Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Did you ever wish you could visit the world created by a favorite author? Maybe to wander the streets and grab a pint in the local pub or to visit with a favorite character? I recently had the opportunity to do just that! Well, sort of. I recently went to the North American Discworld Con (or NADWCon. “Con” having nothing to do with the Thieves’ Guild http://wiki.lspace.org/mediawiki/index.php/Thieves'_Guild but rather being the abbreviation for convention). The NADWCon was a chance to spend a long weekend in a hotel with nearly 1000 others who adore author Terry Pratchett and the Discworld he created as much as I do.
Pratchett is one of my favorite authors because of the sometimes goofy and sometimes sly humor, the sheer variety of characters with distinct personalities, the layered way a reader gains knowledge and insight about the characters and the Discworld itself as they read more and more of the books and the (not-so-subtle at times) satire of our own world that occasionally makes you want to pause in your reading to reflect on the magnitude of the idea that a seemingly silly book is really putting across to you. Discworld books are most generically classified as humorous fantasy but they offer so much more than that simple description can convey. Author Brandon Sanderson wrote a great description of Pratchett’s appeal recently (click here to read it).
Attending a Con of any type really didn’t cross my mind before this opportunity came my way. Mostly because I thought of Trekkies at Star Trek conventions (which were some of the first gatherings of fans for pop culture reasons) or thought only of the CosPlay aspect (i.e., costuming yourself as a character) of Comic Cons in New York or San Diego. The NADWCon had plenty of costumed attendees (more on that later) and die-hard Discworld fans, however it also had a very welcoming feel and plenty of friendly people who made it easy to relax and enjoy the experience. During the Con, I got to present as part of two discussion panels and I attended many others including the Guild of Thieves Good Practice Session (first rule: Always Leave a Receipt) and How to Commit the Perfect Murder (as sponsored by the Assassins Guild). Sir Terry connected with fans through video calls during which audience members could ask questions. My favorite question came from a young girl who asked about “the thing on the shelf” visible (but not clearly identifiable) behind him. (It was a black full-face motorcycle helmet, which drew laughs and cheers from the crowd.) I spent my days going to so many different panels or talking to different people that I usually forgot to eat lunch!
And the costumes! There were ladies wearing beautiful hand-crafted Victorian style gowns and men in dapper suits of a bygone era representing the Lords and Ladies of Ankh-Morpork, city watch members in chain mail and bits of armor, dwarves (some taller than you might think), wizards and witches aplenty, Tiffany Aching with her frying pan and some Nac Mac Feegle, the Unseen University Librarian (ook!) and I believe I caught a glimpse of Death once or twice. I didn’t have the extra money to spend for the Gala Banquet but I gathered with others also not attending the banquet to form a slapdash paparazzi horde at the entry doors.
If you want to explore Discworld for yourself, here is a handy guide to help you get started. It will help you to know that this is not the kind of series you have to read in strict chronological order! The guide shows groupings, each group with its own “starter book.”
If you have already tackled all of Discworld, here are some other reading suggestions culled from one of the panels at NADWCon:
Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series (start with Heartless; Adult paperback fiction)
Tom Holt’s books, like Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Sausages (Adult fiction)
China Mieville’s books (Adult and Young Adult fiction)
P.G. Wodehouse’s books (Adult fiction)
The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer (Adult fiction and Reading List)
Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern (Young Adult)
Going Bovine and Beauty Queens by Libba Bray (Young Adult)
The Elfish Gene by Mark Barrowcliffe (Biography: reflection on growing up playing Dungeons and Dragons)