Tag Archives: discworld

Aye!

It looks as though there’s going to be a wee free men movie! If you haven’t encountered the NacMacFeegles/wee free men before pop over to this post to get filled in.

The wee free men and their ‘Hag’ (a young witch by the name of Tiffiny) are some of my favourite Terry Pratchett characters from the whole of the Discworld. They’re tenacious, fearless, and more than a little crazy.

The news on who’s producing the movie makes it even better. As a child of the 80s I was exposed to a huge range of Jim Henson creations from Sesame Street, to the muppets, to Fraggle Rock, to Star Wars, and the Labyrinth. Jim Henson Studios are apparently developing the movie and I can’t imagine it being in better hands.

Henson’s son Brian is producing the film and Pratchett’s daughter Rhianna will be writing the screenplay so here’s hoping both can continue their parent’s legacy.

It doesn’t sound like there’s an expected date for release yet but fingers crossed they get it out to us soon.

Are you a Pratchett fan? What other Pratchett characters do you think deserve big screen treatment (keeping in mind the Sky TV creations from a few years back)?

As always thanks for reading, all the best, John

*Information for this post came from an article in the Independent.

Advertisements

Crivens!

feegle3At the moment our house is enjoying a full-on adventure with the wee free men and their ‘Hag’ Tiffany Aching. Terry Pratchett’s ability to create a world filled with humour, excitement, intelligence, and heart is not compromised by writing for children. The Tiffany Aching series includes four (soon to be five) books, set in his iconic Discworld, and each book focusses on a young woman called Tiffany as she grows into a fine upstanding witch.

Out of my two my eldest is especially enthralled with the books. The first book (The Wee Free Men) went down a treat and he really got a kick out of the violent, loud, yet loyal and caring ‘Nac Mac Feegle’ (or ‘wee free men’). It’s a book series that I enjoyed myself years before I became a parent and there’s something really special about being able to share it with my kids now.

The thing that impresses me most is one simple fact that, in itself, shouldn’t be impressive: the main character is a girl. Every book follows Tiffany, sure the wee free men are there too, as are a few other male characters, but the character we follow through every page is Tiffany. This shouldn’t be a big deal but it is. So many books for children (my own included) focus on the adventures of a boy as the main character, and in most cases he’s also cast as the hero. It makes a refreshing change to see that a girl can be just as heroic, just as relateable for two young boys as any male protagonist (I feel I redeemed myself a little with Spark of Dreams, you’ll see Thea’s heroics near the end of the book).

Not once have my kids asked ‘but why is a girl doing everything?’ not once have they complained. Both my six (soon to be seven) year old, and four year old sons have barely noticed that they’re following the adventures of a girl. Perhaps it’s because this is one of the first chapter books I’ve read to them (smaller frame of reference), or maybe their generation has different expectations than mine did. Whatever it is, I’m getting a lot of enjoyment out of knowing that my two kids clearly know how brave, clever, and heroic girls can be.

I’ll be rectifying my own lack of a central female character in my books next year as I delve more into Thea’s story, and follow her on a voyage around the world of Fey. It’s in the planning stages at the moment, so very little is concrete, but I can’t wait to delve into the world of legends, mythological animals, and the downright made-up stuff that I’ve got planned for next year’s batch of books.

Tiffany-Aching-Poster-600x686In the mean time I heartily recommend Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching books (‘The Wee Free Men’, ‘Hatfull of Sky’, ‘Wintersmith’, ‘I Shall Wear Midnight’, and Pratchett’s soon to be released, final Discworld book ‘The Shepherd’s Crown‘). In the first book you’ll follow Tiffany as she meets strange little blue men, discovers she might well be a witch, and has to fight the Queen of the Fairies. I’m sure you’ll enjoy them as much as we are. All the best, John

Magical Realism

Vasnetsov_samoletFiction is changing but what it’s changing into isn’t something new. For a long time a sub-genre of contemporary fiction known as ‘magical realism’ provided a mind-bending literary experience to those who came across it, but sadly it sat at the fringes while traditional fantasy, science-fiction, and even thrillers enjoyed mass-market backing from readers who would no doubt have enjoyed magical realism if they knew it was available.

I was introduced to it by a teacher of mine (Mr Johnstone) at High School. Famous fantasy writers have been known to denounce it as a fancy way of saying you write fantasy fiction but I think there’s one very clear distinction: just as you probably wouldn’t explain the way that electricity is created and sent down power lines to power your toaster, when describing a scene in which you cook some toast, a magical realist writer feels no demand for an explanation for anything that the reader might regard as ‘magical’.

Terry Pratchett said that saying that you write magical realism is “…a polite way of saying you write fantasy and is more acceptable to certain people…”. In some regards he could be correct, fantasy fiction is certainly seen as more populist (and less literary) than magical realism. What’s more, magical realism sports a host of connections to post-modernist art and philosophy that makes it positively intellectual-sounding. However, fantasy fiction can itself be, though isn’t always, a tremendous vehicle for highlighting philosophical concepts as well. Pratchett was one of the best at doing just that.

But now, within children’s literature, we’re finding works that bridge the divide somehow. Explanations of how the magic works are left to one side as authors launch their characters straight into the adventure. Magical Realist sympathies can be especially evident in works like Pratchett’s Discworld (despite his protestations to the contrary), Garth Nix’s ‘Keys to the Kindom’ series (‘Mister Monday’ etc.), Philip Pullman’s ‘Dark Materials’, and many many more. In these books we are witness to a change in the way that magic is introduced, it is left as part of the fabric of the story with minimal exposition.

However, the exposition is still there, as it probably has to be for children. Perhaps we need to delineate fantastical elements in fiction for children. They are still getting a grasp of the reality and physics of their own world so it seems prudent to provide some explanation as to how things work in an alternate one. What’s more the explanation of the magic can itself often serve as a component of the plot.

I’m in this boat. Jack starts in our world (or something very much like it) and is exposed to things he doesn’t understand, therefore a necessary part of the plot (and his character development) involves him gaining a basic idea about how the magic works.

There are things that I’ve left to one side for now and things that may never be explained but I’m happy to admit that there’s simply too much explanation of the magic in my books for anyone to call it ‘magical realism’. While I still enjoy and respect the genre and can see how it really can work in children’s literature I can’t help slipping into fantasy

For me part of the fun of our world is to be found in finding out things. I couldn’t limit my characters by not allowing them to discover the ‘secrets’ behind the magic any more than I could answer my children with the ever-unsatisfying ‘just because’. For a child I expect that a truly magical realist work of fiction could prove equally intellectually unsatisfying, perhaps its one of these odd cases where a literary genre simply doesn’t scale well into a children’s version.

The books I’ve described above have no doubt been enjoyed by more adults and teens than children of twelve and under, they certainly rank extremely highly within my list of favourite books. However, for children reading what’s known as ‘middle grade fiction’ (more about it here) and those younger than them, I can’t help but feel that authors need to be ready for the ‘why’s and ‘how’s from their readers.

What genre of books do you think would/does translate well into ‘children’s’ versions? Which genre’s simple don’t translate at all? Am I wrong about the books listed above, do you think that children between eight and twelve enjoy them as much as teenagers? As always thanks for reading and don’t forget you can buy a copy (paperback or kindle edition) of ‘Jack Reusen and the Fey Flame’ over on this page.

The last Discworld book

Tiffany-Aching-Poster-600x686Just a couple of weeks ago one of the greatest authors to have ever lived passed away far far too soon, after battling a disease that must have been like the stuff of nightmares. Terry Pratchett opened my eyes in regards to fiction. Before Pratchett I was a staunch Enid Blyton reader but Pratchett exposed a whole ream of fictional genres that I’d never touched on before.

This brings me to his last offering for us all. OK some of you may already know about this but I just found out so let me just enjoy it. I had genuinely expected him to stop at ‘Raising Steam’ and take a well-deserved retirement but he left us with one last glimpse of his incredible universe to enjoy.

‘The Shepherd’s Crown’ will be the last Discworld novel and the fifth in the Tiffany Aching series (genuinely my favourite, closely seconded by the watch) and it’s due out later this year. You can check here, here, and here for confirmation. I simply cannot wait, Tiffany Aching is one of the best girl characters I’ve ever read and if you aren’t familiar with her adventures you really should get ‘The Wee Free Men’ and get up to speed.

Pratchett was a prolific author and wrote at a pace that inspires and terrifies me. Every author of my generation owes him a debt. We grew up with the Nomes, Johnny Maxwell, and the Carpet People and we ventured into the monstrous, hilarious, and tragic wonder of the Discworld, being exposed to fantasy, crime fiction, love stories, high-end philosophy, and most importantly a rich array of the wonderful and terrible things that humanity has to offer.

When ‘The Shepherd’s Crown’ comes out don’t expect to hear from me until I’ve finished reading. Feel free to share your Terry Pratchett memories in the comments below. As always thanks for reading, cheers, John