Discworld

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Diskworld, spelled with a "k", was a disk magazine for the Apple Macintosh, later renamed Softdisk for Mac.

The Discworld is a series of 35 novels and a number of shorter works by Terry Pratchett set on the Discworld. Since the first novel, The Colour of Magic (1983), the series has gone from strength to strength, spawning related works including music inspired by the series, as well as cartoon and theatre adaptations. Newly released Discworld books regularly top The Sunday Times bestsellers list, with Pratchett being the UK's best selling author in the 1990s, mainly on the strength of the Discworld (he has since been overtaken by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, but still holds the record for the most shoplifted books).

Discworld novels have also won awards such as the Prometheus Award and the Carnegie Medal. In the BBC's Big Read, four Discworld books were in the top 100, and a total of fourteen in the top 200.

Published work

The novels

The world has been chronicled through at least 35 novels (including at least 3 children's novels) and several short stories so far. The novels up to and including The Truth (and almost all Pratchett books to date) had cover art done by Josh Kirby (who died in October 2001), but only in the original British editions. The American editions, published by HarperCollins, do not feature Kirby's cover art. Recent British editions of Pratchett's older novels no longer feature Kirby's art. Since the death of Kirby, the covers have been designed by artist Paul Kidby.

Almost all of the Discworld novels are notable for having no chapter divisions. Instead, most of the time there are different storylines interwoven with each other. Going Postal did entirely the opposite even going so far as to include a prologue and epilogue along with brief teasers of what was to come in each chapter. The first Discworld novel, The Colour of Magic, was divided into "books".

Many novels share the same lead characters and show their development over time. Some of the main characters of one book may also make a cameo appearance in another book where they are not the primary focus; for example Samuel Vimes appears briefly in Going Postal. The novels can be grouped into several story arcs, with characters or themes in common:

  • The Rincewind stories - These stories centre on a "wizzard" (the label on his hat) of sorts called Rincewind. The "of sorts" is because Rincewind is a complete failure at magic, but through a series of events is recognised as a wizard (for want of any other suitable term). The other wizards at the Unseen University are sometimes seen in these stories.
  • The Witches stories - These stories centre on the witches of Lancre, particularly Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, Magrat Garlick, and later Agnes Nitt.
  • The Death stories - These stories centre on Death in his usual personification as a skeleton in black robes with a scythe. Death's companions are his granddaughter Susan, his butler Albert and the Death of Rats, the rat equivalent of the human Death. In later novels Susan takes centre stage, although Death is still a key player. Death is the only character to appear in every single novel.
  • The City Watch stories - These stories centre on Ankh-Morpork's equivalent of a police force, the City Watch. Samuel Vimes leads the city watch, and among his officers are Carrot Ironfoundersson, Angua, Fred Colon, Detritus and "Nobby" Nobbs.
  • The Tiffany Aching stories - These stories centre on the character of Tiffany Aching, a young girl who has the unusual allies of the Nac Mac Feegle. The stories are primarily written as children's books. They also tie in to the Witches stories, especially A Hat Full of Sky.
  • The Miscellaneous stories - where none of the above five applies, or the main characters from them only appear briefly, or at least not as the main characters of the story in question. The best examples of these are possibly Small Gods and Pyramids.

This distinction is by no means clear-cut. Many stories (such as The Truth and Going Postal) nominally stand alone but nonetheless tie in heavily with main storylines. A number of characters, such as the Unseen University staff, the Monks of History, or the Elves, appear prominently in many different storylines without having titles of their own. As it is, many of these 'stand alone' stories deal with the development of the city of Ankh-Morpork into a technologically advanced metropolis. For example, The Truth catalougues the rise of a newspaper service for the city, and Going Postal similarly deals with the development of a post service and the rise of the Discworlds unique telecommunications system called 'the clacks'.

The Discworld novels are as follows:

Name Group ISBN Notes Motifs
The Colour of Magic Rincewind Paperback: ISBN 0552124753 First published 1983. Came 93rd in the Big Read. Fantasy clichés; Role-playing games; tourism
The Light Fantastic Rincewind Paperback: ISBN 0552128481 First published 1986. Fantasy clichés; tourism
Equal Rites The Witches Paperback: ISBN 0552131059 First published 1987. Fantasy clichés, Gender equality
Mort Death Paperback: ISBN 0552131067 First published 1987. Came 65th in the Big Read. Death and its personification
Sourcery Rincewind Paperback: ISBN 0552131075 First published 1988. Fantasy Stories, Apocalypse, Kubla Khan
Wyrd Sisters The Witches Paperback: ISBN 0552134600 First published 1988. Came 135th in the Big Read. Shakespeare, especially Macbeth and Hamlet
Pyramids Miscellaneous Paperback: ISBN 0552134619 First published 1989. School stories, Egyptian mythology, Quantum physics, Greek philosophy
Guards! Guards! The City Watch Paperback: ISBN 0552134627 First published 1989. Came 69th in the Big Read. Cop novels (with some hints of film noir), Pedigree dog (dragon) breeding, fantasy stories, fraternal organisations
Faust Eric Rincewind Paperback: ISBN 0575600012 First published 1990. Originally published as a 'Discworld story': larger format and fully illustrated by Josh Kirby; more recently reissued as a normal paperback with no illustrations. Faust, Dante's Inferno, Homer's Iliad
Moving Pictures Miscellaneous, The Wizards Paperback: ISBN 0552134635 First published 1990. Hollywood, the Cthulhu Mythos
Reaper Man Death, The Wizards Paperback: ISBN 0552134643 First published 1991. Came 126th in the Big Read. Alien invasion SF, "Man With No Name" Westerns, Modernization, Shopping malls, Minority rights movements
Witches Abroad The Witches Paperback: ISBN 0552134651 First published 1991. Came 197th in the Big Read. Fairy tales, Voodoo, and tourism
Small Gods Miscellaneous Paperback: ISBN 0552138908 First published 1992. Came 102nd in the Big Read. Religion (especially Christianity, with major thematic references to Nietzsche), Philosophy (especially Ancient Greek)
Lords and Ladies The Witches, The Wizards Paperback: ISBN 0552138916 First published 1992. Shakespeare especially Midsummer Night's Dream, UFOs, Fairy lore
Men at Arms The City Watch Paperback: ISBN 0552140287 First published 1993. Came 148th in the Big Read. Cop novels, gun control, racial prejudice, Tolkien-type 'kings in hiding'
Soul Music Death, The Wizards Paperback: ISBN 0552140295 First published 1994. Came 151st in the Big Read. Rock music and related mythologising (A running joke, "He looks elvish", refers to the myth that Elvis is not dead)
Interesting Times Rincewind, The Silver Horde Paperback: ISBN 0552142352 First published 1994. Imperial China, Communism
Maskerade The Witches Paperback: ISBN 0552142360 First published 1995. Opera, The Phantom of the Opera
Feet of Clay The City Watch Paperback: ISBN 0552142379 First published 1996. Cop Novels, Robots (RoboCop and Terminator 2: Judgment Day come in for particular attention), Jewish Mythology, atheism, murder (or, here, attempted assasssination) mysteries
Hogfather Death, The Wizards Paperback: ISBN 0552145424 First published 1996. Came 137th in the Big Read. Christmas; Children's stories; religion as mythology, the christ myth, and settling the two big Questions for a child: Is there a Santa Claus (Hogfather), and What does the toothfairy do with all those teeth, anyway?
Jingo The City Watch Hardback: ISBN 0575065400 First published 1997. War, Diplomacy, Racism and Xenophobia, Multiculturalism, Jingoism
The Last Continent Rincewind, The Wizards Hardback: ISBN 0385409893 First published 1998. Action/Adventure, Evolution/Creation, Australia
Carpe Jugulum The Witches Hardback: ISBN 0385409923 First published 1998. Vampire novels, Existentialism
The Fifth Elephant The City Watch Hardback: ISBN 0385409958 First published 1999. Came 153rd in the Big Read. Diplomacy, Eastern European folklore and literature, The Maltese Falcon, Political-conspiracy novels, petroleum, the global economy, national myths
The Truth Miscellaneous Hardback: ISBN 0385601026 First published 2000. Came 193rd in the Big Read. Watergate, Newspapers, Neverwhere, Pulp Fiction, The Front Page and His Girl Friday
Thief of Time Death, or arguably Miscellaneous Hardback: ISBN 0385601883 First published 2001. Came 152nd in the Big Read. Wuxia and Martial arts films, Chaos, Quantum Physics, The Fab Four and the Apocalypse
The Last Hero Rincewind, The Silver Horde Hardback: ISBN 057506885X First published 2001. Published in a larger format, fully illustrated by Paul Kidby. Legends, Prometheus, D&D, Conan the Barbarian, the Space shuttle, Apollo 13, the designs of Leonardo da Vinci, Catch-22
The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents Miscellaneous Hardback: ISBN 0385601239 First published 2001. A children's Discworld book. Winner of the 2001 Carnegie Medal. Beatrix Potter, The Pied Piper of Hamelin, The Secret of NIMH
Night Watch The City Watch Hardback: ISBN 0385602642 First published 2002. Received the Prometheus Award in 2003. Came 73rd in the Big Read. Cop Novels, Historical novels (esp. Les Misérables), time travel, the French Revolution, the Peterloo Massacre, the Spanish Inquisition
The Wee Free Men Tiffany Aching Hardback: ISBN 0385605331 First published 2003. Another children's Discworld book. Folklore, Mythic Scotland, as seen in Braveheart and Highlander, the fairy paintings of Richard Dadd; subjective experience, the Smurfs
Monstrous Regiment Miscellaneous Hardback: ISBN 0552149411 First published 2003. For the origin of the title of this novel, see The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women. Folk song (especially Sweet Polly Oliver), Joan d'Arc, women who disguise themselves as men to join the army (e.g. Colonel Gauntlett Bligh Barker), the Napoleonic Wars (possibly as interpreted through Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe novels), First World War (especially the patriotism and "Home by Christmas" mentality), feminism
A Hat Full of Sky Tiffany Aching Hardback: ISBN 0385607369 First published 2004. A third children's Discworld book. The history and folklore of witches in Britain, mind controlling aliens in science fiction, arguably Jill Murphy's The Worst Witch
Going Postal Miscellaneous Hardback: ISBN 0385603428 First published 2004. Politics, con men, corporate crime and business practices, monopolies (especially AT&T and its "Golden Boy"), Ayn Rand and Objectivist philosophy, history of the Post Office, the Internet, hacking or more specifically phreaking; fraternal organisations, stamp collecting
Thud! The City Watch Hardback: ISBN 0060815221 Published September 2005 Politics, Cop Novels, Affirmative Action, The Da Vinci Code, Plato, The Lord Of The Rings, The Silmarillion. Relations between Dwarfs and Trolls in Ankh-Morpork(Thud is a game based upon The Battle of Koom Valley)
Where's My Cow? Miscellaneous Hardback: ISBN 038560937X Published September 27, 2005. 'A Discworld picture book for people of all sizes'
Wintersmith Tiffany Aching   Future novel, hinted at in 'The Art of Discworld'. A brief excerpt was read at the 2004 Convention. Contracted to appear by March 2006.  
I Shall Wear Midnight Tiffany Aching   Possible future novel, hinted at in 'The Art of Discworld'.  
No title as yet Rincewind   Possible future novel featuring Rincewind - From 'The Art of Discworld'.  
Nation Unknown   Possible future novel about a nation consisting of one person - From Orange Word interview  
Unseen Academicals The Wizards   Possible future novel about soccer/football at the Unseen University' - From Alternative Nation interview.  
Scouting for Trolls Unknown   Possible future novel - From Alternative Nation interview.  

Short stories

There are also four short stories by Pratchett based in the Discworld: Theatre of Cruelty, Death and What Comes Next, Troll Bridge and The Sea and Little Fishes. The first two are available online. The third was published in After The King: Stories in honour of J. R. R. Tolkien, and the fourth in Legends, edited by Robert Silverberg.

In addition, all of these stories, as well as such Discworld miscellany as the history of Thud and the Ankh-Morpork national anthem have been collected as part of a compilation of all Pratchett's shortwork, Once More* *With Footnotes.

Quiz Books

Thus far, there are also two Discworld Quizbooks compiled by David Langford:

The Maps

Furthermore, there are four Maps:

The first two were drawn by Stephen Player, based on plans by Pratchett and Stephen Briggs, the third is a collaboration between Briggs and Kidby, and the last is by Paul Kidby. All also contain booklets written by Pratchett and Briggs.

'Science' books

Pratchett has also collaborated with Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen on three books using the Discworld to illuminate popular science topics through means of a completely fictional story, with chapters switching between the story and notes on real science related to it:

These are, in some ways, really Discworld novels in their own right, just with facts crammed in now and again.

Diaries

Most years see the release of a Discworld Diary and Calendar, both usually following a particular theme. The Diaries released so far are:

Associated publications

Other Discworldesque publications include:

Adaptations

Stage adaptations

Stage adaptations of nine Discworld novels have been published, with proceeds from the rights going to charity. The adaptations are by Stephen Briggs (apart from one, Lords and Ladies, by Irana Brown), and were first produced by the Studio Theatre Club in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. They include adaptations of The Truth, Maskerade, Mort, Wyrd Sisters, and Guards! Guards!. Stage adaptions of Discworld novels have been performed on every continent in the world, including Antarctica.

Movie adaptations

There have been several aborted attempts at bringing stories from the Discworld to the silver screen, including a fan attempt of Maskerade that inevitably failed through lack of funds. Australian group Snowgum Films have completed principal photography on the short story Troll Bridge. A link to their website can be found below. A fan movie adaptation of Lords and Ladies is currently being produced in Germany.

Animated adaptations

Animated adaptations of Soul Music and Wyrd Sisters were produced by Cosgrove-Hall Productions for Channel 4 in 1996. These are available on DVD and VHS in the US from Acorn Media. The soundtrack to Soul Music was also released on CD.

Radio adaptations

There have been several BBC radio adaptations of Discworld stories, including versions of Wyrd Sisters, Guards! Guards! (narrated by Martin Jarvis) and Mort.

Audio book adaptations

Most of Pratchett's novels have been released as audio books, both abridged (read by Tony Robinson) and unabridged (read by Nigel Planer or Stephen Briggs).

Music

  • Keith Hopwood: Soul Music - Terry Pratchett's Discworld, 1998 (Proper Music Distribution / Pluto Music TH 030746), soundtrack to the animated adaptation of Soul Music.

Spin-off games

Role-playing games

In addition Terry Pratchett co-authored with Phil Masters two role-playing game supplements for Discworld, utilising the GURPS system:

An unofficial online supplement to this is:

Computer games

Available computer games are:

Board games

There is also a Discworld board game, Thud, created by puzzle compiler Trevor Truran.

Card games

There is an adaptation of the card game Cripple Mr Onion from the novel Witches Abroad.

Merchandise

Various other types of related merchandise have been produced by cottage industries with an interest in the books, including Stephen Briggs, Bernard Pearson and Clarecraft.

Miscellaneous

It is even possible to get a character in one of the future Discworld books named after yourself. Usually people appear in the books by bidding for the privilege in charity auctions. The first one of these is Colette in Maskerade, who is briefly commented on by Granny Weatherwax, referring to the interesting earrings she is wearing. This is a reference to a girl Pratchett met at a convention, who was wearing "Anorankh" earrings – small figurines of an ankh wearing an anorak. The idea has resulted from a bit of confusion on the Pratchett newsgroup, and has become an unofficial symbol for the fanclub; they are made available as merchandise.

Stealth Philosophy

Throughout many of his novels, Pratchett employs what has been dubbed "Stealth Philosophy". That is to say, he will subtly (or not-so-subtly) hide philosophical struggles, questions, and arguments within the texts of his books, without (often) overtly stating them. Pratchett is deeply concerned about the philosophy of ethics, the philosophy of religion, the mind as well as topics related to popular science - lampooning the usual misunderstandings of things like quantum physics and relativity.

His good witch, Granny Weatherwax, takes the form of an archetypical evil crone:

Mrs Earwig would definitely have objected to the cottage. It was out of storybook. The walls leaned against one another for support, the thatched roof was slipping off like a bad wig, and the chimneys were corkscrewed. If you thought a gingerbread house would be too fattening, this was the next worst thing.
"In a cottage deep in the forest lived the wicked old witch ..."
It was a cottage out of the nastier kind of fairy tale.
A Hat Full of Sky

His good public servant, Lord Havelock Vetinari, is an assassin and a tyrant.

In general, he presents the notion that to be good quite often results in being perceived as bad or evil by the very people you're doing good for, and in many of his stories image is quite often eventually overcome, without fanfare, by substance.

Some people will do anything for the sheer fascination of doing it, said Death. Or for fame. Or because they shouldn't.
Hogfather

In the "elf" books as elsewhere, he presents the notion that our "world" is subjective, and is constructed internally. In particular, that it is constructed out of stories. Related to this is the idea that most of our experience is filtered out before it reaches conciousness:

You build little worlds, little stories, little shells around your mind and that keeps infinity at bay and allows you to wake up in the morning without screaming!
A Hat Full of Sky
"All right," said Susan, "I'm not stupid. You're saying humans need ... fantasies to make life bearable."
No. Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.
"Tooth faries? Hogfathers?"
Yes. As practice. You have to start out learning to believe the little lies.
"So we can believe the big ones?"
Yes. Justice. Mercy. Duty. That sort of thing.
"They're not the same at all!"
Take the universe and grind it down to the finest powder and sieve it through the finest sieve and then show me one atom of justice. And yet you act as if there were some sort of rightness in the universe by which it may be judged.
"Yes. But people have got to believe that or what's the point—"
My point exactly.
Hogfather

A large portion of Carpe Jugulum is about internal "struggles", and how pieces of our mind do not always agree with other pieces of our mind (And how some of us feel we have "Darker" selves within us, that we keep deep, deep down). Aside from the obviously "split" mind character (Perdita and Agnes), it is shown that even characters as decisive as Granny Weatherwax have inner "selves" that they struggle with.

See also

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External links

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