Mark Reads ‘Raising Steam’: Part 4

In the fourth part of Raising Steam, Moist and Vetinari are convinced, and Adore Belle deals with a disaster. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld. 

It’s weird watching a neighborhood change. 

I’ve seen it happen so many times over the course of my life. If you went to the hood I grew up in, the drug dens wouldn’t be there, and neither would the run-down homes and parks. The street finally got paved; the entire public infrastructure is different, actually, as there is literally a new avenue where there wasn’t one. There are nice bike paths, a convenience store that sells fancy, bougie food, and rumor is they’re finally building an elementary school out there, too. It was not a nice neighborhood when I lived there! It’s a huge reason why my parents were able to buy a FOUR bedroom house for under $100,000. No one wanted to live there! 

It wasn’t long before the dream communities starting coming in, and they all had names JUST like the ones Pratchett satirizes here. I honestly don’t get the appeal of them. Why would you want a house that looks exactly like everyone else’s? What’s appealing about that sort of monotony? But I suppose that people who live in these gated, planned communities aren’t thinking about these things. Indeed, I feel like Pratchett completely nails it on the head: they want to live far enough away from a “dirty” city to have access to it, but to live in their own little paradise. And it won’t be too long before those people start voting against the interests of the people in the city, saying it’s unfair that they have to pay so much and use so little. And how much you wanna bet that after ten years or so, the people from these suburbs and communities will want to buy up property in the city that other citizens made cool, and so they’ll push everyone out to get what they want? Again! And guess who gets screwed in practically every iteration of this cycle?

The poor. The lower class. 

Anyway, Pratchett knows what he’s talking about here. And I’m also curious if the flight he’s describing here—of the lower middle class—is something we’ll see again. What’s going to happen when all these “far-flung” cities are suddenly incredibly accessible because you can take a train there? I’m speaking from experience here, as I lived in Los Angeles and watched the community of Beverly Hills (and it wasn’t just them, for the record) lose their fucking SHIT when Metro planned to extend the Purple Line through their fine city. They fought it tooth and nail, employed blatantly racist/classist logic in doing so, and so Metro pettily approved a plan where the train is now just going to go around them. Which is so goddamn funny to me, on the one hand, because they’re losing out on business opportunities. But it’s also tragic because the very people they claim are going to “invade” their city ARE ALREADY THERE. It just takes fucking forever to get there by public transportation, but the lower class is definitely the badly paid workforce running much of Beverly Hills. 

Clearly, this stuff gets me HEATED.

Moving on! I made this comment on video, but I really want to expand on it. I did not actually consider how incredible it must be for these people to see a steam engine. I know I wrote earlier that Pratchett has been dragging Discworld into the “modern” age, but it’s not contemporary. The majority of these books were set in a secondary world fantasy that was pre-technology, pre-Industrial age. But that’s not the case now, and I really think we’re about to see a massive revolution in multiple areas sweep over the Disc. Some of that is openly discussed here, yet I still like that Pratchett gives room for Moist to simply marvel over what’s just happened. He is getting an experience few of us ever will: he is watching the world change forever. The Science of Discworld books got me contemplating that very phenomenon, as I’ve been lucky enough to live in an age where cell phones came into being. As well as computers. Laptops! Tablets! Sometimes, I’m on my Switch (playing as Kirby in Smash Bros. because I love nothing better than getting really good at a character that pisses off other people), and I just… can’t deal with the idea of it? 

And now, Moist gets to ride on a machine that feels alive, that seems indistinguishable from magic, that is going to allow people and objects to travel smoothly from point A to point B WITHOUT HAVING TO WORRY ABOUT THE VEHICLE GETTING TIRED. There’s no resting feet or giving horses a break or sore arms from rowing. Maybe you might get sore from shoveling coal and wood into the furnace? And maybe you might get so overwhelmed by the entire process that you zone out like Drumknott does? But that’s it. THAT’S IT. Obviously, it’s not perfect, and Dick Simnel has to test so many things to get it working better and faster. Well, and there’s the building of the actual railway. Who is doing that? How are they going to secure the land rights to build it? Will their be communities—like Beverly Hills—who will reject it? Oh god, I wonder if Pratchett is going to satirize NIMBYs? Do they have people like that in the UK? 

Seriously, what will come next??? I DON’T KNOW. 

I reference Vetinari’s line because, once more, I remain shocked at how much the grags are escalating their attacks. I expected something like this much later in the novel, but nope! It’s happening now. This time, that clacks tower in Sto Kerrig was set on fire, and two goblins were hurt. I assume that Adora Belle and Angua purposely chose to cover up the goblin retaliation on the one dwarf they found, right? Is that what that scene meant? Anyway: if the dwarfs are already willing to take lives, how much further are they willing to go? That’s usually a last, desperate step, and this was the grags’ FIRST step!!! 

It’s going to get so much worse before it ever gets better. 

Mark Links Stuff

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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