Eric Johnson Comics



Almost forgot that was coming up... Going Postal

Posted by Eric Johnson on May 30, 2010 at 4:11 PM

I was just reminded by a news post.

This week on the BBC will be the TV movie adaptation of "Going Postal", one of the great Discworld novels by Terry Pratchet.  The third such live-action adaptation by the BBC.

Discworld is one of the few book series I still find time to read, even with my "reading a lot less books" lifestyle of the past few years.  When a new one comes out, I get it, and devour it in a year or two.

The interesting thing about the series, from a "craft of writing" point of view, is how much it's changed over the years.   It started as just a satire of various fantasy sub-genres, then became a world of it's own, with a very distinct voice. And with several different "sub-series" running in parallel, featuring different characters and viewpoints and themes, but the same world.  Up to 38 (!) novels now, if you count the "young adult" spinoff books (which I do), plus 6 short stories that take place in Discworld.

Also, Mr. Pratchett's writing skills and focus for the series changed a lot over the years.  Which leads to an almost universal agreement among fans that the first two books, for example, aren't really up to the quality of the later fare, when the author hit his stride.

Why are the first two books not as well liked?  Well, the short answer is:   The first two books are a satire of the fantasy genre, straight up, no apologies.   Sometime after that, though, Discworld became about using a fantasy world to satirize real world issues and situations.   Which ended up being both much funnier, and something that Sir Pratchett does very, very well.

Now this leads to the great "reading order" controversy among Discworld fans.  Debating what's the best answer to the question from the uninititated potential reader, "Which book should I start with?"

This leads to diagrams like this:


I say,  "Man up, and start with the first book.  With the acknowledgement that the first two won't be as good, but they help set up characters, ideas, and places you will see later."

However,  if you really don't find the first book agreeing with you, do one of the following:

1) If  you want to start with the earliest book possibly, start with "Mort".   It's the first book that's really "Discworld" as people think of the current series, rather than what it started as.  Plus, you get to see the Discworld version of Death, who's quite the iconic figure.

2) If you know your Shakespeare, then consider starting with Wyrd Sisters.  It's got lots of MacBeth references, is a great book overall, and is the real start of the "Witches of Lancre" sub-series, which has some of the best characters.

3)  Otherwise, "Guards! Guards!" is a solid starting spot.  You'll learn about Ankh-Morpork, the city that features in many of the stories, and it's the start of the "City Watch" sub-series, which is one of the most used sub-series (7 novels, plus they show up elsewhere).  And Commander Vimes is one of the most interesting and developed characters of the series.

Now, I've just plugged one of my favorite fantasy book series.  But how does it tie into this website?

Well, because I've got a similar problem....   what should I say if someone asks me "Where do I start if I want to read FemForce?"  or "Which of your comic book issues should I read first?"

I'm writing stories that tie into a comic book continuity that is over 150 issues and over 25 years old.   That's a lot of backstory to worry about.  And unlike Sir Terry Pratchett, I don't have legions of fans to spread the word, and make cool flowchart diagrams like above.

So, got to do it myself.

The Eric Johnson "new fan reading guide". Coming to a blog post soon....

(I'm at about -4 on my blog post debt meter.  Catching up, but still need some work to be at one per day average).

Categories: Misc Nerdy Stuff

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