06 June, 2017

Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett

1. This novel deals with Holy Wood, or the creation of the movie industry on discworld. Obviously, Holy Wood is an analogy of Hollywood, and the references do not end there. The topic covered is the beginning, with silent movies and big studios and stars, and doesn’t progress much past that point. And that’s maybe some of where Pratchett potentially loses readers: nobody watches Nosferatu or Metropolis anymore. General knowledge of the silent film era is low. But I think Pratchett links it to all other popular art forms in the early days: poetry, plays, novels, opera, etc. It’s all heady potential and learning as you go. And this theme applies to all sorts of stages in life—new job, new house, new friends, new relationship, new interest. Pratchett strips down this topic people don’t know or care about from our own world to the point where it’s applicable to everybody, and that’s a real strength in a satirist. For instance, I don’t know much about symbolic medieval theology in the Catholic Church, but I sure enjoy reading The Divine Comedy.
The whole of life is just like watching a film. Only it's as though you always get in ten minutes after the big picture has started, and no-one will tell you the plot, so you have to work it out all yourself from the clues.

2. But the real theme here is the dangers inherent in this potential, in getting carried away and forgetting about consequences. It’s a hot topic today, how violence in media does or does not encourage violence outside of media. And Pratchett dives in with all his attendant humor, excellent character creation, and descriptive wit. It’s not that potential is bad, inherently, it’s that people focusing on it can get so carried away and taken advantage of. One must pay attention to requirements of reality, otherwise you could lose everything—here made explicit by the fabric of reality unraveling, a check on the pro-column of setting this on discworld. It’s a warning tale, as things get away from the characters and take them to places they didn’t expect, and can’t handle.
It was dawning on the wizards that they were outside the University, at night and without permission, for the first time in decades. A certain suppressed excitement crackled from man to man. Any watch trained in reading body language would have been prepared to bet that, after the click, someone was going to suggest that they might as well go somewhere and have a few drinks, and then someone else would fancy a meal, and then there was always room for a few more drinks, and then it would be 5 a.m. and the city guards would be respectfully knocking on the University gates and asking if the Archchancellor would care to step down to the cells to identify some alleged wizards who were singing an obscene song in six-part harmony, and perhaps he would also care to bring some money to pay for all the damage. Because inside every old person is a young person wondering what happened.

3. In the same way, it feels like the story gets away from Pratchett a bit at the end, like he doesn’t know quite how to close the curtain and run the credits. Maybe this is intentional, in order to draw the reader into similar states of mind as the characters. Maybe it’s a critique on what cinema has become. But it’s still a niggling disappointment that this wonderful beginning devolves into a bit of a mess, and I feel the story could’ve written the ending better. Particularly because other endings are so strong: like Guards! Guards! and Eric.
This is space. It's sometimes called the final frontier. (Except that of course you can't have a final frontier, because there'd be nothing for it to be a frontier to, but as frontiers go, it's pretty penultimate.)

4. In all, this is the first time Pratchett explicitly deals with something from earth in discworld. And I’m looking forward to his treatment of Rock and Roll in Soul Music, and his treatment of News Media in The Truth. I enjoyed this novel quite a bit, but as a cinema nerd who’s spent time exploring the era in history and cinema, I’m in love with this book. It’s not the greatest Pratchett I’ve read, but it’s one I’ll return to again, and suggest to other film buffs as a starting place for them.
The Necrotelicomnicon was written by a Klatchian necromancer known to the world as Achmed the Mad, although he preferred to be called Achmed the I Just Get These Headaches. It is said that the book was written in one day after Achmed drank too much of the strange thick Klatchian coffee which doesn't just sober you up, but takes you through sobriety and out the other side, so that you glimpse the real universe beyond the clouds of warm self-delusion that sapient life usually generates around itself to stop it turning into a nutcake. Little is known about his life prior to this event, because the page headed 'About The Author' spontaneously combusted shortly after his death. However, a section headed 'Other Books By the Same Author' indicates that his previous published work was Achmed the I Just Get These Headaches's Book of Humorous Cat Stories, which might explain a lot.
Being trampled almost to death by a preoccupied troll is almost the ideal cure for a person confused about what is real and what isn’t. Reality is something walking heavily up your spine.

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