Discworld Monthly - Issue 121: May 2007
Table of Contents:
Welcome to issue 121. It's party time! That's right, this month Discworld Monthly is celebrating its tenth anniversary. I would like to thank everyone that has provided help and assistance to us over the years and also a special thankyou to each and every one of you for your continued support in reading Discworld Monthly.
The last weekend in April will see a group of dedicated fans meet up in Wincanton for the April Lite event. I will probably be found propping up the bar in either The Dolphin or The Bear. Please feel free to introduce yourselves if you can make it.
This month also sees the release of the Hogfather DVD. To coincide with the release of the DVD a new Hogfather DVD website has been created. For more information visit www.hogfatherdvd.com
The site allows you to Ask Hex (think of the web site equivalent of one of those Lucky 8 Balls with the four sided dice in them).
You can also watch the TV ads and if you purchase the special edition DVD you will get a key that will enable you to enter an extra section of the website.
The latest section to be added to the site is quite fun - in the Cure the Oh God of Hangovers section you can select up to five products to mix into a hangover solution and then give it to Bilius to try.
Don't forget, if you visit a play or a talk and would like to let the world know about it, please feel free to email your review to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will consider it for publication.
Jason Anthony (Editor) email@example.com
William Barnett (Deputy Editor)
Richard Massey (Beardy Programmer)
It appears that David Jason has been offered the role of Rincewind in the upcoming adaptation of The Colour of Magic. This move worries Discworld Monthly as we don't really consider Rincewind to be quite so old (no disrespect to David Jason, a great actor)! We also feel they will run into trouble when they get to Mort as David Jason will have to play both Rincewind and Albert on screen at the same time. We feel that Rincewind was more Rodney than Delboy and expect this is more about star names than sensible casting. We are, as ever, prepared to be proven wrong.
Tickets and hotel bookings for the 2008 Discworld Convention have now gone on sale. For a limited time ticket prices are being held at 2006 levels and the hotel team have managed to arrange a decent discount of the hotel's normal prices.
For more information visit www.dwcon.org/
News round-up from Colin Smythe:
Sky One sent this out dated 20th April: "Last night, Sky One's epic adaptation of Terry Pratchett's Hogfather, won the Visual Effects category at the BAFTA's prestigious Craft and Television Awards ceremony in London. It was awarded the gong for its use of ground breaking digital wizardry, which spectacularly brought the extraordinary tale to life on the big screen. "The lavish tale's win is the latest achievement for the amazing Sky One production. Terry Pratchett's Hogfather broke all existing audience records when broadcast over the Christmas period last year, becoming the most watched non-terrestrial series of all time."
The DVD went on sale yesterday (23 April), and Terry and Vadim Jean signed masses of covers at Forbidden Planet last night.
(Hogfather had been nominated for two awards: Gavin Finney the Director of Photography was nominated for the Photography and Lighting Category, and the CGI team from MPC, Oliver Money and Simon Thomas for the visual effects.)
As to other Hogfather awards: I received an email from Ian Sharples at MOB Films, in which he wrote "On the awards and such like, the run down is *Winners of the Broadcast Press Guild, Best Multi Channel Programme award *Nominated for Royal Television Society (RTS) for Drama Serial, but sadly didn't win"
Last month we mentioned a petition on the UK Government's official Number 10 website suggesting that Terry is awarded a knighthood for his service to literature.
Before we announced the petition just 15 people had signed up. At the 21st April that number had risen to 1,574. [We take full credit for this huge upsurge in interest - WB]
It appears news of the petition has spread far and wide with mentions of it popping up in blogs and websites all over the world. [Thanks to us - WB]
If you are a UK resident, you can still sign up to the petition
until 11th June at:
News update about the first ever Discworld Jamboree:
We have it on good authority that a certain 'gentleman of letters' is writing the beginnings of the Scouting movement on Discworld. This will be published in pamphlet form, and will be available to all scouts attending, or supporting the Jamboree.
There are only 13 days left to get the very special Early Bird LBE (Little Brown Envelope) with your Jamboree reservation.
For those unable to attend the event, the famous 'Scouts Essential Goodie Bag' is available to order for 20.00 GBP. For details of how to order, see the Cunning Artificer's site.
The Cunning Artificer has been busy beavering away in the background and now has a new front end to his various websites. For more information visit: www.discworldemporium.com
You can also enter a competition this month to win one of the goodie bags (see section 6 for details).
Mark Ayling the designer of the excellent iconographs and Vimes's Dis-organiser now has a shiny new website. At the moment the e-commerce side of the site is unfinished but there is still a lot of information and some wonderful pictures of Mark's work to enjoy.
For more information plase visit: www.wizardofthewoods.com/
The Wincantonbury Tales
The Wincantonbury Tales is a magazine created BY fans FOR fans; filled with articles, stories, poetry, puzzles, quizzes and competitions.
Payment can be made by either of the two following methods:
1. Paypal to firstname.lastname@example.org Orders from overseas via paypal only
NB: because proceeds from the sales go to charity, please include 50p to cover Paypal charges
2. Cheque or crossed postal order made payable to: Steve James. c/o 50 Mayhill Road. Barnet. Herts. EN5 2NP.
Please remember to include your postal details.
We have a few back issues left and they are available on a first come/first served basis.
Issue 1 - SOLD OUT.
Issue 2 - 2.50 GBP plus 1 GBP Postage and Packaging.
Issue 3 - 3.50 GBP plus 1 GBP Postage and Packaging.
This section will contain events that you need to keep in your diary. Entries will remain until they go out of date. New entries will include the word [New] next to them. If this section gets too large we will start pruning entries.
[UK] To celebrate their tenth anniversary, the Purple Theatre Company will be returning to the Disc this May with Wyrd Sisters.
Playing at Ickenham's Compass Theatre from the 9th May, tickets go on sale from 19th March, and can be booked through the box office on 01895 673200.
[US, New] The Pandemonium Players will present their inaugural production, Guards! Guards! on Thursday, May 10th through Saturday, May 12th at 8:00 pm. and on Sunday, May 13th at 2:00 pm. Tickets are 10 USD and are on sale now. The show will be performed on the lower level of Pandemonium Books and Games, 4 Pleasant Street, Central Square, Cambridge, MA. For further information, please call (617) 547-3721 or www.pandemoniumbooks.com (and click on the LJ link).
[AU] Unseen Theatre Group will be presenting Pyramids (adapted by Danny Sag) at the Bakehouse Theatre, 255 Angas Street, Adelaide.
The production starts with a preview on May 11th (tickets 12 AUD).
Then follows with the play proper on May 12th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 23rd, 24th, 25th and 26th (tickets adults 16 AUD, concessions 14 AUD, Fringe Benefits 12 AUD, Groups (10+) 10 AUD).
Bookings can be made on 82270505
More information from: www.unseen.com.au/
[UK, Updated] The Broken Drummers is a London Discworld Group that meets once a month on a Monday evening. Membership is free - just come along. New members and visitors to London are both welcome and encouraged.
May's meeting is on Monday 14th May from 7.00pm onwards at the Essex Serpent, 6 King St, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 8HN in the cellar room.
For more information go to
www.brokendrummers.co.uk or e-mail
[UK, New] Scunthorpe Little Theatre Club who regularly perform at the Town's Plowright Theatre will be performing Maskerade from May 16-19. For more details visit www.littletheatreclub.com
[UK, New] KATS (Knebworth Amateur Theatrical Society) will be performing Wyrd Sisters in Knebworth Village Hall, Park Lane, Knebworth, Herts. 7.45pm Thurs to Sat 17 - 19 May 2007.
Tickets 6 GBP, concessions 4.50 GBP.
For further information on KATS and how to find them visit: www.katsdrama.info
Knebworth itself is apparently 30 miles north of London and easily accessible by road and train.
By Road: Knebworth can be reached via Junction 6 of the A1(M) from the South, (signposted Welwyn), or Junction 7 from the North (signposted Stevenage South). The M25 (10 miles away) also provides easy access.
By Rail: The nearest rail station is Knebworth on the WAGN line from London Kings Cross Station and Cambridge/Peterborough.
(Knebworth Train Station: 08457 484950)
For further information on this production/to book tickets contact Box Office - email@example.com tel 01438 814166,
[UK, New] The Ratz Theatre Company are performing Wyrd Sisters at the Angles Theatre Wisbech, Cambridgeshire on Wed 23rd, 25th 26th May at 7:30 pm Tickets cost 10 GBP and 8 GBP. Contact box office on 01945 47 44 47
Or visit: www.anglestheatre.co.uk
[AU] Brisbane Arts Theatre will be performing Jingo at the Arts Theatre, 210 Petrie Terrace, Brisbane, Qld Australia from May 26 till June 16 2007.
The opening night special costs 35 AUD and includes supper and chance to meet the actors.
Regular tickets cost 25 AUD adult, 20 AUD concession or 20 AUD for groups of 10+.
Show plays Wed to Sat at 8pm and one Sunday Matinee on June 10 at 2pm. www.artstheatre.com.au/
[UK] Tabs Productions will be performing Wyrd Sisters at the Pomegranate Theatre, Chesterfield from Saturday 26th May to Saturday 2nd June. Tickets cost 9 GBP or 7 GBP concessions.
Saturday 26th is a preview night with all tickets costing 5 GBP.
Box Office: 01246 345222 www.pomegranatetheatre.co.uk
The same production will be performed at Octagon Theatre, Yeovil from Tuesday 12th - Thursday 14 June. Tickets cost 10 GBP or 7.50 GBP concessions.
Box Office: 01935 422884 hhtp://www.octagon-theatre.co.uk
For any other information see www.tabsproductions.co.uk
[UK] The Rhoda McGaw Theatre in Woking will be performing Maskerade from 30th May - 2nd June. More details will follow as soon as I am given them.
[UK] The Art of Josh Kirby - Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 16 June to 30 September 2007
The first retrospective exhibition of science fiction artist Josh Kirby. Born in Liverpool in 1928 and trained at Liverpool School of Art he began his career producing film posters, moving to book and cover art for magazines. Some of his more famous work includes the first cover of Ian Fleming's Moonraker and the poster for Monty Python's Life of Brian and he is best known for his cover illustrations of Terry Pratchett's Discworld series.
[UK] The Random Salad Company will be performing Carpe Jugulum from Tuesday 10 July to Saturday 14 July at 7.30pm.
Tickets cost 8 GBP (7 GBP concessions) for all areas.
New Theatre Royal, 20-24 Guildhall Walk, Portsmouth, PO1 2DD
Box office: 023 9264 9000
Please note, DWM has no way of checking the veracity or validity of
any of the items in our small ads section. As always, exercise
caution when giving out your details over the Internet. We
*strongly* recommend parental supervision for younger readers who
follow up any of these contacts.
Nicole Matatko firstname.lastname@example.org writes: I'm currently writing (or rather trying to write) my master's thesis. It's a translation critique of Small Gods, i.e. I take the German translation and point out what went wrong. Fun, actually ;) Of course I also have to give credit to the translator, because PTerry is not easy to translate. I'd also like to include in my thesis how people in the English and German-speaking worlds respectively see fantastic literature, what importance it has in the culture and what value people place on it. Fantasy (and science fiction) seem much more deeply rooted in English-speaking literature, while in Germany (and Austria, where I come from), the books are usually second-rate, predictable and/or poor LOTR copies. I would be really happy if some people sent me their opinions (also regarding German-speaking fantasy, if you want to contradict me).
David Keisler email@example.com writes: Does anyone know of any fan club(s) in or around South Carolina in the USA? Or would anyone like to help me to start one?
If you have any letters or comments, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org
We assume any correspondence is eligible for use in the newsletter unless otherwise stated, including the sender's email address. We may also edit your letters and make them into party hats.
It is vitally important that you don't pass off other people's work as your own. If you use information from other resources please let us know so we can give proper credit.
The best letter of the month will receive a Kiss the Cook print supplied by Bonsai Trading. Sadly Bonsai Trading is no longer trading but John Pagan has kindly offered to continue supplying the monthly prize until his stock runs out.
* From: "Elak Swindell" email@example.com
I was wondering who can say they actually have a direct name connection to the Discworld universe? Who has seen their families name put into that realm by Mr. Pratchett, though it clearly wasn't intentional (but then again, it may be)? Being a big fan of the series from book one onward, I was overjoyed to see that my family line's name now holds a place within the Discworld as well. In "A Hat Full Of Sky", on page 87, a story element reads "A pair of trousers and a long coat vanished from a hook belonging to Abiding Swindell, the ferret keeper...". Granted, I've never owned a ferret, but I do like them. What really grabbed my attention is that the name is spelled just like ours, though it has undergone a large variety of alterations through history. Just knowing that the Swindell family line is now a part of the Discworld series makes me very happy. If I recall right, I believe there is another Swindell reference in "Wintersmith" as well. Just wish I could remember the page. Who else can say they have seen their families name, correctly spelled, in a Discworld book? It would be interesting to see a list.
* From: "Shannon" firstname.lastname@example.org
My husband's initials spell out "Kaos", and he has gone by that nickname since he was a teenager (way back in the mid-80's).
Being both a Beatles AND a Discworld fan, he was pretty amused to find that the fifth horseman (the one who quit before they got famous) went by the name "Kaos" as well...
Kaos changed jobs recently. The Discworld connection didn't occur to either of us until a couple of weeks after the fact - so it's a legitimate, and pretty novel, coincidence:
He now drives a milk truck.
DWM replies: Shannon gets this month's Letter of The Month.
* From: "Suzi" email@example.com
Last month a theatre company claimed it was performing the World Exclusive" of Pyramids.
It can't possibly be - the Pyramid Players in Bedford did "Pyramids" in 1999, and a shortened version of the same play was performed at the 2006 UK Discworld Convention.
* From: "Paul Friend" firstname.lastname@example.org
Just a brief note, I've been pleasantly surprised to realise Justin Timberlake must be a fan the mighty Discworld novels, and a supporter of the Code of Igors, forever immortalised now in his song "what goes around" comes around...gives me a grin every time I hear it...
* From: "David Fookes" email@example.com
In reply to Alex's letter in last month's DWM I can add fuel to the fire that Colour of Magic is on its way. If you look on Stephen Player's (the production artist for Hogfather) website www.playergallery.com you will see that he lists, as a current project, working on 'designs for a film version of his (Terry Pratchett's) novel - The Colour Of Magic'. I have also seen stated that The Mob Film Co. has options on two of Pterry's books in addition to Hogfather, although their website www.mobfilm.com gives no clue to this. Given the success of Hogfather (the largest Sky audience for a non-sport programme) I would be surprised not to see more from Vadim Jean / Mobfilm on Sky.
DWM replies: We no longer have to rely on rumours as David Jason has confirmed that he will be playing Rincewind in The Colour of Magic.
* From: "Tim Hicks" firstname.lastname@example.org
Last month John and Bonsai Trading wrote:
I read a book once that mentioned Magical Shops (the authors name escapes me, ahem), that appear at random where there was previously just an empty wall -
This may have started with Theodore Sturgeon's 1941 short story "Shottle Bop". Google the title for more.
This month I will be asking questions about Soul Music.
- What does Imp y Celin mean?
- Lias Bluestone decided to change his name but what to?
- a) Stone
- b) Rock
- c) Cliff
- d) Crevice
- What instrument does the Librarian play?
- Where did the Band with Rocks In have their first gig?
- Who was the band's roadie and why was he so short?
The results, as always, appear at the end of this issue.
Written by Bill Barnett
10 years! Imagine that - we've been sitting down to cobble together an issue of DWM every month for 10 years. It must make DWM one of the longer-lived entities on the Internet. For this 10th anniversary edition, we thought we'd shed some light on Discworld Monthly itself, and the august personages who help bring it to your email inbox every month.
A LOT CAN HAPPEN IN 10 YEARS
I know, if you watch the news on TV most of it's bloody awful. However, in the Discworld arena it's been (nearly) all good, although sadly we have witnessed the closure of both Clarecraft and recently Bonsai trading and of course the very sad passing of Discworld artist Josh Kirby.
In issue 1 of DWM, Terry was working on his next book, Jingo, the 21st Discworld book. Thud, his most recent novel, was number 35. To keep up a steady output over such a long period - and still keep the magic alive! - is an extraordinary achievement. Of course, exactly the same could be said of Discworld Monthly...
HOW WE STARTED
If you're any sort of DWM fan, you probably already know this. Way back in the heady days of 1996 Chris Ewan created a Discworld fanzine called The Discworld Review. Jason contacted Chris about putting The Discworld Review onto the Web in html, and subsequently did so for 2 issues.
The Discworld Review petered out, though... but 'Jay' (to his friends) had an idea - no, more than an idea, a kind of VISION, if you will. He would create a Discworld fanzine of his own, putting out one issue per month. If only he could think of a title...
Jay had to co-opt the services of his 2 worthy friends - well, people he knows, at any rate - Bill & Rich to help him with the new newsletter. This is because Jay basically has the literary ability of an old pair of trousers, but he is very handy with email and the Interweb and suchlike where, as we all know, spelling and grammar are frowned upon.
We certainly never expected to STILL be mulling over letters and 'reviewing' Discworld beer after 10 years. An early target was to reach 1000 subscribers which we achieved, to our surprise, by issue 4. DWM now goes out to about 20000 email addresses and we still receive a ton of correspondence every month, so a good number of those copies are actually being read!
THE 'BRAINS' BEHIND DWM
It's been the same 3 blokes since May '97! Here are profiles of the DWM staff according to 4 useful categories:
Jason 'Jay' Anthony:
Height: shortest Beard: yes Occupation: computer programmer Role on DWM: does everything apart from check the spellings and screen the letters. Runs the website, manages the email distribution list, goes to the events, hob-nobs with the rich & famous.
William 'Bill' Barnett:
Height: tallest Beard: no Occupation: ahem. I.T. trainer until a couple of months ago. Now 'resting'. Role on DWM: attempts to proof-read the newsletter. Writes the odd article (such as this one). Loudly airs damning criticism of the other guys' ideas.
Richard 'Rich' Massey:
Height: taller than Jay but not as tall as Bill Beard: yes Occupation: computer programmer Role on DWM: filters the letters for inclusion each month, then has to defend his choices.
It's probably no coincidence that the 2 programmers are both beard-wearers. My Dad's a programmer and he's got a beard too. Mind you, Terry's an author and he's got a beard... therefore all programmers have beards, but not all bearded men are programmers. Pity we can't do a Venn diagram in plain text email.
DISCWORLD MONTHLY MILESTONES
There have been many stand-out moments over the last 10 years of DWM. Here are some that we can remember...
From issue 3 we were lucky to be able to run a series of reviews of Terry's short stories, submitted by Phil Penney. These were great because a) Phil seemed to know what he was talking about and b) many Discworld fans would never have come across them otherwise. We were happy to have some useful content that couldn't easily be found elsewhere.
The Discworld Convention, Liverpool 1998. We missed the first Discworld Con ('96) but by the time 1998 rolled around we were fully paid-up members of Discworld fandom, so Jay & I went up to Liverpool for the convention. Along with several other Discworld fan groups, we were booked to attend a panel discussion on Discworld fandom - scheduled at the same time as Terry's main presentation. For some reason, no-one turned up to the fandom discussion.
In 2004 Jay was privileged to be invited to the Discworld's 21st birthday party in London. Jay selfishly abandoned his family in the middle of their summer holiday to get to the event and then rejoined them a day later, somewhat the worse for wear.
Last year Jay was extremely proud to be invited to the premiere of
the Hogfather movie (again in London). It was a star-studded night
and Jay really enjoyed meeting some of the cast in the after-show
party. He did find it weird though, sitting in a cinema a couple of
rows away from such stars as David Jason, Tony Robinson and Ian
Richardson (now sadly deceased).
Jay says that his highlight of the last 10 years is the people he has met and the friendships that he has made both online and at events. Jay loves going to as many events as he can and not just for the drinking. He claims it is so that he can spend more time with his Discworld friends.
THE NEXT 10 YEARS
Well, who knows? As I said earlier, we didn't expect to be doing this for the FIRST 10 years. Based on what's happened over the last decade, Jay & Rich will have another 2 kids each by the time we reach issue 241 - it hardly bears thinking about. [Please no more - Ed].
The great thing about DWM for me, though, is that it's meant we still meet up, once a week, to put it together. I think that without DWM, real life would've got in the way too much (those kids again!) and we wouldn't have made the effort. For anyone thinking of starting their own fanzine: it is a commitment - it's also a laugh.
This month we are giving away, in conjunction with The Cunning Artificer, one of the Jamboree goodie bags that will retail at 20 GBP normally. Details of the contents of the pack can be found on the Cunning Artificer's website but one of the highlights will be the introduction to Discworld Scouts written by a certain Mr Pratchett.
For your chance to win this prize, all you need to do is send the answer to the following simple question to email@example.com by 19th May 2007. The randomly selected winner will be announced next issue.
- How much is the camping cost per adult per night at the Jamboree?
For more information about Discworld Scouting and the first ever Discworld Jamboree visit www.discworldemporium.com
The Ankh Morpork Assassin's Guild Annual Teatime Prize. Last month we gave you an opportunity to win a very special prize - The Ghastly Omnian Torture Chamber (victim figures not included).
In order to win the prize you needed to come up with a hypothetical inhumation of Mustrum Ridcully (Archancellor of Unseen University) in 750 words or less.
Sadly only a small number of people entered the competition but the quality of the entries was very high. I am hoping soon to get permission of some of the entrants to include their solutions on our website.
The entries were passed on to Vadim Jean (the Hogfather's director) who had the unenviable task of selecting a winner. After much deliberation he announced the winner as Andrew Salt of Madison, Wisconsin, USA. You can see Andrew's winning entry on our website at discworldmonthly.co.uk/teatime/teatimewinner.pdf (please note that this is a 1.5mb PDF so may take a while to download).
Andrew's Ghastly Omnian Torture Chamber will soon be on its way to him.
The Hogfather DVD now has an official website located at: www.hogfatherdvd.com
Sorry for the long absence, but I've changed jobs. Having left the grassy downs of Wiltshire for the streets of Merrie London, I am now a curator for the museum of a certain fraternal organisation. Thus I now find myself in an ideal position to make broader comment on something Terry has already touched on in "Guards Guards" with the Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night, and grabbed with both hands in "Going Postal", namely the whole phenomenon of the secret fraternities with their oaths and initiations, mystical histories and esoteric practices. Naturally, once you've read this, I will have to kill you. Fnord.
Secret Societies, David V. Barrett, Blandford, 1999. ISBN- 0713727721.
My own introduction to the subject. I'd already read Mr. Barrett's "Cults, 'Sects' and Alternative Religions" and found it a thoroughly well balanced, well researched piece of work. I was hoping for the same here and I wasn't disappointed.
In this book we're given an overview of Secret Societies, from their early religious roots right up to the present day. Barrett touches on the early Christian heresies, the Renaissance via alchemy and astrology, a whole chapter on Freemasonry, the art of memory, the Rosicrucians, the founding of the United States, the esoteric societies, the Golden Dawn, even the various organised crime organisations.
However, not only does the author describe these societies, he has a run at explaining the psychology behind them, both for the initiated member and the envious outsider, the roots of conspiracy theory and the sort of instinctive tribalism that formed these organisations in the first place. This is what makes this book so valuable in my eyes, this is why everyone with an interest should really give it a look themselves.
The Unlocked Secret, James Dewar, William Kimber & Co. Ltd., 1986. ISBN- 0718303504.
On 16th March 1965, the BBC broadcast a documentary, "The Open Secret" that showed a cast of non-masons performing the three ceremonies that raised an initiate through the ranks to that of a Master Mason. James Dewar was the producer, and stills from that programme illustrate this book. Dewar, not a mason himself, is said to be one of the authorities on the subject and if you're really curious to know what the Freemasons actually get up to, well, this book is probably as near as you're going to get. The Freemasons themselves make no comment, the total conspiracy nuts would claim it's a deliberate deception, but it does seem to be an honest attempt by someone outside the organisation to deliver an accurate portrayal of the history and rituals of Freemasonry. Though a bit dated (and out of print), the book does take a thorough look of the subject and the step by step descriptions of the three rituals are fascinating. Ultimately though, while Dewar makes a valiant attempt to be open minded, his faintly disapproving tone does make itself apparent.
The Illuminoids, Neal Wilgus, New English Library, 1980, ISBN- 450046230
One review I've read of this book describes it as "refreshingly bonkers", and I'll buy that for a dollar. Even the introduction by Robert Anton Wilson, the man who wrote the Illuminati books, gives one a slight pause, as you can expect from someone who can get H.P. Lovecraft, the Pentagon, the Marquis De Sade, LSD and the Three Stooges into one paragraph.
Here we have the full illuminated history of the world, the whole shebang. Here's the story behind who's been pulling the strings from the shadows since at least the 17th Century and possibly a lot longer than that. If you believe that sort of thing. A fair amount of it is actual history; yes these people were here, they did these things, these events came to pass, but the tangled web of interconnection woven between them does strain the mind somewhat. In the middle of reading this my thoughts were on the line of "People just aren't that consistently clever (or stupid), or this book wouldn't have been allowed to be written". But by the end of it I was thinking, "Ah, but perhaps they allowed it to be written, that's just the sort of thing they'd do! But..."
This way lies madness, so I stopped reading and buried the book. Not going to tell you where.
Discovering Friendly and Fraternal Societies, Victoria Solt Dennis, Shire Publications Ltd, 2005. ISBN- 0747806284.
Shire Books, bless 'em, the curator's friend. You need a quick and handy guide to, say, the Embroidered Weasel Pouches of Medieval Norfolk, and the chances are they'll have a volume on it. Well, they've finally got one out for this and jolly good it is too. Pretty much every apron-wearing bunch that ever existed gets a mention and believe me, there are more than you might think; Masons, Oddfellows, Foresters, Gardeners, Buffaloes, Bucks (who drank), Rechabites (who didn't), Druids (yes, them), the list goes on. Even the unions were playing the initiation game a hundred years ago. Here's a potted history of the lot, with some explanation of the symbolism, the regalia and the fairly vital social functions some of these groups played. And indeed still play today. All beautifully illustrated with colour pictures of the incredibly flashy gongs these people liked to hang off themselves, an excellent introduction and "spotters guide" to the whole subject.
Of course, the fact that I helped set up the exhibition this book is based on has nothing to do with this endorsement. Nothing whatsoever...
Secret Societies, Nick Harding, Pocket Essentials, 2005. ISBN- 1904048412.
Another hard and fast guide, with some overlap to some of the previously mentioned books, but an awful lot more, and very interesting it is too. The Bilderberg Group for example, or the Bohemian Grove, or the Skull and Bones, all very worrying. Here we see the glimmerings of the "true" Illuminati, the old boy network taken to its ultimate and logical conclusion. And how come Henry Kissinger keeps cropping up?
Other chapters cover the Assassins, the Thugee, the Prieure de Sion, Opus Dei and the Shriners (the last possibly not being quite so dangerous as the first two, though I'd keep an eye on the fez), along with a good and varied selection of others. Harding however keeps them at arms length with a measured and well written account of his subject material. He neatly turns the conspiracy theory around, showing that this is how human nature organises itself, not requiring any external influence, be it secret masters, extraterrestrials or 12 foot lizards. There's a good bibliography too, in all a small, inexpensive and excellent introduction to the whole subject. Trust me.
How To Start Your Own Secret Society, Nick Harding, Oldcastle Books, 2006. ISBN- 1904048846.
To end with, another by Mr Harding (he's written one on Urban Legends as well, which I must check out). Here we have the obvious solution if you've been rejected by the Freemasons, you're not bright enough for the Illuminati, not influential enough for the Bilderberg or Bohemian Grove or not rich enough for the Hellfire Club. Win friends and influence people by starting your own secret society.
This book is a hoot, it really is. I know enough about various fraternal organisations now to see how cruelly accurate it all is. It's just like this! This is what they do! More hilarious still are the entirely fictional references Harding has made up to illustrate various points, like how even such diverse elements as caving and wearing wigs can be the basis of a secret organisation, namely the Ring Slippy Tweedians. I particularly liked excerpts from Isaiah Tittee's Memoirs of a Somerset Git and Sir Hugh Bending-Slow's The Wig, It's Uses, Non-Uses and General Abuse of Said Hairpiece, Usually in the Manner of Whipping Servants, Vol 4.
Here we have everything you need to start your own organisation; ritual, regalia, historical origins, aims and how to worry the church. Excellent stuff. Besides, any book that has both Richard Dawkins AND Carl Sagan in the bibliography can't be bad.
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