The L-Space Web: Books: Synopses

Moving Pictures


Written by Ed

Around thirty miles from Ankh-Morpork is a tiny land called Holy Wood. Although it is by the sea it never rains, so it is a land of sand dunes, sun and wind. It is empty, apart from one man named Deccan Ribobe who has been performing strange rituals there every day until his recent death. Death comes to collect the spirit, and Deccan realises that he has never trained a successor. It is not revealed why this is important, but Deccan seems very worried. Over the next few weeks sand starts to trickle away from Holy Wood Hill, and some invisible thing escapes and sets off for Ankh-Morpork.

Some time later, a group of citizens gather outside an alchemist's workshop to watch the show-whatever he has been working on has just exploded. Dazed and confused, the man stumbles out of his smouldering building and reveals he has just invented something wonderful. Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler, infamous peddler of just about anything, arrives and starts to sell his usual brand of sausages...and is found by whatever has escaped from Holy Wood.

Within weeks the invention has been perfected. Exactly what it is a secret, and so the general public have no idea about it. However, a few eyebrows are raised at flickering lights and strange clicking sounds coming from inside the Alchemists' Guild. The alchemists start to make plans, having to move away from the city "because the light is not right". The place suggested is Holy Wood, but nobody can think why or how they know about the place.

The staff at Unseen University are breaking in a new Arch chancellor, named Mustrum Ridcully. He is not the kind of wizard the others are used to, being the type to go to bed late but the get up early, and one who shouts a lot. It almost time for the students to sit their finals, and the Bursar comes in to show Ridcully some strange past results.

Student wizards Victor Tugelbend and Ponder Stibbons are in their room revising for the coming exam. Victor's knowledge of magic is encyclopaedic, but he is the oldest student in the University because he deliberately fails. The pass mark in the exams is 88%, but he does not want to pass, as the life of a student is considerably easier than the life of a graduate. However, the money he has been left to him will be withdrawn should he ever achieve lower than 80%, and so every year he makes sure he gets a grade of 84%. Unfortunately for him, the examiners are wise to this and the Bursar has come up with a special exam paper for him. It has just one, one-mark question; Victor will either get 100% or 0%.

That night, Victor is coming home from the pub when he notices an old man being mugged. Being extremely physically fit Victor rescues the man, who introduces himself as Thomas Silverfish of the Alchemists' Guild. Silverfish asks Victor if he wants a job in moving pictures; not knowing what he means, Victor declines but stays around as it seems Silverfish and some other alchemists are setting up a show - shadow puppets, apparently. However, it becomes apparent that there is much more to it than that-Victor watches as moving images are projected onto the sheet. Suddenly he begins to grow woozy, but before he passes out he notices a little dog sitting by him apparently talking...

Eight hours later, the finals are on. Ponder is there, but Victor is nowhere to be seen. The exam starts without him; the desk next to Ponder is empty. Due to his nerves Ponder accidentally spills his inkwell over the paper, so the examiner lets him slip over to the next desk. There, he opens Victor's special paper. Confused at the one question: "what is your name?" Ponder answers it and then sits there for the duration of the exam, wondering where Victor is.

Victor is at the moment outside the city, moving towards Holy Wood. He has no idea why he feels the need to be going there so strongly, but he feels it just the same. Some way behind him is CMOT Dibbler, who feels the burning passion even more strongly. Further back is Detritus, the city's odd-job troll. As far as he is concerned he is letting his feet do the thinking. Even further back is a timber wagon, on the back of which rests one Gaspode the Wonder Dog.

Victor is not the first to arrive, and when he finally turns up at the sun-bleached sandy town there are already a hundred artisans erecting cheap buildings. He wanders around aimlessly, confused by the street bustle and the intense heat. He bumps into a young woman who pauses only to shout at him about it before moving on. Victor feels despondent until he happens to pull Silverfish's card from his pocket, given to him when he rescued Silverfish from the muggers back in the city. He goes to the address on it, but the guard at the front of the building (which, like all buildings, is little more than a shack) kicks him out. He slips round the back and, after finding a small shed full of tiny strange creatures, finally slips into Silverfish's office. Victor gets a job acting in the clicks (the moving pictures showing in the city), as Silverfish owes him a favour. He introduces him to Gaffer Bird, the handleman. His job is to turn the handle that drives the imps inside the camera to paint the pictures on the strips of film.

Dibbler arrives with a plan. He seeks out Detritus and hires him as a worker, and uses him to get through the queue and into Silverfish's office. He swirls in and almost immediately tricks Silverfish into hiring him as manager, leaving the alchemist to get on "with the creative side of things".

After spending the last of his money on a poor meal, Victor goes back to Silverfish and finds him with Dibbler. Dibbler is introducing Silverfish to the concept of advertising, in this case Harga's House Of Ribs back in Ankh-Morpork. Dibbler then proceeds to vastly increase the marketing campaign by hugely exaggerating forthcoming features.

The next day Victor gets his first role-that of Cohen the Barbarian in the click of the same name. As he mimes fighting two trolls, the fault in reality in Holy Wood grows ever stronger. The wild idea leaks in, and reality leaks out-and is found by other Things.

The role involves getting the girl, so Victor is introduced to Ginger Withel, the girl he bumped into when he arrived. He then introduces her to the two trolls, Morry and Rock (formerly Galena). They start filming again, but suddenly Victor seems to lose consciousness. When he comes to, he is being glared at; he has viciously attacked the trolls and swept Ginger up and carried her away. Dibbler, however, congratulates him on a magnificent performance. As Silverfish and Dibbler argue over the cheapening of a historical film, Ginger and Victor go to get some lunch.

In Unseen University, one of the maids brings a complaint to the Arch chancellor. A strange device, like a pot with some ceramic elephants around the top, suddenly started to vibrate before firing a lead pellet at her. None of the wizards know what it is, so it is moved into Ridcully's office. It is believed to be a device made by an old wizard named Riktor, but no one knows what it is for.

At lunch, Victor talks to some other actors. Apparently there have been other examples of people losing control of themselves when making clicks. The results are invariably spectacular and make for excellent clicks. When Ginger and Victor get back Silverfish wants to sack them for wandering off, but Dibbler persuades him to allow them to finish the click first. Nevertheless by the end of the day they have lost their jobs; Ginger is furious with Victor. That night, Victor goes to sleep on the beach, watched by Gaspode the Wonder Dog.

Soon everyone is asleep. The spirit of Holy Wood enters their dreams-except for Dibbler, who has ridden the thirty miles back to Ankh-Morpork. It is a rainy night, and as it never rains in Holy Wood Dibbler enjoys it. A confused city guard watch him singing in the rain.

Ridcully is enjoying a late night drink when the strange pot stars to vibrate again. It fires a led pellet across the room, shattering his brandy decanter.

Next morning is another hot day in Holy Wood. Victor takes a swim in the sea, and sees what looks like the remains of buildings at the bottom of the sea. He surfaces, and sees a driftwood hut further along the beach. In it he finds a book, and the body of Deccan Ribobe, last keeper of the door.

Bezam Planter runs a moving picture pit in Ankh-Morpork. Moving pictures are losing their novelty and business is not as strong as it was, but Dibbler arrives claiming to have the film that will make him rich...

 

Victor, having buried Deccan's body, goes back to Borgle's tavern (the lunch hall) to read the book he found. It reads like a diary-Deccan would get up and live as best he could, and chant a strange performance three times a day. At the beginning of the book the entries are in a pictographical form that Victor cannot read. The entries become less and less official until they become Deccan's half-baked diary. Victor's food is served to him by an angry Ginger, who is working at Borgle's having been fired from Moving Pictures. Victor goes and gets a similarly unglamorous job-horse holder.

Bezam Planter, expecting a moderate crowd for Dibbler's new picture, is swept off his feet by a sea of people when he opens the doors to the theatre. Dibbler takes a percentage of the earnings, but Bezam is still taking huge sums of money. It turns out that the main attractions of the picture are Victor and Ginger-realising what he has done, Dibbler races back to Holy Wood.

That night Victor is found by Rock, who takes him to a troll bar. Victor tells the big troll he is worried-people act differently in Holy Wood. It is as if the place is enchanted. Rock dismisses it.

Victor leaves, and in the alley finds Gaspode the Wonder Dog. Gaspode can speak, and eventually manages to convince Victor of this.

Dibbler and Detritus arrive back in Holy Wood and start searching for Victor and Ginger. Dibbler loses Detritus when they enter the troll bar and his assistant becomes enamoured by Ruby, the troll singer.

Gaspode takes Victor to Holy Wood hill where he meets a rabbit, a cat, a mouse and a duck. All can speak, except for the duck who cannot form words with a beak. They inform him that they can speak due to Holy Wood magic, and implore Victor to find out what is happening so that they can return to being ordinary animals again. Suddenly Ginger arrives, and finds Victor. The animals pretend not to be anything out of the ordinary. Dibbler follows her and tries to re-hire them-Gaspode, making his voice sound like Dibbler's, negotiates high wages for them.

In Unseen University the wizards move the pot into a storeroom where it cannot hurt anybody. As they leave, it fires two more lead pellets; one dents the wall, the other removes the top of Ridcully's hat.

Detritus wakes Victor and Ginger at six o'clock the next morning and escorts them to the film set. Dibbler introduces them to his nephew Soll, who is helping out. Dibbler is disappointed as the thousand elephants he ordered in fact amount to one camel. They start filming and Victor again blacks out. When he comes to Ginger is angry with him again for apparently sweeping her up too bodily, but Dibbler assures him his performance was magnificent. Once it is over Ginger and Victor go back to Gaspode and force him to tell them what he has noticed about them (he had previously been dropping cryptic hints). He tells them, and they are surprised at what they see. He tells them that Dibbler is especially affected, and when he comes Victor and Ginger look up at him, and see a tiny golden star in both is eyes.

 

In the distant continent of Klatch, an elephant herder called Azhural receives an order for one thousand beasts to be sent to Ankh-Morpork. He and his assistant M'Bu hatch a plan to deliver them...

The Bursar goes to the Library and finds all the documents written by Riktor, inventor of the pot. He believed that anything that existed had a finite size or amount, and therefore could be measured. Hence he invented hundreds of devices for measuring various strange things. As the pot begins to fire three pellets every five minutes, the Bursar finds its entry-it is a resograph, device for measuring disturbances in reality. He does not tell Ridcully.

Victor goes back to the animals and tells them about the book he found in Deccan's shack. In order to translate the earlier entries he needs to go to Ankh-Morpork and use the Library, but he cannot simply leave. Gaspode hatches a plan to get him a day off.

Next day Gaspode sits outside Dibbler's office and listens to Dibbler and Victor. Suddenly, another dog is led in. Named Laddie, it is sleek fit and incredibly photogenic-it could have been bred for moving pictures. Gaspode, by comparison, is a tiny terrier with every skin disease a dog can get. What he lacks in looks, though, he makes up for in brains; Laddie is practically retarded. Victor and Dibbler come out. Dibbler sees Laddie and sees the moving picture potential. All he can do about Gaspode is be polite. Luckily, he has said that he would pay for Ginger and Victor to go to Ankh-Morpork soon.

All the clicks being made now are being done on magnificent sets, to compensate for there being no sound. Even so, Victor's performance for the day is flaccid; Holy Wood is not working its magic today. Afterwards he and Gaspode go to watch Laddie's training. Laddie is given some cheap dog food, but Gaspode teaches him how to demand steak. Gaspode, as usual, gets his ten percent. Gaspode takes a look at the pictograms in the book, and notices a recurring symbol-a man behind a door.

In Bezam's theatre Shadow Of The Dessert has finished playing for the umpteenth time, again to a full house. Most of the shows have been watched by the Librarian, who has been getting more worried with each showing. Eventually the ape walks into the projection room, grabs the film, and bites a portion off it. Bezam watches in horror as the ape walks away with a segment of film. As he feverishly starts to repair the film, he wonders why the Librarian stole the scene he did; the film he took only shows a few rocks.

Gaspode and Victor walk on the beach, with Laddie bounding around them. Victor listens with half an ear as Gaspode moans about Laddie's stupidity, but then stops when Laddie finds Ginger, lying unconscious in the sand.

The Librarian goes into the depths of the Library and finds the book he is looking for- the Necrotelicomnicon. Next to the Octavo it is the most powerful grimoire, and is certainly the most dangerous; it is essentially a magical text detailing the Dungeon Dimensions, the realm between the universes populated by obscene horrors that will home in on any fault in reality to try to colonise a world. The book is said to be too dangerous for a human to read. Fortunately, the Librarian has not been human for many years.

Victor checks Ginger's unconscious body for sign of injury, but only finds her hands covered in sand and her nails worn down. He wonders why, but then notices that part of Holy Wood Hill has fallen away, revealing a door. It is obvious that Ginger has been scraping away at it, trying to get it open. Victor carries her away. Soon afterwards, the sun sets. The shadows lengthen and, on the door, reveal the shape of a man holding a sword-just like in the book.

The Librarian wrestles open the Necrotelicomnicon and finds the section on Holy Wood. Apparently, there was a fault in reality in some nameless city. The original inhabitants watched what came from it (what that is, is not said) but something else found the gate too-something so terrible the whole city was sunk under the sea. However, from the gate also came a golden man who pledged to guard it, as long as he was remembered. A quasi-religion was therefore set up to remember the guard-but now the guard sleeps and the fault has re-opened and the original force that came from it has been released. As each day goes by the fault in reality grows larger, and the Librarian knows that the Dungeon Dimensions will mount and attack through it if it is not stopped. The exact location of the city is unknown, but in the Necrotelicomnicon there is a picture of the guard. The Librarian looks at the piece of film he stole from Bezam: in a rock in the background is a faint carving of a man with a sword. It matches exactly the picture in the Necrotelicomnicon.

Azhural and M'Bu have collected over three hundred elephants. Confident they can acquire more on their journey, they set off for Ankh-Morpork.

Victor carries Ginger's unconscious body to her room, and is amazed to see every flat surface covered in posters of herself-she has saved every piece of paraphernalia about her at all, even the early posters where she was not even credited by name. That was her calling to Holy Wood-to be a star. Victor tries to think logically about why she would want to get into the Hill, but Gaspode simply assumes that she is in league with "dread powers". Once she is safely asleep Victor leaves. Gaspode and Laddie go off to try and procure some alcohol.

The glittering spirit of Holy Wood plants an idea in Dibbler's head...the greatest click ever...

Gaspode is relaxing in the streets in the pre-dawn light when Ginger walks past. It is instantly obvious that her body is not under control of her mind; she is lurching purposefully towards the Hill with a vacant look on her face. Gaspode chases after her. They near the Hill, and Gaspode sees the door has opened several inches. Suddenly he loses control of himself and imagines that he is a star of the clicks. He manages to regain control of himself and finally wakes up Ginger by pressing his nose against her leg. She snaps out of it, looks around, and heads back to her room.

The day breaks. Dibbler comes to Silverfish with is new click. It will be a twenty-reeler about the Ankh-Morpork civil war, in which a model of the whole city will be built and then burned down. Victor and Ginger are hired to star in it. Gaspode tries to tell Victor about Ginger, but he does not listen. Eventually Gaspode manages to get his attention, but he refuses to take him seriously.

Work progresses on the new click, with Soll and Dibbler arguing about the crass commercialism that Dibbler is trying to introduce. The model city is almost finished. Ginger comes to see Victor, suspicious that something is wrong; her nails are worn down and she is extremely tired. Victor tells her that she was found unconscious by the Hill. He uses his knowledge as a student wizard to surmise why; there is some force in Holy Wood, a kind of living idea that has planted the inspiration forr moving pictures in everybody's head. Wild ideas come from outside reality, in other dimensions; it is reasonable to assume there is a gateway somewhere in Holy Wood, probably under the Hill. It is probably using Ginger to try and open the gate further-and that means that the Dungeon Dimensions may attack. Victor's theory is well informed...and nearly right. Victor agrees to spend the night in her room to stop her if she becomes possessed again. That night, he sits in a chair and watches her sleep. Gaspode waits outside the door.

The Bursar reads through Riktor's notes as the resograph fires out seven pellets per minute. Riktor's notes state than in serious disturbances the resograph should expel around five pellets per month.

Victor wakes up tied to the chair. Gaspode chews the cords away and they run towards the hill. On the way, they ponder something strange-whatever possessed Ginger simply tied him up rather than killing him. Whatever it is perhaps not an evil force. They arrive at the hill and find the door completely open, so Victor makes a torch and goes in.

After some way, Victor's torch burns out. Stuck in complete darkness, Gaspode uses his sense of smell as a guide until there is suddenly an incredibly bright light, illuminating a huge amphitheatre. There are padded seats (the padding has long since dissolved), the decor was once expensive and gaudy (again they are melting into a mass of slime) and at one end of the room there is a shimmering screen, like a rectangle of mercury floating on its side. The place is a moving picture theatre, thousands of years old. Worse, the seats are still occupied by the skeletons of the original inhabitants of Holy Wood.

Behind the screen is a bronze disc hanging from chains, a huge statue of a man with a sword, and Ginger. She is still possessed, and Victor cannot understand what she is trying to do. Suddenly he steps back onto a button in the floor and loud noise sounds, like an organ. The machinery being so old and decayed the sound only lasts a couple of seconds before it cuts out, but this is long enough to wake Ginger and probably collapse most of the tunnel leading in. Ginger comes back to life. Gaspode and Laddie run up the tunnel to check and find that the tunnel has indeed collapsed. Gaspode and Laddie crawl out through the rubble to get help (Gaspode grumbling about the clich), leaving Victor and Ginger to wait and wonder how there can be a millennia-old moving picture pit in Holy Wood, when the alchemists only invented the clicks a few months ago.

The Bursar has finished reading Riktor's notes. The resograph is registering a colossal disturbance in reality, and that means trouble.

Laddie drops Gaspode in the middle of a crowd of trolls and looks at him expectantly. The trolls look at Laddie and assume there are lost children somewhere. They race off and leave Gaspode behind.

Rock arrives first at the Hill and Victor and Ginger are rescued.

 

Next morning Victor wakes up relieved that the events of the night before are over and looking forward to the trip to Ankh-Morpork that has been arranged for the day. He goes to the window and sees Holy Wood has vanished in a fog. Exploring, he runs into Soll Dibbler. He takes him to the coach where he meets Dibbler and Ginger. They set off for Ankh-Morpork for the premier of Dibbler's masterpiece, Blown Away. In Unseen University, the wizards also decide to go to the clicks, breaking the rule about not patronizing the arts.

The wizards clamber over the wall of the University, having to levitate over the wheelchair of one member. They place wire in their beards and over their ears to make it look like they are wearing false beards, and then head off to the moving picture theatre.

The Bursar, having previously been knocked out by the discharging resograph, runs to the Arch chancellor and tells him about the imminent disaster. They go to fetch the rest of the wizards, and discover that they have gone.

The coach arrives, and Victor and Ginger discover to their horror that they have become superstars. The delirious crowd swoon and scream as they walk past and into the theatre. Victor notices that Bezam has gone critical with velvet drapes and gold leaf. The others marvel at the decor, but Victor thinks back to what the theatre in Holy Wood looked like...once.

Ridcully finally looks up Holy Wood and what the alchemists have been doing. Assuming that they have been doing magic, he makes off to put an end to things. He reaches for his magic mirror to see where his wizards are.

His wizards are piling into the toilets in the theatre; having discovered they only have the money for two of them, the others are sneaking in round the back. In spite of their noise and ungracefulness, they all manage to gain entry.

As Bezam makes the film ready to play, Dibbler explains to the Patrician how clickies work. Victor and Ginger are sitting in the VIP box with them, looking extremely worried. The film starts to play...

Out in the city, Gaspode and Laddie are enjoying a free meal when the sky begins to flicker and the air crackles. It is beginning.

The audience have gone rigid. They stare at the screen and cannot be woken. The air crackles. Gaspode and Laddie enter and manage to rouse Victor by biting him, and he looks around at the shimmering room. Victor realises what is happening; the people do not understand that clickies are fictional. They believe what they see is really real, and the power of their belief (a powerful force on the Discworld) is opening the fault in reality further. Now this latest click has finally pushed the fault open far enough for the Dungeon Dimensions to attack. He runs up to the projection room-where the projector is operating by itself-and destroys the film. He looks out the small hatch expecting to see the audience waking up, but instead sees the screen begin to shimmer like the one in Holy Wood. Large images of him and Ginger are still visible and as he watches in horror the image of Ginger walks towards the screen and climbs out. Instantly the audience awakes and runs outside. The Thing in the form of Ginger crashes out after them. Victor knows that the Things have no ability to survive in the world without vast amounts of magic; they are not natural creatures. While magic makes them strong they are physically very weak, so in theory it should not be too hard to stop it. He has to stop it from reaching Unseen University, or it will absorb the magic there and become much more powerful. Before he can set off, another Thing-this time in the form of Victor-climbs out of the screen. However, the Ginger-Thing wrecked the theatre and the Victor-Thing gets stuck. Victor rushes to the projection room and grabs the highly flammable coils of film, drapes them over the Victor-Thing and runs out to get a torch. Gaspode offers to light the fire, being smaller and faster than Victor. Reluctantly he agrees, and runs outside as the theatre explodes, killing the Victor-Thing.

The Ginger-Thing is still alive. It looks like Ginger, but it is thirty feet tall and flickers. Victor realises that until it can get to Unseen University it has to use the power of Holy Wood to survive. As such it is bound by the rules of Holy Wood-it cannot hear, touch, smell or taste. It can only see and what it sees it believes to be real. Victor uses his training as a wizard to make a horse appear. In normal circumstances to make a living animal out of magic is impossible but Victor is using Holy Wood magic-there is only the illusion, but as there is nothing else but that the illusion is real. He gallops after the Ginger-Thing. To keep the magic going the staff of Holy Wood has to chase after him filming with the cameras.

The Ginger-Thing reaches Unseen University and starts to climb the Tower of Art, capturing the Librarian as it does so. The crowd watch as the thirty-foot woman carries a screaming ape up a tower-with Ridcully and the Bursar orbiting on a broomstick and shooting at it with a crossbow. The Ginger-Thing starts to lose its cohesion under the attack and begins to revert back to its natural state: a bizarre creature made of mostly tentacles and suckers. Victor uses the power to strike the creature with illusory lightning. While the creature is using Holy Wood magic the lighting is real to it and it is hurt. It falls from the tower and is killed instantly.

As the crowd watch the dead Thing dissolve into a yellow slime, the Librarian takes the book to Victor and shows him how to read the pictograms-right to left, instead of left to right. The man stands behind the door-a guard. Ginger was possessed by a benevolent force, desperately trying to wake the guard up. He realises that the Things will be breaking through back in Holy Wood as well, so he and Ginger use more Holy Wood magic to make a chariot and they speed off across the plains. On the way he explains that everyone who felt the calling to Holy Wood is a descendant of the original inhabitants of the land-Ginger probably a descendant of the old priestesses. The need to remember Holy Wood is a race memory passed down through the generations.

They arrive in Holy Wood. It too is being taken over-there is now no sound there, so Victor and Ginger have to communicate by mouthing words and writing on walls. They find Detritus has been left holding the tunnel roof up; they prop it up with rocks and Detritus follows them down to the theatre. There they find the inhabitants of Holy Wood staring mesmerised by the screen. They cannot be roused. Ginger and Victor argue by writing on the wall with chalk, but the chalk snaps. Significantly, they hear it ping off something. They look round at the copper disc hanging from the chains and realise that it is a gong, used for waking the guard. Detritus uses his massive strength to sound it; the giant guard rises. The audience awake and flee. The guard tells them to leave, and they do. As they emerge, they see the image of the giant golden figure raising his sword...

As the fault closes, the Holy Wood magic dissipates. The industry ruined, Dibbler goes back to selling sausages on the streets of Ankh-Morpork. The city guard watch in disbelief as MB'u arrives at the gates, with a thousand elephants in tow and asking for Dibbler.

Meanwhile, in Holy Wood, there is again nothing but sand dunes, wind, and the occasional broken camera.


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