Continuity in Discworld Books.

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Continuity in Discworld Books.

Postby Tonyblack » Mon May 12, 2014 11:41 am

This was brought up in another discussion, but I feel it deserves a thread of its own. If you have to use major spoilers, please use the "Spoiler" tabs. Simply highlight the text and click the tab above that says "Spoiler."

I have recently been listening to Mark Reads Discworld and I am struck by the early version of Terry's fantasy world. There are continuity errors throughout the series and it is quite possible to pick holes in the history, geography and characterization of many of the denizens. The question is - how important are these?

The Discworld, to me, is a place created in Terry's head where he can exercise his thoughts and feelings about life and the human condition. It is a place where parody and satire reign supreme and where ideas can take on an almost physical form.

To me, it really doesn't matter too much what Terry does with the world he created. It is a tool that allows him to express his feelings and not a social history of a fictitious world.

People have commented on how fast Ankh-Morpork has developed. We now have a railway and a communications system and a news media. We have a working police force and multiculturalism/speciesism (SP). There are citizens of the Disc that are relishing others' cultures and there are those fighting to keep their own identity. But all these are about Terry expressing his thoughts on our lives.

If I were writing a book about multiculturalism set in modern times, it would become an exercise in finger pointing at various countries and religions and those ideas could easily and quickly become out of date. By setting these things into a Fantasy world, there is much more flexibility with little finger pointing. The dwarfs may represent a particular group in the world we live now, but because Terry is writing about human nature, it is likely that they will represent another group altogether in, say, 100 years time. These books are timeless in that respect. It is why we can read such books as Gulliver's Travels and still see a relevance to today's world nearly 300 years after it was written.

So I say that if Terry wants to tweak his world to make a point then why not? It's his creation after all.

What do you all think?
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Re: Continuity in Discworld Books.

Postby raisindot » Mon May 12, 2014 12:56 pm

Agree totally.

Personally, I can't stand the first few DW books. Pterry tries so hard to be a fantasy version of Doug Adams that nothing particularly deep or profound happens. It's just a bunch of riffs. So if there are continuity errors, big deal. Pterry probably had no idea when he was writing Colour of Magic that his series would someday be able to produce really profound works like Small Gods, Hogather and the best books in the Watch and Witches series.

Anyone who sits there and nitpicks that, say, the Patrician of COM is completely different than Vetinari of later books is just bellyaching. Enjoy the books for what they are, and keep the history checking in the pocket.
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Re: Continuity in Discworld Books.

Postby DaveC » Mon May 12, 2014 1:22 pm

Despite feeling like a pretty knowledgeable Discworld fan (mainly through conversations here...), I've only read each of pTerry's books once, so watching each of Mark's videos every week has been like my first re-read.

Aside from loving his presentation, its really been fun spotting continuity issues but rather than letting it bug me I just like imagining roundabout excuses in my head, and its fun reading those if others too!
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Re: Continuity in Discworld Books.

Postby =Tamar » Tue May 13, 2014 1:34 am

Discworld continuity between books doesn't bother me because in at least the first five or six books, there is a major magical change that could account for it.

Spoilers for a bunch of books:

The Light Fantastic has the Change spell at the beginning, so any differences between TLF and TCoM can be blamed on that. Besides changing where Rincewind and Twoflower are, it creates the Librarian's current form, and changes parts of the UU library floor and some of the books, and the kitchen range. Who knows what else it did? It may even have changed the Patrician a bit.
Then in Equal Rites the staff does some unplanned and probably unconsciously-requested magic for Esk that makes some apparently random changes.
Then at the end of Mort, there's a huge change-magic that must have had repercussions.
Then in Sourcery the world is remade.
There's another huge change in Soul Music.
And so on. By the time we get this far, there have been so many major changes to the Disc universe that smaller details aren't worth arguing about.

In-book conflicts I blame on poor editing, though sometimes it turns out that an apparent change was my mistaken reading. Galder Weatherwax's chair, for instance, had duck legs but chicken feet.
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Re: Continuity in Discworld Books.

Postby Molokov » Tue May 13, 2014 6:35 am

To quote Terry himself (approximately) "There are no continuity errors in Discworld, merely alternate pasts"

He codified this with "Thief of Time" which means that any continuity errors can be explained away by the History Monks fixing or modifying things.
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Re: Continuity in Discworld Books.

Postby simmonds91 » Tue May 13, 2014 8:55 am

Haha! yes! "wait, why is (blank) like this when (blank) was like that a few books ago? augh! damn you history monks!"

Each book is it's own story, you can read them in any order and while the earlier books add more to the overall discworld universe they don't necessarilly need to be read (but who wouldnt right?) which is why continuity errors don't matter much to me, I may be reading another discworld book but in my mind im simply reading another book altogether (which happens to also be discworld and happens to have the same characters etc.......) hence the reason minor differences don't matter.
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Re: Continuity in Discworld Books.

Postby Mixa » Tue May 13, 2014 12:36 pm

Hahaha! Well, I think that’s a clever way of solving the problem XD

Although, as you’ve already said, I don’t see it as a “problem” either. I am not able to remember everything Pratchett has said about DW countries and history; I see it as a different funny background for each book. The important things for me are the development of the characters, Ankh-Morpork (newspaper, clacks, train…) and the multiverse plus all the things that repeatedly try to attack it. XD So, because of this, I consider more enjoyable reading the books in the right order to appreciate this progress despite the fact that, of course,
to read any Pratchett book is always the right choice. ;)

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Re: Continuity in Discworld Books.

Postby Lemingas12 » Thu May 29, 2014 8:54 pm

Wow.. Are these continuity errors really that bad :cry: ? I always thought, that events in any of the books (including the early ones) had an impact, significant or not, on the "progression" of the series ( like the stories had some connection to the outside world ). Some people think, that the first 3-5 Discworld novels do not belong to the main canon of the series. It makes me sad. Do you think the earlier books fit into Discworld canon or should we treat them as something different ( something, that does not occur in current Discworld timeline).
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Re: Continuity in Discworld Books.

Postby Tonyblack » Thu May 29, 2014 10:10 pm

Lemingas12 wrote:Wow.. Are these continuity errors really that bad :cry: ? I always thought, that events in any of the books (including the early ones) had an impact, significant or not, on the "progression" of the series ( like the stories had some connection to the outside world ). Some people think, that the first 3-5 Discworld novels do not belong to the main canon of the series. It makes me sad. Do you think the earlier books fit into Discworld canon or should we treat them as something different ( something, that does not occur in current Discworld timeline).

:lol: It sounds like you agree with pretty much everyone else who has posted here. Welcome to the site. :0

I think the first three books absolutely belong in the series. I certainly do not understand why people get so snotty about such things.
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Re: Continuity in Discworld Books.

Postby Who's Wee Dug » Thu May 29, 2014 10:45 pm

I think people would miss out an awful lot if they were to skip the first five, of course they belong where they are an important part of the Discworld series. :)
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Re: Continuity in Discworld Books.

Postby raisindot » Fri May 30, 2014 5:44 pm

Lemingas12 wrote:Wow.. Are these continuity errors really that bad :cry: ? I always thought, that events in any of the books (including the early ones) had an impact, significant or not, on the "progression" of the series ( like the stories had some connection to the outside world ). Some people think, that the first 3-5 Discworld novels do not belong to the main canon of the series. It makes me sad. Do you think the earlier books fit into Discworld canon or should we treat them as something different ( something, that does not occur in current Discworld timeline).


Of course the earlier books fit into the Discworld canon, serving the same purpose that Two Gentlemen of Verona and the Richard VI trilogy fit into Shakespeare's canon--to show far each author evolved from rather mediocre beginnings. :lol:
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Re: Continuity in Discworld Books.

Postby ddproductions83 » Sat Jun 07, 2014 4:20 pm

raisindot wrote:
Lemingas12 wrote:Wow.. Are these continuity errors really that bad :cry: ? I always thought, that events in any of the books (including the early ones) had an impact, significant or not, on the "progression" of the series ( like the stories had some connection to the outside world ). Some people think, that the first 3-5 Discworld novels do not belong to the main canon of the series. It makes me sad. Do you think the earlier books fit into Discworld canon or should we treat them as something different ( something, that does not occur in current Discworld timeline).


Of course the earlier books fit into the Discworld canon, serving the same purpose that Two Gentlemen of Verona and the Richard VI trilogy fit into Shakespeare's canon--to show far each author evolved from rather mediocre beginnings. :lol:


Well imagine me posting somewhere other than in my fricking game thread :P

I had to take issue with this, I am a avid reader and while working on my Skyrim project I have now re-read 10 of the books in the last few months as research etc 2 of them being still my favorites, The Color of magic and The Light Fantastic.
Those two books are actually going to be the finale for my mod. To call them mediocre would only hold true in my mind to perhaps the writing style not the content.
In his later books he does indeed press on more with human nature and mixed plot-lines and delves more into what characters are thinking feeling etc and descriptions IE more tolkenesque if you will. But in all the books those first two were and still are the ones that make me smile, they make me dream big, they give you a sense of wonder, humorous sarcastic wonder.
I may be jaded a bit as those were the first two I ever read in my early teens, but when I read, just like when I play video games, I like to dream, I like to have that escapism. Those first two are still by far the ones that achieve that the most for me. There are very few authors who I can sit for a few hours and read their whole book, Terry is unfortunately not among those except those first few 'mediocre' ones (I actually tend more toward mil-sci-fi lulz)

Just my two cents

Also on continuity and timeline, I threw it out the window when I started making my mod, like so far you go from helping cohen, to capturing moist with angua to helping him in the post office to Snuff, then on to the Fifth elephant.
The History monks are working overtime in my mod, they need a vacation after

But ya, besides those first two, I read each of them as individual books and have never thought about them in context as a whole before this project, still doesn't really matter to me :P
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Re: Continuity in Discworld Books.

Postby Mixa » Mon Jun 16, 2014 6:13 pm

Oh, and another thing about this:

Sometimes (and I believe that nowadays is quite often) I have the impression that authors treat their readers like dummies when for example a plot is not well-built or there are silly mistakes in a chronology. Do they think we won’t notice it? It makes me feel insulted. :snooty:

In Sir Pratchett’s case, that doesn’t happen at all because he proves to have an absolute and perpetual control over his characters and plots, not to say how perfectly twisted they are. So when he decides to change some background, I feel he can allow himself to do it because up to now he has never let me down. :D

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Re: Continuity in Discworld Books.

Postby =Tamar » Sat Jun 21, 2014 9:39 am

Once in a while there is a problem with the timeline within a single book. That I have to put down to bad copyediting.

Authors can get carried away with the needs of the plot, or decide to revise something in a book and miss something that should have been changed - that's why there are proof copies. Sometimes proof copies have a major difference from the printed work. It is the job of the copyeditor to notice such things and not get so caught up in the story that they miss it.
Unfortunately, when a writer is so engaging as Sir Terry is, sometimes the copyeditors fail.
There's one such issue in Equal Rites, and I'm certain it was the result of a revision.

Spoiler
5
4
3
2
1
Spoiler: show
Esk begins studying with Granny shortly after she turns eight. Esk is supposed to be still eight years old, almost nine, when she reaches UU.
But a few weeks later, during the climactic events of the story, Granny thinks to herself that she had spent three years with Esk living under her roof, training her. I think that Esk was supposed to be the UK-traditional eleven years old and then for some reason Sir Terry decided to make her younger. Most of the references to her age would probably be simple to change with a global search-and-replace command, but Granny's thinking about a period of three years was missed, and the copyeditors didn't catch it.
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