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Pratchett 2.0

I know there are a lot of Terry Pratchett fans among the Kitty Kounters (we even have a quote in the sidebar), but his daughter, Rhianna, is less well known. She started out as a journalist, but now writes scripts for videogames. The rather marvellous but misunderstood Mirror’s Edge was one of hers, and I’ve always liked the speil from the trailer (oddly, I can’t find this exact version on YouTube; the one I’ve linked is the closest):

Once this city used to pulse with energy; dirty and dangerous, but alive and wonderful. It started slowly at first. The authorities said the changes – the monitoring, banning, regulating – were for the greater good. But good doesn’t mean right…

Top stuff, eh? Anyway, she’s written the new Tomb Raider reboot, and there’s an interview over at the Metro’s gaming section. Most of it’s about the game obviously, but she talks about her dad and how, once he’s unable to continue working, she’ll be the Custodian of the Discworld (although she has no intention of carrying it on: “protecting it from myself”, she says). Sounds like it could hardly be in better hands.


  1. NickM says:

    I’m working m way through the cannon. I have a ’80s “Colour of Magic” – 1st edition in paperback and signed b the man himself! Currently reading “Unseen Academicals”.

  2. Rob F says:

    Yeah, I read that interview in the Metro too!

    My personal Pratchett favourite is “Guards! Guards!”. God, the petty bickering between the Elucidated Brethren is hilarious.

    And that bit where Nobby and Sgt. Colon have to turn up for duty in plain clothes is absolutely classic…

  3. Philip Scott Thomas says:

    Nick –

    I’m working m way through the cannon.

    Did you start at the breech or the muzzle? :-)

    How are you finding “Unseen Academicals”?

  4. Laird says:

    Did you start at the breech or the muzzle? Priceless!

    FYI, I’ve started reading Pratchett, too (only 2 books under my belt so far) thanks entirely to your quote on the sidebar.

  5. Philip Scott Thomas says:


    It took me a few readings over several years to realise it, but Night Watch is one of the best instructional manuals in libertarianism there is in popular fiction.

  6. Sam Duncan says:

    Absolutely, PST. Along with the South Park guys, Pterry’s probably the best libertarian propagandist in popular culture.

  7. Roue le Jour says:

    I’m a solid Pratchett fan and as up to date as I can be. I do have a couple of quibles, though.

    I’m not sure Vimes’ servant of the law not the patrician attitude is right. Conveniently he has a book of law and there is apparently no legislature to update it, but a servant of the law is a servant of the legislature, which is not what I want.

    And much mocked Malvolio Bent in Making Money is right, and von Lipwig is wrong, gold is true value and fiat currencies suck. Vetinari does seem to want to debase the currency to fund his “undertaking”.

    Oh, and communism is nicely dealt with in Interesting Times.

  8. John Galt says:

    “Conveniently he has a book of law and there is apparently no legislature to update it”

    Ah, but when Sam Vimes talks about the law, he’s not talking about the codes and statutes laid down by the variety of monarchs and tyrants who have ruled Ankh-Morpork since time immemorial.

    When Sam Vimes talks about “The Law” he really means “The Art of Coppering”. Remember, one man’s statutory duty is another man’s tyrannical oppression.

  9. Roue le Jour says:

    Does he though? I think he means some kind of natural law, myself.

    It would be tricky to pin down, as would the law Mr. Slant works under. Law implies courts, courts imply judges, yet there is only Vetinari. Is it physically possible for him to dispose of every miscreant? I think this is deliberately left vague as there is no satisfactory resolution.

  10. John Galt says:

    Given the absence of any obvious legal judiciary or other apparatus, “The Law” seems to be what Lord Havelock Vetinari says it is, although as with the Caesar’s he is not primarily concerned with the activities of the plebeian’s majority, but only those who threaten his own authority or whose activities would destabilise the city.

    Sam Vimes similarly applies “The Law” as more the custom & practice of policing in the city, such that even theft, murder & prostitution are permissible provided that they are carried out under license from the respective guild.

    Mostly this comes down to keeping the peace.

  11. Sam Duncan says:

    I suspect Pratchett is very much a conservative-with-libertarian-sympathies rather than an out-and-out revolutionary anarchocapitalist. His characters do seem to set a lot of store by tradition, but I see it as a thoughtful, Hayekian, evolution-of-ideas type of thing, rather than simple blind faith.

    Vetinari’s an interesting character. I think Pratchett gave Ankh a dictator because it’s an easy way to personify the state, but it does leave it in an odd situation for the creation of an author so obviously suspicious of unearned authority. As RlJ says, there is no satisfactory resolution to some of the conflicts it creates. However, I see him as a sort of John Cowperthwaite character, aware of his limitations and that of the institution he heads, but also he sees the need to defend his position against those who might not be so perceptive. I’ve mentioned before that I think you need a minimal state if only to prevent anything bigger taking its place by force, and I feel that’s the sort of idea Pratchett’s wrestling with in Vetinari.

    Of course, he’s often quite explicit about the idea that electoral “democracy” might not be the best way of governing ever invented (there’s a brilliant quote about it, but I can’t remember where). In that light, Vetinari is the mythical omniscient superman who’d be even better but doesn’t, in fact, exist in reality. Never forget: the Discworld is a place where magic is real. Why should it not also have a benevolent dictator who always knows exactly what’s right for his people?

  12. John Galt says:

    Fundamentally, Havelock Vetinari’s existence appears to be to interfere as little as possible and to remove threats to a guild-based society. In essence, he is a barrier to something worse sitting upon the empty throne of Ankh-Morpork.

    We can’t say it is a Night Watchman state (funny though that would be to Sam Vimes) as the guilds are in control of their respective ‘spheres’. However, Lord Vetinari is able to influence the guilds and isn’t afraid of bashing heads together, even among the assassins guild.

    Not a perfect system, but at least you know where you stand.

  13. NickM says:

    Yeah, and what is the tax rate in Ankh-Morpork. And more to the point, perhaps, the head of th police is a decent chap, not like the Met. And isn’t the city open to immigration if you bring something to the party? Can you imagine Nick Griffin’s face if we started letting in Gnomes and vampires and Uncle Vanya’s gloomy trousers? I’d like to see it. He would go mental and he’s fucking Welsh and in my county of Cheshire it is legal to shoot a Welshman with an arrow after midnight in Chester.

    Pratchett is a greatly underated writer. He ain’t a literary writer – he’s fantasy so the establishment hates him. He makes more sense than a shed load of Booker winners mind. He is more original, more humane and sells more. The last is why the Lit establishment really, really hates him. Smarting Anus gets on the telly all the time but Sir Terry don’t. 100 years from now the Smarting One shall be a footnote and Pratchett will still be huge. Rincewind, Vimes, Nobby and Colon will last rather than the vile collection of individuals the likes of the Anus does.

    I’m about a third of the way into Unseen Academicals. Witty beyond… He’s a National Treasure.

  14. bloke in spain says:

    Oh, I think Pratchett’s very clever with Vetinari. He, chronologically, first shows up in Nightwatch, an unusually adept assassin but dedicated servant of the people. And continues to be so throughout the rest of the books, as the Patrician & all powerful tyrant. It’s a little message to our rulers. All power corrupts. But only if you allow yourself to be corrupted

    “Pratchett is a greatly underated writer. He ain’t a literary writer ”
    What’s a ‘literary’ writer? Someone who waffles on for twenty pages painting word pictures or someone who gives you a vivid image in a line?

  15. Roue le Jour says:


    There are at least three dismissive references to democracy that I can think of, four if you count the frequent assertion that Ankh Morpork is a one-man-one-vote state, Vetinari is the one man, and he has the one vote.

    The idea of a representative democracy is discussed, it is asserted that the representatives would not go around giving themselves airs and graces, then everybody has a good laugh and carries on.

    Vimes is intrigued by yhe idea of having the vote, but sees the flaw in the idea when it is pointed out that Nobby would also have the vote.

    A neighbouring city goes democratic and promptly votes not to pay tax. Vetinari says he likes to see the old ideas dusted off and tried again.


    Absolutely. I’m always surprised the comrades over at the BBC even admit Sir Terry’s existence.

    As a young man I was horrified by the brutality of the French revolution. Now, thanks to the efforts of the traitorous socialists, the only place where the culture I grew up with still exists is Discworld. I believe I could hang half a dozen of them while toying with my eggy soldiers without feeling a thing. Thanks, guys. Thanks a fucking bunch.

  16. Sam Duncan says:

    RlJ: It’s the second one I was thinking of. It might be one of the Lipwig books. Every time I see it I think “I should post that at Counting Cats”, and never get round to it. It would have been very topical during the expenses scandal, and it was around that time I first read it.

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