The Long Earth - Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
Eventually the authorities caught up with me and kept me in a dark room with small doses of science fiction until I broke the habit and now I can walk past a book with a dragon on the cover and my hands hardly sweat at all.
She had pages to herself in Twurp’s Peerage, huge ancestral anchors biting into the past, and dwarfs also respected someone who knew their great‐great‐great‐grandfather’s full name. And Sybil couldn’t lie, you could see her redden when she tried it. Sybil was a rock. She made Detritus look like a sponge.
Terry Pratchett, The Fifth Elephant (via gadding-about)
Have I mentioned how much I love lady Sybil? (which is how almost every one of my DW posts starts but I LOVE EVERYONE IN THIS BAR OKAY)
But! Lady Sybil. Sybil starts out as a joke character, the fat aristocratic eccentric
cat- dragon-lady, but like all of Pratchett’s characters she quickly evolves. Not that there aren’t hints right from the start, she does face down a dragon. And she marries Sam Vimes, that’s a pretty big giveaway too.
But on the surface of things, Sybil doesn’t look that exceptional. Sybil is kind. Sybil is polite. Once married Sybil leaves the financial side of things to her husband. While Vimes is running around the city doing exciting things, Sybil sits at home and organises parties. Sybil’s just a housewife, the Discworld equivalent of a soccer mom.
And I have very little doubt that in the hands of a lesser writer this would have frustrated me to no end, but this is Pratchett, which means that Sybil takes being a housewife and turns it into a weapon of mass destruction.
Not that she doesn’t have other moments of awesome: in The Fifth Elephant, the first book after Guards Guards where Sybil’s more than just a background character, she happily subverts the Damsel in Distress trope and escapes herself, knocking out a werewolf and crawling from a window. But the true defining moment of Sybil’s general amazingness comes after, when she successfully negotiates a trade agreement while Vimes is seconds from passing out.
Sybil has a different kind of power than Vimes. While she does keep her cool during the attacks on her in The Fifth Elephant and Thud, it’s clear she’s very upset about it (and if someone dares to use this as an argument against her I’m going to stab them with a fork. okay? okay.). We mostly see Sybil through Vimes’ eyes, which means that it takes a few books before we recognise the full extent of Sybil’s influence and power. In what Vimes describes as “The Ladies Who Organise” Sybil is the lynchpin of a massive network of powerful people that she’s able to manipulate. It’s what wins the day in Snuff: while Vimes’ detecting and coppering is important, it’s Sybil’s networking that turns the events in something more than just another crime solved and possibly starts a social revolution. Sybil, through the calculated use of Christmas cards and inquiries after people’s children, wields a kind of influence that’s only comparable to Vetinari’s. Just a housewife? Please. Lady Sybil Ramkin can fuck your shit up with one letter and a polite smile.
(And that’s Pratchett’s general message: there are many ways to be a Strong Female. You want to wear armour and fight? Cool! Look at Angua, look at Polly and Mal. You don’t like fighting much and would like to focus on your family? Fabulous! Here’s Sybil and Nanny Ogg. You want to stay single? Hello Granny Weatherwax.
There is no wrong way of being a woman, and you can be just as important whether you know how to swordfight or not.)
Good Omens (Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman)
Sir Terry’s Dragons at Crumbling Castle debuts at #1 on the Children’s Bestseller list in the UK! Hooray!
(coming to the US February 2015—sorry, gang, we’re doing our best! But it’s well worth the wait….)
Yooo!!! The Carpet People by Terry Pratchett is $1.99 on Amazon, Google, and Barnes & Noble right now as of September 20th 2014