6,179 comments posted · 24 followers · following 4

24 weeks ago @ Mark Reads - Mark Finishes 'Discwor... · 0 replies · +4 points

I have not read Nation myself and would love an extra excuse to do so (although now I feel like I have to wait until Mark gets to it, so we can be unprepared together for once).

(Also, am I the only one who keeps hearing the title in Stephen Colbert's voice every time I see it?)

24 weeks ago @ Mark Reads - Mark Reads 'The Shephe... · 0 replies · +20 points

"It’s still magic even if you know how it’s done."

We close on Tiffany, of course. For obvious reasons, no character in the Discworld has developed more than she has. But for her first four books, she was always in the shadow of one or both of the Grannies in her life. Both are still "everywhere," but Tiffany is going to be her own witch and her own woman now. So she takes the last memory of her grandmother on the Chalk and rebuilds it into something of her own. And it's important that, though she is TAUGHT how to build her own hut, she builds it herself, just as she was TAUGHT witchcraft by so many witches before her but will take her steading in her own direction.

I concluded Raising Steam by noting that Pratchett left the Discworld in motion to continue after he was gone. And here, he leaves Tiffany in a state of continuing: building a home that is truly her own, establishing a steading that is new and different from those before, and both will endure and grow for decades to come.

This last book was never going to be Pratchett's best. Circumstance did not allow it. But ending the series with its youngest hero, the latest generation for the Disc to come, is the best way to close I can think of.

"Everywhere I look I see something holy."

Hello old friends, and here we are. All of us, on the last page.

This journey started on March 14, 2014, so if you've been with us from the beginning, I think "old friends" is the right term. That Mark made it through this project (joke injuries and all) is incredible, and I'm grateful to this group for the chance to see the series again with fresh eyes. Mark's eyes, of course, which are always excellent at finding the joy even in the low points of a series. But also, I wasn't married, or a parent, or honestly all that focused on anything beyond myself the first time I tackled most of these books. (Vimes's parenthood hopes and fears DEFINITELY struck me differently this time.)

And meanwhile I have fumbled my way through this group, and I have stuck my foot in my mouth on several occasions, and yet I was met with respect. And I thank you all for welcoming me.

"Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?"

GNU Terry Pratchett. Bless.

24 weeks ago @ Mark Reads - Mark Reads 'The Shephe... · 0 replies · +9 points


Did the quest to redeem the elves fail? For now, it seems so. Nightshade made an attempt only to be cut down. And even her attempt started out of self-preservation, after it became clear that domination was only going to get her killed by Tiffany and/or an army of Feegles. But now, self-preservation cuts the other way, with Nightshade dead anyway.

So the choice for the remaining elves appears to be "invade the Disc and be slain by witches, befriend the Disc and be slain by fellow elves… or keep your distance from the Disc and go bother someone else." Even the King seems to be picking Option 3, although his fellow elves are no threat to him. (Right now, that is. If he appeared weak by working with mortals, would that change? More importantly, does he have any DESIRE to work with mortals, when he could, at minimum, manipulate them?)

As for the witches, they made an effort, and maybe, just maybe, another elf will reach out someday with something other than malice. But in the meantime, they have to bar the door. The hypothetical hopeful elf will need to knock.

"When you’ve had hatred on your tongue for such a long time, you don’t know how to spit it out."

Because you can't calm a true bully. You can't convince them to be kind or empathetic. What CAN you do? Overpower them, disarm them, make them behave themselves by threat of what happens when they don't. Geoffrey removes his father's ability to strike even a goat without consequence, empowers those whom he would threaten, dismantles the excuses for violence (with advanced chicken runs: technological progress fuels social progress once again!)

We didn't have much time to see Geoffrey actually DEVELOP, and I've already expressed my disappointment that he found everything so easy. But his victory in this last scene, especially mindful of his first scene, was still glorious.

"Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving."

Two jokes both named Joke confused the hell out of Mark.

25 weeks ago @ Mark Reads - Mark Reads 'The Shephe... · 6 replies · +13 points

"No matter how fast light travels it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it."

There are some on whom calm-weaving works. And there are some on whom it doesn't. The latter group is called "bullies." (I wonder if Geoffrey could calm-weave Earwig; it would tell us a lot.) Geoffrey has sometimes reminded me of Steven Universe, but Steven would have felt guilty for failing to connect with Lankin, while Geoffrey has learned from sad experience that some people just never stop being bullies. He gave it a shot, because he's Geoffrey, but Plan B was always ready.

"Nanny's philosophy of life was to do what seemed like a good idea at the time, and do it as hard as possible. It had never let her down."

I'd said at the end of Raising Steam that the story sometimes felt a little more CS Lewis than Terry Pratchett, and that applies to much of the battle sequence in Lancre as well. But it was a decent chance to let each and every participant show off their respective talents, at least a little. (I especially love that pig boring can be applied to elves!)

"The worst thing you can do is nothing."

Esme Weatherwax's departure from the world was felt everywhere. Tiffany now truly comes into her own, claiming the roles of BOTH of the "Grannies" in her life, and bends the world again. This was likely always going to be the end of her arc: Witch of the Chalk, Queen of the Shepherds. (And there can be only one queen in the hive.)

"The important thing is that someone should stand up to you. Whatever happens to them afterwards."

I get that Pratchett wanted to deal with the question of "wait, why NOT male witches?" while he still could, but Geoffrey is just too perfect to be an interesting answer in my mind. And now he's downright annoying because I would have far preferred his page time have been devoted solely to "wait, why NOT good elves?"

Nightshade, a character that we already knew (and feared), working toward redemption, eventually perishing for it, and bookending the Aching subseries neatly in the process? Now THAT interests me. But it also needed plenty of run-up time from "I'm just allied with the Aching girl because she can help my revenge, or at least my survival" to "huh, empathy is a thing and I like it!" to "I stand with Tiffany" to "whoops now I'm dead" for it not to feel a little rushed and artificial. (Especially for that last bit, which, come on, she didn't even TRY to defend herself!)

And for the time this arc deserved, we needed first contact between the two characters to be earlier than the midpoint of a relatively short book. It's still better than the Geoffrey plot and for the most part I loved what we got. But it could have been better STILL if we'd just excised Geoffrey entirely and focused on Nightshade. The character character under Tiffany's wing that Tiffany actually taught, rather than the one that apparently already knew how to do everything.

Four jokes had WAY too many spikes.

25 weeks ago @ Mark Reads - Mark Reads 'The Shephe... · 0 replies · +11 points

My read of it: The geological history of the Chalk has been a theme in the Tiffany books from the start. She was empowered back in The Wee Free Men to know how it was formed, by millions of years of ocean and sea life. It's why Land Under Wave is her name and her title in one. So at the end of her journey, that same history speaks to her directly, welcoming and supporting her, with the Shepherd's Crown as a very appropriate focal point. This is where Tiffany draws her strength, and she's going to leave this dream carrying it in spades.

25 weeks ago @ Mark Reads - Mark Reads 'The Shephe... · 0 replies · +5 points

I said I might still have a couple sortings, and I did. Namely, now I can report with certainty that Letice Earwig is a Gryffindor Primary... whose moral code is essentially "I'm AWESOME and MY approach is the best way to be a witch and I look INCREDIBLE in black." Normally a very problematic viewpoint in any circumstance, much less in the hands of a stubbornly-certain Gryff who mentors others and oh yeah can throw fireballs. But when you need someone to stand firm in the face of elven glamour telling everyone "you're too worthless to face us," her certainty to the contrary comes in handy. "No one can stop me being me!" is the battle cry of the Gryffindor.

Her Secondary is Hufflepuff, of the social "invest in people and they will support you back" variety. Social Puffs don't have to be NICE; some are very manipulative, especially in calling in favors that are out of proportion with how they were earned, and making a big deal of even their smallest efforts to help (or "help") you. And it's clear that Letice finds it highly important to have other witches around her and supporting her, both her peers and her student (and her student's peers, who she tries to bring in by proxy). In turn, Esme Weatherwax best dismantles Letice by making her look like a fool, a bully, or both in front of those peers, and then no one wants to follow her lead anymore. Were Letice some other Secondary, she'd at least fall back on some other approach in these instances, but "get everyone else to back me up" is always Letice's ONLY plan. They'll come around. Definitely. One day. She's too awesome for them not to, right?

25 weeks ago @ Mark Reads - Mark Reads 'The Shephe... · 4 replies · +16 points

"Even if it's not your fault, it's your responsibility."

A dozen witches. Have we ever had this many witches in one place, all intent on battle against one foe? Well, this is serious, and the usual rule about "everyone handles their own problems, what does it say about you if you can't?" doesn't apply, because this is EVERYONE'S problem if it isn't stopped fast. (Defeating the Cunning Man was Tiffany's problem, but there were plenty of witches standing by if it took her over, because THEN it was everyone's problem.)

"...tomorrow the sun will come up again, and I'm pretty sure that whatever happens we won't have found Freedom, and there won't be a whole lot of Justice, and I'm damn sure we won't have found Truth. But it's just possible that I might get a hard-boiled egg."

But see, everyone has something to contribute! Even the witch with the humongous ego.

It's highly unlikely that Earwig is an actual elf. Part-elf? Maybe. But more generally, even Nightshade has been affected by another elven glamour when her self-certainty is weaker than normal. So I think what Earwig lacks, or at least what she lacks that is key in this moment, is not empathy but DOUBT. And this LEADS to a lack of empathy as a side-effect, because look at all these other people doubting themselves, they wouldn't do that if they didn't know something was wrong with their way of behavior, and yet they won't switch to MINE and be strong, what stubborn fools!

"Words In The Heart Can Not Be Taken."

This is why Tiffany is at her strongest against elven glamour when she digs her heels in and remembers who SHE is with confidence. The witch of the Chalk and held strong by its history. A descendant of proud shepherds and first among them. Land Under Wave. The shepherd's crown of the title is a constant reminder, and in her dream it reminds her directly: being "just" a witch means she puts others first, and that makes her stronger than anything.

It looks like she's about to need that confidence...

Mark faced attacks on two joke fronts.

25 weeks ago @ Mark Reads - Mark Reads 'The Shephe... · 0 replies · +8 points

"Look, that's why there's rules, understand? So that you THINK before you break 'em."

Tiffany was concerned that Geoffrey would not be wholly welcomed by some women, without considering that SHE was not being wholly welcomed by some men. Would Tiffany have made this sort of connection with Mr. Sideways? Simply by having both, they can connect with more people than two of the same gender (either gender) could have.

But this is true of any two people with different traits: Tiffany, by virtue of being young and friendly and less portentous, is a welcome sight in places where Granny Weatherwax was someone you hoped would leave as soon as the problem was solved. And as Mark notes, Geoffrey, not yet indicating "I'm a witch!" to most people, is even more effective than Tiffany for this reason as well. (So is Letitia, for that matter, who makes her "rounds" as the wife of the baron and not as a witch.)

"I've just told a goblin not to be frightened of my son because he loves her and the world has turned upside down and all sins are forgiven, except possibly mine."

Also, Tiffany is considering options Granny never would. Like befriending elves! Elves who can also solve things that others cannot. And if they can be taught to empathize, to realize it doesn't stop at one basket (hee), to WANT to solve problems for others, then that's yet another person with a different trait helping out.

That's of course the general benefit of group diversity (and yes I'm preaching to the choir here). More variety means more perspectives, more skills, more openings, more chance that someone on the team will have a solution. Letitia, with her unusual childhood environment, thinks of being kind to ghosts. Sideways, with his wartime experience and handyness, thinks of building warmechs. The Feegles, with their… everything… can just clear a poisoned field of sheep in a minute flat.

The last invasion was repelled in a dozen different ways by people all bringing their own solutions, and this time we're organizing in advance...

Three jokes built a machine to deploy when in need of defensive farce.

26 weeks ago @ Mark Reads - Mark Reads 'The Shephe... · 1 reply · +11 points

"There were a lot of things he could say[...] But he didn't, because if he had said any of those things then he'd have known that what he had just done was murder.”

One of the hardest questions a moral person may have to deal with: is it ever okay to kill? Most of the protagonists in the series have killed, but as a last resort, when other options had been exhausted (or there was no time to consider them) and the result of inaction was unacceptable. They don't enjoy it, and many a time they'll second guess themselves in guilt for a long time after. Nanny talks Tiffany out of her guilt; what other options DID she have to save her namesake? But Tiffany wouldn't be a good person if the guilt wasn't there to begin with, holding that famed reckoning of HERSELF to say "but did you act to save the child or just because you were angry?"

(Later in the same chapter, Tiffany will note that magic is not used lightly either. For instance, you don't use it to materialize food in your hands just because you don't feel like walking ten feet to the pantry. But occasionally, there is a baby in distress, and then time really is of the essence.)

"It was so much easier to blame it on Them. It was bleakly depressing to think that They were Us. If it was Them, then nothing was anyone's fault. If it was us, what did that make Me? After all, I'm one of Us. I must be. I've certainly never thought of myself as one of Them. No one ever thinks of themselves as one of Them. We're always one of Us. It's Them that do the bad things."

But this still wouldn't be an issue if Tiffany wasn't starting to think of elves as people. You don't feel bad about "killing" a force of nature. Lords and Ladies was a bloodbath and no one paused to think about the elven casualties, even simply to say "shame it couldn't have gone another way." Elves deserved to die because they were elves, and we don't worry about which ones tortured the fish and which were just in the neighborhood. Tiffany isn't thinking like that anymore.

"What does it matter? In a hundred years, we'll all be dead." "Yes, but here and now we are alive!"

Remember from his last appearance that, while the Queen and her court were always annoyed that people resisted her playtime, the King took the VERY long view: that all the resistance would eventually fade away with rationality itself, and when the Discworld entered a post-civilization age, he would return and be accepted with all the other superstitions. And until then, he would wait, maybe check out other (more appreciative) worlds… To him, even the gods are sell-outs.

And maybe that day will come again. But not while Esme Weatherwax was alive. And not while Tiffany Aching is alive. And, hopefully, not while HER successor, whoever that will be, is alive, and not while…

"They had dined on horse meat, horse cheese, horse black pudding, horse d'oeuvres and a thin beer that Rincewind didn't want to speculate about."

"Even in Book 41, Terry Pratchett and his goddamn puns." And I'm glad for the excuse to finally link this aside from the punmaster himself while I still can. Yes, Mark, you casually stroll into these, and you love it.

In fact, with a Feegle-built shed, Pratchett had all he needed to assemble five jokes, suitable for Mark injuring.

26 weeks ago @ Mark Reads - Mark Reads 'The Shephe... · 0 replies · +12 points

Back to the elf who (for the moment) is NOT dangerous, but after the last chapter we are reminded that there could be consequences of nursing her back to health. And even when she's not being murderous, or even overpowering, she can still be cruel, just in how she chooses to appear.

"I think, if you want thousands, you have to fight for one."

Nonetheless, Nightshade is at least CURIOUS how these mortals work (fools though they might be). What IS it about them that's allowed them to WIN so much? Well, maybe the same phenomenon that makes one decide to help an elf who's been nothing but an enemy. Mortals help others, even when there's no immediate benefit, on the off-chance that the favor might be returned (or paid forward). And the LONG-TERM benefit is that the entire civilization grows.

I already used the "what don't change can't learn" quote, but, as a reminder, that was Esme talking to Nightshade herself. And now Nightshade might have actually grasped it. The elves are in DECLINE because they continue to operate as they always have, while the Disc grows and changes… and suddenly goblins are free and iron is everywhere and the stories are becoming nothing more than stories. They thought mortal change was a weakness -- it meant they could just wait until Esme Weatherwax died, and then they could act again -- but it hasn't worked out that way.

Yet when Nightshade hesitated and considered altering her plans to address these changes, the other elves responded by deposing her, and doing the same they had always done. Wisdom is never shared among the elves, in part due to selfish hoarding of it, but in part because it is violently rejected when it IS shared. Elves DON'T help others, sometimes even when the benefit is immediate, because it's just not as fun.

But sometimes, you change or you die. (An appropriate lesson in 2020.) And, Tiffany realizes, Nightshade definitely doesn't want to die.

"She walked quickly through the darkness with the frank stride of someone who was at least certain that the forest, on this damp and windy night, contained strange and terrible things and she was it."

Meanwhile, for the first time in too long, here's Queen Magrat the First. It's a sad thought that she hasn't done too much witching lately, despite longing to do so. But thankfully riding a broomstick is like riding a bicycle (or whatever they're calling that new innovation on the Disc) and she's picking it right back up again.

Magrat remembers Nightshade too, oh yes (slash! stab! one queen in the hive!) and she's more doubtful that Tiffany's plan will work. So although she'll respect Tiffany's decisions made on Tiffany's turf, she wants to be prepared just in case this goes badly. After all, even if Nightshade can be turned, that's one elf down and LOTS to go.

(But again, mortals help others, and that's what makes them strong. And witches are mortals. Time to gather a few.)

Mark experienced A Tale of Two Jokes.