Mark Reads ‘The Science of Discworld III’: Chapter 5

In the fifth chapter of Darwin’s Watch, Hex reveals just how astronomically difficult it is going to be to fix Roundworld. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Science of Discworld III. 

Okay, I might be prepared in a general sense for the narrative that links all the science sections of this book, but this was NOT how I expected things to go down. Well, not everything, as this was exactly how I expected the wizards to receive a presentation from Ponder Stibbons:

‘Gentlemen,’ he said, ‘I do hope you’ve all read my analysis…?’

The wizards stared at him.

‘I worked very hard on it all morning,’ said Ponder. ‘And it was delivered to all your offices….’

There was more staring.

‘It had a green cover….’ Ponder prompted.

The staring was quite intense now. Ponder gave in.

‘Perhaps I should remind you of the important points?’ he said.

The faces lit up.

‘Just jog our memories,’ said the Dean, cheerfully.

I know I’ve stated that the wizards remain unchanged throughout most of the Discworld books, which is one reason why I don’t tend to like their stories as much. But I will say that their consistency allows for great jokes like this. I know I can start reading a book with the wizards, and I know that at some point, Ponder will have a very important thing he needs to say, and he’ll prepare for it, and then no one else will do anything because… well, Ponder always prepares for it. Why waste time? He’ll just tell you all the important points anyway.

So! It’s with this introduction that Pratchett leads us into the framing narrative for the wizards’ journey. I was right in expecting that the wizards would have to intervene in the Roundworld they created in order to set things back on track. Here, the Trousers of Time split in 1859 when Darwin wrote Theology of Species instead of The Origin of Species. There is a LOT more detail given as to why this split has changed the world, too, and namely? Darwin’s otherbook provided the perfect opportunity for different social/cultural groups to compromise. The technomancers and the priests could agree on more things than they could disagree, and it pushed the more radical or conservative elements to the margins, which created stagnation. If the vast majority of people agree on something—in this case, Darwin’s position of intelligent design—than who is around to challenge it? The Origin of Species was a widely challenged book, and that upheaval led to undeniable changes in the world. 

That’s a simplistic rendering of history, but it’s the basic idea this is all operating off of. As Ponder puts it:

‘Technomancy doesn’t work well in those circumstances. It can’t make real progress by consensus. Hah, being led by a bunch of self-satisfied old men who are more interested in big dinners than asking questions is a recipe for stagnation, anyone can see that.’

A STUNNING INSULT. So, understanding this, it’s clear they need to fix this and just get Darwin back on track. And this is where the first big twist is laid out for me, and WHAT THE FUCK.

“My calculations suggest that Theology of Species was the book that he was destined to write. In all the histories of third-level phase space, there is only one in which he writes The Origin of Species.” 

One. ONE. A single timeline, a single chance for this to happen. Actually, I have to quote this part because it does such a good job of explaining just how narrow of a chance this was:

“In third-level phase space there is only one history where he gets on the boat, completes the voyage, considers the findings and writes that book. All the other alternative Darwins either did not exist, did not stay on the boat, did not survive the journey, did not write any book at all or wrote, in a large number of cases, Theology of Species and entered the Church.” 

WHAT THE HELL. So, we’ve got an almost impossible situation with unimaginably-large-number-to-one odds, which… how? How did Darwin even get derailed from this path in the first place? Even then, the wizards are the KEY reason Darwin did what he did, so they have to: make sure he wants to get on the boat; stays on the boat; survives the journey; observes the right things; writes it all down; and then completes The Origin of Species. All while trying to survive in London during one of the most chaotic times imaginable. 

This is going to be a hot mess, and I’m EXCITED.

Mark Links Stuff

The paperback edition of my debut, ANGER IS A GIFT, is now up for pre-order! It comes out on May 7, 2019. If you’d like to stay up-to-date on all announcements regarding my books, sign up for my newsletter! DO IT.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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