“To win you must play both sides. You must, in fact, be able to think like your ancient enemy…To study the enemy you have to get under his skin. When you’re under his skin you start to see the world through his eyes…And thus we wear down mountains. Water dripping on a stone, dissolving and removing. Changing the shape of the world, one drop at a time. Water dripping on a stone, commander. Water flowing underground, bubbling up in unexpected places.”
One unfair criticism of Terry Pratchett is that he can lay his social commentary rather thickly. I found this particularly strange during my rereading because I had trouble finding any real evidence for it. The only thing that was hammered home repeatedly was the importance of thinking. This gave us the likes of Small Gods, where Pratchett angrily argued against fundamentalism while also examining the benefits of belief, or Men at Arms, which attacked racism but shone a light on all of our prejudices. Continue reading →
Never mind who started it, never mind how it was fought, they’d want to know how to deal with things now. They represented what people called the ‘international community’. And like all uses of the word ‘community’, you were never quite sure what or who it is.
For an author so set on exploring humanity, what makes us tick and why, it is somewhat curious it took Terry Pratchett more than 20 Discworld books to tackle war. Jingo was published in 1997; four years shy of 9/11 and all that followed, but close enough to the British Army’s involvement in both Northern Ireland and what was Yugoslavia that an experience of his nation at conflict would have been easy to recall.
Two years ago, Pratchett was interviewed by Cory Doctorow. It’s a splendid Q&A and well worth the time spent reading. In it, Pratchett talks about his thoughts about authority, an area where he is curiously conservative. Speaking about Vetinari, he says: “I don’t mind authority, but not authoritarian authority. After all, the bus driver is allowed to be the boss of the bus. But if he’s bad at driving, he’s not going to be a bus driver anymore.” Continue reading →