I believe humour is one of the most kind of difficult writing to master. One of my favourite fantasy/humour authors is Terry Pratchett. It was one of those days when I’d gone through all the Harry Potters and read a lot about Middle-Earth, I picked up Men at Arms from British Library, and I was hooked!
You can learn more about Terry Pratchett (and why he’s called Pterry) from
What exactly has Pterry created?
In one word, Discworld! Discworld is one of the universes in this multiverse of ours (I sound like Michael Crichton!).
It is a flat world carried through space atop four elephants, each facing the four directions and all this, in turn, is carried by the turtle, the Great A’Tuin (of indeterminate sex). The disworld consists of many continents (my favourite is XXXX) which are surrounded by an Ocean. Sound vaguely familiar?
Discworld hurtles through space, in this heady mix of different mythologies.
Here’s PTerry’s take on light:
The only things known to go faster than ordinary light is monarchy, according to the philosopher Ly Tin Weedle. He reasoned like this: you can’t have more than one king, and tradition demands that there is no gap between kings, so when a king dies the succession must therefore pass to the heir instantaneously. Presumably, he said, there must be some elementary particles — kingons, or possibly queons — that do this job, but of course succession sometimes fails if, in mid-flight, they strike an anti-particle, or republicon. His ambitious plans to use his discovery to send messages, involving the careful torturing of a small king in order to modulate the signal, were never fully expanded because, at that point, the bar closed.
— (Terry Pratchett, Mort)
Sidesplitting, right? And to an engineer, it’s even more funny. Think about what kind of modulation it would be called, KM, or more politically correct, MM (monarch modulation)?
One of the greatest cities on the Disc is Ankh-Morpok. It’s actually two cities set on the bank of the river, Ankh. (kind of like Buda-Pest)
Ankh is very special. It’s the ONLY river in the multiverse that doesn’t flow, it oozes. The technical reason for this is pollution or say, untreated sewage. If I become more graphic, I might gross myself out.
A lot of murder victims find their way into the river. Mostly, though, it’s so thick that chalk outlines can be drawn directly in it. That’s a good thing. Since, both murders and assasinations are a regular occurrence in A-M! Assasinations, are of course, the business of the Assasin’s Guild. They believe that every head (or other part of the body) has a price! and they are willing to ‘kill’ for the price.
This is where Death steps in. In his own words…
– I USHERED SOULS INTO THE NEXT WORLD. I WAS THE GRAVE OF ALL HOPE. IWAS THE ULTIMATE REALITY. I WAS THE ASSASSIN AGAINST WHOM NO LOCKWOULD HOLD.
– “Yes, point taken, but do you have any particular skills?”
— Death consults a job broker (Terry Pratchett, Mort)
Death is one of the most cleverly crafted characters in the Discworld novels. He’s an anthromorphic personification, complete with black robes and a well-sharpened scythe! What this means, in simple enough words is this: Discworld has an excess amount of magic in its atmosphere, (thanks to the wizards of Unseen University), also measured in thaums (and multiples thereof), and all those characters that are old wives’ tales in other parts of the multiverse, literally come true on the Disc!
So, the Grim Reaper walks amongst Man, Dwarf & Troll, responsible for death… and the hourglasses that hold the sands of everyone’s lives! Since, rodents are important to the universe, they have a Death of the Rats.
Why’s Death so cool?
WELL! FOR ONE THING, HE TALKS LIKE THIS! I figure, anyone who shouts (in virtual terms) and isn’t heard, in a physical sense HAS got to be cool!
Since, death is an unremarkable occurrence on the Disc, DEATH has a role to play in most of TP’s novels. Which is fine by most of his fans. We say, bring him on! Though Death walks among Men (and rides Binky too), he hasn’t understood his charges yet. It doesn’t really deter him from trying. Testament to that fact is his House… Death’s House. It’s chock full of things that are almost human…. but haven’t quite managed to reach there.
Death’s extended family include Ysabell, his adopted daughter, her husband, Mort (Death’s one time apprentice) and their daughter Susan Sto-Helit. (read Soul Music, Hogfather & Mort for more details!). His trusty steed is called… BINKY! Binky’s white, of royal equine blood and is slightly more life-like than other horses.
It is a fact that although the Death of the Discworld is, in his own words, an ANTHROPOMORPHIC PERSONIFICATION, he long ago gave up using the traditional skeletal horses, because of the bother of having to stop all the time to wire bits back on.
— (Terry Pratchett, Mort)
Finally, we have Death’s trusty Man Friday, Albert. Albert was once the greatest wizard on the Disc. That changed when he performed the Rite of AshKente (for summoning Death). Instead it took HIM to Death and he’s been frying everything (literally, everything) for the Reaper ever since…
“Yes,” said the skull. “Quit while you’re a head, that’s what I say.”
— (Terry Pratchett, Soul Music)
With those words.. I think I WILL quit!