Mark Reads ‘The Science of Discworld II’: Chapter 23

In the twenty-third chapter of The Science of Discworld II, Rincewind has a REALLY good idea. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld. 

I think there’s a slight flaw in the approach to this, and it’s not that I want to discount the importance of William Shakespeare to the development of art and culture. His work absolutely continues to affect our world in meaningful ways, hundreds of years later. But I do think this influence has mostly been in the Western world, and this book occasionally makes it seem as if Shakespeare mattered to the whole world. I am not so sure I buy the notion that all of humanity would not have developed an appreciation for art, sculpture, and storytelling without him. I say that because there are examples of these very art forms in what we now refer to as the East or the Global South, and they existed long before Shakespeare did. If I’m wrong here, correct me, but didn’t the Greek tragedies influence Shakespeare? Ovid and Virgil and Chaucer played a part in his storytelling, right?

So I’m guessing instead of actually finding the chronological “first,” or focusing on a specific culture, this book is just choosing one point and sticking with it. And look, Shakespeare is a fine point if this is more arbitrary and if these authors needed an artist who worked best for narrativium. I get that! It works for this story, and it works as a starting point for Discworld, especially once the Librarian and Rincewind go watch a play that is… not good. LIke, VERY not good. It seemed an odd choice for the plot because I had misunderstood why Rincewind saw it as an important development. But that’s because I approached the conflict with the elves from the wrong perspective. I kept thinking about how the wizards needed to defeat them, whereas Rincewind suggests inspiring humans to the point that they fight back against the elves. 

That inspiration is complicated, though, and I’m intrigued by how Rincewind sees this going. Ponder is definitely right that belief operates differently on Roundworld, but that doesn’t mean they should discount it. So, if the wizards can inspire people to tell stories, to appreciate the connection between the imagination and the real world, then perhaps humans will have some ammunition against creatures that would otherwise be “imaginary” to them. Well, they’re not imaginary in this context, but still! So, I don’t have a theory as to what Rincewind’s Stage Two is. The first is inspiration, planting that link between the mind and reality. We see that on the page in the form of Rincewind’s conversations with Burnt Stick Man and then, later, Red Hands Man. I admit that these scenes are a treat because, as pointed out in the text itself, Rincewind isn’t running away from a conflict. He’s actively trying to solve it, and he’s also using his survival skills in order to do so. That whole thing of talking in gestures and grunts? I am certain this isn’t the first time he’s ever had to do this. 

The seeds are planted in the minds of early humans. They’re imagining things, they’re making them reality, and they’re telling stories. Even with the elves now aware of what the wizards are doing, I think there’s a clear advantage here. They don’t know why this is happening, and I’m really excited to see them realize what it is Rincewind and the others started. At the end of the chapter, Pratchett reveals that Rincewind traveled somewhere else to continue more of the same thing, but… I don’t know where that is. To a different time? A different place? WHAT’S GOING ON.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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