Sci Fi and Discworld Collide For The Long Earth

Sci Fi and Discworld Collide For The Long Earth

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British authors Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter talk about their novel, The Long Earth.

Terry Pratchett, the Discworld scribe, and Stephen Baxter, the science fiction author and creator of the Time's Tapestry series, have been working together on the first in what will be a trilogy: The Long Earth, an alternate-reality novel. The book has hit the shelves, which has come as a relief to both; but they haven't much time for rest, as they're busy working on the sequels.

The Long Earth features Joshua and Lobsang, a man and an AI, who discover the secret of traveling to alternate realities. It started as an idea of Pratchett's, long before he became famous for his Discworld series, but it languished in a drawer for decades. "Ideas are like tinsel," Pratchett claims, "anyone can have an idea, it's what you do with it that's the important thing." When he revisited the notion he realized there was good stuff in it, but he also knew that it was too much for one man to tackle. So he called on Baxter, an author he'd known for twenty years, because he needed someone who could say the word 'quantum' and knew what it meant.

The collaboration process was involved but relatively painless, thanks to mutual respect. Baxter describes the partnership as having four stages. In the first stage, person A suggests an idea and person B says it will never work. In the second, person B says it's none of his business whether A wants to go ahead and make a fool of himself with that silly idea. In the third, B says he quite likes the idea after all, and in the fourth B claims that the idea was his in the first place. "To which," Baxter says, "person A can only say, 'Yes, Terry.'"

The Long Earth is out now, in hardcover and Kindle editions. The full video of the interview can be had here.

Source: Guardian

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Had not heard about this in the works, sounds awesome! I know what Im reading next.

Sounds awesome. But what's with the picture accompanying the text? Are you advertising Kindle now?

I'd also assume the rush to get the trilogy out has something to do with Pratchett's on going fight with Alzheimers.
But Hey, I love the fact the AI is named after

Blunderboy:
I'd also assume the rush to get the trilogy out has something to do with Pratchett's on going fight with Alzheimers.

I was going to say. Still, much respect for him still hammering out the work.

Loop Stricken:

Blunderboy:
I'd also assume the rush to get the trilogy out has something to do with Pratchett's on going fight with Alzheimers.

I was going to say. Still, much respect for him still hammering out the work.

Oh totally. I have nothing but respect for the man.

I dunno. As much as I love Terry, he really has been cranking them out as of late, and I can't help but feel there's been a slight dip in quality as a result. I'm currently reading Snuff, and while it's still a good entry in the Vimes series of Discworld books, I can't help but feel that it's a bit rough and unpolished in places compared to his earlier books.

Personally, as much as I love his work, I do think that the onset of Alzheimers means he should slow down and enjoy whatever time he has left, rather than trying to hammer out as many books between now and then as he possibly can. I love Discworld, but not to the point that I'd want to see a terminally ill man work himself to death trying to come up with new stories.

Though at the end of the day, of course, a lesser quality book from Terry still stands head and shoulders over just about anything else currently out there, so it's not like I'm going to complain too much if he disobeys doctors' orders...

How did this slip past me. I'm gonna go grab me a hard cover.

j-e-f-f-e-r-s:
I dunno. As much as I love Terry, he really has been cranking them out as of late, and I can't help but feel there's been a slight dip in quality as a result. I'm currently reading Snuff, and while it's still a good entry in the Vimes series of Discworld books, I can't help but feel that it's a bit rough and unpolished in places compared to his earlier books.

Personally, as much as I love his work, I do think that the onset of Alzheimers means he should slow down and enjoy whatever time he has left, rather than trying to hammer out as many books between now and then as he possibly can. I love Discworld, but not to the point that I'd want to see a terminally ill man work himself to death trying to come up with new stories.

Though at the end of the day, of course, a lesser quality book from Terry still stands head and shoulders over just about anything else currently out there, so it's not like I'm going to complain too much if he disobeys doctors' orders...

i tend to think he himself wants to clear his shelf of ideas before he can't.

i agree with you on the quality thing (have just finished reading Snuff myself).

as a fan i find my mind wandering to thoughts as to why that might be deeply sad :'(

captcha - "seize the day"...i shit you not...i'm beginning to wonder if it's an AI :s

That was almost painful to watch...is Pratchett really getting worse, or has his speech always been so labored?

I've loved Stephen Baxter's work since coming across his collaborations with one Arthur C. Clarke a few years ago. His style of writing I find is sometimes hard to wade through what with the extreme amount of technical terms and explanations - I swear he makes the most implausible inventions seem like something you could conjure up in your back yard - but I've adored the actual stories he's trying to tell, and he's fantastic in collaborations. Exultant is one I read annually.

As for Terry Pratchett, I've shamefully never heard of him. I'm extremely interested in giving this book and the followups much attention, but could anyone recommend other books by him I should check out in the meantime? I'm assuming Discworld might be a good place to start, although I haven't an actual clue what it's about.

Never heard of it but it looks like I have a new book to look for! Sounds like an interesting idea and while I don't know much of Baxter's works, I absolutely love the Discworld books. Maybe once I finish up Snuff...

Tilted_Logic:
I'm assuming Discworld might be a good place to start, although I haven't an actual clue what it's about.

You might be looking for a while for that one, since it's the series name, not a particular book, but I'll let it slide ;) The books began as a sort of fantasy-satire, but since have expanded to satirize just about every subject you can think of, including mystery novels, opera and rock and roll, all in the framework of the same fantasy universe. He even managed to make an entertaining book about the invention of paper money.

Honestly, one of the beauties of the Discworld series is that, for the most part, you can read them in almost any order, since they all work as stand-alone pieces. My personal favourite would be either The Fifth Elephant or Thud! but most books in the series are very well-written. The only thing I will say is that, in my opinion, Pratchett's earlier books don't quite stand up as well as later ones (I've never been a huge fan of his first two books, as the style doesn't quite feel like 'his' yet).

OT: Part of me is secretly (and sadly) glad this book is a collaboration, as I worry about Sir Pratchett's health. 'Snuff' was somewhat unfocused and of lower calibre than many of his other works, and I can't help but worry that his Alzheimer's is starting to affect his writing. As such, I'm glad that he has been able to work with another accomplished author to put this book together, one who can perhaps lend a tighter focus to the book.

Suicidejim:

Tilted_Logic:
I'm assuming Discworld might be a good place to start, although I haven't an actual clue what it's about.

You might be looking for a while for that one, since it's the series name, not a particular book, but I'll let it slide ;) The books began as a sort of fantasy-satire, but since have expanded to satirize just about every subject you can think of, including mystery novels, opera and rock and roll, all in the framework of the same fantasy universe. He even managed to make an entertaining book about the invention of paper money.

Honestly, one of the beauties of the Discworld series is that, for the most part, you can read them in almost any order, since they all work as stand-alone pieces. My personal favourite would be either The Fifth Elephant or Thud! but most books in the series are very well-written. The only thing I will say is that, in my opinion, Pratchett's earlier books don't quite stand up as well as later ones (I've never been a huge fan of his first two books, as the style doesn't quite feel like 'his' yet).

Personally I'd advise her to simply start at the beginning and go from there. As you say, the early books are very much a 'work in progress' which is why I think it would be better to get them out of the way first. I started the series with Equal Rites, picked up the previous two, and progressed from there. I still found those early books immensely enjoyable. I'm not sure if I'd have found The Colour Of Magic as entertaining if I went to it after reading something like Thief Of Time. If Tilted Logic goes from the start, she'll be able to see just how much the series matures and develops as it progresses.

Also, she'll be able to properly acquaint himself with Jack Kirby's incredible cover art. Don't get me wrong, Paul Kidby's a beast of an artist and has taken up the mantle of Discworld artist admirably, but Jack Kirby's book covers are just iconic. The reason I picked up a Discworld novel in the first place is because of how surreal the artwork was.

OT: Part of me is secretly (and sadly) glad this book is a collaboration, as I worry about Sir Pratchett's health. 'Snuff' was somewhat unfocused and of lower calibre than many of his other works, and I can't help but worry that his Alzheimer's is starting to affect his writing. As such, I'm glad that he has been able to work with another accomplished author to put this book together, one who can perhaps lend a tighter focus to the book.

As I said earlier, my personal guess is that it's less to do with Alzheimers, and more down to the speed with which he's writing the novels. I mean, Terry's always turned them out at a pretty rate, but in the last few years he's become a veritable Stephen King. My problems with Snuff thus far (still reading it) aren't anything to do with the quality of writing, jokes or creativity on display (all of which is as strong as ever), and more with the fact that it simply feels like it was still a first draft. It's just a bit rough around the edges. A few more months writing time and being shown to the editors, and I think it would have been a much stronger entry.

Suicidejim:

Tilted_Logic:
I'm assuming Discworld might be a good place to start, although I haven't an actual clue what it's about.

You might be looking for a while for that one, since it's the series name, not a particular book, but I'll let it slide ;) The books began as a sort of fantasy-satire, but since have expanded to satirize just about every subject you can think of, including mystery novels, opera and rock and roll, all in the framework of the same fantasy universe. He even managed to make an entertaining book about the invention of paper money.

Ah, apologies. I had unknowingly assumed Discworld followed a similar theme throughout. I'm not entirely sure what to make of your description of them, however. Doesn't quite seem like something I'd be inclined to read at first glance, although I'm further intrigued by The Long Earth now. Next time I'm in a book store I'll see what I can find by him.

j-e-f-f-e-r-s:
Personally I'd advise her to simply start at the beginning and go from there. As you say, the early books are very much a 'work in progress' which is why I think it would be better to get them out of the way first. I started the series with Equal Rites, picked up the previous two, and progressed from there. I still found those early books immensely enjoyable. I'm not sure if I'd have found The Colour Of Magic as entertaining if I went to it after reading something like Thief Of Time. If Tilted Logic goes from the start, she'll be able to see just how much the series matures and develops as it progresses.

Thank you for the suggestions! I'll do some further research on him and see if it piques my interest; I'd hate to pick up the first novel, finding it's not to my tastes, just to miss out on further stories by him that were more agreeable.

Tilted_Logic:

Suicidejim:

Tilted_Logic:
I'm assuming Discworld might be a good place to start, although I haven't an actual clue what it's about.

You might be looking for a while for that one, since it's the series name, not a particular book, but I'll let it slide ;) The books began as a sort of fantasy-satire, but since have expanded to satirize just about every subject you can think of, including mystery novels, opera and rock and roll, all in the framework of the same fantasy universe. He even managed to make an entertaining book about the invention of paper money.

Ah, apologies. I had unknowingly assumed Discworld followed a similar theme throughout. I'm not entirely sure what to make of your description of them, however. Doesn't quite seem like something I'd be inclined to read at first glance, although I'm further intrigued by The Long Earth now. Next time I'm in a book store I'll see what I can find by him.

j-e-f-f-e-r-s:
Personally I'd advise her to simply start at the beginning and go from there. As you say, the early books are very much a 'work in progress' which is why I think it would be better to get them out of the way first. I started the series with Equal Rites, picked up the previous two, and progressed from there. I still found those early books immensely enjoyable. I'm not sure if I'd have found The Colour Of Magic as entertaining if I went to it after reading something like Thief Of Time. If Tilted Logic goes from the start, she'll be able to see just how much the series matures and develops as it progresses.

Thank you for the suggestions! I'll do some further research on him and see if it piques my interest; I'd hate to pick up the first novel, finding it's not to my tastes, just to miss out on further stories by him that were more agreeable.

Suicidejim is right that every book stands alone. However there are 'arcs' that follow specific sets of characters. Glance through the wikipedia article from this subheading and you'll see the different groups that develop over the course of several novels. There are the Witches, Death, the Watch, and everyone has their favourites. Personally I still have a totally not-weird teenage crush on Susan, Vimes is one the best written characters in any series of books ever, but missing out on the Witches and the chance of a Wee Free Men (Crivens!) storyline would be criminal. You will never laugh so hard as the first time you encounter them. Of course the character meta-arcs rarely affect the specific story being told in each novel but a lot of references would be missed if you started in the middle of a set. The standalone novels tend to be the weakest in the series - just sayin'.

I'd also agree with Suicidejim's appraisal of the first couple of books. The writing is great but the world hasn't settled into focus yet and they faff on rather too much for a new reader imo. Equal Rites is probably the best of the first 3 but you'll find a lot of inconsistencies in the fiction even between that and the next Witches book. Mort is the one where he hits the more modern tone and structure almost perfectly and would be my recommendation for a first look (and Susan woo!).

EDIT: The Tiffany Aching books are also a fantastic place to get a "taste" for the series. They're way more focused young adult books, that eschew the rather dense style of the main series. They're still sophisticated in their treatment of themes and writing. Tiffany is a great and likeable character and you're introduced to some of the mainstay characters as a debutante. In addition to that you get a quadruple dose of Nac Mac Feegle to sweeten the it-totally-fell-over-of-it's-own-accord-you-scunner! mutton stew ;)

j-e-f-f-e-r-s:

Suicidejim:

OT: Part of me is secretly (and sadly) glad this book is a collaboration, as I worry about Sir Pratchett's health. 'Snuff' was somewhat unfocused and of lower calibre than many of his other works, and I can't help but worry that his Alzheimer's is starting to affect his writing. As such, I'm glad that he has been able to work with another accomplished author to put this book together, one who can perhaps lend a tighter focus to the book.

As I said earlier, my personal guess is that it's less to do with Alzheimers, and more down to the speed with which he's writing the novels. I mean, Terry's always turned them out at a pretty rate, but in the last few years he's become a veritable Stephen King. My problems with Snuff thus far (still reading it) aren't anything to do with the quality of writing, jokes or creativity on display (all of which is as strong as ever), and more with the fact that it simply feels like it was still a first draft. It's just a bit rough around the edges. A few more months writing time and being shown to the editors, and I think it would have been a much stronger entry.

Part of me does suspect that is the case (although speed starts to become a relative term to a man who's written roughly 40 or so novels in his lifetime), but I can't help but worry about the worst case scenario. The thought of him having to retire from writing is a deeply depressing one, since he's been an idol of mine since I was young. Hopefully it was just due to being written too quickly without enough editing or drafts. Still, even in that respect, perhaps the influence of another author will result in a more polished piece of work.

 

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