are totally realistic (though declining) armour for the time period, but not quite so sensible in this context, and context is king. As for the boots… soft leather would fall to pieces on a long medieval treck, and leather thighboots were invented specifically for horse riding. So she’d probably look like she was wearing a heavy thigh-length quilted jacket, good woolen hose (heavy wool if cold, light if warm), and heavy leather thigh high boots. That would be both realistic and sensible. And all of this information was available in the early to mid 1980s, even. But if devoting pages to building up a joke bothers you But, see, the problem with this is that, even if I found the joke funny, he is leading with the punchline and the set-up is the half-page that comes after it. Reply Report comment St. Elmo's Fire says: October 31, 2017 at 8:48 am I believe I have a relevant tumblr post for this. There is a point where you have to balance your own research time with what the audience needs to know. Her outfit may not literally be what a real warrior would wear, but the average reader can still see that it is, at the very least, more functional than the fetish wear heroines are normally depicted in. Pushing further feels like nitpicking to me. (I will point out that, in later books, Pratchett did actually do his research on a lot of these topics, but it was because they interested him and he could make a good story out of it.) Even in 1986, the people writing chainmail bikinis knew it was unrealistic. They just didn’t care. I think this terminology is another product of the times. For a while, especially in the 90’s and early 2000’s, the backlash around sexualized female outfits was that they weren’t “practical”. As more modern feminists have pointed out, though, this wasn’t the actual core of the objection — plenty of male heroes have ridiculous outfits, and there’s nothing wrong with that. For whatever reason, though, people didn’t articulate that, and hung onto that simple, concrete term as shorthand for the deeper objections. So I think when he says “sensible” here he’s really trying to say “not objectified”. Reply Report comment CrazyEd says: October 31, 2017 at 1:58 pm Pushing further feels like nitpicking to me. I wouldn’t nitpick if he wasn’t making such an incredibly huge deal about it. It wasn’t enough for him to just dress his character in a chainmail shirt, or even just say “rather than wear a chainmail bikini, she wore a chainmail shirt”. He had to go on for pretty much the entire rest of the page about it. I wouldn’t nitpick this much (except for the short sword thing, fuck that cliche) if the entire point of the book wasn’t poking fun at unrealistic fantasy cliches… while unknowingly indulging in several. He picked literally what is the most appropriate time to be wearing thigh-length leather boots in the medieval world to point out how silly wearing thigh-length leather boots is. That one in particular is bad. People still wear long boots when they ride horses, even today! I am going to hold the realism to a higher standard when the point of your book is pointing out unrealistic things. I believe I have a relevant tumblr post for this. Actual oak trees do that. The english oak is so hardy and thick specifically because of the hard winters. And they’re probably being farmed for timber anyway. Seriously, where is he getting this cliche that fantasy world soil is made out of nothing but pebbles anyway? In any case, trees are some of the most fucking resiliant plants around. Because it’s the best design of cart that they’re able to afford and basically everyone is a small business person in a medieval world. Do your fantasy books regularly go into the structural analysis of carts? In the cities. You’re not going to find jewellers and bankers in the sticks. That’s where the farms are. It’s pretty much impossible to do feudalism wrong so long as you have the exchange of landholding for military service and economic production. What he’s thinking of is probably feudalism as practiced by a very specific group of Englishmen in a very specific time period. Recognizing the legitimacy of others to rule is an important part of being legitimate yourself when legitimacy rests on everyone agreeing you should be in charge. That said, nobles still argued over who is the legitimate ruler of what specifically. Stories of fabricated claims and usurpations of thrones and all that fall into this category. Has this guy never read a book about two nobles sqabbling over a tract of land because their grandfather owned it before he died before? If a book doesn’t have cadet branches, it’s probably only because the narrative isn’t focused enough on noble squabbling to mention them. You can’t go on and on about historical research and then suddenly hit me with cognatic gavelkind. And, in any case, pure agnatic succession was rare in both the real medieval world (outside of german areas) and fantasy worlds, where it’s much more common to have agnatic-cognatic primogeniture. Gavelkind is wrong unless your fantasy is rooted in some specific Gaelic groups. … It seems like he accidentally stuck a rant about how fantasy should have more progressivism in his rant about how fantasy isn’t historically accurate. Rotting teeth is a pretty bad cliche in itself. Unified law was the goal of basically everyone but the Holy Roman Empire (which was more of a patchwork-confederation of states than a state in its own right). How successful they were varied, but the goal was never any different. Assuming the plot is about the succession of kings… yes, and? You don’t include a chapter of the daily life of a stonemason in a book detailing the history of the Hundred Years War, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Who says he isn’t? Who says he isn’t arranging the marriages of his vassal’s daughters to prevent that? Is… is that even a thing? Criticize the use of Fantasy Catholicism or something, at least. The ancestors of the people making the bread. The ancestors of the people making the ale. … Horse… breeders? Those were a thing, you know. We don’t even know the history of the domestication of the horse in our own world. Further explanation would require knowledge of a specific fantasy world’s geography and history. Someone with more swords probably told them that was how it was going to be, probably. Time zones… no one needed time zones in a time before you could travel multiple time zones in a single day. This series of tweets reads like the notepad doodlings of someone who has never heard of the Dunning-Kruger effect. Reply Report comment Act says: October 31, 2017 at 3:24 pm 3 Reply St. Elmo's Fire says: October 31, 2017 at 3:43 pm @Act: wait is this a reference to something I don’t get it Reply SpoonyViking says: October 31, 2017 at 4:48 pm I wouldn’t nitpick if he wasn’t making such an incredibly huge deal about it. At the time, it kind of was. Remember, Discworld started being published in 1983; the book you quoted is from 1986. At the time, fantasy tropes and clichés were played pretty much straight pretty much all the time. Reply CrazyEd says: October 31, 2017 at 7:43 pm Again, that would only work if people were doing it out of ignorance. You don’t get points for pointing out something is unrealistic unless people think it’s realistic. Nobody was dressing their battle maidens in chainmail bikinis because they thought it was sensible, even in 1986. “[…] because this particular hero was a heroine. And before the cover artist gets himself in a tizzy drawing flowing red locks over shoulder bared by her chainmail bikini, she was dressed quite sensibly in a quilted jacket and riding boots, and her red locks were tied back in a ponytail. So don’t even think about it, Nigel. Riding with her were a number of […]” There, now the joke is about why she’s dressed unrealistically, and doesn’t go on and on about it. And because I forgot to mention it earlier: Basically all that stuff I wrote about armour and clothing is stuff you could have found out in the mid-eighties with a trip to your local library. We’ve learned a lot about historical arms and armour since the mid-eighties, but “padded jacks existed” is not part of that. I deliberately limited myself to information that would have been commonly available to people who looked for it in 1984. Reply St. Elmo's Fire says: October 31, 2017 at 9:19 pm You don’t get points for pointing out something is unrealistic unless people think it’s realistic. Again, you’re missing the point. Given Pratchett’s feminist leanings, I am fairly confident what he was mocking was the objectification of the typical heroine outfit, not its practicality, and just didn’t use the correct vocabulary, as I described. In that context, it is actually a meaningful jab — the joke is “wow, it’s pretty stupid that so many fantasy artists think with their dicks”. Reply Keltena says: October 31, 2017 at 10:20 pm I’m just popping in context-free from the new comments bar, but it looks to me like a literal teal deer—i.e., “tl;dr”. 4 Reply CrazyEd says: October 31, 2017 at 11:23 pm Then he should have left out the paragraph about how she would have looked exactly like that if she just had a bath and a change of clothes. Reply CrazyEd says: October 31, 2017 at 11:27 pm @Keltena: That is clearly an aquamarine reindeer-horned sausage-dog. Reply Keltena says: October 31, 2017 at 11:39 pm Alas, my lack of zoology expertise has been exposed. :( Reply CrazyEd says: October 31, 2017 at 11:42 pm Don’t feel bad. I happen to be an expert in cryptids and all manner of fearsome critters. Reply SpoonyViking says: October 31, 2017 at 2:37 pm Fuck me, I just learned fucking Jim Butcher references Pratchett. I feel like the world owes the latter an apology. Reply Report comment Roarke says: October 31, 2017 at 3:02 pm I mean, he also references things like The Simpsons, and he straight-up compares himself to Tolkien. He’s hip to pop culture in general; you can’t single out Pratchett no matter how cool he is. Jim Butcher owes everyone an apology. How about we settle for that? Reply Report comment SpoonyViking says: October 31, 2017 at 4:50 pm Jim Butcher owes everyone an apology. How about we settle for that? Well, that’s kind of a given already, but it’s acceptable! […] and he straight-up compares himself to Tolkien. …What? Reply Report comment Roarke says: October 31, 2017 at 5:07 pm Butcher often does little twists on the perception of wizards in other media. One of his favorites is dropping the ‘subtle’ from the ‘subtle, and quick to anger’ description of wizards (or was it Gandalf in particular) found in LotR. Edit: Yeah in hindsight ‘straight-up compares’ is weird/poor word choice on my part, but I’m pretty certain Butcher likes to poke at Tolkien more often than other authors. Reply Report comment Act says: November 7, 2017 at 10:27 am I’m about halfway through Colour of Magic and it’s very cute. 5 Reply Report comment Act says: November 21, 2017 at 2:04 pm Guise I just started Good Omens and it’s fucking amazing. 5 Reply Report comment Roarke says: November 21, 2017 at 2:26 pm Yeah, that is one of the better things Pratchett/Gaiman have ever done. Crowley <3<3<3. 1 Reply Report comment Act says: November 21, 2017 at 2:30 pm omg i love him he is a precious cinnamon bun 1 Reply Report comment illhousen says: November 21, 2017 at 2:38 pm This is literally how that happened. 3 Reply Report comment Roarke says: November 21, 2017 at 3:02 pm Funnily enough, that’s also how I imagine Aziraphale and Crowley to be. 1 Reply Report comment Act says: November 21, 2017 at 3:26 pm I legit thought it was them at first. Reply Report comment Act says: November 21, 2017 at 3:27 pm omgggggg There’s a foreward at the beginning of the edition I have that boils down to, “We get asked all the time what it was like for us to write together but you should stop asking because it was like 1980, we were no one, and it was a job, which isn’t a great answer.” 2 Reply Report comment Roarke says: November 21, 2017 at 3:33 pm foreward I actually legitimately pity anyone who tries to spell that word. That is damn interesting, though. It’s pretty wild to know that these two dudes churned this out before becoming Themselves. Like you’d look at this book today and see Pratchett/Gaiman on the cover and you’re just like holy shit, a legendary tag team, which is of course why everyone asks them what it must have been like. Reply Report comment Act says: November 21, 2017 at 4:02 pm I actually legitimately pity anyone who tries to spell that word. Y’all know I can’t spell anything. (In Eigth Grade I was deemed competent enough for the state Scholastic Olympics but was absent the day everyone chose subject areas and so got saddled with spelling. I somehow came in 3rd, which does not say good things about the level of spelling ability in New Jersey parochial schools.) Like you’d look at this book today and see Pratchett/Gaiman on the cover and you’re just like holy shit, a legendary tag team, which is of course why everyone asks them what it must have been like. Their friendship is the cutest. And also sad, considering. Gaiman tweets about missing him a lot. Reply Report comment Roarke says: November 21, 2017 at 8:02 pm I always forget that folks mean parochial in the church sense. I was thinking like, what kind of school encourages close-mindedness? Then I remembered the other meaning, then I realized they ultimately meant the same thing, which is why I’ll forget there is a second meaning by tomorrow. RIP Terry. Folks always said that Gaiman would take up the pen if Pratchett ever perished mid-book, but it didn’t go down like that, small blessings. Reply SpoonyViking says: November 21, 2017 at 9:08 pm Don’t know if you’ve read it yet, but in this article Gaiman talks about Pratchett: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/sep/24/terry-pratchett-angry-not-jolly-neil-gaiman. Reply Roarke says: November 21, 2017 at 9:14 pm *wipes away a single angry tear* Yeah, that’s good stuff. I’m glad to see that kind of anger discussed as a neutral force whose value depends on the person and how they use it. That kind of well-used anger was always present in Discworld, especially in Vimes and Weatherwax. 4 Reply Keleri says: November 22, 2017 at 7:44 pm I’d like to search L-Space for the Pterry/Douglas Adams crossover; I assume it belongs in a way better timeline than our own. 1 Reply Report comment St. Elmo's Fire says: February 19, 2018 at 10:35 am So I just finished Thud! and I have thoughts. I felt like it was pretty shallow compared to Jingo and The Fifth Elephant, honestly. It was mostly a retread of the same concepts — once again we spend all our time focusing on the dwarfs, once again it’s a false flag operation. What mainly bothers me, I think, is that the protagonist is so removed from the emotional stakes. Jingo was effective because it forced Vimes to confront his own racism and prejudice, but here he’s just smarming about how these dumb ethnic minorities have such dumb conflicts, why can’t they be more like us enlightened white peeps. Which is really… eeenh if you’re trying to make a point about race relations. The book should have had a dwarf or troll protagonist (maybe co-protagonists? That might’ve been interesting) who could personally engage with the themes. I’m also disappointed we didn’t get to learn more about the trolls, despite Mr. Shine hinting their culture is just as storied as the dwarfs’. I think it might have been a stronger story if a troll really was responsible and Vimes ended up having to learn about their culture, in a parallel to The Fifth Elephant. That would have given us a message of “stirring up trouble is wrong, and it’s also wrong to blame a whole group for the actions of a few extremists”, which I think is a more nuanced and meaningful stance to take than just “everyone was totally buddies back in olden days, your racism has no basis in reality”. I know we all love Pterry’s idealism but that felt too idealistic to me, too much like the fairy-tale ending Vimes derides at the end of the book. And ye gods, every time I think Vimes can’t get worse he does. I was really irked by how he treated the inspector, and how it miraculously turned out that was what he wanted anyway. Like, no, government oversight is really important and not everyone needs to be a policeman, didn’t we just go over that in Going Postal? (And relatedly, I’m starting to roll my eyes at Perfect Batman Politician Vetinari, too. It takes so much tension out of everything — even if Vimes somehow fails, you know Vetinari has some contingency for it. It’s a Sue backing up a Sue. I’m kinda missing the days when he was actually vulnerable.) Reply Report comment APen says: February 19, 2018 at 12:07 pm The thing is, to me Thud isn’t about politics in the same way that Jingo and the Fifth Elephant are. In those books, the climaxes to the political situations take place in public – the king shakes hands with a troll, and the peace treaty is organized in front of the whole army. Even when Vimes confronts Wolfgang, he makes sure to do it out in public, the “civilized” way. He kills Wolfgang with /light/. Thud takes on the other side of these political and racial issues. It’s about the moments that happen away from observation and civilization, in the dark. Everything in Thud is secretive and secluded. The crime Vimes is investigating takes place in the dark — the wider political crime he ends up investigating is the obscuring of the peace treaty, which also took place in the dark. And Vimes, it’s true, does not have a real stake in the actual political issues. His stake is in this question of what happens in the dark, personally, as a policeman. I have always found the answer he comes to unsettling and decidedly non-idealistic. He answers the question of who watches the watchmen, with “I do.” It’s an admittance of defeat, in a way. It’s a recognition that sometimes, in the end, the choice to do the right or wrong thing depends on an unaccountable person and whatever is taking place in the darkness of their mind. Mr Shine usurps the place the Low King had in the Fifth Elephant, as the purveyor of the book’s guiding philosophy. The Low King is conserved with symbols – how public action influences political action. The central object of the Fifth Elephant’s plot is the Scone of Stone, a symbol, which in the end is revealed to be powerful only because people believe in it. But Mr Shine’s approach is decidedly different. He is always cloaked, and his main forum for political change is a secret backroom, that focuses on bringing dwarfs and trolls together as individuals. The book opens with the scripture of the dwarves, the writings of Tak. And I think it’s no coincidence that, “The first thing Tak did, he wrote himself.” Only after does Tak write the laws. Individual actions come first, and sometimes they occur in places the law can’t touch. At the end of the book, King Rhys is shocked that Vimes could be delayed by something “more important than this.” Ultimately, Vime’s desire to be a good father is what enables him to fight his inner demons and help achieve wider justice. As an answer to the problem of justice, I find it a deeply ambivalent one – after all, a conception of communal justice that rests on individuals’ inner morality has no guarantee. Terry Pratchett’s idealism is that he believes in people. But people have to be /believed in/ precisely because they are so capable of making the wrong choices. (Also, Vetinari embodies this problem more than any other character, I think. His moral philosophy is summed up in this quote: “[on seeing baby otters eating baby salmon] One of nature’s wonders, gentlemen: mother and children dining upon mother and children. And that’s when I first learned about evil. It is built into the very nature of the universe. Every world spins in pain. If there is any kind of supreme being, I told myself, it is up to all of us to become his moral superior.” Morality rests entirely on individual choice in an evil or immoral world. See also Death’s speech at the end of Hogfather. Pratchett philosophy is a kind of nihilism, where the world has no inherent morality or meaning – except the morality and meaning that human beings choose to create. 1 Reply Report comment St. Elmo's Fire says: February 19, 2018 at 2:47 pm And Vimes, it’s true, does not have a real stake in the actual political issues. His stake is in this question of what happens in the dark, personally, as a policeman. I have always found the answer he comes to unsettling and decidedly non-idealistic. He answers the question of who watches the watchmen, with “I do.” It’s an admittance of defeat, in a way. It’s a recognition that sometimes, in the end, the choice to do the right or wrong thing depends on an unaccountable person and whatever is taking place in the darkness of their mind. See, I didn’t feel the same way. I think that in order for that interpretation to hold, Vimes has to be flawed or make mistakes. He isn’t and he doesn’t. He always, always makes the absolute most perfect choice, even when a freaking demon is eating his brain. If the watcher of the watchmen is perfect, “I do” isn’t a compromise, it’s the correct option. I guess what it really comes down to is that Vimes just doesn’t do it for me as a character at this point. He’s reached the end of his character arc. If the only thing left for him to do is be a good policeman… Well, we already know from the previous books that he is, so there’s no tension there. He’s not moving forward, he’s just asking “Can I stay as perfect as I already am?” and you know the answer is yes, yes he will, because he’s the author’s pet. If Vimes’ role is now to just being the perfect executor of justice, that role’s too advanced for normal protagonist. There’s a reason the authorities aren’t usually the protagonists of detective novels. He needs to step out of the spotlight. And while the idea of there being important areas the law can’t affect is an interesting one, I don’t see how that can be the takeaway moral here. The entire book is Vimes declaring that there IS no area outside of the law and that he gets to stick his nose into everything. In order to have a story where the law can’t touch everything, the lawman either has to fail or compromise his nature as a lawman, and that does not happen here. (I’d actually argue that it does in Night Watch, which also does a better job of showing “what happens in the dark”.) Reply Report comment SpoonyViking says: February 19, 2018 at 4:32 pm He’s not moving forward, he’s just asking “Can I stay as perfect as I already am?” and you know the answer is yes, yes he will, because he’s the author’s pet. That is true. I’ve just started “Carpe Jugulum” and I’m getting the same vibe from Granny Weatherwax. She’s not bland or anything, but I think she works much better as a distant mentor figure for Tiffany Aching. 1 Reply Report comment Roarke says: February 19, 2018 at 12:17 pm It’s always funny to me when I remember that Carrot was originally supposed to be the protagonist of Guards! Guards! but Vimes ended up taking over the book because he was, you know, a better protagonist who could personally relate to being a bottom-rung expendable. It makes your complaints about him being removed from the emotional stakes of the later books so much funnier. I think Night Watch was the last good Watch book, in part because it was the last good Vimes book. illhousen said at some point in the distant past that it was becasue he was stripped of his power and became an underdog again, but I’d also suggest that it was really because of what you’re saying here – it was the last time Vimes had real personal stakes in what was happening, the last time we deal with something that deeply affects him. The dwarf/troll conflict had a lot of potential, and I do think it’s worse that their whole fued was founded on some misunderstanding. It’s not that misunderstandings can’t or don’t happen, but it makes people look even more like idiots than they already do for perpetuating fueds. Like you said, the point of reconciliation is to set aside or redress grievances peacefully, not to realize there were never solid grounds for a fued to begin with. Reply Report comment SpoonyViking says: February 19, 2018 at 1:26 pm But their feud wasn’t based on a single misunderstanding. Remember that the dwarves and trolls were in Koom Valley in the first place to have peace talks – they had already been fighting at that point. It’s just that it’s become a rallying call for extremists and parties interested in fanning the flames, like, say, Gettysburg or the Alamo. 1 Reply Report comment Roarke says: February 19, 2018 at 2:07 pm True enough. It still leaves us in more or less the same place, though, if the original reasons for the fued are all but forgotten and have been supplanted by the Koom Valley battle wherein both sides ambushed the other. Does the book ever reveal the original source of conflict between dwarves and trolls? I think it would still be somewhat cheap to just say that it didn’t matter and that Koom Valley should have solved everything but didn’t due to a cave-in. Reply Report comment St. Elmo's Fire says: February 19, 2018 at 2:22 pm Does the book ever reveal the original source of conflict between dwarves and trolls? In an earlier book the explanation is that dwarfs like mining rocks and trolls are rocks, so they end up running into each other/competing for resources a lot. Although, the fact that the original Things Tak Wrote is positive towards the trolls implies they were at peace to begin with, too. Reply Report comment SpoonyViking says: February 19, 2018 at 4:29 pm Sort of the same reason why trolls hate druids. Reply SpoonyViking says: February 19, 2018 at 1:39 pm […] but here he’s just smarming about how these dumb ethnic minorities have such dumb conflicts, why can’t they be more like us enlightened white peeps. …I’m not sure we actually read the same book. Anyway, I think that’s part of the point: Vimes doesn’t need to have emotional stakes in the troll-dwarf feud because it doesn’t matter how Vimes, the man, is personally affected by it, what matters is how Commander Vimes deals with the situation (it’s much the same as it was in “Fifth Elephant”, actually). For him, the emotional stakes are in the Summoning Dark plotline and his ongoing conflict regarding the boundaries between law, justice and vengeance. Also, see above regarding “everyone was buddies back in the olden days”. EDIT: Oh, wait, are you talking about the dwarves’ origin myth? Sorry, I thought you were talking about the Koom Valley incident. But I don’t think that’s so far-fetched, considering how many, many ancient cultures were actually a lot more racially integrated than modern ones. 2 Reply Report comment St. Elmo's Fire says: April 27, 2018 at 9:35 pm So I just finished I Shall Wear Midnight. I have really mixed feelings. On the one hand, I did feel like it genuinely did something new compared to the last two books, which felt a little repetitive, and it was interesting to tackle the paradox of why wicked witch stories still exist on Discworld when witches are universally good. Unfortunately, I don’t think it tackled it well. It’s really, really tacky to take real-world oppression that was extremely purposeful and manufactured and say it only happens because a magic man makes people go crazy, and even moreso when it’s a man who was killed by a witch nobly sacrificing herself. I did like that the book made the point that most of the victims weren’t actually witches, but then all the actual danger in the plot is directed at actual witches, muddling things. Much like the issues in Interesting Times, it felt like Pterry just didn’t quite get the point, or had to badly oversimplify to make it fit into the narrative he wanted. I’m also really irked that even in the witches books the ~mysterious femininity~ thing doesn’t stop. I could at least pass it off as in-character when Vimes did it, but all the ball-and-chain jokes about Roland and Letita made me cringe. And speaking of that, we finally bring back Esk only to have her say that oh yeah she’s totally not a wizard, no gender radicalism here? Way to completely miss the entire point of your own book, Pterry? I’m so torn on her — I guess it’s better that she does get canonized (and gets cool powers, at least), but the books were so obviously written with the assumption that Equal Rites just didn’t happen that trying to jam it back in produces so many issues. Just last book we had the UU staff still being chauvinist dickbags, why has no one ever mentioned that oh yeah, there was a girl wizard and she turned out all right? I thought Equal Rites was supposed to be about changing the status quo, but instead this one girl gets a special privilege and then magic goes right back to being boys-only? And also she lives in the wizards’ trash and nobody knows about her? Eeenh. The longer the books go on and the more the status quo refuses to change, the more it feels like they’re reinforcing the ideas they were originally meant to criticize. I get the impression that the witches books are meant to be making a point about how women’s work is undervalued etc., but the witches keep doing more and more work and getting less and less for it while the wizards get to dick around in their magic castle being useless. At a certain point it becomes less “This is a problem we should pay attention to,” and more “This is the way it always will be, give up.” And I’m also annoyed the book sunk Roland/Tiffany. Yes, in a way it’s mature to realize that just because people are similar in one respect doesn’t mean they’re compatible, but is it really any better to say you’ll stumble over your perfect soulmate right after? I liked that Roland and Tiffany were different. Interesting relationships involve compromise and growth. And it’s not that witches can’t be heads of state, because Magrat is right there. By all accounts the place would be better off with Tiffany running it, but instead I guess now Tiffany and Roland are going to spend their entire lives passive-aggressively snarking at each other that technically you don’t have to do what I say but you totally have to? Because that’s so healthy and efficient. And I don’t like that they poached Wee Mad Arthur. There are tons of Feegles and only one of him! Ankh-Morpork needs him way more! Overall I’m really getting the sense that sequels just don’t work for Discworld. He always uses up all the best, most fantastic ideas in the beginning and then tries to get into gritty real-world stuff that just doesn’t match up to past grandeur. The early books are full of so much power and magic, but now magic is parlor tricks and the characters get reprimanded even for using that. Like hey, remember how a big point in Equal Rites was tricking you into thinking witch magic was just smoke and mirrors and then Granny laid the smackdown on the Archancellor? Now Tiffany can move heat around. Yeah, that’s… real impressive. Reply Report comment Farla says: April 28, 2018 at 5:54 pm Thinking about it again, I’m wondering if part of the issue is him trying to square a love of nobility with an awareness of how it’s bad or at best useless. Tiffany suffers daily to ease the old baron’s pain, when she has a million other things to do and people to help. The whole castle is presented as harmless playacting, but she’s locked up and talking to the guard about his mother/grandmother’s leg and how she won’t be able to do anything about that while she’s here…it sort of skips over the question of how, if the guard wasn’t pointlessly guarding, he could be taking better care of her himself. And this harmless playacting is the very, very best case, and every deviation from that, every bit of actual being-the-baroning we see, is terrible for the people. That’s part of why I liked Tiffany with him, it suggested an actual transition instead of continuing the status quo of the baron hanging around and everyone hoping he didn’t decide to do something awful to them. It’s particularly muddled with the duchess – so she’s abusive to the servants and her daughter, but actually she and that family do care about servants in their own way and that whole bit about how most of their estate is filled by elderly servants and the servants hired to care for them…but also she came from common stock so why would she care about mutual loyalty between servant and master? (And it’s not like it’s really her money paying for any of that, it’s the taxes from the workers further out, and what happens when they’re too old to work, are they turned from their homes to die in the street instead?) 1 Reply Report comment SpoonyViking says: April 29, 2018 at 10:00 am I think the divide lies more in the narrative’s idealism – the world SHOULD change – and its realism – like it or not, this is the world as it is. Reply Report comment Farla says: April 29, 2018 at 10:30 am Maybe. But these are fantasy stories, and none of the male characters ever had to just accept that life sucks for them. Even the positive changes at the end of the book are nothing gets better for Tiffany, the one female wizard is just a weird type of witch whose good works are so thoroughly anonymous that people don’t even know she exists, and the male witch gets to become an educated man who’ll get, like, actually paid with money and respected and shit. Reply Report comment SpoonyViking says: April 29, 2018 at 11:36 am Yeah, the overall narrative always sustained its gender essentialism on some level, sadly. …Huh. I was going to argue against your main point, but it’s true; other than Rincewind, is there any main male character who doesn’t somehow improve his situation, even if only materially? I want to say it’s because an important theme in the Witches books is that some jobs are thankless and dirty but still have to be done, but it’s not as if police officers have an easy, clean job, and look at Vimes’ situation across the books. Reply Report comment Farla says: April 29, 2018 at 1:06 pm I think it’s back to the limits of tropes. Male characters often have known progression. A lowly guard become captain, becomes commander, becomes knighted… Women just exist in their present form. He acknowledges the problem a bit when talking about the maiden/mother/crone and how Granny, as the current Crone, is going to get pushed out as Magrat becomes Mother and so Nanny becomes Crone, and you can see how that setup never really thought about women actually aging or being people in general, it was meant to just be that three women come from nowhere, do whatever the plot needs, and then go away again. Even stuff like Tiffany becoming a witch required him to invent his own mythology for what witches are and where they come from. This was actually something that I noticed back with Homestuck, where the main characters always are mirrored and equally male/female, but the side characters are astoundingly overwhelmingly male, because a lot of them are sketches of a common trope and there are just so many more common tropes, many of which are so much more well realized and developed and generally useful. (…it’s a lot like fanfic, really, it’s easier to write clever additions if you don’t have to build the whole thing, but it means you’re limited by the source material too.) 2 Reply SpoonyViking says: April 29, 2018 at 9:56 am Your reading of the Cunning Man is too literal, I’d say. Reply Report comment St. Elmo's Fire says: April 29, 2018 at 10:01 am What’s the alternate reading, then? Reply Report comment SpoonyViking says: April 29, 2018 at 10:06 am For starters, the book is very unsubtle that the Cunning Man is invited by people, deliberately or not, and that the reoccurring anti-witch hysteria can’t be said to be caused entirely by him. Reply Report comment Farla says: April 29, 2018 at 10:24 am I didn’t see that as mattering much. You don’t need to be specifically anti-witch to invite him, just generally unpleasant, and once invited he can cause everyone in the vicinity to go spontaneously insane about witches in particular. So yeah, there’s some human connection to what happens, but it’s just the banal “as long as any evil lurks in the hearts…” Plus there’s no clear reason why people like the nurse hate Tiffany so very much if not for existing anti-witch sentiment, which brings us back to how every other actual power-block in Discworld seems to be able to look out for itself, but for some reason witches get turned on constantly despite being the most selfless and helpful faction. Either they alone are getting harassed supernaturally by unstoppable forces, which, why? Or they’re just inherently hated, which again, why? Reply Report comment St. Elmo's Fire says: April 29, 2018 at 10:27 am I found that to be really muddled plotting though, like he was tripping over himself trying to reconcile the two things. There is no reason for anti-witch hysteria to exist on the Discworld in the first place, and we eventually learn that the reason people were turning against Tiffany was because of another spell, not because they just inherently hate witches. After Letita undoes the curse, everyone’s nice again. We’re told “poison goes where poison’s welcome”, but it’s really unclear how much of that is inherent bigotry and how much is supernatural influence. I suppose I should say that the thing that really raised red flags for me was Proust saying “every so often people just turn against witches for no reason, it’s really weird!” Institutional oppression doesn’t just happen. Wicked witch stories were part of a purposeful narrative, they didn’t just spring up out of the ether because a few people got cranky one day. Reply Report comment SpoonyViking says: April 29, 2018 at 11:16 am Reminder that the Discworld has actually had its fair share of wicked witches (Black Aliss is famed in legend, but even the books showed Lily Weatherwax and Mrs. Gogol). Also, wizards absolutely were hated in the earlier books, back before they were a metaphor for academia. Reply Farla says: April 29, 2018 at 1:10 pm But that makes it worse! Before, it seemed like the hate for witches was mostly based on justified fears of them, just like the wizards were hated for being a bunch of crazy murderous assholes. And it’s especially troublesome when the change happens at the same time as making the witches more and more accessable to their community. It’s okay for people to hate witches if witches are hermits behind a pile of spells and nobody can find their huts unless the witch lets them, just like the wizards have their gated and very walled community to make the feelings of other people irrelevant. Reply SpoonyViking says: April 29, 2018 at 4:02 pm Hm, I see your point. I suppose that can be chalked to the lack of continuity between books. Not that it necessarily excuses things, of course. Reply Act says: April 29, 2018 at 10:28 am I thought Equal Rites was supposed to be about changing the status quo, but instead this one girl gets a special privilege and then magic goes right back to being boys-only? And also she lives in the wizards’ trash and nobody knows about her? I’m only like 7 books in and this is the exact thing that’s bothering me. I really enjoyed Equal Rites — I thought it was 100% on-point both about fantasy tropes and about the struggle of women to be strong without abandoning the feminine, but then the series just picks up like it never happened and…?? As a reader, that’s a huge letdown, because it says that any single book, no matter how good, could just not matter next time if it’s inconvenient, and what’s even the point of setting them all in the same world if that’s the case? If you take each book as a standalone is works, but what’s the point of that? Idk, it honestly left me super turned off in general because it just means nothing, from the characters to the setting, has any real chance for growth, and that’s just… not fun to read about. Reply Report comment Farla says: April 29, 2018 at 10:35 am because it just means nothing, from the characters to the setting, has any real chance for growth, and that’s just… not fun to read about. Yeah, I can understand how the ending of the book kind of wrecked any ability to write more wizard jokes, since the nature of overturning tropes is you can’t keep writing parody about the thing you only just invented because nobody else does it, buuuuut he decided he was done with wizard-specific jokes anyway and turned the wizards into a parody of academia and he kept the boy around to make magic computers, so there was no reason she couldn’t just be there, working with the magic computers, add in some extra girls among the students too, while the old wizards doddered around being professors. Reply Report comment St. Elmo's Fire says: April 29, 2018 at 10:38 am Esk as Discworld Ada Lovelace would have been amazing, honestly. If you wanna do stuff about women’s work being undervalued and jokes about academia, those things overlap pretty well! Reply Report comment illhousen says: April 29, 2018 at 12:17 pm Obligatory: http://sydneypadua.com/2dgoggles/lovelace-the-origin-2/ Reply Report comment SpoonyViking says: April 30, 2018 at 2:31 pm …That was brilliant! Reply St. Elmo's Fire says: April 29, 2018 at 10:36 am Yeah, I felt the same way. Farla and I may do a post on it when we finish the series. It’s particularly annoying because if you continue, you will find that the other characters do get to change and improve, it’s only Equal Rites in particular that gets retconned out. A big part of the problem is probably that he was not intending this to become a big series at first. The first book was intended to be a oneshot, then he made a direct sequel to it, then he made Equal Rites which is sort of a capstone and alternate take on the wizards theme he set up in the first two books. But then he had more ideas for the wizards and wanted to keep going, but those ideas relied on the version of the wizards he established at the beginning so he had to reset things back to the status quo… and it just gets worse from there. The longer things go on, the more the metanarrative just ends up locking off potential ideas as things ossify. Tiffany Aching is supposed to be a later series where he is planning ahead, and it still runs into these problems. You can’t have books about radically changing things if you want to keep writing in the same setting. Reply Report comment SpoonyViking says: April 29, 2018 at 11:22 am Yeah, that’s a fair point. Even the characters who don’t develop, like the Silver Horde, get a heartfelt send-off. Esk just disappears. As a personal aside, I don’t get why people like the Witches series so much. I mean, they’re quality writing, but they never really gelled for me, and Granny only got more and more on my nerves as the books went on. “Equal Rites” really is the best one, in my opinion, even if it lacks Magrat and Nanny Ogg. Reply Report comment Farla says: April 29, 2018 at 1:15 pm I don’t know exactly myself. The whole theater-tropes thing isn’t something familiar to me in the way the Conan/swords and sandals low fantasy is, so I also liked Equal Rites but wasn’t that into a lot of the others. And the witches change so much across books that I’m not sure which witches people mean when they say they love them. It might just be that if you want female characters witches are pretty much your only protagonist choice until like…Monstrous Regiment? Edit: wait, no, Susan. But Susan is also a pretty different type of story, I think, more your traditional fantasy and much less grounded. Reply Report comment SpoonyViking says: April 29, 2018 at 3:45 pm Oh, as a Shakespeare aficionado, I enjoyed a lot of “Wyrd Sisters”, but the novel as a whole just felt… Shallow, really. I liked quite a bit the themes it dealt with, but I think Shakespeare’s own plays – particularly “MacBeth” and “Hamlet”, the ones most referenced in the book – dealt with them a lot better. Reply Leave a Reply Cancel reply Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * Name * Email * Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email.