Finding Damo

The story of a man, his job, two cats and the meaning of success.

Archive for the tag “Terry Pratchett”

What are the most influential books in your life?

Post one a day. No comments necessary be damned.

This is what I put up on Facebook, with all of the various comments added in. It is published here as one post for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy.


Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan7 books in 7 days. Definitely no order here.
Dad brought this back from a trip to Canada and I devoured all of them up to around Path of Daggers. From there I struggled through until Brandon Sanderson took over.

But this one I love.


roofworld
OK. I am not good at daily. I could post books by Pratchett and Gaiman and other well known loves, but I wanted to post some that are life changing or less known.

My English teacher gave me this in Year 11. Shay and I went to his room above the pub. I have loved Fowler ever since. Mr Kennedy was a dodgy teacher but he gave me some great books.


OtherlandThis is a series of four really thick books that my aunty Joan gave me. It is a phenomenal idea that seems to be getting closer to reality. And it came out decades before Ready Player One.


The Man on Platform 5Last one for tonight, but I have eight more to go.. I don’t want to nominate people. If you like the idea, do it.

Thin He Was and Filthy Haired was a great autobiography of the wonderful Kryten. This one is Robert doing Pygmalion. It’s a great book, and I was intrigued by just how graphic the sex scenes were.

It led me into Ben Elton and other British TV comics who write books. It was well worth it.
See also: Ben Elton, Adrian Edmonson, Eric Idle’s Road to Mars, Hemingway’s Chair by Michael Palin and A Little Bit Marvellous by Dawn French.


The Eyre AffairSure I am not the only person who will put this, but it was a world changer for me.
The Skidmore family gave it to me and I have devoured them ever since.

It’s very clever and very funny.


My Year of MeatA couple more tomorrow but I will finish tonight with this one. Read it and be scared of the meat industry.

For me it was a great look at Japanese culture as well as an expose on meat companies but mostly it is a riveting read that I have loaned to dozens of people. At one stage I had three copies of it.


ImajicaOh my many dark and wonderful gods! This is an amazing book. Clive Barker’s mind is a terrible place. This was my first foray in horror outside of King, Straub and McCammon. It led to a deeper love of horror as well as all types of fantasy.

This book specifically is epic. It was of a scope I hadn’t seen before and I highly recommend finding a copy from before they split it up.


The Years of Rice and SaltThis guy wrote the Mars series of books (which are good) but this one details what might happen if the West was wiped out by plague and the world was colonised by the eastern/middle eastern countries.

It’s an eye opener and beautiful writing.


UgliesOk, where am I up to?

I hate this cover, but I love this series of books.
I don’t know what made me pick up Westerfeld, but I loved this series. Set in a not-too-distant future, it was one of the early dystopias, and still one of the best. He is great at characters and I love his descriptions.

And then, he has a re-imagining of World War II with genetically altered creatures and steam punk robots.

And then he has a series of vampire novels based around parasites.

Go. Explore.


The other covers


Dead BeatI keep recommending this series and getting a mixed response. I love them. I love the stories. I love the action and the humour. I don’t *love* the writing but the rest makes up for it in my eyes. I’m sharing Dead Beat because this is when most people start agreeing with me. This or Grave Peril. But I still have a soft spot for Fool Moon.

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Fanboy

kiss me I'm IrishI’m writing this one on the team on the way into the city. I’m wearing a green shirt and a clover pin and should be quite inebriated by midday. The Pogues are broguing away on my iPhone and I feel like potatoes. It’s the one day I can match Dave in alcohol consumption without needing hospitalisation. The spirit of the Irish rises up within me.

Did the Pogues just sing the word puir? I think they did! I’m in green heaven.

If course, for a man who painted himself blue for a Discworld con, the green shirt and pin are a little mellow.

Various images of me being a fanboyD’you like what I did there? I neatly changed the topic from St Patrick’s Day to me being a little over the top when it comes to enjoying certain works of fiction.

My name is Damian, and I’m a fanboy!

But it’s not that bad. I’m a social fanboy. I don’t dress up by myself. I… I can stop whenever I want. Seriously.

Let’s analyse this.
Damo is a fanboy:
– I am on the organising committee for next year’s Nullus Anxietas convention (Discworld Down Under – I love a sunburnt turtle).
– I almost bankrupted our theatre group to put on a production of Terry Pratchett’s Mort.
– I painted Death Riding Binky o the back of my denim jacket and had it signed by Terry and embroidered by my friend Shereen (not my fiancé Shereen and NOT to be referred to as ‘the other Shereen’).
– I’ve been dressed – at varying times and amongst many others – as a feegle, the Cheshire Cat, Uncle Fester and Wolverine.
– I own a Stuffed Murloc that goes grlglgglglgl! When you squeeze his mouth.
– I own Red Dwarf on VHS, DVD and iTunes, all of the books and assorted badges and pins.
– I have photos riding a Nimbus, flashing a light saber, and of me trapped inside the Pandorica.
– I’ve been to 221B Baker St and platform 9 1/2. And indeed went to London with the specific aim of going to said places.

OK. Damo is not a fanboy because:
– There is not one sci-fi poster in the house… Hung up in the house. Of course, that will change in the new place.
– I’ve never worn a star trek uniform or forehead ridges. Hmm, that’s now on my bucket list.
– I’ve never spent more than I can afford on sci-fi merchandise. I’ve regularly spent more than a sane person would, but never more than I could afford.
– I don’t collect signatures. I’d much prefer to have the memory of talking to a personality than the physical bit of paper with a scribbled name on it. That’s not to say I don’t have signed books. And a couple of DVDs. And of course the jacket… OK, can I retract this statement? It’s not all my fault. You can’t be a fan of Terry Pratchett without signatures popping up all over your books. It’s like magic.
– Worst of all, I have no real feelings on Star Trek vs Star Wars. Or Star Trek DS9 vs Babylon 5. It seems sacrilegious. But there you go. Although if pushed – no. I won’t get that debate happening here.

Conclusion:
I’m a pop culture enthusiast with a penchant for dressing up and a borderline addictive nature that manifests in the collection of stuff.

I like to be involved in things because if I’m not there’s a chance I might miss out on something.

And my imagination leads me to immerse myself in worlds rather than just taking a quick dip.

But I think a true fanboy would laugh at me if I tried to call myself a fanboy of any particular genre or world.

Time for a Guinness. Begorrah!

Addendum: The morning after, wondering why Guinness always seems like such a good idea at the time, I realise that St Patrick’s Day has a lot to do with being a fanboy (or girl) as well. I’m not sure how many of the people at Dan O’Connell’s had even the slightest amount of Irish blood in them, but we all got together to celebrate the Irish – or we all got together to have a huge pissup and dress in ridiculous costumes. Sounds very much like a number of conventions I’ve been to. There was a girl in a Guinness suit, many many guys with fake sideburns, a lot of green hair and a few Vulcans… hang on, wrong convention. And you have to think, these people – even if they weren’t sober when I met them – were sober when they put the costume on in the morning.

Pfff. Fanboys.

To be sure, they're fanboys all roight!

Lies to Children

Andy Riley's Great Lies to tell Small Kids

This went straight onto the toilet wall...

I was listening to someone talking to my (almost) step-daughter the other day, wondering at all of her missing teeth and asking about the Tooth Fairy. The TOOTH FAIRY! The supernatural creature who comes into your room at night, takes your teeth and leaves money in return. Now I have no problem with the concept of fairies (see the Money Fairy blog entry) but I can’t help but be disturbed by the concept of a creature that wants my child’s teeth. What does she/they do with them? Anybody who has read (or only seen – heathens) Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather has a pretty good idea. But maybe there’s a thriving economy in children’s teeth in fairy land. We all know what rhino horns are used for. We should maybe be glad that the fairies aren’t just coming and taking teeth by force! Or maybe we should be preparing against the inevitable Tooth Recession of 2012. Our kids do eat more sugar than is good for them, after all.

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Ho ho Damo.

But that’s not my point (it’s just what’s going to keep me up at night for the next couple of weeks). We create these incredibly complex belief systems for children. Of course, children are wonderfully gullible. They’ll believe anything, and it is an endless source of amusement to me.

NOT A SMURF!

Definitely not a Smurf.

They won’t, however, believe that vegetables taste good. But they believe in Santa. They believe in the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, Smurfs and Pokémon. And we encourage this belief.

I’ve gone from child to parent with Christmas these past couple of years co-habiting with my soon-to-be step-daughter. It changes everything! I ate three mince pies before I was satisfied with the “santa bite mark” I left on the pie left behind for him. Oh, the sacrifice! And my reindeer dental print in the carrot had to be seen to be believed. For Easter one year I created massive bunny footprints on the carpet.

A point. I have one. Ah yes, my point being that to maintain these beliefs for our credulous offspring (or step-offspring, or random children on the street) we lie to them. Unashamedly and with delighted malice (or is that just me?).

“You must go to bed early tonight. And straight to sleep. If you wake up, Father Christmas might not deliver the presents!” Translation: “Will you PLEASE go to sleep so we can get the pressies under the tree before midnight? We know you’re going to be up at 5am.”

“It’s time to write a Christmas letter to Santa. Write down everything you want. He’ll choose one or two things that he knows you want most!” Translation: “I have no idea what a 7 year old wants for Christmas. And I need a loophole in case the child asks for something that’s sold out or costing a bajillion dollars.”

Paul Kidby's version of Death as Hogfather with Albert

HO HO HO?

Why do we do it? Pratchett’s answer, again from Hogfather, is this:
“All right,” said Susan. “I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need… fantasies to make life bearable.”

REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.

“Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—”

YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.

“So we can believe the big ones?”

YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.

“They’re not the same at all!”

YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET—Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME… SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.

“Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—”

MY POINT EXACTLY.”
― Terry Pratchett, Hogfather

Calvin's dad explains science

Calvin’s dad would say, and I agree wholeheartedly, that it is just more fun to tell an imaginative lie than explain the boring truth. It’s a defence mechanism against the dreaded, all-powerful question “why?” Anybody who has ever dealt with a young child will know the question “why?” and the mind-melting implications of infinity it brings with it.

“It’s time to go, Chad,” I say.
“Why?”
“Because we have to get home.”
“Why?”
“Because your mother’s waiting for her dinner.”
“Why?”
“Because she’s hungry after a long day at work.”
“Why?”
“Because the human body burns food the same way cars burn petrol.”
“Why?”
“Because, um, look. Have you had the God talk yet?”

A far easier response goes as such:

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What if I wasn't lying?

“It’s time to go, Chad,” I say.
“Why?”
“Because a velociraptor has escaped from the dinosaur park and if we don’t get out of here soon, he’ll burst in through the door and eat you, one leg at a time!”
“Oh. OK.”

See? Much more fun. Only slightly more therapy needed as an adult.

My grandfather used to say the best way to find out whether a cat was a boy or a girl was to pick it up by the tail and swing it. If the eyes popped out, then it was a boy. He then offered to demonstrate on our cat Pepsi, who he well knew was a boy cat. It is one of the ways Perry men interact with children. Tease them until they completely lose it.

Lies-to-children is a term I first read in Terry Pratchett’s Science of Discworld (written with Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen. It describes the simplification of reality to help children understand the reality beneath. Things like “The Domino Effect started the Vietnam War” and “the sky is blue because of light refraction” are lies-to-children. Lies to Children are more along the lines of “the dog has gone to live on a farm where it will be happier.” or “if you have any more ice-cream it will leak out of your eyeballs and freeze your brain.”

I know which I prefer.

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