Preface to v7

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The whole book is, in a very general way, modelled on Larry Niven’s classic Ringworld novel: a group of differently-raced beings explore an improbable, artificial world and try to find its mysterious builders.
Terry explains:

“I intended Strata to be as much a (piss-take/homage/satire) on Ringworld as, say, Bill the Galactic Hero was of Starship Troopers. All Niven’s heroes are competent and all his technology works for millions of years... but he’s a nice guy and says he enjoyed the book.”

- [p. 12/13] “Her skin was presently midnight-black [...]”

Previous editions of the APF considered this sentence proof of a true Josh Kirby goof-up, since he pictured Kin Arad as a Caucasian woman on the Strata cover.

However, it had totally escaped my attention that on p. 22/26 we read:

“Now her skin was silver [...]”, indicating that skin-colour is not a permanent attribute for Kin—by the time the scene from the cover is reached she could well have changed her skin colour to white.

On the other hand, after Kin is captured by the locals, Silver suggests that she claim to be an Ethiopian princess, so presumably her skin colour was dark at the time, and Josh Kirby didn’t read carefully enough after all...

- [p. 21/25] “Back and forth, crossing and leaping, the robots danced their caretaker Morris.”

I think this is the earliest reference to Morris dancing in a Terry Pratchett novel. See also the ...and Dance section in Chapter 5.

+ [p. 130] “Kin rose like a well-soaped Venus Anadyomene [...]”

See the annotation for p. 128/127 of Wyrd Sisters.

- [p. 76/92] “To introduce phase two Kin began to whistle the old robot-Morris tune Mrs Widgery’s Lodger.”

‘Mrs Widgery’s Lodger’ is a perfect name for a non-existent Morris tune. While not seeming to be a direct takeoff on any actual tune name, it calls several to mind: ‘Blue-Eyed Stranger’, ‘Mrs Casey’, and ‘Old Woman Tossed Up in a Blanket’, for instance. ‘Mrs Widgery’s Lodger’ would also resurface later on the Discworld as one of the eight orders of wizardry. For more information, see the ‘Unseen University’ entry in the Discworld Companion.

- [p. 107/132] “Cape illud, fracturor’, [...]”

Dog Latin which roughly translates to “Take this, buster”.

The Dark Side Of The Sun

Just as Strata borrows from Larry Niven, so does The Dark Side of the Sun pay homage to the famous SF-writer Isaac Asimov.
- [p. 5/5] The Lights In The Sky Are Photofloods

The Lights in the Sky are Stars is the title of a science fiction novel by Fredric Brown (who was most famous for his ‘twisted-ending’ short-short stories, but who is unfortunately almost completely forgotten today).

- [p. 6/6] The best dagon fishers could ride a shell with their toes.

For an explanation of the word ‘dagon’ see the annotation for p. 197/149 of Men at Arms.

- [p. 24/28] “Probability math predicts the future.”

A parallel to Asimov’s psychohistory in the Foundation Series.

- [p. 27/31] The robot Isaac is obviously modelled on Asimov’s well-known positronic robots (and less obviously inspired by a similar robot that appears in Robert Sheckley’s Dimension of Miracles). Isaac [the robot] follows a more extended version of Asimov’s equally famous ‘Three Laws of Robotics’, though: on p. 53/62: “[...] Eleventh Law of Robotics, Clause C, As Amended,’ said the robot firmly.”

- [p. 42/49] “Beng take them!”

Beng is Romany (Gypsy language) for the Devil.

- [p. 44/52] “In a few days it’ll be Soul Cake Friday, and also the Eve of Small Gods,’ she said.”

These are of course religious festivals on the Discworld as well, though the Soul Cake festivities moved to a different day there (see the annotation for p. 289/262 of Guards! Guards!). Later in the book, on p. 89/106, Hogswatchnight is also mentioned.

- [p. 73/87] “It has been impossible for the Bank to be physically present here today, Roche limits being what they are, but [...]”

The Roche limit has to do with tidal pull on an object. It specifies how close a satellite can orbit a planet before it’s pulled apart by tidal forces. It stands to reason that the First Sirian Bank, being a planet seven thousand miles in diameter, is a bit wary of Roche limits.

- [p. 74/89] “And I wish to notify the Joker Institute that I have located a Joker building, description and position as noted.”

Absolutely no relation, I’m sure, to Larry Niven’s Slavers.

- [p. 117/140] “That was another Joker achievement, the Maze on Minos.”

Minos was the name of the King of Crete who commissioned Daedalus to build the famous Labyrinth to house the Minotaur.

- [p. 118/141] “Born of the sun, we travel a little way towards the sun,’ misquoted Isaac, tactlessly.”

Isaac is misquoting the last two lines of the poem I Think Continually by the English poet Stephen Spender:

“Born of the sun, they travelled a short while towards the sun, And left the vivid air signed with their honour.”

- [p. 133/159] “It was a skit [...] written in early Greek style. [...]

Chorus: ‘Brekekekex, co-ax, co-axial”

The play being performed is an updated version of Old Attic Comedy, as written by the poet Aristophanes. This section specifically parodies Aristophanes’ The Frogs, in which a chorus of (logically enough) frogs sings an onomatopoeic song involving the lyric: “Brekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax”.

I am told that Steven Sondheim once wrote a musical version of “The Frogs”, which was performed in a swimming pool at Yale University with both Sigourney Weaver and Meryl Streep in the chorus.


- [cover] The drawing of the old nome Torrit (the one holding the Thing) in

Josh Kirby’s cover for this book is actually a caricature of Terry Pratchett himself.

- [p. 12/12] “Masklin scanned the lorry park.”

The name Masklin is a pun on the word ‘masculine’. Duh.

- [p. 47/44] “[...] the long argument they’d had about the chicken boxes with the pictures of the old man with the big whiskers on them.”

Refers to Colonel Sanders, symbol for the Kentucky Fried Chicken chain of fast-food chicken restaurants.

- [p. 55/51] “Life, but not as we know it.”

Refers to another cliché Star Trek phrase, also parodied in the Star Trekkin’ song by The Firm (see the annotation for p. 84/78 of Johnny and the Dead).

- [p. 58/53] “Um. It was my idea of what an Outsider would look like, you see,’ said Dorcas.”

This whole scene immediately made me think of the American pulp science fiction magazines, which would often feature elaborate drawings depicting, for example, what a Martian might ‘scientifically’ look like.

In fact, I have in my possession a 1965 issue of Fantastic Stories, featuring on the cover a reprint of a 1939 painting by Frank R. Paul called ‘The Man from Mars’, with an accompanying explanation that Dorcas’ description of the Outsiders is almost an exact equivalent of. This Martian has, for instance, disk-shaped suction feet (because of Mars’ lesser gravity), very big ears (because of the thin atmosphere making it harder to catch sounds), white fur and retractable eyes because of the extreme cold, etc. etc.

- [p. 76/70] “Unless you know how to read books properly, they inflame the brain, they say.”

Everything we learn about the Stationeri, from the audience with the Abbot to this point about censorship, indicates a fairly obvious parody of the Roman Catholic Church during the time that the Holy Office (which oversaw censorship) was in power.

- [p. 103/94] The Store will be closed down and replaced by “an Arnco Super Saverstore in the Neil Armstrong Shopping Mall”.

The Neil Armstrong Shopping Mall is also prominently featured as the place where Johnny and his friends hang out in the ‘Johnny’ books, thus establishing firmly that the Nomes and Johnny inhabit the same universe (see also the annotation for p. 191/175).

- [p. 130/119] “Breaker Break Good Buddy. Smoky. Double Egg And Chips And Beans. Yorkiebar. Truckers.”

A ‘Yorkie Bar’ is a brand of chocolate bar sold in England. Very chunky, like one of the thick Hershey bars: Solid Chocolate. Due to a series of adverts depicting a truck driver carrying on through the night, etc. etc., all because he has his chunky milk chocolate to hand, the words ‘Yorkie Bar’ instantly summon up ‘Long Distance Lorry Driver’ to any Briton.

- [p. 132/121] “Angalo has landed,’ he said.”

Pun on “The Eagle has landed”.

- [p. 133/122] “It’s a small step for a man, but a giant leap for nomekind.”

In the category Bloody Obvious References, this is of course a reference to Neil Armstrong’s first words on the occasion of being the first man on the moon: “That’s one small step for [a] man, but a giant leap for mankind”.

- [p. 145/133] “[...] he walked proudly, with a strange swaying motion, like a nome who has boldly gone where no nome has gone before and can’t wait to be asked about it.”

Star Trek reference. See the annotation for p. 221/191 for The Colour of Magic.

- [p. 154/141] “Amazing things, levers. Give me a lever long enough, and a firm enough place to stand, and I could move the Store.”

Another reference to the famous Archimedes quote. See the annotation for p. 139/101 of Small Gods.

- [p. 171/157] “He recalled the picture of Gulliver. [...] it would be nice to think that nomes could agree on something long enough to be like the little people in the book...”

If it’s been a while since you actually read Swift, the rather bitter irony of Masklin’s musings may escape you. The point being that the Lilliputters in Gulliver’s Travels were anything but capable of “agreeing on something long enough”; in fact they were waging a generation-spanning civil war with each other over the burning question of whether one should open one’s breakfast egg at the pointy end or at the flat end.

Eventually, the ‘little-endian’ vs. ‘big-endian’ feud carried over into the world of computing as well, where it refers to the order in which bytes in multi-byte numbers should be stored, most-significant first (big endian) or least-significant first (little endian).

- [p. 191/175] “—Anyone seeing the vehicle should contact Grimethorpe police on—”

Minor inconsistency: by the time we get to the second book in the Nome trilogy, the place of action has been retconned from Grimethorpe to Blackbury (which is the place where Johnny lives, see the annotation for p. 103/94).

A possible explanation might be that there already is a real place called Grimethorpe (in Yorkshire), and that Terry’d rather use a fictional setting after all.

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