It's a series, not a serial. Even so...
...well, it's like this. If you started
watching Star Trek halfway through the
series you probably wondered why one guy had
pointy ears. But since you liked what you
saw, you probably let the question ride for
now and just got on with enjoying the
Discworld is like that. There are mini-series
within the series (the "witches" books, the
"City Watch" books, the "Death" books --) and
there are one or two big story arcs, but
generally the books are written to be
accessible at any point to anyone with a
nodding acquaintanceship with the fantasy
genre. Or even with real life. Admittedly,
real life does not contain many librarians
who are a full-grown male orangutan, and
Death in real life does not ride a white
horse called Binky, but Discworld readers now
consider that this is real life's loss.
The world travels through space on the
backs of four elephants that stand on the
back of a giant turtle. Don't worry about it.
People don't talk about it, any more than we
say, "wow, we're standing a few thousand
miles above a ball of molten iron!" Besides,
it seldom has anything to do with the plots,
which mostly concern real people trying to
get by in a fantasy world. There are wizards,
witches, trolls, dwarfs, zombies, werewolves,
vampires . . . but Discworld starts where
classic heroic fantasy stops, and none of
those people is doing business as usual. A
lot of them have moved into the big city and
are trying to turn an honest dollar, just
like everyone else.
The biggest city is Ankh-Morpork. It's a
real melting pot -- that is, it bubbles all
the time and strange things float to the
surface. This is a big city reminiscent of
planet Earth, where we think we've locked all
the monsters outside, and then turned around
and found they're right in here, with us.
Discworld stories aren't parodies,
according to Pratchett. They're "resonances."
The people of Ankh-Morpork go to war with
those towel-headed villains in neighbouring
Klatch, and pretty soon characters are acting
so pigheadedly that you might think they were
real. Vampires who wish to be accepted in
human society join the League of Temperance
(you can suck, but you mustn't impale.)
Witches tend to be good (they'll give you
what you need) and fairy godmothers tend to
be bad (they'll give you what they think you
ought to want). A continent-wide system of
semaphore towers is changing society...
Everything you see reminds you of home,
but it's turned around and back to front so
that you see it in a different light.
Oh...and it's funnier.
Terry Pratchett himself sums it up
"The world rides through space on the back
of a turtle. This is one of the great ancient
world myths, found wherever men and turtles
are gathered together; the four elephants
were an indo-European sophistication. The
idea has been lying in the lumber room of
legend for centuries. All I had to do was
grab it and run away before the alarms went
"There are no maps. You can't map a sense of
humor. Anyway, what is a fantasy map but a
space beyond which There Be Dragons? On the
Discworld we know There Be Dragons
Everywhere. They might not all have scales
and forked tongues, but they Be Here all
right, grinning and jostling and trying to
sell you souvenirs."
He's also been known to describe it in
The Discworld Companion as "like a
geological pizza but without the