Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Written Word Wed. - The Editor Wanted to Call It "Oh Bugger by Wossname" But Pratchett Declined

Sorry for the delayed posting, but Little Man Stud crashed at my place last night (he had an interview in Dallas today), so between cleaning up my apartment so that it was fit for human habitation and visiting with LMS, I didn't have much time to type anything up. But, hey, that's what lunch hours are for, right?

Once More With Footnotes by Terry Pratchett

I'm going to deviate from the usual review format for this one, since its nature as an anthology of random writings by Pratchett makes it a bit difficult to pin down as any single genre. The book contains various short stories, essays, speeches, introductions, and the like. Only a few of the items here are strictly Discworld related, and the best of them, "The Sea and Little Fishes," was originally printed in the Legends anthology which I'd read several years ago; however, the Cohen the Barbarian story "Troll Bridge" was also pretty good.

At one point in Once More Pratchett observes that writing short stories is like pulling teeth for him, and in several cases it showed, but I did enjoy three of his non-Discworld stories: "# ifdefDEBUG + 'world/enough'+ 'time'", a story about a world taken over by virtual reality and other cyberpunk things, and the repairman who has to clean up the VR addicts’ messes; “Final Reward,” in which the author of a popular Fantasy series discovers that deciding to kill off his beloved Conan-esque character might not have been the best of ideas when the barbarian shows up to meet his makes; and "Once and Future," a very entertaining twist on the Arthurian mythos which Pratchett says he's thought about expanding into a full book, which sounds like a great idea to me.

But short stories only make up a portion of this book. The rest is devoted to non-fiction (or, less-fictional, anyway) writings on the nature of Fantasy, his experiences doing a book tour of Australia, his experiences working with technology, his experiences trying to become a writer, etc. Some really interesting stuff sprinkled throughout these, especially when he talks about his time working at a nuclear plant and the superstitions that arose around it. I also enjoyed his rants about the legitimacy of Fantasy as a genre; it made me think of my Creative Writing professor who flat out refused to give me any sort of constructive criticism on the one Fantasy story I did, claiming that it was beneath her to read it, and beneath me to write it. I'd like to think Pratchett's arguments might sway her, but I doubt it.

The one problem with the non-fiction is that, having basically read the whole thing in a day, I couldn't help noticing the same examples, anecdotes, and metaphors popping up time and time again. It's understandable; once you've come up with a good example for a problem, why not use it any time you're called upon to talk on the subject? Understandable, but still slightly distracting.

All in all, I'd say Once More With Footnotes will only be fully appreciated by fans of Pratchett's work; novices might enjoy some pieces, but I think even most of his non-fiction pieces rely too heavily on his Discworld roots to be fully appreciated by a newbie. Easy solution, though: run out and read all of the Discworld books, and then come back for this one.