Preface to v7

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- [title] Diggers

In the Corgi paperback editions I have, Diggers and Wings are subtitled “The Second [respectively Third] Book Of The Nomes”.

Apparently, in the first edition(s), the trilogy was called The Bromeliad (and the last two books accordingly subtitled).

This refers to the central theme of the frogs living in a bromeliad, but is also a pun on The Belgariad, a well-known fantasy series by David Eddings. And of course both names have their origin in Homer’s Iliad.

This subtitle was dropped from the British editions, because the editor didn’t like it. In the US, there were no objections, so to this day US editions of the Nome trilogy are subtitled The Bromeliad.

People have commented on the similarity between the Nome trilogy and other childrens stories involving “little people”. In particular, the question has arisen a few times whether Terry was inspired by the Borrowers books.

Terry answers: “I know about the Borrowers, and read one of the books in my teens, but I disliked them; they seemed unreal, with no historical background, and it seemed odd that they lived this cosy family life more or less without any supporting ‘civilisation’. The nomes are communal, and have to think in terms of nomekind. No. Any influence at all is from Swift, in this case.”

“I’ll pass on whether Truckers is funnier than the Borrowers, but I’ll defend them as being more serious than the Borrowers. It depends on how you define ‘serious’.”

The American version of the Nome trilogy is not word-for-word the same as the original one.
Terry says: “The Truckers trilogy has a fair amount of changes of a ‘pavement = sidewalk’ nature which is understandable in a book which should be accessible to kids. They also excised the word ‘damn’ so’s not to get banned in Alabama, which is a shame because I’ve always wanted to be banned in Alabama, ever since I first heard of the place.”

- [p. 60/54] “iii. And the Mark of the Dragon was on it. iv. And the Mark was Jekub.”

‘Jekub’ was the Nomes’ attempted pronunciation of JCB, the name of a well-known manufacturer of tractors, diggers, and the like, whose logo of course appears on all its products. Jekub, incidentally, appears to be a thing called a ‘back-hoe loader’. In the American version of the Nomes trilogy ‘JCB’ was changed to ‘CAT’, standing for ‘Caterpillar’.

- [p. 82/73] “We shall fight them in the lane. We shall fight them at the gates. We shall fight them in the quarry. And we shall never surrender.”

Paraphrases one of Winston Churchill’s famous WW II speeches. Possibly the easiest way to get to hear the original version is to listen to Supertramp’s ‘Fool’s Overture’.

- [p. 142/126] “Jcb? Jekub? It’s got no vowels in it. What sort of name is that?”

This is a play on ‘YHWH’, the classical Hebrew spelling of Yahweh, i.e. Jehovah.


- [p. 135/121] “The other humans around it are trying to explain to it what a planet is’ ‘Doesn’t it know?’ ‘Many humans don’t. Mistervicepresident is one of them.”

I don’t think anybody in the Western world would not have caught this reference to Dan Quayle, but let’s face it: in twenty years people will still be reading Terry Pratchett, and hopefully this APF—but who’ll remember Misterexvicepresident?

- [p. 150/135] “The humans below tried shining coloured lights at it, and playing tunes at it, and eventually just speaking to it in every language known to humans.”

Refers to the climactic scene of Steven Spielberg’s science fiction movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind, where contact with the aliens is indeed established by shining lights and playing tunes at their spaceship.

Only You Can Save Mankind

In order to fully appreciate this novel it may not be necessary, but I think it will greatly add to your enjoyment and understanding, if you have seen at least one of the Alien movies, and have played at least one computer shoot-em-up arcade game.

- [p. 7/7] “The Mighty ScreeWee™ Empire™ is poised to attack Earth!”

A wonderful parody of the way in which the typical computer action game is advertised or described on the box. Terry confirms:

“Let’s say I’ve played Wing Commander and Elite and X-Wing and loads of other games, so writing that first page was easy for me :-)”

- [p. 9/9] The Hero With A Thousand Extra Lives

A reference to the title of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces, an anthropological work comparing and contrasting Hero myths from different cultures.

- [p. 13/13] “My dad brought me back ‘Alabama Smith and the Jewels of Fate’ from the States.”

Puns on the movie title Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Alabama and Indiana are both American states.

- [p. 19/19] “Hey, I really need a computer because that way I can play ‘Megasteroids’.”

‘Asteroids’ is the name of an ancient, very famous computer game.

- [p. 27/27] Johnny’s nickname for his friend: ‘MC Spanner’, spoofs our world’s pop-rap star ‘MC Hammer’ (a spanner is a wrench, and also (colloquially) equates as a mild insult to the American English ‘dork’).

- [p. 40/40] This is not really an annotation, because I think it is highly improbable that there is an actual link here, but the idea of Terry’s ‘Cereal Killers’ immediately reminded me of the short science fiction stories by Philip K. Dick. Not any particular one, but just the whole idea of something horrible masquerading as something ridiculously innocent appears again and again in Dick’s slightly paranoid oeuvre.

The serial/cereal pun itself is of course fairly obvious, and can be found in many other places, from old Infocom adventure games to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics.

- [p. 42/42] “I saw this film once, right, where there were these computer games and if you were really good the aliens came and got you and you had to fly a spaceship and fight a whole bad alien fleet,’ said Bigmac.”

Bigmac is describing the 1984 science fiction movie The Last Starfighter here (starring Lance Guest and Robert Preston).

As a movie this was decidedly a so-so experience (you can take my word for it, I have seen it), but it deserves credit for one major achievement: after the box-office disaster of Tron it was the first Hollywood film to make extensive use of computer-generated animation. And since The Last Starfighter was not a commercial failure, it effectively opened the road again for further use of computer graphics in movies.

- [p. 72/72] “But everyone watched Cobbers.”

‘Cobber’ is an Australian word meaning ‘companion’ or ‘friend’; these days used more as an informal slang label for addressing someone (as in:

“Now look here, cobber, ...”). Terry’s use of this title reflects the fact that Australian soap operas (such as e.g. Neighbours) are extremely popular in the UK (as in the rest of Europe, I should add). As Terry explained:

“Actually, the scene is probably lost on [non-Brits]; you have to understand that it is almost impossible to turn on a UK TV at any time between 4.30 -- 6pm without hearing the distinctive sound of Australian adolescents locked in confrontation.”

- [p. 109/109] “What’s your game name?’ ‘Sigourney -- you’re laughing!

Sigourney Weaver is the actress who plays the heroine in all three Alien movies.

- [p. 118/118] “On Earth, No-one Can Hear You Say ‘Um”

The now famous slogan used in the advertising campaigns for the first Alien movie was: In Space, No-one Can Hear You Scream.

- [p. 133/133] “I saw a film where there was an alien crawling around inside a spaceship’s air ducts and it could come out wherever it liked,’ said Johnny reproachfully. ‘Doubtless it had a map,’ said the Captain.”

The movie Johnny refers to is, of course, Alien.

- [p. 147/147] “Is there anything I can do?’ [...] ‘I don’t know,’ she said. ‘Is there anything you can do?”

The same dialogue occurs between Ripley and Sergeant Apone in the film Aliens.

- [p. 158/158] “You’re thinking: He’ll be in there somewhere, hiding.”

In Alien, the alien creature eventually hid itself in the escape capsule Sigourney Weaver tried to get away in at the end.

- [p. 162/162] “If we find a cat I’m going to kick it!”

In Alien, Sigourney goes back into the mother ship because she did not want to leave the cat behind.

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