Pratchett: _Johnny and the dead_ (was Book: Higher Education)

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Terry Pratchett

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Jan 12, 1997, 3:00:00 AM1/12/97
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In article <oxyr8CA7...@nunhead.demon.co.uk>, Graham Head
<Gra...@nunhead.demon.co.uk> writes

{snipped all spoilers -- although since there were really about Johnny's
character rather than the plots of the books, maybe they didn't spoil
that much -- but there may be inadvertent spoilers below:


Johnny appears more passive in Bomb, put if you look you'll need it's
his constant nagging and reminding that forces other to do things -- in
other words, he's the conscience of the group; in the two earlier books
he personally has to take a lead.

One of the things that makes the books both harder and easier to write
is that both Johnny and Kirsty, and to a lesser extent the rest of the
gang, have indeed got a sophisticated volcubulary of weirdness. They've
*read* the books about kids having adventures, they've seen a thousand
re-run sf movies and all the current blockbusters and all the TV sf
soaps. So when they end up somewhere 'adventurous', in a sense they
know the script. Kirsty knows about 'the Men in Black' and probably
read Fortean Times

I know from talking to people last year that young kids had no trouble
at all with the paradoxes of time travel or the concept of parallel
universes or 'coming back to where you never went', because Trek and Dr
Who and Back to the Future and inferior copies have made it all
familiar.

So when a certain mysterious elderly character was introduced early in
the book, I knew two things: that the readers would instantly start
guessing, because of their familiarity with the nature of the genre, and
that Johnny himself is like the reader. There's not point in pretending
it's some major shocking plot point, because it can't be.

But what was then fun was introducing these sophisticated kids to *real*
things which were outside their experience. They're not shocked by time
travel, but they are by the casual, unthinking racism and sexism in
1941, and the fact that real streets with real kids in them can get
blown up.

As an aside, I think Johnny probably *is* a 90s version of Just William,
though I make no claims to write as well as Richmal Crompton. I mean
that William as William couldn't be brought into the 90s -- in the 30s
and 40s he was a loveable scamp, and we seem him through Crompton's
eyes, but in the 90s he would be a thug (all those robust pratcical
jokes and broken windows...) In fact there was sometimes an edge to
William that grated -- *anything* cerebral was *automatically*
pretentious, and it you want to get really uneasy read 'William and the
Nazis' (or were they 'Nasties'?)

To William a tramp was a guy in a battered top hat and old boots in the
familiar environment of the countryside -- but Johnny knows about street
people, places you shouldn't go, dangerous town centres after dark. He
lives in a much more complicated world and a state of almost perpetual
bewilderment...
--
Terry Pratchett

Ross Smith

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Jan 13, 1997, 3:00:00 AM1/13/97
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Terry Pratchett wrote:
>
> One of the things that makes the books both harder and easier to write
> is that both Johnny and Kirsty, and to a lesser extent the rest of the
> gang, have indeed got a sophisticated volcubulary of weirdness.

Something I've been wondering about since I read JatB: Is Kirsty the
same girl who called herself "Sigourney" in OYCSM?

--
Ross Smith (Wellington, New Zealand) <mailto:al...@netlink.co.nz>
<http://www.geocities.com/SiliconValley/Park/3699/>
+++ Divide By Cucumber Error. Please Reinstall Universe And Reboot +++

David/ Kirsty Damerell

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Jan 14, 1997, 3:00:00 AM1/14/97
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Ross Smith <al...@netlink.co.nz> wrote:
>Something I've been wondering about since I read JatB: Is Kirsty the
>same girl who called herself "Sigourney" in OYCSM?

Oh yes. Trust me; I should know, actually...

--
David/Kirsty 'Gotterdammerung' Damerell. dame...@chiark.greenend.org.uk
CUWoCS President. http://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/~damerell/ Hail Eris!
|___| So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye? So you think |___|
| | | you can love me and leave me to die? Queen: Bohemian Rhapsody. | | |

Graham Head

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Jan 14, 1997, 3:00:00 AM1/14/97
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In article <uVBwREAF...@unseen.demon.co.uk>, Terry Pratchett
<tprat...@unseen.demon.co.uk> writes
(Some spoiler space addeed, just in case...)


>
>But what was then fun was introducing these sophisticated kids to *real*
>things which were outside their experience. They're not shocked by time
>travel, but they are by the casual, unthinking racism and sexism in
>1941, and the fact that real streets with real kids in them can get
>blown up.
>

Actually, I think that description simplifies too much. What was also
interesting was the way in which eg racism wasn't shown to be missing
from the makeup of the 90s kids - as in the byplay between Kirsty and
Yo-Less outside the newspaper shop or over his Morris dancing. Equally,
Bigmac and the interrogation over his Nazi skinhead gear. In other
words it isn't just one-way traffic with switched on 90s kids dissing
the social problems of the 40s from a superior position.

>As an aside, I think Johnny probably *is* a 90s version of Just William,
>though I make no claims to write as well as Richmal Crompton. I mean
>that William as William couldn't be brought into the 90s -- in the 30s
>and 40s he was a loveable scamp, and we seem him through Crompton's
>eyes, but in the 90s he would be a thug (all those robust pratcical
>jokes and broken windows...) In fact there was sometimes an edge to
>William that grated -- *anything* cerebral was *automatically*
>pretentious, and it you want to get really uneasy read 'William and the
>Nazis' (or were they 'Nasties'?)

What I can (just about) recall as the most unsettling sequence was when
William went to London, and ended up being chased up and down streets by
a gang of boys in what seemed a very alien, dangerous and edgy place.
--
Graham

Simon Slavin

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Jan 16, 1997, 3:00:00 AM1/16/97
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In article <32D9B5...@netlink.co.nz>,
Ross Smith <al...@netlink.co.nz> wrote:

> Terry Pratchett wrote:
> >
> > One of the things that makes the books both harder and easier to write
> > is that both Johnny and Kirsty, and to a lesser extent the rest of the
> > gang, have indeed got a sophisticated volcubulary of weirdness.
>

> Something I've been wondering about since I read JatB: Is Kirsty the
> same girl who called herself "Sigourney" in OYCSM?

[This is probably well-known on a.b.p, but I don't read that group.]

The 'called herself "Sigourney"' bit is much funnier when you know
that 'Sigourney' is not even Ms. Weaver's real name. Her parents
named her 'Susan'. She picked 'Sigourney' herself.

Simon.
--
Simon Slavin -- Computer Contractor. | You're thinking of phenylketonuria.
http://www.hearsay.demon.co.uk | Aspartame doesn't contain lithium.
Check email address for spam-guard. | This information is not useful. I'm
Junk email not welcome at this site. | not sure about escalators, really.
| -- wi...@netcom.com (Wim Lewis)

Terry Pratchett

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Jan 16, 1997, 3:00:00 AM1/16/97
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In article <T7BFOCA6u$2yE...@nunhead.demon.co.uk>, Graham Head
<Gra...@nunhead.demon.co.uk> writes

>In article <uVBwREAF...@unseen.demon.co.uk>, Terry Pratchett
><tprat...@unseen.demon.co.uk> writes
>(Some spoiler space addeed, just in case...)
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>>But what was then fun was introducing these sophisticated kids to *real*
>
>Actually, I think that description simplifies too much. What was also
>interesting was the way in which eg racism wasn't shown to be missing
>from the makeup of the 90s kids - as in the byplay between Kirsty and
>Yo-Less outside the newspaper shop or over his Morris dancing. Equally,
>Bigmac and the interrogation over his Nazi skinhead gear. In other
>words it isn't just one-way traffic with switched on 90s kids dissing
>the social problems of the 40s from a superior position.

No, but I was trying to be modest :-)
--
Terry Pratchett

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