Moving Pictures
April 19, 2023 7:30 AM - Subscribe

IN A WORLD GONE MAD, where Alchemists have just devised a way to film performances and screen them for enraptured audiences, Unseen University drop-out Victor Tugelbend leaves Ankh-Morpork for Holy Wood, a new community of like-minded dreamers devoted to the Clicks industry, but something is lurking under Holy Wood that should not be awakened! Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler also stars. (Discworld #10, Stand-Alone.) By Terry Pratchett.

It's the Discworld Book Club, everybody! Recently we've been following the City Watch books (Previously: Guards! Guards!, Men at Arms, Feet of Clay, Jingo, The Fifth Elephant, Night Watch, Thud!, Snuff) as well as the Industrial Revolution books (Previously: The Truth, Monstrous Regiment, Going Postal.) and are now jumping back to cover some stand-alone novels. For those who truly wish to go back to the beginning, there are a number of Discworld novels covered in Fanfare back in the day (The Color of Magic, The Light Fantastic, Equal Rites, Mort, Sourcery, Wyrd Sisters) and most recently we covered Pyramids. Our next book will be Small Gods, the third of the Stand-alone books before we either take a run at the Wizards or Death books (Let me know if you have a preference!)



A hastily-built community of backlots and rough-hewn structures. The sound of HAMMERING fills the air. HANDLEMEN prop up their devices (little boxes with imps inside who quickly paint images of everything they see) in front of ACTORS performing basic scenes of heroes saving damsels from trolls, etc.

VICTOR TUGELBEND (young, handsome) wanders wide-eyed into this controlled chaos. GINGER a.k.a. THEDA WITHEL a.k.a DELORES DE SYN (young, beautiful) rolls her eyes at the naïve newcomer.

CUT-ME-OWN-THROAT DIBBLER (neither young, handsome, nor beautiful, but shrewd) claps a hand on Victor's shoulder.

DIBBLER: "Fancy actin' in the Moving Pictures, eh? I got a click coming up! Could even offer you a dollar a day, and that's cuttin' me own throat!"

Victor looks startled and confused. GASPODE THE WONDER DOG (mangy, named after the famous Gaspode) comes up behind Victor and tugs at his pant-leg.

Pull back to reveal a thousand elephants, excitable Wizards, mountains of banged grains, fifty-foot eldritch monsters, great deals at Ankh-Morpork's finest eateries, pictographic diaries, a much better-looking dog, dwarfs, trolls, riotous fans and, why the hell not, a chariot race.
posted by Navelgazer (7 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'll always have a soft-spot in my heart for this one. It's not much, plot-wise (basically, Discworld gets the Movie Industry! And then eventually blah blah blah because we have to get rid of it by the end of the book) but the atmosphere is great and I'm just so happy to live in it for a while again. This is probably bias from being a film-school kid, but I love this sort of speed-run through early Hollywood history, Dibbler getting a starring role for once, different Disc communities getting along (before the City Watch becomes more inclusive-even!) and just everything surrounding Holy Wood, really.

And while the book mostly presents Ginger as a pretty laughable character, I love her bit about halfway through about the great tragedy of people never discovering their talents and becoming what they want to be. Pratchett would return to this theme again and again more earnestly over the course of the broader series, but this is a great place to lay it out.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:42 AM on April 19, 2023 [2 favorites]

I love the dovetailing iconography of the magic of the movies and literal eldritch magic, which is the kind of idea that starts off as a wry joke at first, and then becomes genuinely creepy as the possession takes hold. It's a much richer seam for ideas than you'd first imagine.

The fanbase apparently believes that the product placement subplot is based on Pratchett's experiences with the German-language versions of his early books, which would have ads inserted into the text.

I think the thousand-elephants subplot ended up being more amusing to Pratchett than it ends up being in the book, where it's mostly just a pacing-killer.
posted by Merus at 8:45 AM on April 19, 2023 [4 favorites]

I always hoped Victor would show up again; the fact that he's a wizard who never casts any spells, and that he works harder at being lazy than most people work their jobs...
posted by The otter lady at 9:58 PM on April 19, 2023 [1 favorite]

Oh I had trouble with this one, and I don't think it's just that I'm not as familiar with early Hollywood as Pratchett is. It is full of scenes that I liked, but it felt more like a What If than a true Discworld story. This one and Soul Music both. I also imagine they lost more wordplay and jokes on leaving the English language than other Pratchett translations.
posted by Ashenmote at 11:08 AM on April 23, 2023 [1 favorite]

because we have to get rid of it by the end of the book

I think this is why I never clicked with this book (I actually tried a re-read not long ago and just couldn't maintain interest.) Pratchett's building a world over the course of the novels, and almost always once he introduces a technological or societal or character change, he sticks with it. Those changes might not be the focus of later books, but they're there. To have this sort of major thing happen that is a technology leap and a major cultural force in our world and has a big effect on existing known characters just go "poof" at the end I find deeply unsatisfying. Even Terry apparently can't really pull off the "it was all just a dream" ending.

IOW, I think I would've preferred that he either stick with Clicks as an element of Ankh-Morpork life going forward, or made it even more of a stand alone with all different characters that takes place somewhere else on Discworld.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:15 AM on June 14, 2023 [2 favorites]

Oh, I agree. I hated that it introduced something cool and then erased it.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:18 AM on June 14, 2023

Re-read this one recently. There's a lot to like in it, but I don't count it as one of his best. I love Gaspode the Wonder Dog. "Banged grains" cracks me up, too. What can I say? I'm a simple man.

I wonder if the reason he got rid of The Clicks is in line with the overall commentary of the book.

Movies being presented as a threat to reality doesn't suggest that Pratchett was entirely at ease with movies or the entertainment industry. As a fantasy writer finding success in the late 80s (when this was written), perhaps Pratchett felt some kind of way about the impact of the movie industry on the written word.

Considering the time period, it'd make sense for an author to be thinking about the shift from a society that reads books to a society that primarily consumes moving pictures. And the role of authors writing books, knowing the only way your work is going to really have an impact is to be adapted to a movie.

Or not. I'm kind of spitballing, I wonder if there's any interviews from around the time of publication that might shed light on it.

From the re-read of Moving Pictures I went straight into Reaper Man, which stands in sharp contrast (to me) with Moving Pictures as one of Pratchett's finest. I'd put Reaper Man among my very favorite Pratchett works.
posted by jzb at 9:23 AM on June 15, 2023

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