wossname: (Anthill inside)
The word from Penguin Classics on the newly published (Doubleday) graphic novel of Small Gods:

"Like all things on the Discworld, religion is a controversial business. Small gods, elbowing for space at the top, rely on faith and followers to retain their status. Not a good time then, for the Great God Om to be reduced to tortoise form, barely able to muster up a static shock let alone a good old fashioned thunderbolt. He needs followers, fast, and Brutha the novice is the Chosen One – or at least, the only One available... Follow the misadventures of our favourite novice priest and his tortoise deity in Ray Friesen's stunning new adaptation of Terry Pratchett's bestselling novel. Fully illustrated for the first time, this graphic novel brings Brutha and Om to life as never before."

I will agree with them that the adaptation is stunning – but not in the way they undoubtedly meant it. As Editor of Wossname and as a passionate Discworld enthusiast of many years' standing, I cannot in conscience promote this volume. As in really, really can't. I hate saying negative things about any Pratchett work, but there is no way around it this time: I think this is some of the worst, ugliest and least competent "professional" comics art I've ever seen (and I've seen a lot), and at the very least I find its childish, visual-slapstick style horribly inappropriate for what could well be the most artistically significant and intellectually bracing of all the Discworld novels.

Graham Higgins' artwork for the graphic novel of Guards! Guards! was simply delicious, and brought the A-M City Watch to glorious life. Higgins' artwork for Mort was decidedly inferior to that, but still bearable if one viewed it with a squint in a following wind. But this... this... I swear, if I were Nuggan I would Abominate the new graphic novel of Small Gods, and rightly.

I'll grant that Ray Friesen's Official Terry Pratchett Brand[sorta-TM] icons have a certain twee charm. But I can only deplore the decision from Team Pratchett to hire Friesen as artist for any graphic novel, much less one as mighty as Small Gods. I won't be buying it and I won't be promoting it, and I am very saddened by this. I probably will lose some goodwill from Team Pratchett by making my opinions on this public, and that saddens me as well, but my conscience demands I tell my true opinion here. And so it goes. Ah well, there's always the forthcoming (and utterly fabulous) Paul Kidby Discworld Colouring Book to console myself with...


Now then – if you, O Reader, are interested in purchasing or even doing a suck-and-see crash test of the Small Gods graphic novel, you can go to http://classics.penguin.co.uk/q/1H7kqwtAO5cfPZCdyGG9j/wv where you will find links for both a free sample download and purchasing options.

Also, if anyone out there wants to send a review of the Small Gods graphic novel to Wossname, we will publish it whether the reviewer agrees with your Editor or disagrees just as violently :-)

Here endeth this rant. July edition of Wossname coming in a few hours' time...
wossname: (GNU Terry Pratchett)
By Steven D'Aprano

   The Clacks board game turns the climax of "Going Postal" completely around. Inspired by the infamous race between the Grand Trunk clacks company and the Royal Ankh-Morpork Post Office, in this game you try to race to Genua. But with a twist: you are working for the villains of the book, the Grand Trunk, and you're trying to beat the Post Office (represented by a cute little figurine of the Postmaster Moist von Lipwig – painted gold, of course).

   Presumably the Post Office has magical assistance, as the Postmaster speeds from town to town in the blink of an eye. Meanwhile, the Trunk is plagued by problems including Deep Downers, inconveniently placed golems with bright lights, substandard wick-trimming, Nugganites, roving reporter Miss Sacharissa Cripslock, and the dreaded Killer Poke. Fortunately you only have to transmit two short words. Can you beat the Post Office?

   And the race is on!

   "Clacks" is fundamentally a game of skill, with just enough element of chance to mix it up a bit. It is certainly a challenging game, but fun, and will especially suit people with good pattern-matching skills. To move forward, you have a limited number of Jacquards available to flip the tower's lamps from On to Off, or vice versa. There are sixteen lamps all up, and you flip some number of them by playing a Jacquard from your hand. If you succeed in making the code for the letter you are trying to transmit, you move your token one step closer to Genua. A system of Stress Points and Faults control how often breakdowns occur and how fast the Post Office moves.

   If you're the sort of person who loves coin flipping puzzles, you might love this game. Even if you aren't too fond of them, it can still be very enjoyable once you get how the lamp flipping system works. I feel that the game's recommended age range, seven to adult, is probably over-optimistic. It seems to me that the average seven year old would find the lamp flipping too difficult to be fun. I had a bit of trouble too, admittedly after a long and tiring day, but once I got past that, and could successfully transmit letters, I found the game very enjoyable.

   Clacks is a rich and complex game, with three different sets of action cards ("Operator's Log", "Incident Report", and "Maintenance Report"). There are three distinct games possible: a cooperative game where the players work together to beat the Post Office, a competitive game where players play against each other, and a "Junior Race Game" for two players using simplified rules. Don't be put off by the word "Junior", it's quite good for adults too, especially when you're still learning how to recognise letter patterns and play Jacquards to make new patterns. Plus there are a variety of optional rules which can make the game more interesting for those who have mastered the basic rules, so you won't get bored in a hurry.

   (Hint: if you're looking to make it even more of a challenge, you can limit yourself to playing only a single Jacquard each turn, as we accidentally did.)

   The quality of the physical game pieces is excellent, and BackSpindle Games certainly haven't stinted on the materials used. I especially love that the rule book is printed as a Haynes Operators' Manual. The game pieces are very well made, and the artwork is well-done but not quite to my taste. (A bit too dark, and not quite enough contrast to read the cards easily.) There's an unfortunate discrepancy where the manual refers to the Maintenance Report cards as "Fault Report" cards, and preparing the lamp tiles for the first time is a bit fiddly, but making up for that, there's a lovely secret message in the manual, hidden in plain sight.

   I have no hesitation in giving this game a thumbs up, and I certainly will play it again.
wossname: (Plays)
Uppingham Gets it Right

by Annie Mac

Readers of Wossname will by now recognise the name of the Uppingham Theatre Company, whose late-October 2015 production of Wyrd Sisters had a long and fascinating pre-production run-up that we featured over many issues. Being many thousands of miles from Uppingham, I was unable to attend a performance of the play in person, but techmaster Martin Baines kindly arranged to send a recording of one performance to me via clacks. And I am very glad he did – this is not the first amateur theatre rendering of Stephen Briggs' Wyrd Sisters play that I've seen, but beyond doubt it is the best.

Top marks go to Stephen Green and Meryl Vincent-Enright as would-be royal couple Duke and Duchess Felmet, especially to Ms Vincent-Enright for giving the Duchess that fine – and canonically accurate – balance of pompousness and murderousness that melds Lady Macbeth and Hyacinth Bucket. Mick Barker excels as the Fool, the miserable bells-festooned jester who is far from foolish. The scenes between the Duke and his Fool are among the best in the production. Also of special note is Andrew Chapman's turn as Vitoller, owner-manager of the company of strolling players who shelter the infant Rightful King of Lancre (well played as a young man by Geran Jackson), and George Larkin's as ghost of Verence I, recently-murdered Previous Rightful King of Lancre.

As for the Wyrd Sisters themselves, Joy Everitt's portrayal of Granny Weatherwax has just the right amount of Granny's famously tight-lipped "I can't be having with this". Holly Bertalan may not be anywhere near as (also famously) flat-chested as Magrat but she makes up for her lack of lack by hitting Magrat's New Age-y soppiness spot-on. And Gillian Kendon does a creditable Nanny Ogg, although I could have done with seeing more of Nanny's legendary sauciness that Ms Kendon only showed at the very end of the production as she danced off into the wings, kicking up her heels and displaying her "scandalous" bright red petticoat with correctly Oggish delight.

Vikki Shelton's direction is nicely timed, keeping the action moving along and getting the best projection from her players, and the entire cast achieves a satisfyingly low incidence of fluffed lines. But in many ways the shiniest star of this production is its technical excellence. Uppingham's Wyrd Sisters features the most professional-looking stage and costume design I have ever seen in an amateur theatre Discworld presentation. The sets are clever and striking, utilising well-planned back projection to create believable vistas – the wild Lancre moors, the streets (all right, street) of Ankh-Morpork, the vast-roomed, draughty expanses of Lancre castle and it gloomy dungeon. A round of applause goes to the aforementioned Martin Baines for his projection and projection design, and to stage manager Alan Jackson for ensuring that everything and everyone in this physically intricate presentation went smoothly. Bex Key and John Everitt discharged their lighting and sound duties superbly, but I think I'll have to award Man of, that is, Seamstres-, er, Needlewoman of the Match to Mandy Jackson for her design and creation of the wonderful costumes, especially the Duchess' extraordinary gown that looked to be of full-on telly costume drama quality.

What marks the Uppingham Theatre Company's production of Wyrd Sisters most of all is its sense of dedication – to detail, to the spirit of the chosen play, to making sure every member of the company gave their best from early days to the well-merited final bow. As producer-director, Vikki Shelton infused the entire process with indefatigable enthusiasm and all manner of promotional ideas, and most of all with sheer honest heart and soul. I do hope the company chooses to do another play from the series one of these days; based on the great showing of Wyrd Sisters, I would say Discworld is in great hands in Uppingham.
wossname: (GNU Terry Pratchett)
   It's less than a year since Sorin Suciu and Laura May first put out the call for submissions to a planned anthology of short stories on the theme of memory, with a bonus angle of humour, to raise funds for Alzheimer's Research UK as a loving memorial to the life and work of Sir Terry Pratchett. The response was immediate and wide-ranging, with stories offered by amateur and professional writers alike, and the final result – In Memory: A Tribute to Sir Terry Pratchett – has been praised by no less a luminary of humour fiction than Robert Rankin.

   Although I've spent many years reviewing Pratchett novels and associated Discworld "spinoff" books, map(p)s and other auxiliaries, I was unsure how to go about reviewing In Memory. But then I realised that the kernel of this review was already in the book itself, in an afterword by Charlotte Slocombe, author of Bubble Trouble, thirteenth story in this anthology: "Thank you for buying this book, because you never know who you might be saving." And there you have it. In Memory is a unique work, created as a combination tribute to Sir Terry Pratchett and as fundraising "merch" for the benefit of Alzheimer's Research UK. By purchasing a copy of In Memory, you're helping to keep the name of one of our most (rightly!) beloved authors alive in the world of literature and donating to a worthy and vital cause, but the glow of a good deed done isn't the only thing you'll come away with – because you'll also have the pleasure of reading a collection of seventeen bloody fine stories.

   I really mean it. No lemonade is being squeezed here.

   Given the at best variable quality of fan-generated writings, my expectations of In Memory were not exactly high. But I have to say that I was more than pleasantly surprised – far more, in fact. The quality of the writing is high throughout. The least polished of these stories is worthy of being commercially published, but in my opinion there are several standouts that deserve special mention:

"Thanks for the Memory Cards" by Luke Kemp would make for a brilliant short film in the hands of Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright.

DK Mok's "The Heart of the Labyrinth" offers the kind of stealth philosophy, cloaked in the tropes of fantasy and mythology, of which Sir Pterry would have been proud.

"The Tale of the Storyteller" by Caroline Friedel is one of the sweetest tributes to our favourite author that I have yet seen.

In "The Vividarium", Steven McKinnon takes on Asimov and Clarke's clumsy attempts at humour and infuses them with a genuine sense of fun.

"Ackerley's Genuine Earth Antiques" by Michael K Schaefer upholds – proudly – the stylistic traditions of Fritz Leiber and Anthony Boucher with a light dusting of Connie Willis.

Co-editor Sorin Suciu's "Doris" is a classy enough tale to easily pass as golden-age Larry Niven.

   Also, kudos go to editors May and Suciu for delivering an almost unblemished example of careful proofreading (with the exception of the most chortle-inducing uncaught mistype since the Wicked Bible of 1631 – it's on page 264, in case you wondered), which is rare these days even in the output of major publishing houses.

   Each story is followed by an afterword from its author, giving a brief overview of how it came into being and, of course, giving respect to Sir Pterry for inspiring them. The book is printed on decent quality paper and has a handsome cover – again, of a much higher quality than one might expect of a charity project. But most impressive of all, in my opinion, is that this collection represents a true labour of love. Nowhere did I find the slightest whiff of "I'm doing this to get my name out there in the industry" or "I'm doing this to make money". All seventeen authors – and the many others whose submissions couldn't be squeezed in – wrote their stories as a mark of the respect and admiration they felt for Sir Pterry, and as a way to give back for the joy his work brought into their lives. That kind of honesty is rarer than ye olde pearl of great price.

   To all of you out there who say you want to keep Terry Pratchett's name alive forever "in the Overhead", I say buy this book, because the more money is raised for research into Alzheimer's Disease and other forms of dementia, the closer we'll get to stopping or even reversing the ravages of the awful thief of memory... and the more of us will never forget him. The people who put their hearts and time into this project hope to raise £6,500 for Alzheimer's Research UK; so far, almost £1,100 has been raised. Let's all go for it, hmm?

Editor's note:
Prices for In Memory: A Tribute to Sir Terry Pratchett range from $13.99 on CreateSpace (_https://www.createspace.com/5759638_) down to $6.29 for a Kindle edition (_http://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B0163JZBLE?tag=sorsuc-20_). The ISBN is 1517603609, should you wish to source it elsewhere.

To read about the step-by-step making of this book, go to http://inmemorytribute.com/blog/

Also, check out these links:


wossname: Clacks rendering of SPEAK HIS NAME to keep Pratchett on the Overhead (Default)

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