from
Raising Steam
by
Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett

This page:

Raising Steam

Category:

fantasy

index pages:
authors
titles
categories
topics
translators

Raising Steam

Copyright © 2013 by Terry and Lyn Pratchett

Yes, politics. The secret glue that stopped the world falling into warfare. In the past there had been so much war, far too much, but as every schoolboy knew, or at least knew in those days when schoolboys actually read anything more demanding than a crisp packet, not so long ago a truly terrible war, the last war of Koom Valley, had almost happened, out of which the dwarfs and trolls had managed to achieve not exactly peace, but an understanding from which, hopefully, peace might evolve. There had been the shaking of hands, important hands, shaken fervently, and so there was hope, hope as fragile as a thought.

[...] He reflected that, from a distance, the world might conceivably look to be at peace, a state of affairs that always ends in war, eventually.

It is said that a soft answer turneth away wrath, but this assertion has a lot to do with hope and was now turning out to be patently inaccurate, since eve a well-spoken and thoughtful soft answer could actually drive the wrong kind of person into a state of fury if wrath was what they had in mind [...]

Moist von Lipwig had done some heavy work once and couldn’t see any future in it, but he could look at it for hours, provided other people were doing it, of course, and clearly some of them liked what they were doing, and so he shrugged and felt happy that Crisp was happy being a handyman whilst Moist was happy not picking up anything that was heavier than a glass. After all, his work was unseen and depended on words, which were fortunately not very heavy and didn’t need grease.

Topic:

Labor

Rhys Rhysson, Low King of the dwarfs, was a dwarf of keen intelligence, but he sometimes wondered why someone with that intelligence would go into dwarfish politics, let alone be King of the Dwarfs. Lord Vetinari had it so easy he must hardly know he was born! The King thought humans were, well, reasonably sensible, whereas there was an old dwarf proverb which, translated, said, “Any three dwarfs having a sensible conversation will always end up having four points of view.”

He smiled, well aware that one wrong word from him would send shock waves around the cavern and the result, whatever it was, would be his fault. Such is the fate of those who work only for the propagation of peace over warfare, and the way of the conscientious facilitator is a path strewn with thorns.

“Though of course I do not imagine it is in my remit to monitor the private doings of my people.”

“My lord,” interjected Drumknott. “As a tyrant that is, in fact, exactly what you do.”

Vetinari gave him a look that did not actually employ a raised eyebrow but which implied that one might be forthcoming if the recipient of the look pushed his luck.

Topic:

Tyrants

There was nothing for it but to follow the wave. New things, new ideas arrived and strutted their stuff and were vilified by some and then lo! that which had been a monster was suddenly totally important to the world. All the time the fanglers and artificers were coming up with even more useful things that hadn’t been foreseen and suddenly became essential. And the pillars of the world remained unshaken.

Topic:

Progress

“He’s the kind of man who’d follow you into a revolving door and still come out in front.”

It wasn’t about the money. It had never been about the money. Even when it was about the money, it wasn’t entirely about the money. Well, it was slightly about the money, but most of all it was about what the dwarfs called the craic. The sheer pleasure about what you were doing and where you were doing it.

“My dad said always put a few nasty little booby traps around the place before you lock up and then after that owt they can steal from you they’re welcome to, if they’ve still got their arms to carry it away, that is.”

Harry laughed out loud and said, “Sounds to me like your old dad looked at things just the way I do. What’s mine is mine and what is mine is me own.”

Vetinari walked over to the window and stared down at the city in silence for a moment and continued, “What can a mere jobbing tyrant achieve in the face of the even greater, multiheaded tyrant of public opinion and a regrettably free press?”

“Excuse me, sir, but if you wanted to you could shut down the papers, couldn’t you? And forbid the train and put anyone you like in prison, yes?”

Still staring down at the city, Lord Vetinari said, “My dear Mister Lipwig, you are clever and certainly smart but you have yet to find the virtue of wisdom, and wisdom tells a powerful prince that firstly he shouldn’t put just anyone he likes in prison, because that is where he puts the people he doesn’t like, and secondly that mere unthinking dislike of something, someone, or some situation is no mandate for drastic action.”

“It seems that even the very wise have neglected to take notice of one rather important goddess . . . Pippina, the lady with the Apple of Discord. She knows that the universe, while it requires rules and stability, also needs just a tincture of chaos, the unexpected, the surprising. Otherwise it would be a mechanism—a wonderful mechanism, ticking away the centuries, but with nothing different happening. And so we may assume that the loss of balance will be allowed this time and the beneficent lady will decree that this mechanism might yield wonderful things, given a chance.”

“For my part, I would like to give it a chance,” said Lu-Tze. “Serendipity is no stranger to me. I know the monks have been carefully shepherding the world, but I rather think they don’t realize that the sheep sometimes have better ideas. Uncertainty is always uncertain, but the difficulty with people who rely on systems is that they begin to believe that nearly everything is in some way a system and therefore, sooner or later, they become bureaucrats.

“And so, my friend, I think we say hail Pippina and the occasional discord.”

[...] “People often use the excuse that old people won’t understand something when, in fact, they simply don’t want it or understand it themselves. Actually, old people can be quite gung ho about risk, and very proud of it.”

Topic:

Age

“Picture a young man taking his young lady on the train and hazarding an extra sixpence to go in the better-class seats. Well, he’s no end of a swell, and he’ll look around him and think, This suits me down to the ground and no mistake. I could do with more of this.

“And when he goes back to work he’ll strive, yes, strive, to become a better, that’s to say, richer person to the benefit of both his employer and himself, and not, of course, neglecting to thank the owner of the railway, to wit, your good self, who allowed him to have ideas above his railway station. Everybody wins, nobody loses. Please, please, Harry, allow people to aspire. I mean who knows, they might have been in the wrong class all this time. Your railway, my friend, will allow them to dream, and once you have a dream you’ve got somewhere closer to a reality.”

Topic:

Railroads

“And I told Effie that I don’t mind giving the money away to orphanages and suchlike—I like to see the faces of the little kiddies light up like daisies—it’s the swank I don’t like and all the incessant chattering when I could be doing good work in my office. Effie says it’s knoblyess obligay, but just because I’ve got a lot of knobs I don’t have to accept it, right? It’s a terrible thing when a man can’t be himself, knobs or no knobs.”

The press couldn’t deal with a straightforward man. The certainty in his face simply disarmed them and possibly, thought Moist, made them wish they were better people. There wasn’t an inch of politics in Dick and that stunned them.

“I have to ask, sir . . . Why does it have to be done like this?”

Vetinari smiled. “Can you keep a secret, Mister Lipwig?”

“Oh, yes, sir. I’ve kept lots.”

“Capital. And the point is, so can I. You do not need to know.”

“Mister Lipwig, the world lives between those who say it cannot be done and those who say that it can. And in my experience, those who say that it can be done are usually telling the truth. It’s just a matter of thinking creatively. Some people say, ‘Think the unthinkable,’ but that’s nonsense—although in your case, sir, I think you have the nerves for it. Think about it.”

Topic:

Creativity

“Travel broadens the mind, and also railway revenue.”

There clearly has been magic at work in the Netherglades and its future as the pharmacopoeia of the world is being tested by Professor Rincewind of Unseen University. A dispatch from him reveals that the juice pressed from a certain little yellow flower induces certainty in the patient for up to fifteen minutes. About what they are certain they cannot specify, but the patient is, in that short time, completely certain about everything. And further research has found that a floating water hyacinth yields in its juices total uncertainty about anything for half an hour. Philosophers are excited about the uses of these potions, and the search continues for a plant that combines the qualities of both, thereby being of great use to theologians.

And now he could see why people had anxiety attacks, the kind of people who would lock their door and halfway up the garden path would come back to see if they’d locked said door and unlock it to make sure and lock it again then set off up the path only to go through the whole terrible procedure once more.

The fact of the matter was you had to hope and assume that a lot of capable people had done lots of capable things in a capable way, and double-checked them frequently to make sure everything was right. So worrying was stupid, wasn’t it? But worrying was never quite like that. It sat like a little goblin on your shoulder and whispered. And suddenly that kind of worried person, in the strange world of mistrust, was now entering the stuff of nightmares [...]

The Queen appeared as innocent as one of those mountains which year after year do nothing very much but smoke a little, and then one day end up causing a whole civilization to become an art installation.

The way that Moist fought was erratic, since he took the view that if you didn’t know what you were going to do next, neither would the enemy. After all, it was a mêlée and nobody owns a mêlée. You might as well try to control a hurricane.

Topic:

Tactics

“It beggars all reason, doesn’t it? But sooner or later there comes a time when you have to take names and crack skulls. I’m sorry, it’s at the other end of the spectrum from the little chat and it’s what happens when reason no longer holds sway.”

“But you’re all dwarfs. What can you possibly achieve?” groaned Moist, who for the rest of his life would always remember the tone of the King’s voice . . .

“Tomorrow. That, Mister Lipwig, is what we can achieve. Tomorrow.”

“I was expecting them to put up more of a fight,” he said. “You know, more of a glorious battle that would become the stuff of legends.”

“That’s a very foolish thing to say, Mr. Lipwig,” said Vimes. “There’s nothing ‘glorious’ about times like this . . . People have died, not necessarily good people and not too many, but nevertheless the face you wear on a battlefield should be a solemn one until the time when things are cleaned up and the real world drips its way in.”

Topic:

Battle

“I see embarrassment among all of you. That’s good. The thing about being embarrassed is that sooner or later you aren’t, but you remember that you were.”

Topic:

Embarrassment

“Sometimes, Mr. Lipwig, the young you that you lost many years ago comes back and taps you on the shoulder and says, ‘This is the moment when civilization does not matter, when rules no longer hold sway. You have given the world all you can give and now it’s the time that is just for you, the chance to go for broke in the last hurrah. Hurrah!’ ”

text checked (see note) May 2022

top of page