Mark Reads ‘The Science of Discworld IV’: Chapter 7 / Chapter 8, Part I

In the seventh and eighth chapters of Judgment Day, Miss Marjorie adapts, and we all get to discuss flat earthers. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Science of Discworld IV. 

Discworld

I’m beginning to have a deeper appreciation for Pratchett’s decision to include a seemingly random librarian at the heart of the action on the Disc. First of all, no one else could have come up with that “cemusing” pun other than a librarian. (I’M STILL MAD ABOUT IT.) But Pratchett directly address the fact that Miss Marjorie is perhaps best-suited for the experience of discovering the origin of “Roundworld,” which Miss Marjorie knows as Earth:

“It seems that you, as a librarian, are excellent at assessing data. Cataloguing and indexing in your mind. All very impressive.”

I do wonder if there’s something else going on here, but I am quick to agree that Miss Marjorie just seems to be taking this all in stride, observing what’s happening around her, and being… well, a little entertained by at all? I mean, I certainly am. I still find that whole bit where Rincewind said he found Roundworld AT A PAWNSHOP to be one of the funniest jokes in a Science of Discworld book. Because that is literally what a student would do. It’s so damn believable! Also: VORBIS. Holy shit!!! It’s been so long since I’ve seen that name in a Discworld book. 

I still don’t have a grasp on what a plot might look like for the book as a whole, but I am liking Miss Marjorie a lot.

Roundworld

Sometimes—only sometimes—it is astounding to me that we are here in a brand new decade, and flat earthers are a real thing. STILL. There are so many of them, still certain of the “guv’mint” conspiracies that have all convinced us of a round Earth. So reading this chapter so many years after it was written was a surreal thing. I love these science chapters in particular, the ones that feel like they’re also history lessons, but flat-earth ideology SHOULD BE A HISTORICAL THING, NOT A PRESENT-TENSE THING. And yet here we are! Look at the world we live in! Look at all the backwards-ass ideologies that are now being thrust into the light of day and given platforms and growing in believers, despite that we, as humans, should really know better.

Still, this journey through the various beliefs about the shape of the Earth was GREAT. I love that there’s so much humor wrapped up in this, from the proud claims of Earth being a potato, to the inclusion of the exchange that Borman and Anders had on the moon that gave humanity an appreciation for what the Earth really looked like. Plus, there were some of these theories I didn’t know about! Like the planet being a trapezoid? That was a new one to me. But I also love learning about how much people from long, long ago figured out about our existence. The whole bit on the Babylonians was fascinating to me. Humans have always been so deeply curious about the world, and as the text notes, they “paved the way for modern astronomy, and possibly science as well.” Clearly, not every thinker or culture came up with the same conclusions, but as was covered in previous chapters, sometimes, humans did. Lots of egg origins stories! 

Anyway, one last thing I wanted to talk about that is very small, but got me thinking about a memory I have. There’s a moment where the authors talk about the concept of “suspension of belief,” something that many of us have done countless times over the course of our lives. I find out something very interesting from an author friend of mine: they can’t really do it! This is a person who only writes contemporary stories, and they once told me it is practically impossible for their mind to make that jump into anything supernatural or genre. They certainly don’t think it’s bad; it’s just that they can’t turn off the “realism” side of their brain when they consume fantastical stories. THIS FASCINATED ME SO MUCH. Because it seems like second nature to me, but I never once considered that maybe someone else wouldn’t be able to do the same thing? LET’S DISCUSS THIS.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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