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DARK, ISN'T IT?
November 14, 2012 12:56 PM   Subscribe

What happened next is that Pratchett collapsed. “I had to kneel on the back seat of the taxi and give him CPR,” Rob says. “It was fingers down throat stuff. He nearly died.” -- Extracts from an interview by Laurie Penny of Terry Pratchett reveal he nearly died and is planning to leave the Discworld in the hands of his daughter, Rhianna Pratchett.

Terry Pratchett has been suffering from early-onset Alzheimer's for a couple of years now and his situation is gradually detoriating. He has talked openly about his disease, in a BBC documentary called Terry Pratchett: Living With Alzheimer's, as well as becoming active in fund raising for the Alzheimer's Research Trust. (Previously.)

His experiences with the disease have also led to him becoming an activist for the right to die, as explored in a 2011 BBC documentary, Chosing to Die, as well as in his Richard Dimbleby lecture shaking hands with Death. (previously)

Rhianna Pratchett has been involved in the television/movie adaptations of the Discworld, especially the upcoming (BBC?) television series The Watch (or CSI:Ankh-Morpork) based on Pratchett's Night Watch novels.
posted by MartinWisse (84 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
too soon.. too soon
posted by edgeways at 1:04 PM on November 14, 2012


It will always be too soon.

If it ends up that his means of ending his own life is signing tours, that's nice for his fans (and to the extent that he loves it, him too).
posted by weston at 1:05 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


CAN YOU PLEASE PUT "HE ATEN'T DEAD" ABOVE THE FOLD

JESUS WEPT I DID NOT NEED THIS TODAY
posted by elizardbits at 1:09 PM on November 14, 2012 [63 favorites]


I always had it played out in my head that Vimes (or perhaps his son) would become the first elected leader of AM, essentially groomed/schooled by Vetinari over the years. But I suppose the preserved in amber moment is coming long before that moment.

I appreciate that his daughter is taking the series over, but no matter how good she does it will be a different thing, even if it is indistinguishable it will be different.
posted by edgeways at 1:11 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just want to hug him and those who love him.
posted by batmonkey at 1:13 PM on November 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


I thought we'd had several conversations about starting Pratchett posts with HE ATEN'T DEAD. God, my ulcer hurts now.

It seems weird to me that the world is something that can be inherited, but I guess there's no reason it can't. I'd rather that world not end with him, I guess, because that would be really a fucking lot of people to grieve at one time.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:22 PM on November 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


But Vimes' performance at the Assassins Guild Convention this year was very poorly received. I don't know if he still has all his faculties with him if he thinks talking to an empty chair for 30 minutes was a good idea.

Also, jerky tease to make us think he was immediate mortal danger, OP.
posted by inturnaround at 1:23 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Agh, "aten't dead" above the fold yes thanks you. And yes it will always be too soon, although he's rather life-inspiring for someone so publicly becoming deader…
posted by monocultured at 1:24 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hey third sentence says he nearly died, so does the fifth. I appreciate the heartache, but read.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:28 PM on November 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh dear frilly heck.
...also reveals that earlier this month, the author suffered an atrial fibrillation in the back seat of a New York taxi. Were it not for emergency CPR, he would have died.

I met Sir Pratchett at the New York Comic Con this October. The very idea that this happened near the time I met him gives me great pause.

He's the closest thing to a real hero that I've ever had the fortune to meet and as I stood in line for my signed Dodger bookplate and photo, I thought very seriously about what I wanted to say. I didn't want to go all silly and fangirly like I did with Joss Whedon. I didn't want to play it too casual like I did with Joey Ramone. Nope, I was going be cool yet sincere and then it struck me what to say. Something honest, and true and hopefully it would let him know how much he meant.

I finally got to the table and sat down beside him and he asked my name. I told him and he said it was a lovely name and then I said. "Sir, I just wanted you to know that you are the reason I became a librarian."

I thought that'd be that and he would thank me and go on. Instead, he looked at me with such amazement and said, "That. That right there, you've gone and touched my heart. You've made my day. Thank you, thank you."

As you can see from the picture we're both a little overwhelmed.

Any tiny extra second that he's on the planet and not in pain is a blessing.
posted by teleri025 at 1:31 PM on November 14, 2012 [108 favorites]


I met him once at a reading for Monstrous Regiment in Austin and he was ever so warm and lovely. If I met him now though, in whatever context, I'm not sure I'd be able to stop myself from just collapsing into a ball of emotion.
posted by kmz at 1:35 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hey third sentence says he nearly died, so does the fifth. I appreciate the heartache, but read.

I know how to read, thank you very much. But you have a man who has a well-documented illness that will bring him to the end of his life sooner than later....the fact that he nearly died in the recent past and is not currently dead does not give us enough information to let us know that he is not in immediate mortal peril. You led with the information of his near-death above the break.

You wrote it to be provocative. Fair enough, but own up to it and don't be dismissive when called out about it.

It's a human being a number of people care about not only here, but around the world. Just asking for a modicum of respect to our nervous systems.
posted by inturnaround at 1:38 PM on November 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


Sorry, that last comment was a bit too brusque. I honestly didn't think people would misread the post this way. I'm a fan of long standing myself (have to be, I met my wife on the lspace irc channel) but I thought it was clear this wasn't an obituary.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:38 PM on November 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


I MAY HAVE ALLOWED MYSELF SOME FLICKER OF EMOTION IN THE RECENT PAST, BUT I CAN GIVE IT UP ANY TIME I LIKE.
posted by BeeDo at 1:41 PM on November 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


I didn't misread it as an obit, but it could be easily misconstrued for a death watch post.
posted by inturnaround at 1:42 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I told my coworker about this thread and she told me about the time that she got out of the one-stall bathroom at a bookstore and Terry Pratchett was waiting there. If she'd waited five minutes, she could have used the toilet AFTER he used it. (Insert TP joke here, I suppose.) She said he was very cool to meet.

At some point, we're all going to have to accept the fact that some day, we will have the death post here though. Sad but true. I'd just rather he pick to go on his own terms.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:50 PM on November 14, 2012


Laurie has hinted at some juicy casting news for The Watch so she's lucky she's not in new York right now or I'd be forced to get her really, really drunk until she spilled the beans.
posted by The Whelk at 1:58 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Okay, this made me tear up a little bit, a reaction the lump of puce gristle that reason insists must be my heart usually eschews.

I met Terry Pratchett while filming a series for Channel 4. I had to interview him while chuntering on about the novel I was writing and asking his advice. Even for someone who has a reputation of niceness, he was incredibly nice. He asked lots of questions about what I was writing (an all-over-the-place piece of badly thought out Fantasy) and listened to my answers and then gave really brilliant, in-depth advice. He started talking about the implications of writing a world where the characters have an acute sense of smell - 'Smell is the ability to see through time,' he said, 'just like, if you've got a nut allergy, you can tell someone opened a bag of peanuts in a room the day before,' - and how he wrote his own books, and we couldn't use most of the footage because it was so thoughtful and in-depth and tailored to me. He made me feel like he cared and was interested - in fact, I daresay, caring about and being interested in lots of things is what makes a great writer.

I started to realise two things during the conversation, and as the years have gone on, my appreciation of their truth has only deepened:
1) I am way less smart than I think I am
2) Terry Pratchett is a wise, nice man who deserves every bit of praise and affection he's been given
posted by RokkitNite at 1:59 PM on November 14, 2012 [30 favorites]


She said he was very cool to meet

All the more so, since he presumably had to pee.
posted by BeeDo at 1:59 PM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Terry Pratchett is the kind of person who can be kind and gracious when jetlagged by five hours and still signing books at 1am.
posted by jb at 2:10 PM on November 14, 2012


It'd be fun to start a meme of Chuck Norris-style jokes, but about Terry Pratchett's incredible niceness.
posted by JHarris at 2:13 PM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Terry Pratchett is so nice that baby foxes caption pictures of him as a pick me up.
posted by The Whelk at 2:16 PM on November 14, 2012 [59 favorites]


Thanks for that story, teleri025...
posted by endotoxin at 2:18 PM on November 14, 2012


Anyone have an opinion on Rhianna Pratchett's writing? I know she's done some work in video games, like Mirror's Edge and the upcoming Tomb Raider reboot, but other than that it's a mystery to me.
posted by rifflesby at 2:22 PM on November 14, 2012


Anyone have an opinion on Rhianna Pratchett's writing?

No, but here's HER opinions on writing.
posted by snottydick at 2:34 PM on November 14, 2012


Terry Pratchett is so nice that he walks Boy Scouts across the street.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:30 PM on November 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


Terry Pratchett is so nice that the least useless oograh are named after him.
posted by monocultured at 4:05 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Terry Pratchett is so nice that even Carrot suspects he's up to something.
posted by Pallas Athena at 4:51 PM on November 14, 2012 [30 favorites]


I started to realise two things during the conversation, and as the years have gone on, my appreciation of their truth has only deepened:
1) I am way less smart than I think I am
2) Terry Pratchett is a wise, nice man who deserves every bit of praise and affection he's been given


This times one million. I count the time I was fortunate enough to interview him a few years ago as one of the GREATEST THINGS EVER IN MY ENTIRE LIFE, EVER EVER EVER.

Because I sound like such a giant dork on the recording, it will take an awful lot for me to release that recorded Skype call. But oh man, so amazing. Among other things, we discussed the Pratchgan. (knitting nerd alert)
posted by bitter-girl.com at 5:10 PM on November 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Drumknott, you have often asked me what the plan for succession was in the event of my death, disablement, prolonged disappearance, abrupt abdication or protracted ensorcelment. I take it that the issue has become rather more pressing for you, for if one of those conditions had not been met Mr. Slant would not have delivered you this note.

As the greatest of the Epheban philosophers would say, Vimes is a man of silver, a preserver of the laws, not a lawgiver. The pattern of guilds and nobles in this city is not fixed but ever shifting, and no fixed set of laws could keep it in harmony for long. Vimes is incapable of either creative governance or of serving long under corrupt rule. Do try to keep him alive once the compulsion to do something ineffectually heroic overtakes him.

I had hopes for Lipwig, but he has proven to be a man of fool's gold. Reactive, not proactive, and without the discipline of mind to build anything stable.

Therefore, I fully expect that a moral monster will seize power in Ankh-Morpock within four to six weeks. This is regrettable but unavoidable, human nature being what it is. Should his conspiracy be slow in organizing itself, nudge it in the right direction.

I think it is reasonable to expect that Ankh Morpock's new tyrant will be a slave to the most regrettable features of human nature. His arrogance, greed and cruelty will in time penetrate the thick skull of the true king of Ankh-Morpock. One morning the true king shall reach the conclusion that Things Are Not Right. He shall be crowned by mid-afternoon. The true king is very good at being obeyed.

Where will this leave the city? A man of bronze will be on the throne, but though his heart will be in the right place he will not be competent to rule the city by arbitrary edicts. How fortunate it is that he will have a man of silver at his right hand, ensuring that the city will be a place of laws. Around the fringes, a man of fool’s gold will be flitting about remaking institutions, adding an element of chaos to the situation that will stave off stagnation. A certain werewolf will remind our king that it is his Duty to have a queen and heirs; children will follow beginning in ten months. In this way, the city will be preserved for another generation. After that it is natural that the city should become progressively more corrupt.

I have often told you how I first became aware of evil. As a child, I saw a bear tear a salmon from a river to share it with her cubs. Golden roe slopped down its glistening side as mother and child feasted on mother and child. I knew then that the world was evil, and that if there was a creator god that it was the duty of a human being to become his moral superior.

We are flawed creatures, and we live in a world such that the choices that seem open to us generally make us contemptible, or evil if we seek something grander. The door to nobility of self is generally barred when it is not invisible. I have tried to build a city that offered men and women a different set of alternatives, a choice between petty contentment, self-cultivation of the best in themselves (however meagre), and destruction. I am pleased with the alternative world I made only insofar as it has been the instrument of human edification. That is why I have provided you with no plan for succession, only predictions based on human nature as I have observed it. If the people of the city are not good enough to save the city for themselves then it is proper for it to sink back into the mud and offal of which I made it.

The eldest son of the king will almost certainly be as noble and duty-bound as his father. Watch the daughters. It strikes me that a child raised in the loving arms of a true king and a werewolf mother in a palace full of policemen would need to become very clever indeed to have any fun at all. It will be a better education than a school for assassins, I should think.

I have one personal request. I have no possessions (all I have belongs to the state) thus I have made no will and have no executor. However, if you are in possession of my body I ask you to sell it to Harry King to be rendered into fertilizer and glue. Haggle – he’ll like that. Out of the proceeds I ask you to buy one box of paperclips for yourself. There are few men I have wronged during my reign; you are one of them and I owe you that gift.

You will have noticed that I have omitted the usual authentication codes from this letter. I encourage you to think of it as a forgery. Live as you like and do what you think best. I have always tried to encourage independence of spirit in you, Drumknott, for you are better than the servant you pretend to be. However, if you insist, your orders are as follows: keep the knives sharp and the dark clerks in good order. In fifteen to seventeen years, a Matrician may have need of them.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 5:47 PM on November 14, 2012 [110 favorites]


Pallas Athena: Terry Pratchett is so nice that even Carrot suspects he's up to something.

Carrot is one of those characters that unbalance a universe, and it's a sign of Pratchett's skill that he manages to contain him within the Discworld. Everytime he makes an appearance, the rest of the narrative treats him like giant predator narrative that it has to avoid. As the Returning King archetype he's pretty much the most ur of the narratives. I used to suspect that Pratchett intended to make the the death of Vetinari/ascension of Carrot his final Ankh-Morpork book, but in recent years Vetinari has become so much of a wise and enlightened monarch that I suspect he's become Pratchett's mouthpiece.
posted by Kattullus at 5:48 PM on November 14, 2012 [11 favorites]


Hah! It seems that I and justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow have been thinking along the same track.
posted by Kattullus at 5:51 PM on November 14, 2012


JSTYUTK, that is phenomenal. You channel the man with wit, grace and eerie perfection.
posted by Sebmojo at 6:02 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, that one needs a sidebarrin'.
posted by JHarris at 6:17 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just want to hug him and those who love him.

Possibly a mistake:
@PennyRed 1. I made the mistake of trying to hug him. Advise other reporters not to do so. @terryandrob wrote Granny Weatherwax so well for a reason.
posted by howfar at 6:50 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Leonard of Quirm and Ponder Stibbons should come up with a way to encode Vetinari's political know-how into Hex code. That way we can rest easy that Ankh Morpork will continue to be well and deviously governed into the future.

Just remember to make sure there's enough cheese.
posted by philipy at 7:25 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Would that he could write 30 more books.

I'm already grieving the loss of my friends Vimes, Granny, Nanny, Carrot, and all the rest.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:38 PM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hmmm, that makes Vetinari out to be Hari Seldon. I'm not sure he's that prescient.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:39 PM on November 14, 2012


Aww, I realize that he's the star of the earlier novels, before they became really good, but I'm still fond of ol' Rincewind.
posted by JHarris at 9:04 PM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've been rereading the early Discworld novels, up to Eric at the moment, and the Rincewind novels aren't nearly as bad as fan lore has made them out to be. It's just that in these earlier novels Pratchett is still very much finding his voice and some of the elements that make the Discworld the Discworld aren't in place yet. It takes him till Guards! Guards! to give the Patrician a proper role, frex. But it's surprising, if you haven't read them in a while, how quickly he gets better.

It's also interesting how perspectives change when reading such a long series. I got into the series when it seemed like the Witches and, to a lesser extent, the Death novels that were the heart of the series and Rincewind was being shuffled off to the side, with the Watch novels only one of several subseries. A few years later and it seemed that Pratchett would never get out of Ankh-Morpork again.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:59 PM on November 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


I am so very sad right now. I am sure of and comfortable with my own mortality, however it is unbearable to think that Mr Pratchett will be gone before we know it and his incredible work will be all that we have left of this wonderful man.
posted by evilDoug at 11:07 PM on November 14, 2012


The earlier books are a LOT more straight comedy and parodic and the "one joke" string. They're not bad but compared to Hogsfather and Unseen Academicals WHICH MADE ME CRY they don't really compare.
posted by The Whelk at 11:44 PM on November 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Every now and then I think about reviving my project of writing a work on political economy and ethics that is wholly based on Pratchett novels.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:50 PM on November 14, 2012


I know more about how Ankh-Morpork functions then I do my hometown.
posted by The Whelk at 11:52 PM on November 14, 2012 [8 favorites]


Terry Pratchett is so nice that Mr. Rogers tears up thinking about him.
posted by KingEdRa at 1:06 AM on November 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'd be forced to get her really, really drunk until she spilled the beans.

so cool. what other famous people do you know?
posted by fightorflight at 3:39 AM on November 15, 2012


In A Suitable Boy, set in 1952, there's a scene where Lata is cross and just needs to calm down, forget her troubles, and cheer herself up, so she grabs a random Wodehouse to read.

Next year the sequel A Suitable Girl is coming out, set in the present day, and I wouldn't be surprised if the Lata equivalent uses Pratchett the same way.
posted by brainwane at 3:39 AM on November 15, 2012


A certain werewolf will remind our king that it is his Duty to have a queen and heirs; children will follow beginning in ten months.

Wait, when did Nobby Nobbs get a werewolf girlfriend?

(That was spectacular.)
posted by kmz at 5:07 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's only because he's become such a master in his later works that the early books seem "bad" by comparison. The Discworld is certainly not as fully-realized, but I sometimes miss the excessively ridiculous footnotes of the early books.

I also very much wish for more of Nanny Ogg. I guess I should head into the children's section, despite the chip I have on my shoulder about that.
posted by snottydick at 7:30 AM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Agreed. Pratchett has developed as a writer, and the Discworld is certainly much more fully realized now. But I miss some of the...zaniness.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:12 AM on November 15, 2012


The one scene I hope Pratchett gets to write before it's too late is the death of Granny Weatherwax. Not because I dislike her or wish her dead--quite the opposite--but because I want to see how she faces her end. When she meets Death for the last time, what will she say to him? What will be her final thoughts on the Disc?

If Pratchett writes this scene, it will be quoted at memorials and wakes for generations to come.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:35 AM on November 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


> It's only because he's become such a master in his later works that the early books seem "bad" by comparison

I've read almost all the Discworld books (I haven't read the YA ones yet) but I haven't managed to get through Snuff. It feels disjointed. It might just be me -- maybe I should start over from the beginning.

My kids and I watched Going Postal last week and my 10-year-old loved it (my six-year-old liked it for the most part). He wants to read the books now, and is starting with Guards! Guards!. He won't get all the jokes, but he can always read it again. And again...
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:28 AM on November 15, 2012


Next year the sequel A Suitable Girl is coming out, set in the present day, and I wouldn't be surprised if the Lata equivalent uses Pratchett the same way.

I actually do this. There are three Pratchett books that are my go-to "feel better" books. I didn't realize it until a friend pointed out that I always read one of those three books when I'm down, but she was totally right. It's actually something that my husband noticed when we first started living together.

He came in one night and I was reading Small Gods and he asked if I was having a rough day. I was surprised because I hadn't said anything yet and said, "Yeah, why?" Then he pointed out that when I'm feeling crappy I either read Small Gods, Jingo, or Reaper Man.

Something about those books reaffirms my faith in my fellow man and just makes me feel better about the world.

Of course, now that I read almost exclusively on a kindle, no one can tell what kind of day I'm having based on my book choice.
posted by teleri025 at 10:12 AM on November 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


My kids and I watched Going Postal last week

Going Postal is the only screen adaptation that I was actually satisfied with (even if the golems were just a bit too cutesy). Perfectly cast.
posted by snottydick at 10:17 AM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


The actress playing Susan in Hogsfather was perfect.
posted by The Whelk at 10:49 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


The actress playing Susan in Hogsfather is Michelle Dockery, Lady Mary from Downton Abbey. I like to think Lady Mary is still the Death of Rats.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:01 AM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Carrot is one of those characters that unbalance a universe, and it's a sign of Pratchett's skill that he manages to contain him within the Discworld. Everytime he makes an appearance, the rest of the narrative treats him like giant predator narrative that it has to avoid

I think Pterry may have written himself into a corner because after a few books he has essentially put Carrot aside.

I'll be sorry to see him go when he does, but it's a credit to him that he tries to effect positive change by speaking out about the right to choose. The man deserves a hug and I suspect he's a total sweetheart: between his tours, lspace and writing lines for a character in an Oblivion mod (!), he seems as far removed from "stardom" as can be while having sold a tonne of books and created a tonne of stories. Let us count our asterisks and exclamation marks* while we still can.

*!!!!!
posted by ersatz at 11:45 AM on November 15, 2012


The one scene I hope Pratchett gets to write before it's too late is the death of Granny Weatherwax.

Oh! I was afraid that would be in the last Tiffany Aching book, which is why I've been putting it off. Now I can read it. This is a good thing.
posted by Grangousier at 11:50 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Terry Pratchett is so nice that... he's the anthropomorphic personification of Niceness.
posted by philipy at 12:00 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


ersatz: I think Pterry may have written himself into a corner because after a few books he has essentially put Carrot aside.

He absolutely has, and in the hands of a lesser writer it would have completely ruined Ankh-Morpork as place to set a story, but its a testament to his skill that he's pulled it off.

I think he's also written himself into a corner with Vetinari, who's turned from a great Machiavellian politician into an impossibly wise ruler. He's gone from a character who knows what the reader would've figured out already if they weren't so busy laughing, to an all-knowing deus ex machina.

It would be interesting to see a story where Carrot and Vetinari were pitted against each other, because you'd have a situation where an Irresistible Force meets an Immovable Object.
posted by Kattullus at 12:06 PM on November 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think he's also written himself into a corner with Vetinari...

What's most interesting about Vetinari is what motivates him. All of the major characters on the Disk (except possibly Rincewind) express a moral vision. You get a bit of Vetinari's in the speech about the bridge in "Guards, Guards" and in the bit about the salmon I quoted above, though it's never fully articulated. What's terrifying about Vetinari is that he is neither evil nor cynical, and that his horrifying view of humanity is accurate enough to give him near-Godlike power over others. Worst, Pratchett never denies the correctness of what he says. It's why I think he's never been the viewpoint character of a novel. Without the moral vision of Vimes, Weatherwax or even Death (who is at least neutral) in the foreground to counterbalance him a Vetinari novel would be unspeakably bleak.

So no, I don't think he's written himself into a corner with Vetinari. Vetinari does not force deus ex machina solutions on other characters. He offers them choices, interesting choices that reveal their characters which is what makes him work as a foil. Take the choices he offers to Moist, or to Reacher Gilt. Vetinari believes in freedom.

It would be interesting to see a story where Carrot and Vetinari were pitted against each other, because you'd have a situation where an Irresistible Force meets an Immovable Object.

Have you read Men at Arms? SPOILERS: Vetinari has always remained in power not by brute force but by convincing everyone that the status quo is better than any alternative. My interpretation of their very brief encounter: Carrot is an irresistible force who is morally disturbed by his own irresistibility. As Carrot flexes his muscles he senses the need for constrains on his power of being good at being obeyed. He loves Vimes and realizes that he can tolerate Vetinari, making him a true king who declines to claim his crown, though he is hanging over Vetinari's head like a sword of Damocles. Vetinari lets him live because the equilibrium is stable and because Vetinari takes good care of his sharpest tools.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:10 PM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's in my deep dank headcanon that Ventinari's motive (although he will never admit it) is to somehow leave behind a system of government that can largely govern itself without needing his god-like insight and forethought.
posted by The Whelk at 2:14 PM on November 15, 2012


but it's a credit to him that he tries to effect positive change by speaking out about the right to choose.

I'd been a Pratchett fan for years, but it was only in the late nineties that I got involved in Pratchett fandom, via alt.fan.terry-pratchett and various Dutch meetups. From there I discovered the lspace IRC channels that had spunoff from the newsgroup and started hanging out there every day. There was a whole bunch of great people there, a very friendly and safe space, pretty well mixed gender wise. One regular there had joined at around the same time as I, a woman calling herself Sandriana and she had the same humour as me and to cut a long story short we liked each other and started phoning and all that in a classic pre-OkCupid long distance internet relationship, she in the UK, me in Holland.

She did warn me though when things became serious, that she was not in the best of health, having survived a particular nasty bout of cancer that had left her with permanent kidney damage, amongst other things. Not that it had stopped her raising two sons, graduating from college as a lawyer or having an active political career first in Labour, then with the SWP.

Fast forward to a few years ago when her kidneys had deteriorated so far she needed a transplant, a long and anxious year in which we learned that -- miracle of miracles -- we were compatible, followed by an operation that went well, as the kidney took and worked as well as it did in my own body. Well, I had told it to behave.

It was just everything else that went wrong: bad side effects of the immuno suppressive drugs, epileptic fits, several times she slipped into a coma, MRSA infections, you name it, she got it.

Then in June of last year that documentary Pratchett did about the right to die came out. Sandra had always been outspoken about the need to take control of her death as well as her life, but that documentary crystallised things for her and me.

When things went wrong again, when the doctors could give no guarantee things would get better, when she feared slipping into a coma and not waking up more than death, when she got tired of fighting and could fight no more, she stopped treatment and slowly, largely painlessly slipped away, a year and a week ago.

So I guess I have Pratchett to thank both for bringing her into my life and helping taking her away again...
posted by MartinWisse at 2:16 PM on November 15, 2012 [35 favorites]


It's in my deep dank headcanon that Vetinari's motive (although he will never admit it) is to somehow leave behind a system of government that can largely govern itself without needing his god-like insight and forethought.

In my headcanon Vetinari would think it impossible for any institution to survive uncorrupted beyond the first generation. His goal might be to build an environment in which a ruler equal to or better than himself could arise out of the general mire of humanity (and what city would she build?). That's how I'm fanfictioning it.

Alternatively, perhaps Vetinari has no hope at all. On this view he sees himself as Job faced with an omnipotent, evil god. He builds the city as a sandcastle which will inevitably be turned to mud, with the sole purpose of condemning god by counterexample.

One thing I'm sure of is that his vision of humanity makes the neutrality of Death look cheerful and inviting.

From Guards, Guards:

He waved his hand toward the city..."A great rolling sea of evil, shallower in some places, of course, but deeper, oh, so much deeper in others. But people like you put together rafts of rules and vaguely good intentions and say this is the opposite, this will triumph in the end. Amazing!... Of course, of course. You have to believe that, I appreciate. Otherwise you'd go quite mad. Otherwise you'd think you're standing on a feather-thin bridge over the vaults of hell. Otherwise existence would be a dark agony and the only hope would be that there is no life after death. I quite understand."
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:07 PM on November 15, 2012


In retrospect, that got pretty dark. It's important to remember that the same mind that produced that paragraph also gave birth to Rincewind and Moist von Lipwig. Life may be always dancing one step ahead of the creatures from the Dungeon Dimensions, but there it is, dancing. Ain't dead yet.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 5:21 PM on November 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think he's also written himself into a corner with Vetinari, who's turned from a great Machiavellian politician into an impossibly wise ruler. He's gone from a character who knows what the reader would've figured out already if they weren't so busy laughing, to an all-knowing deus ex machina.

TBBH this problem afflicts all of Pratchett's characters - they transcend actual character and become avatars of themselves. Which makes them, eventually, a little dull. To his credit he recognises this and brings in new characters like Tiffany Aching.
posted by Sebmojo at 5:52 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you enjoy the rest of Pratchett but haven't read the YA novels, do. They're great.
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:46 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


when I'm feeling crappy I either read Small Gods, Jingo, or Reaper Man.
I can't read Reaper Man any more. Just seeing that enormous YES makes me cry too much.
posted by fullerine at 7:10 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I started Wee Free Men with my son as a bedtime story tonight and am v. pleased. A whole new batch of pterry books!
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:04 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks for sharing that, MartinWisse.
posted by bystander at 10:42 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


My now two-year-old was appropriately introduced to the Joys of Pratchett at the age of 14 months, when I started reading Where's My Cow? to him every evening at dinnertime.

He even yells "FWOAT!" and "FINK!" at the appropriate times. And he loves Coffin' Henry.

I hope, when he's old enough, he remembers reading it with me and realize that some things are important.
posted by hanov3r at 7:10 AM on November 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


IIR Pratchett has mentioned essentially having to sideline Carrot for some of the reasons mentioned here.
posted by edgeways at 7:54 AM on November 16, 2012


New Pratchett interview at the AV Club.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:53 AM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm nervous about the fact that Rhianna Pratchett has never written a novel. But what the hell, I'd be nervous about anyone Pterry named as successor. There will always be dozens of his books to read and reread. I just recently read Making Money... I'm coming close to the end of the Discworld books. And just got Dodger and The Long Earth.

I never felt he wrote himself into a corner with Carrot. Carrot doesn't like or trust monarchy, and doesn't want to be king. Vetinari knows that, so he didn't have to have Carrot assassinated years ago. He let Carrot and Vimes think that they held a hole card and that expanding the Watch was a bribe for not playing it because it was easier that way. But he was just doing what he wanted anyway.

Vetinari is Machiavellian, but his motivation is his love of Ankh-Morpork, and wanting what's best for it, and having precisely a 21st century First World idea of what best looks like. If there were a dozen more Discworld books, I figure one of them would start with Vetinari appointing Moist to the first Ankh-Morpork election commission chair (and maybe continue with Vetinari manipulating Vimes to run against him.)
posted by Zed at 11:25 AM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I never felt he wrote himself into a corner with Carrot. Carrot doesn't like or trust monarchy

That's how it seems to me too. Pratchett only uses these stock fairy tale and fantasy tropes to play with them and undermine them. cf The Cinderella story in Witches Abroad, Cohen the Barbarian, or any number of others.

Vetinari is Machiavellian, but his motivation is his love of Ankh-Morpork

My feeling is Vetinari's first love is Vetinari, or maybe more accurately the game of being ruler, and A-M is only the second. And he certainly doesn't give a damn about due process, the opinions of the populace, freedom of the press or any other such thing, if it ever gets in the way of what he wants to achieve.

I don't think Pratchett's view of humanity is such that A-M democracy could ever come close to Vetinari in making the place work. Of our own world Winston Churchill said:

Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time

Taking a look at recent US politics, you can see his point.

In the Discworld, democracy is maybe the second least-worst form of government, and the least worst is Vetinari.
posted by philipy at 12:10 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


And he certainly doesn't give a damn about due process, the opinions of the populace, freedom of the press or any other such thing, if it ever gets in the way of what he wants to achieve.

Vetinari has been grooming the City for his eventual absence. He may not care about those things for their own sake, but

1) Vimes does, and flouting those things would set Vimes against him, and Vimes is more useful on his side (this could be subject to revision under different circumstances)

2) he knows those things are necessary for there to be a half-decent government without him, so he's letting everyone get used to the idea of them

Then again, maybe you're right, and he's been pushing Ankh-Morpork toward a greater distribution of power just because it's the only way to put more balls in the air and make controlling it all continue to be interesting.
posted by Zed at 12:24 PM on November 16, 2012


On my interpretation, Vetinari would certainly consider it a failure on his part if he left A-M in a state where things were going to go badly after he wasn't around.

However I don't see a lot of evidence that either Vetinari or Pratchett are even thinking about a post-Vetinari future. I might've missed something though, I'm not a diehard fan and there are even one or two books I've not yet read.

pushing Ankh-Morpork toward a greater distribution of power

I'm not sure what people are thinking of when they mention things like that.

It seems to me more that Vetinari deals with the reality that there are other potential power bases around, and likes to play both ends against the middle.
posted by philipy at 12:43 PM on November 16, 2012


That Onion AV Club interview includes Pratchett talking about his diagnosis as being less-dire than I had realized. Apparently he was originally diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's, which would affect his mental orientation, memory, etc - but then the diagnosis was revised to PCA, posterior cortical atrophy, which affects some motor areas (eg typing) but doesn't affect the higher-function stuff - or doesn't affect it as much or as fast? In any case, it sounds like he is in better shape than I feared, which is great news.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:20 PM on November 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


If I was writing the last Discworld and wanting to put in a transition to a post-Vetinari world, I'd go for something like this:

Vetinari knows he's nearly at his end, and he maneuvers the more-than-reluctant Vimes into becoming the next Patrician. Vimes protests: "I don't want it, I'd hate it. There shouldn't even be a Patrician. Get someone else." Vetinari sighs. "You idiot. I know you'll hate it, of course. That's why you're the only man for the job."

Vimes argues, but in the end he can't escape the logic. There'll be anarchy, or there'll be a new Patrician. And the only thing worse than Vimes being Patrician is one of the many people that are lusting after power getting it. Maybe Vimes can even over the years work out a way to get rid of the post one day. But not now.

Carrot will take over as Commander of the Watch. In his last act as Commander, Vimes summons Carrot and gives him final instructions...

"To be obeyed without question, come what may, Carrot. Understand?"

"Yes, sir. What is it you want me to do?"

"Just this. If you ever see me getting too big for my boots, if you ever see me actually enjoying being Patrician, do the city a favor and chop off my head. Got it?"

"Got it sir. I don't think it'll ever come to that, Sir."

"Let's hope not, Carrot. Let's hope not."
posted by philipy at 3:35 PM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Not typing, but vision and spelling - more on Posterior Cortical Atrophy -
Typical Alzheimer’s disease is most commonly associated with deterioration in memory, language, perception and a host of other skills and abilities. By contrast, individuals with posterior cortical atrophy tend to have well preserved memory and language but instead show a progressive, dramatic and relatively selective decline in vision and/or literacy skills such as spelling, writing and arithmetic.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:45 PM on November 16, 2012


Hm. Still though, better than Alzheimers! Thanks for the info LobsterMitten!
posted by JHarris at 4:15 PM on November 16, 2012


Although the late term of PCA sounds potentially as awful as normal Alzheimer's, it certainly seems that Pratchett may well be spared a number of years of the most frightening symptoms of that disease. He is also lucky to have been so well placed to deal with PCA, in his wealth and, importantly, what appears to have been a very strong, and already quite dependent, relationship with Rob Wilkins. Having someone whom you can turn to for support without shame on either side must be a huge benefit both to Pratchett and his loved ones. Wish them all the luck, of course.
posted by howfar at 5:35 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wishing all the best to Pratchett and his family.

Wishing (at least) one more book for me.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:48 PM on November 17, 2012


My 10 year old daughter watching my RSS reader over my shoulder saw this post, and wants me to write that she is very unhappy about this news. (We just counted and she's read 25 of his books and is in the middle of a 26th.)
posted by latkes at 5:39 PM on November 18, 2012


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