When the wizards of Unseen University first created Roundworld, they were so concerned with discovering the rules of this new universe that they overlooked its inhabitants entirely. Now, they have noticed humanity. And humanity has company.
Arriving in Roundworld, the wizards find the situation is even worse than they’d expected. Under the elves’ influence, humans are superstitious, fearful, and fruitlessly trying to work magic in a world ruled by logic. Ridcully, Rincewind, Ponder Stibbons, and the orangutan Librarian must travel through time to get humanity back on track and out of the dark ages.
Available in the US as a trade paperback January 20th from Anchor Books, The Globe goes beyond science to explore the development of the human mind. Terry Pratchett and his acclaimed co-authors Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen combine the tale of the wizards rewriting human history with discussions of the origins and evolution of culture, language, art, and science, offering a fascinating and brilliantly original view of the world we live in.
Message in a Bottle
In the airy, crowded silence of the forest, magic was hunting magic on silent feet.
A wizard may be safely defined as a large ego which comes to a point at the top. That is why wizards do not blend well. That would mean looking like other people, and wizards do not wish to look like other people. Wizards aren’t other people.
And therefore, in these thick woods, full of dappled shade, new growth and birdsong, the wizards who were in theory blending in, in fact blended out. They’d understood the theory of camouflage – at least they’d nodded when it was being explained – but had then got it wrong.
For example, take this tree. It was short, and it had big gnarly roots. There were interesting holes in it. The leaves were a brilliant green. Moss hung from its branches. One hairy loop of grey-green moss, in particular, looked rather like a beard. Which was odd, because a lump in the wood above it looked rather like a nose. And then there was a blemish in the wood that could have been eyes …
But overall this was definitely a tree. In fact, it was a lot more like a tree than a tree normally is. Practically no other tree in the forest looked so tree-like as this tree. It projected a sensation of extreme barkness, it exuded leafidity. Pigeons and squirrels were queuing up to settle in the branches. There was even an owl. Other trees were just sticks with greenery on compared to the sylvanic verdanity of this tree…
… which raised a branch, and shot another tree. A spinning orange ball spun through the air and went splat! on a small oak.
Something happened to the oak. Bits of twig and shadows and bark which had clearly made up an image of a gnarled old tree now equally clearly became the face of Archchancellor Mustrum Ridcully, Master of Unseen University (for the extremely magical) and running with orange paint.
‘Gotcha!’ shouted the Dean, causing the owl to leap from his hat. This was lucky for the owl, because a travelling glob of blue paint removed the hat a moment later.
‘Ahah! Take that, Dean!’ shouted an ancient beech tree behind him as, changing without actually changing, it became the figure of the Lecturer in Recent Runes.
The Dean spun around, and a blob of orange paint hit him in the chest.
‘Eat permitted colourings!’ yelled an excited wizard.
The Dean glared across the clearing to a crabapple tree which was, now, the Chair of Indefinite Studies.
‘What? I’m on your side, you damn fool!’ he said.
‘You can’t be! You made such a good target!’*
The Dean raised his staff. Instantly, half a dozen orange and blue blobs exploded all over him as other hidden wizards let loose.
Archchancellor Ridcully wiped paint out of his eyes.
‘All right, you fellows,’ he sighed. ‘Enough’s enough for today. Time for tea, eh?’
It was so hard, he reflected, to get wizards to understand the concept of ‘team spirit’. It simply wasn’t part of wizardly thinking. A wizard could grasp the idea of, say, wizards versus some other group, but they lost their grip when it came to the idea of wizards against wizards. Wizard against wizards, yes, they had no trouble with that. They’d start out as two teams, but as soon as there was any engagement they’d get all excited and twitchy and shoot other wizards indiscriminately. If you were a wizard then, deep down, you knew that every other wizard was your enemy. If their wands had been left unfettered, rather than having been locked to produce only paint spells – Ridcully had been very careful about that – then this forest would have been on fire by now.
Still, the fresh air was doing them good. The University was far too stuffy, Ridcully had always thought. Out here there was sun, and birdsong, and a nice warm breeze—
—a cold breeze. The temperature was plunging.
Ridcully looked down at his staff. Ice crystals were forming on it.
‘Turned a bit nippy all of a sudden, hasn’t it?’ he said, his breath tingling in the frigid air. And then the world changed.
Rincewind, Egregious Professor of Cruel and Unusual Geography, was cataloguing his rock collection. This was, these days, the ground state of his being. When he had nothing else to do, he sorted rocks. His predecessors in the post had spent many years bringing back small examples of cruel or unusual geography and had never had time to catalogue them, so he saw this as his duty. Besides, it was wonderfully dull. He felt that there was not enough dullness in the world.
Rincewind was the least senior member of the faculty. Indeed, the Archchancellor had made it clear that in seniority terms he ranked somewhat lower than the things that went ‘click’ in the woodwork. He got no salary and had complete insecurity of tenure. On the other hand, he got his laundry done free, a place at mealtimes and a bucket of coal a day. He also had his own office, no one ever visited him and he was strictly forbidden from attempting to teach anything to anyone. In academic terms, therefore, he considered himself pretty lucky.
An additional reason for this was that he was in fact getting seven buckets of coal a day and so much clean laundry that even his sockswere starched. This was because no one else had realised that Blunk,the coal porter, who was far too surly to read, delivered the bucketsstrictly according to the titles on the study doors.
The Dean, therefore, got one bucket. So did the Bursar.
Rincewind got seven because the Archchancellor had found him a useful recipient of all the titles, chairs and posts which (because of ancient bequests, covenants and, in one case at least, a curse) the University was obliged to keep filled. In most instances no one knew what the hell they were for or wanted anything to do with them, in case some clause somewhere involved students, so they were given to Rincewind.
Every morning, therefore, Blunk stoically delivered seven buckets to the joint door of the Professor of Cruel and Unusual Geography, the Chair of Experimental Serendipity, the Reader in Slood Dynamics, the Fretwork Teacher†, the Chair for the Public Misunderstanding of Magic, the Professor of Virtual Anthropology and the Lecturer in Approximate Accuracy … who usually opened the door in his underpants – that is to say, opened the door in the wall whilst wearing his underpants – and took the coal happily, even if it was a sweltering day. At Unseen University you had budgets, and if you didn’t use up everything you’d been given you wouldn’t get as much next time. If this meant you roasted all summer in order to be moderately warm during the winter, then that was a small price to pay for proper fiscal procedures.
On this day, Rincewind carried the buckets inside and tipped the coal on the heap in the corner.
Something behind him went ‘gloink’.
It was a small, subtle and yet curiously intrusive sound, and it accompanied the appearance, on a shelf above Rincewind’s desk, of a beer bottle where no beer bottle had hitherto been.
He took it down and stared at it. It had recently contained a pint of Winkle’s Old Peculiar. There was absolutely nothing ethereal about it, except that it was blue. The label was the wrong colour and full of spelling mistakes but it was mostly there, right down to the warning in tiny, tiny print: May Contain Nuts.‡
Now it contained a note.
He removed this with some care, and unrolled it, and read it.
Then he stared at the thing beside the beer bottle. It was a glass globe, about a foot across, and contained, floating within it, a smaller blue-and-fluffy-white globe.
The smaller globe was a world, and the space inside the globe was infinitely large. The world and indeed the whole universe of which it was part had been created by the wizards of Unseen University more or less by accident, and the fact that it had ended up on a shelf in Rincewind’s tiny study was an accurate indication of how interested they were in it once the initial excitement had worn off.
Rincewind watched the world, sometimes, through an omniscope. It mostly had ice ages, and was less engrossing than an ant farm. Sometimes he shook it up to see if it would make it interesting, but this never seemed to have much of an effect.
Now he looked back at the note.
It was extremely puzzling. And the university had someone to deal with things like that.
Ponder Stibbons, like Rincewind, also had a number of jobs. However, instead of aspiring to seven, he perspired at three. He had long been the Reader in Invisible Writings, had drifted into the new post as Head of Inadvisably Applied Magic and had walked in all innocence into the office of Praelector, which is a university title meaning ‘person who gets given the nuisance jobs’.
That meant that he was in charge in the absence of the senior members of the faculty. And, currently, this being the spring break, they were absent. And so were the students. The University was, therefore, running at near peak efficiency.
Ponder smoothed out the beer-smelling paper and read:
TELL STIBBONS GET HERE AT ONCE. BRING LIBRARIAN. WAS IN FOREST, AM IN ROUNDWORLD. FOOD GOOD, BEER AWFUL. WIZARDS USELESS. ELVES HERE TOO. DIRTY DEEDS AFOOT.
He looked up at the humming, clicking, busy bulk of Hex, the University’s magical thinking engine, then, with great care, he placed the message on a tray that was part of the machine’s rambling structure.
A mechanical eyeball about a foot across lowered itself carefully from the ceiling. Ponder didn’t know how it worked, except that it contained vast amounts of incredibly finely drawn tubing. Hex had drawn up the plans one night and Ponder had taken them along to the gnome jewellers; he’d long ago lost track of what Hex was doing. The machine changed almost on a daily basis.
The write-out began to clatter and produced the message:
+++ Elves have entered Roundworld. This is to be expected. +++
‘Expected?’ said Ponder.
+++ Their world is a parasite universe. It needs a host +++
Ponder turned to Rincewind. ‘Do you understand any of this?’ he said.
‘No,’ said Rincewind. ‘But I’ve run into elves.’
‘And then I’ve run away from them. You don’t hang around elves. They’re not my field, unless they’re doing fretwork. Anyway, there’s nothing on Roundworld at the moment.’
‘I thought you did a report on the various species that kept turning up there?’
‘You read that?’
‘I read all the papers that get circulated,’ said Ponder.
‘You said that every so often some kind of intelligent life turns up, hangs around for a few million years, and then dies out because the air freezes or the continents explode or a giant rock smacks into the sea.’
‘That’s right,’ said Rincewind. ‘Currently the globe is a snowball again.’
‘So what is the faculty doing there now?’
‘Drinking beer, apparently.’
‘When the whole world is frozen?’
‘Perhaps it’s lager.’
‘But they are supposed to be running around in the woods, pulling together, solving problems and firing paint spells at one another,’ said Ponder.
‘Didn’t you read the memo he sent out?’
Rincewind shuddered. ‘Oh, I never read those,’ he said.
‘He took everyone off into the woods to build a dynamic team ethos,’ said Ponder. ‘It’s one of the Archchancellor’s Big Ideas. He says that if the faculty gets to know one another better, they’ll be a happier, more efficient team.’
‘But they do know one another! They’ve known one another for ages! That’s why they don’t like one another very much! They won’t stand for being turned into a happy and efficient team!’
‘Especially on a ball of ice,’ said Ponder. ‘They’re supposed to be in woods fifty miles away, not in a glass globe in your study! There is no way to get into Roundworld without using a considerable amount of magic, and the Archchancellor has banned me from running the thaumic reactor at anything like full power.’
Rincewind looked again at the message from the bottle.
‘How did the bottle get out?’ he said.
+++ I did that. I still maintain a watch on Roundworld. And I have been developing interesting procedures. It is now quite easy for me to reproduce an artefact in the real world +++
‘Why didn’t you tell us the Archchancellor needed help?’ sighed Ponder.
+++ They were having such fun trying to send the bottle +++
‘Can’t you just bring them out, then?’
+++ Yes +++
‘In that case—’
‘Hold on,’ said Rincewind, remembering the blue beerbottle and the spelling mistakes. ‘Can you bring them out alive?’
Hex seemed affronted.
+++ Certainly. With a probability of 94.37 per cent +++
‘Not great odds,’ said Ponder, ‘But perhaps—’
‘Hold on again,’ said Rincewind, still thinking about that bottle.
‘Humans aren’t bottles. How about alive, with fully functioning brains and all organs and limbs in the right place?’
Unusually, Hex paused before replying.
+++ There will be unavoidable minor changes +++
‘How minor, exactly.’
+++ I cannot guarantee reacquiring more than one of every organ+++
There was a long, chilly silence from the wizards.
+++ Is this a problem? +++
‘Maybe there’s another way?’ said Rincewind.
‘What makes you think that?’
‘The note asks for the Librarian.’
In the heat of the night, magic moved on silent feet.
One horizon was red with the setting sun. This world went around a central star. The elves did not know this and, if they had done, it would not have bothered them. They never bothered with detail of that kind. The universe had given rise to life in many strange places, but the elves were not interested in that, either.
This world had created lots of life. Up until now, none of it had ever had what the elves considered to be potential. But this time, there was definite promise.
Of course, it had iron, too. The elves hated iron. But this time, the rewards were worth the risk. This time…
One of them signalled. The prey was close at hand. And now they saw it, clustered in the trees around a clearing, dark blobs against the sunset.
The elves assembled. And then, at a pitch so strange that it entered the brain without the need to use the ears, they began to sing.
[*] And in this short statement may be seen the very essence of wizardry.
[†] This one was apparently the result of a curse some 1,200 years ago by a dying Archchancellor, which sounded very much like ‘May you always teach fretwork!’
[‡] Lord Vetinari, the Patrician and supreme ruler of the city, took proper food labeling very seriously. Unfortunately, he sought the advice of the wizards of Unseen University on this one, and posed the question thusly: ‘Can you, taking into account multi-dimensional phase space, meta-statistical anomaly and the laws of probability, guarantee that anything with absolute certainty contains no nuts at all?’ After several days, they had to conclude that the answer was ‘no’. Lord Vetinari refused to accept ‘Probably does not contain nuts’ because he considered it unhelpful.
Excerpted from The Globe © Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart, & Jack Cohen, 2015