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51 responses to “Setting low bars”

  1. David Jackmanson

    I was lent a short SF story called ‘Even the Queen’ by Connie Willis a while ago.

    It has about 7 female characters, and 1 male.

    It deals with a family argument in a world where menstruation has been mostly eliminated by the use of an implant (‘shunt’) in the arm. One of the more younger and self-righteous girls is planing to join a group that rejects the use of these shunts. Some members of her family are appalled, some thinks she has the right to be stupid, and the core of the story is the family meetings where this is thrashed out.

    Funny, witty, strong characters, different points of view from females and an amusing end.

    Just for the record, it’s BWT rating is Yes, Yes, Yes.

  2. Shaun

    I was interested in the side discussion of the Anita Blake series over at IBTP. I’ve read the first one and while enjoyable, it was sort of ruined by knowledge that the series generates into the fang-fucker genre.

    I suppose given the main protagonists if a female vampire, the BWT is yes, yes and possibly as it is obvious that Blake will fall to the charms of uber male vampire whose name I can’t be bothered to check. Hell I was at Galaxy the other day and dismayed once more that almost all vampire novels in the Horror section seem to be nothing more than a bloodier versions of Barbara Cartland.

  3. Kim

    Interesting, tigtog.

    I can’t really speak to Moorcock’s Stormbringer (because it’s an age since I read it) but a lot of his more mature sf and fantasy has a significant feminist following – he’s an anarchist who’s said that the struggles of women are the most important political issues in the world and who was a close friend of Andrea Dworkin.

    I wanted to make a comment on Dick as well – if you read his biography, most of his female characters are either caricatures of his various wives/girlfriends or projections of his dead twin sister. It’s all either this mysterious dark-haired woman archetype or the shrill, castrating blonde. Some would argue that he creates a believable female character in Angel in The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, but I think it’s an open question.

    Another point about the selections on the list – a lot more female authors could be on it (but I guess that’s a question about “most significant”) and there’s also the threshold question of whether some sf authors can do realistic characterisation at all. Heinlein can’t for instance. Though he is also somewhat of a misogynist anyway!

  4. patrickg

    Ahhhh memories of many a great book read up there, albeit with some major reservations about some of them!

    I personally think the sf site’s two >a href=http://www.sfsite.com/columns/best07b.htm>year-end lists are worth their weight in gold.

    I don’t always agree with the choices, but they’re consistently varied.

    Re: the Bechel-Wallace rule; it’s funny, because I’m always asking people: “but where are the women in it?”, and yet I love Philip K Dick; and he only ever has two female characters in his books: The blonde, soon-to-be ex-wife, and the raven-haired soon-to-be girlfriend.

    I’m hesitant to subscribe to any “rules” of writing. My experience in writing both fiction and non-fiction has hammered only one rule home to me: Whatever works.

    P. Dicky, whatever his faults, works. At least he works for me. Brooks, Eddings, etc. for all their women, don’t work (at least not for me…). In breaking rules, he made great fiction.

    That said, I have, in the past, ruthlessly applied the dearth of women in a text to a savage review, or experience.

    Btw, I’m disappointed that Rowling makes the list, and yet people like McCaffrey (not my cup of tea, but tremendously influential, and Robin Hobb are absent.

    Methinks part of the problem with the list is not necessarily an inherent problem with the genre, per se (though, let’s face it, authors are, unfortunately, majority male (just like many editors are female. In all my freelance experience, I’ve worked with a male editor… twice. And one of them was for a gay men’s magazine!).

    Perhaps the problem lies instead with the list itself. I can think of heaps of – in many cases great – female sf/fantasy writers. Willis, as David mentions, Evangeline Walton, Hobb, McCaffrey, Julian May, J.V *gag* Jones, Patricia McKillop, Douglas, Dart-Thornton, Martha Wells, C.L Moore, and that’s just off the top of my head! (I wouldn’t call all of them great, but you know…)

    Btw, Tog, I have to say I’m loving all these feminism posts at the moment. Imho it’s a group of subjects that all too often get sidelined.

  5. Kim

    I see patrickg and I kinda crossed – I also enjoy Phil Dick, despite… !

    Fang Fucker is a good way to characterise the Anita Blake books, Shaun, they start out reasonably well, but after a while it’s all about the bonking and keeping track of the millions of Anita bonkees and the increasingly tangled were-clan stuff gets really boring.

  6. patrickg

    Woooo Kim, we’s got some synergy goin’ on there.

  7. Kim

    Heh. Yep, sure have, patrickg!

  8. patrickg

    Also, oops! Missed the McCaffrey.

  9. Kim

    Here’s your link, too:

    http://www.sfsite.com/columns/best07.htm

  10. Supun

    There’s a couple of trilogies by Lynn Flewelling, The Night runner trilogy (Which is the only fantasy book i’ve read which has two gay main characters, although George R.R Martin did have a token lesbian) as well as a transgender main character in The bone dolls twin.
    Also, Pratchett would be about the most progressive fantasy writer considering how wide a range of material he covers.

  11. Shaun

    Thanks Kim. That is what I have heard so I’m reluctant to go any further with the series.

    I’ll throw in a recommendation for Jasper Fforde‘s Thursday Next series. I’m working my way through The Eyre Affair at the moment. It doesn’t score well on the BWT but is a recommendation at A Room of One’s Own.

  12. patrickg

    I’m also disappointed that Fritz Leiber didn’t make the list. Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser stories are tremendously sexist, but also very influential.

    Also in the sexist but influential category: Robert Jordan (Conan, not Wheel of UNENDING time), a seriously messed up guy.

    A few more names that should be up there: Bradbury, Mieville, MERVYN PEAKE for the love of god!!, Arthur Machen and Algernon Blackwood, David Lindsay (A Voyage to Arcturus), William Hope Hodgson, Lovecraft, hmmm, could talk about this all day! lol.

  13. Kim

    Samuel R. Delaney also goes on the progressive list – both politically and in terms of gender/sexuality.

  14. patrickg

    oh yeah, Einstein intersection! Left hand of Darkness beats Earthsea, imho.

  15. Kim

    He’s a gay black English prof!

  16. patrickg

    I wasn’t being sarcastic, I mean, he really should be up there (stoopid intertubes, misinterpretation!)

  17. j_p_z

    Seems to me that Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter shouldn’t count as sf, because they are about magic, which is essentially a denial of science. I always thought the mark of science fiction was that it played with an idea that was relevant to some aspect of actual or potential science, not that it merely posited a fanciful or different sort of world. If that’s all it takes, then “Pogo” and “Krazy Kat” are science fiction, too. Talking animals! Well what could be more outre?

    The quality of the nutty ideas in good sf is the main reason one is so willing to forgive the terrible prose and klunky characterizations of so much sf… you riffle through it mostly to pick up the brilliant zany thinking and the what-ifs, not to be moved by an artistic vision of life, though sometimes that happens, too.

    Never been able to read more than three continuous pages of “Dahlgren” in a sitting, but I’d be willing to bet that the test scores are yes, yes, and yes. Good grief, at its length and omnivorousness, it’d be statistically impossible to be otherwise.

    By the way, with regard to the test, why criterion #2? Why do they have to talk to each other? This seems needlessly limiting (as does the whole exercise, actually), and implies certain boundaries that strike me as being sexist in and of themselves, sort of like introducing the only two Chinese people at a party to one another, simply because they’re both Chinese…

  18. David Jackmanson

    j_p_z, the title was “Most Significant SF & Fantasy Books of the Last 50 Years”

    I was about to say much the same as you before double-checking.

    You might enjoy the David Brin rant/essay:

    “Star Wars” despots vs. “Star Trek” populists – Why is George Lucas peddling an elitist, anti-democratic agenda under the guise of escapist fun?

    Found via this comment on Wil Wheaton’s very funny reviews of Star Trek: The Next Generation http://www.tvsquad.com/2007/02/19/star-trek-the-next-generation-hide-and-q/2#c3538867

    By the way, with regard to the test, why criterion #2? Why do they have to talk to each other? This seems needlessly limiting (as does the whole exercise, actually), and implies certain boundaries that strike me as being sexist in and of themselves, sort of like introducing the only two Chinese people at a party to one another, simply because they’re both Chinese…

    Presumably because there are far fewer examples of women speaking to each other than of men speaking to each other?

    I don’t think following a rule like this could create, in itself, readble SF, but if women are getting annoyed about a lack of realistic females in SF and fiction generally, it might well be a call to stop ignoring a market, if nothing else.

  19. Robert Merkel

    Personally, I like my SF hard as it comes, and if the characters are cardboard cutouts well, so be it. If there’s priests, swords, mages, or dragons, that can stay on the shelf. I find it vaguely demeaning that fantasy deigns to occupy the same bookshop shelves as Science fiction! ;)

    I’m kind of surprised that the Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson hasn’t made the list. I’d recommend it to even non-SF fans. As well as some well-conceived scientific extrapolation, there’s a lot of thought about future politics, including gender politics (it definitely scores a Yes, Yes, Yes).

    Oh, and Rendezvous With Rama as the Arthur Clarke entry on the list? Personally, I think his stort stories were superior to his novels, but if I had to pick a novel of his I’d probably say Childhood’s End as the best and 2001 as the most influential.

  20. zebbidie

    I like my SF as hard or as soft as it comes. Ditto with my fantasy.

    All I ask is that it be interesting, clever and internally consistent. Oh and not have every character have exactly the same voice, especially when the voice is a older teenaged nerdish male (pace David Brin who just suffered through 2 books of) and it is applied to men, women, chlimps. dolphins, aliens. And did I mention the notion of use italics for emphasis on every single f^in page?.

    And I support the whole females talking to each other test — it is ludicrous how poorly drawn women are in SF. Well I should say even more ludicrously than the male characters are in SF. Why (o why) are writers who can write SF so crap at believable people, and writers who can write people well are so abysmally bad at doing SF.

  21. j_p_z

    DJ — yeah, I take your point, but I think the link between sf & fantasy is based on some sort of superficial comparison of genres… why not sci-fi linked to war stories, or fantasy to romance? I like Judith Krantz as much as anybody, but it’s about as realistic to me as the friggin’ Nazgul…

    btw, from your link, I thought this was interesting…

    “Wouldn’t you love — just once in your life — to dive a fast little ship into your worst enemy’s stronghold and set off a chain reaction, blowing up the whole megillah from within its rotten core while you streak away to safety at the speed of light?”

    If I recall correctly, this is more or less how the Battle of Midway was won — the American bombers landed a few in the Japanese hangar decks just as all the planes were being re-fueled, as luck would have it, and Blammo! Maybe that’s why it’s so recurrent in Star Wars?

    do sf comics count for this little test? (we won’t get started on movies…)
    “THB” — yes, yes, and yes. and HR Watson rocks!
    “Bone” — yes, yes and (I think; it’s been awhile) yes.

    or how about other stuff?
    “Endgame” by Beckett (it’s post-apocalyptic, after all) — no, no, and no. On the other hand, the sole female character does get to say the most memorable line in the play: “Nothing is funnier than unhappiness…” so maybe that counts for something.
    “The Lost Ones” and “How It Is” by Beckett — if anybody ever manages to actually read all the way through “How It Is,” maybe they can tell us one day. I doubt that even Beckett read it.

    and in the spoilsport department, for those of you who find the test itself reductionist…

    The German Opera-Lover’s “Baden-Wurst Test” for evaluating Italian opera:
    Does the opera have at least two characters who:
    1. are German, and
    2. sing in German, about
    3. topics of interest to Germans?

    La Traviata — no, no, and no.
    The Marriage of Figaro — no, no, and no.
    Madame Butterfly — no, no, and no.
    Aida — no, no, and no.

    Hm, this is working! Soon all we will have left to listen to is “Wozzeck,” until of course we shoot ourselves…

  22. tigtog

    By the way, with regard to the test, why criterion #2? Why do they have to talk to each other? This seems needlessly limiting (as does the whole exercise, actually), and implies certain boundaries that strike me as being sexist in and of themselves, sort of like introducing the only two Chinese people at a party to one another, simply because they’re both Chinese…

    Presumably because there are far fewer examples of women speaking to each other than of men speaking to each other?

    Bingo.

    Books are full of characters talking to each other about problems to be solved in the course of the narrative. Nearly always the characters involved are men talking to other men, one man or one woman addressing a mixed-gender crew impersonally, or a man and a woman dialoguing.

    So why is it so seldom that two female characters talk to each other about solving one of the narrative impediments? And when they do talk to each other about solving a narrative impediment, why is the particular narrative impediment nearly always romantic yearnings for a man?

    When I worked in a hospital, I’m sure that I spent 99% of my conversations with other women regarding the job at hand. Conversations about who we fancied did occur, but even in our break time we were more likely to talk about music, movies, sport and books.

  23. Kim

    I wasn’t being sarcastic, I mean, he really should be up there (stoopid intertubes, misinterpretation!)

    Nor was I! :)

  24. woulfe

    These two are generally regarded as teen fiction but (a) the teen/adult distinction is lost on me when it comes to SF and (b) if Harry Potter can get a place in this list …

    Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is a notable omission from this list. It’s a Yes Yes Yes.

    http://www.amazon.com/Materials-Trilogy-Golden-Compass-Spyglass/dp/0440238609

    Local writer Margo Lanagan’s book of short stories, Black Juice has pieces which get a Yes Yes Yes as well. Her pared-down use of language is amazing, but the worlds and cultures she realises tell us volumes about our own society and relationships.

    [Disclaimer: I was working with Margo while she was writing some of the stories in Black Juice, which is how I found out about the book, but not why I am recommending it here.]

  25. David Jackmanson

    And when they do talk to each other about solving a narrative impediment, why is the particular narrative impediment nearly always romantic yearnings for a man?

    For the same reason that depictions of female “warriors” often show them wearing midriff-flashing steel bikinis, at a guess. You’ll be aware of how practical it is for a warrior of either sex to expose their belly to injury.

    j_p_z, as I understand Midway, you are basically correct. The film came out in 1976, so I wonder if that influenced Lucas? Midway is certainly the sort of battle that was a clear-cut, war-turning victory that is very rare, but far easier to make movies about than, say the struggle against German subs in the Atlantic Ocean.

    I fully agree that the connection between SF and fantasy is shallow at best. I imagine it came from booksellers putting all the ‘weird’ books together on the shelves – it alway irritates me to see dragons and wimple-clad maidens in the “Science Fiction” section in a bookshop.

    And don’t even get me started on bloody David Eddings. (Yes, No and N/A, I think)

  26. tigtog

    and in the spoilsport department, for those of you who find the test itself reductionistâ?¦

    The German Opera-Loverâ??s â??Baden-Wurst Testâ?? for evaluating Italian opera:
    Does the opera have at least two characters who:
    1. are German, and
    2. sing in German, about
    3. topics of interest to Germans?

    I like the joke, j_p_z, but can I note that youre #3 is not at all properly analogous to the original #3, which was “something besides a man”?

    Surely there would be many topics women could discuss that are not about men yet are not solely of interest to women? The rule doesn’t say the conversations have to be major plot-movers, just that some natural interaction has to occur.

    Like who/what is stealing all the food that’s going to become a significant plot point on page 157? What exactly is the atmospheric composition of the planet they are about to explore? See you for that raquetball game later?

    Without little touches like this, little conversations that male characters have all the time to make the interactions seem natural, then it’s glaringly obvious that the female characters aren’t seen as full characters by the authors. They are either love interests of convenience, or exceptionalised and idealised Mary-Sues. Lazy writing.

    (Ha. There’s a Mary-Sue wiki now)

  27. j_p_z

    tigtog — oh I quite agree in terms of quality of writing (though as I said above, I think sf is rare as a genre insomuch as faults in ‘quality’ by definition can and frequently must, be forgiven). It’s the exclusionary aspect of the rule that is worrisome; look at normal literature this way, viz.:

    Oedipus Rex: no, no, and no. (well, “no-and-a-half” on 1., since Teiresias had been both a boy and a girl.)
    Hamlet: yes, no, and no.
    Waiting for Godot: no, no, and no.

    you start to lose an awful lot, once you have these politically-driven litmus tests.

    DJ: actually, I think the warrior-babe babe-alicious mini-armor is quite practical from a strategic point of view. If you’re a warrior babe battling male opponents, flashing a lot of strategic flesh is going to a) distract them severely, and b) make them reluctant to fight to kill: “Aw, why would I want to hurt such a cute belly-button?” [fatally hesitates, gets arm lopped off].

    Advantage: warrior babe.

  28. j_p_z

    Oh, and just for laffs, here’s the biggest test-failer of them all…

    The Collected Works of H.P. Lovecraft — 1. no, 2. Not Bloody Likely, and 3. Are You Kidding?!

  29. tigtog

    It’s only exclusionary if you actually use it to exclude. I read/watch and enjoy lots of stuff that doesn’t pass the rule, but I find it a useful concept for discussion nonetheless.

  30. Kim

    I always wondered that about Keira Knightley’s combat bra in Arthur…

    j_p_z, I think you’re missing the point. No one’s calling for a “politically driven litmus test”. It’s just a discussion. I mean, I did say that I liked Phil Dick despite all his female characters either being dark haired ingenues or castrating blondes, didn’t I? :)

  31. tigtog

    j_p_z, I am after all the one who’s read 37 out of the 50 books (and I’m not sure whether I’ve read those particular Cordwainer Smith and Zelaszny novels, actually – I’ve certainly read plenty of both).

    There’s only 11 books on the list that pass the test (including some one’s with question marks). Do, as your compatriots say, the math.

  32. tigtog

    some one’s with

    Agh. Time for sleep when I’m inserting rogue apostrophes.

  33. Pavlov's Cat

    Tigtog, this is what the Bechdel-Wallace test keeps reminding me of — and probably where it first took shape in Wallace’s mind: in Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, where the narrator idly chooses a novel from the library shelf, a novel by one Mary Carmichael, and opens it at random:

    ‘Chloe liked Olivia,’ I read. And then it struck me how immense a change was there. Chloe liked Olivia perhaps for the first time in literature. Cleopatra did not like Octavia. … But how interesting it would have been if the relationship between the two women had been more complicated.

    … But almost without exception they are shown in their relation to men. It was strange to think that all the great women of fiction were, until Jane Austen’s day, not only seen by the other sex, but seen only in relation to the other sex. And how small a part of a woman’s life is that …

    Also, I continued, looking down at the page again, it is becoming evident that women, like men, have other interests besides the perennial interests of domesticity. ‘Chloe liked Olivia. They shared a laboratory together. . ..’ I read on and discovered that these two young women were engaged in mincing liver, which is, it seems, a cure for pernicious anaemia …

    Now if Chloe likes Olivia and they share a laboratory, which of itself will make their friendship more varied and lasting because it will be less personal … then I think that something of great importance has happened.

    For if Chloe likes Olivia and Mary Carmichael knows how to express it, she will light a torch in that vast chamber where nobody has yet been. … And I began to read the book again, and read how Chloe watched Olivia put a jar on a shelf and say how it was time to go home to her children. That is a sight that has never been seen since the world began, I exclaimed.

  34. AV

    At Pharyngula many rightly query the inclusion of Terry Brook’s godawful Sword of Shannara.

    I say that if Brooks can make it onto the list, surely Raymond E Feist’s Magician should be there also?

  35. AV

    (Though Magician would fail the Bechdel-Wallace.)

  36. j_p_z

    incidentally, w/r/t this test, how would Shelley’s original “Frankenstein” fare? It’s another one of those great ironies I suppose, that in such a male-dominated field, one of the very founding classics of English-language sci-fi would be written by a woman.

    In a different vein, here’s a question: what do people consider the trippiest idea that was the basis for a sci-fi story or novel? I’m not talking about character or execution, just a sheer mind-blowing speculative concept where you go, Whoa, I *never* woulda thought of that!

    Anybody got any favorites?

  37. David Jackmanson

    what do people consider the trippiest idea that was the basis for a sci-fi story or novel?

    A Scanner Darkly, by Philip Dick. (No, N/A, N/A).

    Speaking of PKD as we have been, I’m fairly certain that a female character cannot be introduced into his books without a description of her breasts in the first paragraph. I don’t think that was the speed talking.

  38. tigtog

    I say that if Brooks can make it onto the list, surely Raymond E Feist’s Magician should be there also?

    (Though Magician would fail the Bechdel-Wallace.)

    Agreed on both points. Feist’s co-authored Empire series (with Janny Wurts) certainly passes though. Mara’s Ruling Lord status does make here isolated from normal female camaraderie, but even before her nurse Nicoya is elevated to become her official advisor they spend much time discussing political maneuvres.

  39. Down and Out Of Sài Gòn

    Mission of Gravity: No, N/A and N/A. However, only one of the characters is human; and the rest are centipede-like Meskinites. But they’re all male, as I recall.

    Interestingly, Aliens passes the test with flying colours. Three strong female characters (Newt, Ripley and Vasquez) talking about monsters, not men. Possibly four, if you count the Queen as well, although I’m a little doubtful on that. She’s strong, she’s female, but she’s leaves a lot to be desired in the dialogue department.

  40. Fiasco da Gama

    Advantage: warrior babe.

    An effect used to some effect by the twentieth-century fascists. Those high leather boots, that tightness around the buttocks and the classically packaged package, all of that posing and marching and smiling into the future… just sayin’.
    On The Beach passes the B-W test, by the way: Mary and Moira have a very long melodramatic talk about the ethics of infanticide. Unfortunately, they’re both very stereotyped weak-female characters, and the book has dated badly.

  41. Pavlov's Cat

    Down and Out, I too thought of Alien straight away — I’ve always thought of that movie as being about femaleness in its various manifestations, as much as about colonisation.

    She’s strong, she’s female, but she’s leaves a lot to be desired in the dialogue department.

    But she communicates pretty clearly. And Ripley (protecting Newt) says ‘Get away from her, you bitch!’

  42. Julie

    I love A Wizard of Earthsea, but I can’t remember where the two women having a conversation was.

  43. tigtog

    Am I conflating with later Earthsea books perhaps? Could well be. Or maybe just with other LeGuin.

  44. Julie

    The second and fourth in the series certainly pass the test. So does the fifth; I didn’t like it so much.

    And The Left Hand of Darkness passes the spirit of the test, but not the letter (conversations being between hermaphrodites, or else the male protagonist and hermaphrodites).

  45. tigtog

    Like a lot of these series, Julie, most authors shouldn’t go beyond the trilogy (not even LeGuin).

    Pavlov’s Cat is onto something with the Woolf comparison, I think. B-W made it a lot more pithy is all.

  46. Pavlov's Cat

    incidentally, w/r/t this test, how would Shelleyâ??s original â??Frankensteinâ?? fare?

    If you really wanted to, and if you were thinking metaphorically, and if you were reassured that I’m making a fairly lighthearted point here, you could stretch a point and argue that Viktor Frankenstein, in creating the monster, ‘gives birth’. You could also argue that the monster, which has no place in society or permanent name of its own, and is regarded as a sort of imperfect variation on the human male, is, well, feminised by these things.

    In which case, Frankenstein would pass the B-W test with a perfect score of 3.

  47. christine

    I’m pretty sure The Eyre Affair passes the BWT (forget the name of the horrible publicist, but also grandmother who was definitely in SpecOps, Mum who may have been too, not to mention Aunt Polly and Mrs Nakamura (?) from Osaka; also Jane, but she fails on the last criterion, I think. And does Miss Haversham enter yet?). Perhaps not all of these were from TEA, but from follow-ons. Definitely highly recommended, regardless.

    Agree with Julie: I don’t think a Wizard of Earthsea and Left Hand of Darkness don’t technically qualify, but their author has qualified in other ways. Afraid the same is true of Pratchett’s entry – he has written Discworld novels with serious female involvement where talking about men was pretty restricted (Witches Abroad, obviously), but I do not recall a single female character from The Colour of Money.

    On the Shannara stuff: at least there isn’t a David Eddings book on the list (I enjoyed some of them, but seriously awful writing). Be grateful for small mercies.

  48. Illusionarylunch

    I do not recall a single female character from The Colour of Money

    The “Colour of Magic” has at least a couple of female characters – The Lady and Liessa Dragonbringer. Sorry about the second link – she is such a forgettable character that I could only find a page in German.

    Pratchett didn’t really get going well with writing really good books until “Equal Rites”. The first two are simply a collection of jokes – he was only able to start hitting his straps with his third Discworld book. IMO of course.

  49. christine

    Whoops! Typo on magic v money (but an understandable one?). Missing the Lady was also a bad slip. Liessa was pretty horrible, but since she was a complete takeoff of dragon-type books that’s OK. Still, don’t think CoM makes the grade on criteria 2 and 3.

    Obviously I have to go and read it again, but. Fun!

  50. tigtog

    Pratchett didnâ??t really get going well with writing really good books until â??Equal Ritesâ??. The first two are simply a collection of jokes – he was only able to start hitting his straps with his third Discworld book. IMO of course.

    I’d agree with that. CoM and TLF are essentially juvenilia. Equal Rites is much better and definitely passes the B-W bar, but I’d pick Wyrd Sisters is the first true glimpse of the mature Pratchettian Discworld.

  51. David Jackmanson

    Yeah, TCoM and TLF aren’t that good, IMAO. Equal Rites (Y,Y,Y) was better although different from the style of the later books, Mort (N,N/a,N/a I think) was superb (the first one that really captivated me), and Wyrd Sisters (Y,Y,Y) was also great:

    “When shall we three meet again?”

    “Well, I can do next Tuesday”.

    I also liked the way that Pratchett has a vision of what witchcraft would be that is not merely sorcery done by females (‘Charmed’, I’m looking at you), and also casts a sceptical eye over the witchcraft fad of the last decade and a half.