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What Is Truth Asked Jesting Pratchett...
The Truth
Terry Pratchett
...and stayed and gave several answers.

Movable type comes to Ankh-Morpork, and all of the cliches and tropes of the "crusading reporter" and "cynical Administration vs. the Press" story and film play themselves out with typical confusing Discworld speed before the reader's slightly bemused and somewhat bewildered gaze.

William de Worde, scapegrace younger son of a noble family, is making part of his living as a public writer-down of things for people who are a bit lacking in penmanship, but most of it comes from the fact that various nobles in various parts of the Discworld REALLY want to know what's going on in Ankh-Morpork and pay him well to write them monthly letters of such. He has already tumbled to the fact that he can get an engraver to make him a plate with all the info and spaces to fill in each client's name, thus collecting several fees for, essentially, one job.

And then
someone* yells "Stop the press..."

That is, the cart that has Ankh-Morpork's first moveable-type printing press gets away on a hilly street on a cold ciy/foggy night.

William is struck by the idea -- struck so hard that he's unconscious for some time.

And soon he's involved with the dwarfs who own the press, and instead of a monthly letter to four or five clients for a large price each, he is printing a daily newsletter -- well, newsPAPER -- that sells lots of copies for a small amount.

And here's where the real trouble and the questions as to Just What Is Truth begin.

The wizards are afraid that moveable type, if used to print something magickal, may REMEMBER and pass some of the magick on to other things printed later.

Various Prominent Citizens are rather upset by William's manner of writing things down with intent. Intent to publish, that is.

The Watch are upset partly over the same things as the PromCits, and partly that the paper will stir up trouble.

The Patrician is upset about ALL of those things and at the thought of how FAST things develop in the Big Wahoonie -- he drops by the offices and inquires if the offices are located over any known rifts in reality or spacetime and whether Mr. Cut Me Own Throat Dibbler has anything to do with the enterprise.

Dibbler, meanwhile, always quick to move with the times (or is that "the Times"), is inventing the mendacious handbill.

And the phrase "If it weren't true, they wouldn't let them print it, right?" enters the Ankh-Morpork lexicon.

Add in a sub-rosa "Committee to De-Select the Patrician", using a zombie lawyer to employ a pair of out-of-town all-round Very Bad Men to carry out an obscure (though not really all THAT hard to guess) criminal venture, the Engraver's Guild's upset over the concept of moveable type and its attempts to put the paper out of business, a rival paper (the "Inquirer") that sells for less and specialises in stories of the "Woman in Lancre Gives Birth to Cobra" variety and, last but hardly least, the arrest of the Patrician for attempting to murder his own Secretary and abscond with a major part of the City Treasury, and it's "Welcome to Ankh-Morpork, We Hope You Enjoy Your Stay" for readers.

This book has a fair amount of new cast, though the primary members of the Guards appear here and there, CMOT Dibbler sells sausages and has other ideas, the Patrician is more visible (and developed/developing) than he's been in a while. Gaspode the Wonder Dog becomes important when it's realised that the only witness to the Patrician's apparent attack on his Secretary is an elderly terrier, and Gaspode has attached himself to Foul Ole Ron and his friends. Fans of Granny, Nannie, Magrat and Agnes will be disappointed by a complete state of witchlessness, and the wizards from Unseen University have only what amounts to a cameo
appearance**... and Death is allowed only two short but Important appearances.

Here and there are to be seen bits of the inimitable Pratchettian Skewed Vision -- Commander Vimes walks into the paper's office and threatens William with his truncheon and William counter-threatens by pulling a notebook out of HIS pocket. The most vicious and irredeemable thug-for-hire in the entire world is also its greatest, most sensitive and most knowledgeable art expert.

As to What Is Truth? -- if it's in the paper, it must be true.

But it only has to be true 'til tomorrow...

NOTES: *That "somone" would be dwarf Gunilly Goodmountain, owner of Ankh-Morpork's first moveable-type press, or perhaps Caslong or Boddony, his assistants and yes, their names ARE off type cases... {back}

**Fans of the Bursar, however, will be pleased to know that the rest of the Faculty have finally gotten his doseage of dried frog pills right; he now spends most of his days hallucinating that he is a perfectly sane man...*** {back}

***Well, a perfectly sane man who can fly. In the average person, not so important. However, given that he's a wizard... But they've mostly convinced him not to soar above the campus walls.