Following on from the mention of Discworld in the last post but one, and all the talk of the scope of fiction, here's the first of a series on especially unusual fictional lifeforms.
This one's from Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett, possibly one of the first places you'd expect to find something out of the ordinary (except maybe The BFG..?). I'm a latecomer to Pratchett, and for many years was a bit closed-minded about the Discworld series. Now I realise what I've been losing, with the earlier books at least. It's good, unexpectedly old-fashioned fun, unpretentious. Pratchett's one of us. What I like most is the way we're given idea after deep idea seemingly only as a catalyst for the jokes.
One of these, and in my view one of the deepest seams in the book, is the digression on the nature of stone. We probably all remember the nomes of the movie Return to Oz and the Rockbiter in The Neverending Story, but this is more metaphysical than fairy tale. As Granny looks for a rat or a cockroach to Borrow - respectfully of course - we get this:
It is well known that stone can think, because the whole of electronics is based on that fact, but in some universes men spend ages looking for other intelligences in the sky without once looking under their feet. That is because they've got the time-span all wrong. From stone's point of view the universe is hardly created and mountain ranges are bouncing up and down like organ-stops while continents zip backwards and forwards in general high spirits ... It is going to be quite some time before stone notices its disfiguring little skin disease and starts to scratch ... .
How's that for a thought? Makes crystal therapy seem far less esoteric. Incidentally, Granny then Borrows the Unseen University itself and we get an excellent sense of what it is to be a building. Pratchett's mind is in my view one of the best of our time, and what's happening to it is a great loss of potential for the noosphere, even beyond the sad, and perhaps horrific, personal loss. The debate on death coming at the time of our choosing is a complex one, but I find myself intuitively trusting an approach that he puts.
An interesting footnote is the observation made in this recent post at Ghost Hunting Theories that hauntings correlate with a certain rock pairing. The guide on the hike is dissatisfied even with this profound thought and proposes something more stimulating.
Read around, people, and help blow the cobwebs out of our thinking.