Mark Reads ‘The Science of Discworld II’: Chapters 31 & 32

In the the final chapters of The Science of Discworld II, the wizards succeed in tricking the elves. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld. 

Well, we’ve made it, friends! I’ve completed my second Science of Discworld book! As a whole, I feel like I enjoyed the Discworld story more than the first Science book. They’re both pretty ridiculous, but I do enjoy time travel a great deal, and this book manages to poke fun at the genre and couple the plot with a lot of really cool science about history and time travel. I did want to bring up the question I posed on video: exactly what was it like going to the theater in Shakespeare’s time? There’s this particular line that interested me: 

The wizards looked at the crowd. It wasn’t as well behaved even as the ones back home; people were picnicking, small parties were being held, and there was a general sense that the audience looked upon the actual play as pleasant background noise to their personal social occasions. 

It’s so fascinating to think of that and how theater is viewed these days: it’s not nearly as participatory in most settings. There is an importance to socializing at the theater, but we’ve got all these class designations attached to live theater, particularly if you’re talking about the high-end stuff in the major cities. (And don’t even get me started on accessibility and money issues in theater I WILL START SCREAMING LIKE A PTERODACTYL.) So how much of this is true? I don’t actually know! I’ve gotten a sense that things were far more rollicking back then, and that it was only in the last few hundred years that theater became associated with the upper class or with high society. But I’m real vague on that sort of knowledge.

Anyway! I don’t think as much of the science went over my head as the first time either, and while I had some issues with the generalities made, I’m glad that this ended on such a positive note. I don’t think it’s any secret that I love talking about stories and their meaning to me and others. Hell, my next book is deliberately about storytelling and myth-making, so this is entirely my JAM. I admit that it was a pleasant surprise that this book dealt so much with the science of storytelling because it was not something I’d ever given so much thought to. Over the course of The Science of Discworld II, I got to experience a book that felt very in-line with the greater themes of the Discworld series, too, and that’s another reason I liked it more. It’s gotten me to re-visit the stories I was told that I never really thought of as stories, and I appreciate that. But it’s this message that I enjoyed the most: 

Think critically about what you are told. Do not accept the word of authority unthinkingly. 

I’d like to think I try to do this as often as I can, but it’s a challenging journey. There are so many sources of authority that we’re not exactly aware of! Authority figures don’t have to necessarily be leaders or public figures either. They can be teachers, members of your family, friends. And we are told so much bullshit on a daily basis, and I do think it’s our responsibility to unravel that. Well, not just that, but to challenge the narrators, to make sure that better stories are told about humanity and our world. We have to do this sometimes to people we like and admire, and that’s immensely difficult, too. But it’s a nice note to end the book on; throughout this story, that’s been the general focus. Who tells stories? What do they actually say about the world? Our development would have been nigh impossible without that, and I’m glad to have some actual science to back up that position.

So! From here on out, we’re going back to just one book at a time for the remainder of this series. I may slot in another Science book later on, but for now, I do want to make good time for the rest of the Discworld books. Thanks, friends!

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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