Mark Reads ‘The Science of Discworld IV’: Chapter 22, Part II / Chapter 23

In the twenty-second and twenty-third chapters of Judgment Day, I learn that the universe isn’t as improbable as I thought, and Marjorie is saved. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Science of Discworld IV. 

Okay, the second half of chapter twenty-two was a BLAST to read. I love when Jack and Ian get fired up, and you can tell that they wrote this whole section with a lot of passion. And why shouldn’t they? They’re dealing with poor logic being put forth as credible science when it comes to the conditions needed for life to exist elsewhere in the universe. 

One of the strangest things I’ll have to deal with is that I was raised in an extremely conservative home, one where my entire life was ordered and organized around some specific (and horrific) religious beliefs, and yet, we watched The Twilight Zone and The X-Files regularly. I was one of those kids who had to watch as my mom destroyed a bunch of my thrash and hardcore CDs because they were ungodly, blasphemous, and spit in the face of the Lord. And yet, watching a show with LITERAL demons on it? Totally fine. But I bring this up because even at a young age, I was into the idea that we humans did not understand our world or our universe, that there was more in it than we could possibly expect. Granted, the realms of science fiction and speculative fiction have lots in them that just aren’t real, but these genres also helped me at a young age accept that I shouldn’t view myself, as a human, as the center of the universe. It was likely that there were other life forms out there, that there were parts of our universe I would never see or comprehend, and that didn’t make my life meaningless or useless. Because it is true that there are faiths out there that derive some of their meaning from the notion that humans arethe center of this all. Which just doesn’t make sense to me! In a universe so vast and large and seemingly endless, we were put here so that 99.99999999999999999% of said universe could remain unsee and unexplored? Why waste all of that space? 

Chapter twenty-two argues (quite convincingly, I’d say) that some scientists are limiting their view of possibility with astrobiology, when they should be approaching this question with xenoscience, accepting that life could adapt to conditions very different than life on Earth has evolved. The realm of science fiction has long considered this notion, hasn’t it? How many great SF works have imagined what beings would look like under different conditions? (Honestly, it’s one of my favorite parts of science fiction not-on-Earth. GIVE ME MORE OF IT.) So why should science restrain themselves? As the authors put it:

Astrobiology is human-centered, because it starts from us and narrows the universe down until it fits. Xenoscience is universe-centered: it keeps possibilities as broad as possible and sees where they lead. We are beautifully adapted for our environment because we evolved to be like that. This observation is much more reasonable than claiming that we humans are so special that the solar system, the galaxy, even the entire universe, was constructed in order to accommodate us.

Amen to that.

So! Let’s get to the conclusion of Marjorie’s story. (I think? I suppose it’s still possible that she could show up in the Epilogue.) I love that I have a better sense of how big the Roundworld globe is after all these books, given that “against all reason slotted into her palm with a decisive but moderate stinging sensation.” Oh, so it’s that big. Perfectly accidental in size! But the chapter’s big surprise was the appearance of both Captain Sally and Captain Angua, in their respective vampire and wolf forms!!! Y’all, that scene made me IMMEDIATELY want an entire novel where Marjorie, Sally, and Angua pair up to solve crimes in Ankh-Morpork. OR MAYBE THE DISC CHARACTERS HAVE TO GO TO EARTH TO SOLVE A CASE. Oh, so that definitely means that this would be a multi-part book series, right? Because the dynamic of these three alone in just a few pages was INCREDIBLE. I loved that Marjorie is probably the only human who could stand listening to Angua’s transformation back to human. And hell, she’s probably seen enough weird shit as a librarian that the whole experience barely caused her to bat an eye. Strange stuff happens in libraries, y’all! 

Also: refenestration. UGH, IT’S SUCH A GOOD JOKE.

So, Marjorie gets to attend one last feast at Unseen University, which always sounds like the best collection of food and unplanned entertainment possible. Pratchett takes a moment to completely slam on the reading habits of politicians and the way they often show support of libraries. Which reminded me of that Twitter post some awful US pundit made which said that too much taxpayer money went into paying for libraries, and he supported a solution where people could pay a monthly fee and check out books at their leisure… which is basically… libraries. You just invented libraries, asshole. Anyway, I’M HERE FOR INSULTING THESE PEOPLE. REPEATEDLY. THEY DESERVE IT. But my favorite part of her send-off? The Librarian blowing her a kiss and giving her a banana!!! IT’S SO SWEET AND TENDER!!! But it’s also a sign of how appreciative the Librarian is of her. It’s not often he gets to meet people from L-space who work in libraries, and the two of them just got one another. 

Now that she’s home, though, I don’t know what the epilogue is going to be about. Maybe Stackpole? The Latter-Day Omnians? Perhaps they’ll put the Roundworld somewhere easier to find but not so easy to lose. We’ll see!

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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