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Johnny and the Bomb

Annotations | Information | Quotes

+ [p. 16] "'Like in that film where the robot is sent back to kill the mother of the boy who's going to beat the robots when he grows up.'"

A reference to the original 1984 The Terminator movie.

+ [p. 40] "'Millennium hand and shrimp?'"

Ah, clearly Mrs Tachyon is somehow receiving on the same astral frequency as the Bursar and Foul Ole Ron. See also the annotation for p. 324/233 of Lords and Ladies .

+ [p. 50] "'[...] the mysterious rain of fish we had in September [...]'"

A Fortean resonance (see also the annotation for p. 155/99 of Good Omens .

+ [p. 64] "The Truth is Out Of Here"

Puns on the famous tagline for the The X-Files television series (see also the annotation for p. 154 of Hogfather ).

+ [p. 67] "D'you see that film where the car travelled in time [...]'"

Undoubtedly this is the original Back To The Future movie.

+ [p. 73] "'Me, and four token boys. Oh, dear. Oh, dear. It's only a mercy we haven't got a dog.'"

A reference to the Famous Five. See also the annotation for p. 127/80 of Good Omens and the annotation for p. 87 of The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents .

+ [p. 203] "She held up a pickled onion."

It was observed on afp that the previous Johnny books both seem to leave open the option that what happens is all somehow a dream or a figment of Johnny's imagination, and that Kirsty actually finding a physical object this time would be an indication of a change in focus. But Terry disagrees:

"In OYCSM Kirsty ('Sigourney') is involved and remembers it, and Wobbler gets messages from Johnny on his own computer screen. OYCSM is, I admit, deliberately the most 'equivocal' of the trio. I think it's not an either/or case -- it's all real AND it's all happening in his imagination.

In JatD newspapers float in the air, the Dead are heard to speak on the radio (and the guys in the radio station notice this) and things happen in the pub and the cinema.

In JatB bits of the town change, Mrs Tachyon has fresh fish and chips wrapped in a 1941 newspaper and is seen by people in the past after being in the present, the gang appear mysteriously in front of the old folks' club, Johnny (I think) finds that there's someone in the old newspaper picture which (if you know it's Wobbler) looks like Wobbler, and Johnny also has the playing card missing from his grandad's pack (and grandad got a medal for running a distance which couldn't possibly be run in the time). But what happens is the familiar 'history reasserting itself' motif, as in Back to the Future III -- there have to be clues that the process misses, of course, otherwise there'd be no point. Remember that (in addition to all the other stuff) it's not the pickle that's the clue, it's the fact that Kirsty now remembers."

When subsequently someone on afp said that they'd always figured the Johnny books were explorations of childhood angst in which the protagonist's fantasies are projected onto reality in an attempt to escape to a different world where he can be more powerful and significant, Terry replied in no uncertain terms:

"I can't be having with that pernicious rubbish. 'Window' books, they are called: young Sid has big problems at home, so in his dreams he battles a dragon, and this gives him the strength to deal with the problems -- as if imagination and fantasy were some kind of medicines. Yo-less trots out this handy explanation in OYCSM.

I'd be the first to say that the exercise of imagination and humanity's genius with metaphor can make a huge difference to our lives and are part of what makes us human. I just hate to see fantasy dismissed as a kind of poultice or, worse, as a drug. It's led to some godawful smug books (and some very good ones, I have to admit -- but a lot of dumb ones too).

There are natural explanations for a lot of the things that happen in the books, if you are desperate to find them (and people will sometimes go through some serious mental gymnastics to avoid changing their preconceived ideas about the universe) But I like to be equivocal about what is 'real' and what isn't -- to Johnny it's all real, and that's what counts. 'Saving the Screewee' isn't some code for improving his own life -- he deals with all the problems on their own terms and half the time he's projecting reality onto fantasy. Maybe sorting out one part of your life gives you some strength to sort out others, but you don't need aliens in your computer to tell you that.

So: is what happens in the books real? Yes. Does it all happen in Johnny's head? Yes. Are the Dead a metaphor? Yes. Are they real? Yes. Not just waving, but particalling."


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