In Greek mythology, the hero Theseus, who slew the Minotaur and escaped its maze, returned from Crete to Athens where the Athenians preserved his ship in seaworthy state for more than a thousand years. It was an emblem of courage and a reminder of a national hero that many Greeks considered more legendary than mythological.
The Ship of Theseus was carefully maintained. Parts that rotted away were replaced with exact replicas. And in a ship made almost entirely of wood, crude iron, rope, and sail, everything rots, so eventually everything gets replaced.
Which makes the identity of the ship an interesting question.
As a memorial to the loss of my favorite voice in fiction, I’ve been doing a Sir Terry Pratchett Discworld memorial read. I’d been planning to read the Witches novels again anyway, so I did that and then went on to read the Rincewind novels. Now I’m working my way through the rest in chronological order. I just finished Hogfather.
This time, as I go, I’m leaving tape flags behind to mark bits I especially liked and plan to share (and record) here. Part of what is so engaging about the Discworld novels is how intelligent and perceptive the writing is. Pratchett was a brilliant writer. After reading these books many times I’m still learning to appreciate his genius.
Today I thought I’d share some of those flagged bits with you.
Terry Pratchett, 1948-2015, RIP
My mom died a year ago today. Yesterday I attended a memorial service for my best friend’s mom, who died this past February. Also in February, Leonard Nimoy took a final bow and exited stage left. Most recently — just last Thursday — another star went out, and it was one that shone brilliantly in the sky for so many of us.
Sir Terry Pratchett finally got to meet one of his key characters. I like to think that, for him, it might have been like meeting an old friend — and sadly, a visitor he’s been expecting for quite a while now. We fans know that Death personally attends the passing of wizards.
And Terry Pratchett was a wizard beyond compare.
Earlier this week I finished re-reading what might be my favorite Terry Pratchett Discworld novel, Soul Music. When I introduced you to Pratchett and Discworld I mentioned that each novel has its own theme. Nearly all the novels use the same groups of characters, but each revolves around a unique theme (and usually one of the character groups, although cross-over is frequent).
Soul Music is about “music with rocks in it” (in other words: rock music). It’s technically one of the “Death” novels (which is to say that the Discworld avatar of Death is the main character), but it prominently features the Wizards in supporting roles.
And Death’s grand-daughter, Susan. And the spirit of Buddy Holly.
I’ve spent the last two weekends (and many weekday evenings) with an old, dear friend in a magical place. I can no longer remember how I found the place or how I was introduced to my friend. I do know that this year marks the 30-year anniversary of its founding. I think I’ve been here since the beginning. If not, it wasn’t long after.
So I’ve known and loved this place, and my friend, for long time. Remarkably, the charm has never left it. For three decades (or so) it has delighted me, impressed me, moved me and made me laugh out loud. It is for me the finest of the finest, my favorite favorite. There is none better and very few that come close.
I’m speaking of Terry Pratchett‘s wonderful Discworld books.
And then there was one.
Last time, I wrote that my definition of science fiction is fiction with science + imagination. And that the science is freely defined to include guesses and completely made up, if not downright illegitimate, physics. In fact, that’s the imagination part of the equation. The fiction part is also freely defined, but basic story telling rules should apply. The science part must also play by certain rules, even when it’s made up science, even when it’s illegitimate
This article is about how I view the science and fiction in science fiction when it comes to playing by the rules. (Keep in mind that science fiction is art, and in art rules are made to be broken.)
Fantasy lovers take heart; in this case, my definition of science includes magic, the supernatural and the metaphysical. This uses the context of speculative fiction, which includes everything beyond current physics. The fiction canvas is framed by any physics, or metaphysics, the story requires. Warp drive is no more real science than vampires or Norse Gods; all of them are fiction.