Terry Pratchett – Moving Pictures

Well, here we are with the tenth entry in the Great Terry Pratchett Re-read-athon, and this one is a joy for readers who enjoy spotting Terry’s cultural references. It’s also an important one to be familiar with, because it’s here that some regular characters really start to develop. After a number of short-lived predecessors, Mustrum Ridcully has just become Archchancellor of Unseen University, and in addition to our old friend the Librarian, the other wizards start to emerge. There’s the Bursar, who at this point is still hanging on to sanity, for instance. And out in the wider city, Cut-me-own-Throat Dibbler, the man who can manage to sell his disgusting and inedible sausage inna bun to anyone, even people who’ve bought them before, appears as more than a background character. Not only that, but it’s got the first appearance of Gaspode the Wonder Dog[1], who says he can’t talk, so it’s probably better to believe him.

The story is one of those that revolves around the Discworld’s tendency to leak. Things get in from other dimensions, which leads to confusion and often good old-fashioned panic and terror, not to mention a lot of laughs.

In this case, what gets in is a “wild idea” that gets into people’s heads and makes them do very strange things. It starts innocently enough when some alchemists develop a substance they call octo-cellulose, which when made into strips and run through a modified picture box, allows the little demons in the box to make continuous sequences of pictures rather than the usual single ones. And when those pictures are run through another box, moving pictures are seen.

Yes, this is, as the title suggests, Discworld goes to Hollywood, or rather Holy Wood, the place outside the city where all the people infested with the wild idea are strangely drawn. There is of course a Sinister Threat of Things from the Dungeon Dimensions getting in to make it more interesting.

I’ll give you a small selection of the references and jokes in an attempt to give you a feel for what’s going on:

There’s the H G Wells bit:

No-one would have believed, in the final years of the Century of the Fruitbat, that Discworld affairs were being watched keenly and impatiently by intelligences greater than Man’s, or at least much nastier; that their affairs were being scrutinized and studied as a man with a three-day appetite might study the All-you-Can-Gobble-For-A-Dollar menu outside Harga’s house of ribs…

And let’s not forget the Golden Warrior of legend, who looks like somebody’s Uncle Osbert, or Osric, or somebody…

And that after some hideous disaster befell an earlier city,

Only a few people had survived to carry to the barbarian peoples in the less-advanced parts of the Disc all the arts and crafts of civilization, such as usury and macrame.

As the Wild Idea spreads, more people are influenced, such as this chap…

‘It’s fifteen hundred miles to Ankh-Morpork,’ he said. ‘We’ve got three hundred and sixty-three elephants, fifty carts of forage, the monsoon’s about to break and we’re wearing… we’re wearing… sort of things, like glass, only dark… dark glass things on our eyes..’

And there is, of course, much more, including a nod towards H P Lovecraft, a slight variation on King Kong. Delightfully silly fun all round.

[1] Named after the famous Gaspode, you know[2]
[2] You don’t? Turns out he’s a kind of Ankh-Morpork version of Greyfriars Bobby, only it might possibly be the case that he lingered at his master’s grave because the headstone was dropped on his tail…

2 thoughts on “Terry Pratchett – Moving Pictures

  1. Pingback: The Great Terry Pratchett Re-read-athon | Losing it

  2. Pingback: Terry Pratchett – Men at Arms | Losing it

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