Talk:Book:Unseen Academicals/Annotations

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Dedication:- This book is dedicated to Rob Wilkins, who typed most of it and had the good sense to laugh occasionally.

As various commentators have pointed out, this is perhaps evidence of Terry's Alzheimer's beginning to affect his writing - Terry himself has pointed out that the most obvious evidence of the disease is that his typing skills have declined and he now finds the physical effort of typing to be beyond him. Hence the amanuensis.

Terry's wit and his ability to create a challenging and entertaining plot are certainly not in doubt - Unseen Academicals works and it can hold its own as part of the canon.

Having said that, some serious continuity errors have crept in which put this at odds with earlier books in the series. The Arch-Chancellor's Hat, for instance, making a reappearance after being destroyed in Sourcery. Ridcully's parentage and upbringing having been arbitrarily changed - from prosperous land-owning gentry brought up in the country outside A-M, (ref. Moving Pictures, Reaper Man), the Ridcully brothers have now been reduced in the social ranking to the sons of a well-off City butcher. Yet Mustrum still acts like a rumbustious country squire.

OK, it could be History Monks, but it felt wrong to come up against this stuff - the suspicion is that earlier Discworld books would have edited out basic errors like this. And with all respect to Rob Wilkins - as the routine manufacture of the books passes out of Terry's hands, for all the right and benign reasons (whilst still retaining his creativity) , then how much of the error-checking process, that Terry might have done himself in happier days, is going to fail? Terry himself might have paused on the Ridcully thing and reflected that something isn't quite right here. A third party less used to the Discworld has perhaps missed the error?

Ah well. Perhaps I'm ungrateful and asking too much... I should rejoice we still have Terry with us who has said that there are a few novels left in him yet! --AgProv 23:46, 15 November 2009 (UTC)

I p****d and moaned about at some length on my own page. I felt that Mr Wilkins, however talented, was an intervention and a barrier to the direct text communication we've always known. Terry even used to type to fans on a.f.p and answer e-mail, before the volume became ridiculous. He spoke directly to the audience through the keyboard.

A second reading and more consideration show up more strengths, as usual, but the oddities remain. I say "oddities", because there may yet be a method behind them that disqualifies them from "errors". This book is deep. Weird, flawed, but deep. And weird. Change seems to be the central theme. The homily "the leopard does not change his shorts" is repeated beyond reason, and there are many examples to refute it. Nutt, Trevor, Juliet, Glenda, football, Ponder Stibbons, Ridcully, Vetinari (I may have missed some) are all changed or changing, although Margolotta probably hasn't changed for two hundred years. --Old Dickens 00:39, 16 November 2009 (UTC)

Weird is right, it felt like the book was starting to wrap up the DW series whilst at the same time asking more questions than it answered. I really really hope I'm wrong with this but could TP be preparing to hand the reins over to someone else? --Megahurts 09:10, 11 March 2010 (UTC)


  • Biggest problem I noted was the creation of the new ball, why didn't they just ask Carrot? He said in Jingo that he always carried a deflated ball in his pack, and the game matches the one the wizards 'invent'. We know it's earlier too, because the Dean is mentioned, with the crystal ball viewing of the Leshp fights. Ktetch 23:01, 4 December 2009 (UTC)
Now why did no one else notice this? I'd like to propose that the story precedes Jingo, but that's very difficult in the short space of Carrot's career until then. (Insertion from AgProv:- Unseen Academicals cannot precede Jingo, as Constable Haddock is a character in Unseen Academicals - he was not a Watchman at the time of Jingo, or he'd have joined a suddenly much smaller Watch in sailing for Klatch). Of course, the Dean has just left the faculty, placing Unseen Academicals most recently; another bugger for the serious student. TP has always been friendly to the fans while taunting them mercilessly. --Old Dickens 01:02, 5 December 2009 (UTC)
I think in this case there's no error: The ball created for 'football' in Unseen Academicals is clearly for what Americans call 'soccer,' while we can infer from the text of Jingo that the 'football' that Carrot had in his pack was most likely an actual 'football' instead of a soccer ball. In any case, the football presented in Unseen Academicals is somewhat ghetto in appearance, and I wouldn't be surprised if the space between Jingo and Unseen Academicals saw enough of a decline in the standards of football to actually change the composition of the ball.
Or Carrot could have just been a bit ahead of the game. Doctor Whiteface 03:41, 5 December 2009 (UTC)
Remember that Carrot is a dwarf. And that they had to go to a dwarf to get a proper ball made since vulcanized rubber was a dwarfen invention. Carrot may not have even known it was something new to the city --Fhh98 04:00, 5 December 2009 (UTC)

Nope, it won't wash. "...Captain Carrot was bouncing an inflated pig's bladder." (Jingo) You can only bounce an ovoid ball once and then you have to go and pick it up again. Dave Likely's game used a Rugby-shaped ball but I see no evidence of anything but soccer in the matches organised by Carrot years earlier. These involved many street boys, so the game shouldn't have been unknown. The game also appeared to be familiar to both armies in the brief war over Leshp. How do you infer otherwise from the text? --Old Dickens 18:01, 5 December 2009 (UTC)

Who said anything about text. I was going on obviously faulty memory there. Fhh98 19:07, 5 December 2009 (UTC)

Doctor Whiteface, above. --Old Dickens 19:25, 5 December 2009 (UTC)

Sorry to bring some heresy to this discussion, but perhaps Terry decided to sacrifice continuity to spinning a good yarn? V 13:22, 20 December 2010 (CET)

Page 352 (UK hardback) the foonote about master of Music writing down Macarona Unum est... makes me immediately thing of but I don't know the words of that if there is a better match

AlanD This is a reference to the now-generic football chant "There's only one <insert your name of choice>"

With regards to Ridcully's background, should I point out that in the same scene Ponder Stibbons experienced deja vu without the original vu? He may not have been the only one to do so, just the only one to acknowledge it...

I've just been thinking, who says the country estates belonged to his dad? Just says 'Family'. It could have been his (childless) uncle's, or belonged to his mother's parents. It's not so much a contradiction. Dad a butcher, mother a rich country lady who went to town, saw him, fancied him etc. not all that impossible. Ktetch 04:09, 13 February 2010 (UTC). We know about Ridcully that the explicit reason he was not at the University to be drawn into the Sourceror's war was that he had retired from active wizardry, to look after the family estates deep in the country. This was on behalf of his mother Moving Pictures, Reaper Man. So as you say, not incompatible. --AgProv 15:20, 11 March 2010 (UTC)

And with regards to the hat, we know it was destroyed in Sourcery, but perhaps Ridcully has found it a good idea to keep alive rumours that he had recovered it after those events had eventuated, to preserve the tradition that all wizards should be united under the Hat's owner...

Isn't there an explicit reference to Mustrum not wearing the hat since he doesn't like its voice? Is it possible that the Luggage recovered the hat off-scene during the final events of Sourcery? Admittedly it's been a while since I last read it though.--Megahurts 14:58, 10 March 2010 (UTC)
That comment was made in Unseen Academicals --Fhh98 15:50, 10 March 2010 (UTC)
I know, Ridcully saying that in UA implies that the hat is still extant. --Megahurts 08:09, 11 March 2010 (UTC)
Or that he is trying to cover up the destruction, he does say that every archchancellor for the last 1000 years has complained in exactly the same way. So the problematic comments made by the hat are a matter of record and he could be simply attempting to preserve a tradition as previously suggested. UU has some pretty interesting traditions, if people pretend they loose their keys every night then having someone pretend to own a destroyed hat isn't that odd.-- Erin B16:01, 14 June 2011
In regards to V's mention of spinning a good yarn: I think (worry) that's the case gone wrong. A many things previously canon have been dropped in favour of cheap shots, if I may say so. A minor example just jumped at me upon re-reading lately: In the past books Rincewind's main job (Cruel and Unusual Geography) was more or less described as the bottom of the foodchain, represented by the statement(amongst others) that he wasn't paid any sort of loan, but got his laundry done etc. In UA now we are being told that a 'real wizard' always works without payment. It's a minor thing, but it is another drop in the barrel. (will check which page exactly it was later on)--LilMaibe 16:01, 28 July 2011 (CEST)

A possible resolution of continuity errors?

Terry himself has excused cotinuity glitches in the Discworld cycle by invoking alternate pasts and interference by History Monks. I have been re-reading The Last Continent lately and to my shame, a possible resolution for continuity glitches in Unseen Academicals that I should have seen at the time has (belatedly) fallen into my lap. It is possible to suspect that Terry set up a mechanism for explaining away any messing with, or contradiction of, known facts from previous books. Especially as they relate to the wizards. I don't think TP set this up years before the event with specifically Unseen Academicals in mind - more as a general insurance policy, if he was thinking of it at all.

To explain. In The Last Continent, the wizards pass from winter in the city to high summer in the Discworld equivalent of the South Pacific. I'm sure reluctantly: the mission to save the Librarian would have been the most important thing. It is only later on that Ponder Stibbons realises the Faculty has also been thrown back in time by several thousand years. (Corgi pb, The Last Continent, pp 1140-153)

Rincewind the Wizzard has also, separately, been thrown back several thousand years, to XXXX. as Scrappy the Trickster-God tells him (corgi pb p96-97):-

"Something went wrong in the past. Your arrival caused a wrong note. What in? All this ...You could just call it the Song"

From page 142 onwards, Ponder first has to convince Ridcully and the others that he is right, and then , in the manner of a Star Trek captain trying to get a thick red-shirted crew member to understand the Prime Directive, goes through all the classic arguments about what happens when you interfere with the past.

These include the classic:- the important thing is not to kill your own grandfather and what I was trying to get across, sir, is that anything you do in the past changes the future. The tiniest little thing actions can have huge consequences. You might... tread on an ant now and it might entirely prevent somebody else from being born in the future!

While Ridcully and the rest totally deconstruct Ponder with typical Ankh-Morpork logic, which builds into a summary of the philosophical case against the idea that actions in the past cause change in the present, it cannot be denied that:-

i) By going back in time the wizards, Rincewind in particular, have already changed the course of time - Scrappy said so.

ii) As for not killing anything while you are there - oh dear. Ridcully has called for the whole of his animal-slaying kit to be sent, right down to and including the amateur taxidermy set. (Corgi pb p65 lists the items in the armoury. The Assassins would have been proud.) And the original Egregious Professor is killed, here in the past, to be replaced with Rincewind - a man who already has such a tortuously convoluted personal timeline that even Death has given up trying to work his nodes out. Ridcully slays quite a few things for food, the Thunder Lizard is slain, and a lot of bushes are plundered for fruit, samples even being taken back to the future for the attention of the Professor of Extreme Horticulture.

iii) the God of Evolution's personal timeline is changed through interacting with the wizards. What effects might this have several thousand years on - in perhaps the evolution of those lifeforms destined to bring forth Wizards at the appropriate time?

Could this course of events serve to alter history just long enough to erase the War of the Sourceror, so the Arch-Chancellor's Hat never left the University, and Klatch was never governed by Creosote and Abrim? (this is a discontinuity between Sourcery and Jingo - how do you get from one form of government in Klatch to the rule of the Princes as seen in Jingo?)

Might it also create a slightly changed Ridcully, who smokes, and who is the son not of a propertied landowner but of a City butcher? And a more assertive Ponder Stibbons, one confident enough to stand between the Dean and Ridcully and say "no" to both...--AgProv 15:01, 24 July 2011 (CEST)

Funny, I just yesterday finished a very short story on history correction around the War of the Sourceror. I never got the Hat controversy: the last page of Sourcery says "Silence drifted around the remains of a hat, heavily battered and frayed and charred around the edges, that had been placed with some ceremony in a niche in the wall" (apparently of the Library).
How do you get from one form of government to another...? Assassination, usually. --Old Dickens 15:45, 24 July 2011 (CEST)
That hat the Librarian puts in the niche is Rincewind's. He lost it when hopping through the rift to safe Coin.--LilMaibe 16:30, 24 July 2011 (CEST)
This makes sense since the Librarian seems to be involved, but I still don't know why the extremely magical Archchancellors' hat should be assumed destroyed. --Old Dickens 17:47, 24 July 2011 (CEST)
Well, how much of your clothes would remain if you'd stand on the very point of impact of an atombombe?--LilMaibe 18:10, 24 July 2011 (CEST)
I think not all the stories we hear/read are from the same Trouserleg of Time. So we have the History Monk's messing and a continued drifting from one leg to the other.--LilMaibe 16:33, 24 July 2011 (CEST)

Terry himself

Intervewed in The Guardian, Sat 12th Dec 2009, Terry Pratchett said about Unseen Academicals:-

Various factors made it somewhat difficult to write, and like every book I have ever written, I wished I could have given it a fortnight's worth of extra time. But the editor's whistle was about to blow, so i had to take the shot.

Flowers for Algernon reference.

On pg. 94, just before he "dies", Mr. Nutt says "Do you know, sir, that your situation here is very similar to that described by Vonmausberger in his treatise on his experiments with rats?" to a character named Algernon who is incidentally also very stupid. This seems to be a reference to the short story Flowers for Algernon

Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintainance

Ref. Robert M. Pirsig's work of popular philosophy, Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintainance. I am getting one of those intuitions that with regard to Mr Nutt's quest for worth, there will be a lot of Pirsig references, homages and reprises scattered throughout Unseen Academicals, possibly hidden among all the joke philosophy and quasi-Pythonic philosophers you see on the surface. Just off to get a copy of Pirsig and refresh my memory....--AgProv 09:37, 8 July 2010 (UTC)

The Ridcully Parentage thing

We know Ridcully has family estates. We know his father was a butcher. We know one of his grandfathers was a prize fighter. Could his MOTHER not have been an heiress, who married significantly below herself, been cut off from her family (hence Daddy needing to keep working), and then when Rich Grandpa died, the family got the estates? Just a thought.

The Moving Pictures thing

Bear with me, this is my first edit, but I disagree with there being a continuity error or significant date placement where Glenda references Moving pictures. The older ladies she swaps romance novels with are certainly the type that would have gone to Moving Pictures when they were offered. --Erin B 15:49, 14 June 2011

Who Ate the Pies

William Henry "Fatty" Foulke, Sheffield United keeper; George Foulkes, Baron Foulkes of Cumnock, Labour politician and Midlothian supporter, each probably unique. --Old Dickens 02:26, 27 July 2011 (CEST)

Correction gladly accepted! The story was on a BBC4 programme last night about pioneering early film-makers who took their cameras to record everyday life in the North of England, including the first filming of professional football games as sports journalism (a shout-out to William de Worde?) I was watching with half an eye until Foulkes appeared, the man-mountain of the Sheffield goal, and then I was absorbed: he was only referred to as Foulkes, although "George" stuck from somewhere as a first name, goodness knows why...--AgProv 13:15, 27 July 2011 (CEST) And of course the fat man on the football pitch is called Henry....

Kitchen Maid Literature

Wasn't this the type of literature parodied by Wodehouse? With lines like "he knew she was only a kitchen maid..." Marmosetpower 11:44, 29 September 2011 (CEST) I think this term combines the general idea of Romance Novels (Mills and Boon style, typified by Barbera Cartland's stuff) with Bodice-Rippers and is an inverted reference to kitchen-sink drama. --AlanD (talk) 15:34, 28 October 2018 (UTC)

Possible further annotations?

About a year back I posted THIS: (0:05 to 0:37, obviously)... at the discussion concerning Macarona and his list of titles. Possible reference?--LilMaibe 06:50, 19 May 2012 (CEST)

Hunting the Megapode

Surely this is a reference to the Hunt of the Mallard at All Souls, Oxford, rather than the to the Hunting of the Wrens?

"It is now"

I was not familiar with the 1966 World Cup, & so I looked up the clip referenced in the annotations, because the context for "it is now" was lost on me. From what I could see, the commentator was confused as to whether the game were over, repeating "they think it's over" a few times, coincidentally having just said this when England advanced & scored another goal, leading to the "it is now!" comment, since a two goal lead is effectively impossible to come back from in extra time. I'm also not well versed in historical football, so it's possible I got the context wrong.Superluser (talk)