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THE SEVEN-SHOT SIX-SHOOTER
In
MEN AT ARMS

A small mystery from the files of
CSI* Ankh-Morpork
SCRVTATIO PLVS DILIGENS
(We Look Harder)

(*Not a Watch department: the Copyedit Slip-up Inspectors work for The Times)

Page numbers from first-edition 1993 Gollancz hardback.


I completely forgot to mention this to anyone during the recent UK Discworld Convention, but it's perhaps the geekiest thing I've ever done. I checked the annotations at AFP just before clicking "Post" and there's no reference to any of what follows. The Gonne's six-shot capacity is mentioned so often that the error described here is an itch I want to scratch.

(If you're interested, there was a real firearm that worked this way, called a "harmonica gun." I showed pictures to Terry at last year's Irish DWCon and he confirmed that this was indeed what he had in mind. Impressively, Josh Kirby did the back-cover illustration - compare it to the real thing - just from text description.)

[p.60] Hammerhock, the soon-to-be-late dwarf weaponsmith, remarks on the six chambers of the thing he's inspecting.

[p.116] Vimes stared at his reflection – something (1) stung his ear and smashed the glass...There was another tinkle and a half bottle of Bearhugger's exploded (2) on the desk...He hit the floor at the same time as a pock coincided with a hole (3) punched through the wall on one side of the window.

[p.117] Pock. Splinters flew up from a point on the floor (4) where it would undoubtedly have severely inconvenienced anyone lying on the boards cautiously raising a decoy helmet on a stick...Something smashed (5) into the doorframe as the door swung to behind him.

[p.122] Vimes finds a metallic object discarded on the roof of the opera house, from which the five described shots at him have been fired.

[p.126] Carrot finds that Lettice Knibbs has been shot from the same place. Though it was probably the first shot fired, I'm counting this as shot (6) to justify the empty clip (or is it a magazine?) found by Vimes.

[p.133] Vimes examines the object: It looked like a short set of Pan pipes, provided Pan was restricted to six notes, all of them the same.

[p.135] Vimes reiterates his thoughts about the six-shot nature of the weapon and recalls how the shooter got off six shots, even though only five were aimed and described as being at him. (He's obviously counting the one that killed Lettice Knibbs.)

[p.138] The distant figure raised what looked like a stick, holding it like a crossbow. And fired. The first shot (1) zinged off Cuddy's helmet... Detritus blinked. Five more shots, (2, 3, 4, 5, 6) one after the other, punctured his breastplate.

[p.251] Lord Vetinari stood up as he saw the Watch running towards him. That was why the first shot (1) went through his thigh, instead of his chest. Then Carrot cleared the door of the carriage and flung himself across the man, which is why the next shot (2) went through Carrot...A third shot (3) knocked a chip out of Detritus, who slammed into the carriage, knocking it on its side and severing the traces...Vimes slid to a halt behind the overturned carriage. Another shot (4) spanged off the cobbles near his arm.

[p.252] A shot (5) hit the carriage wheel above Vimes' head, making it spin... "We wait for one more shot," (Vimes) said. "And then we run for proper cover." Vimes visualises the gonne, once more emphasising its six-shot nature and wondering how fast it can reload.

[p.258] (Colon) didn't even look around, which saved his life. His dive for the floor and the explosion (6) of the gonne behind him happened at exactly the same time. This is the sixth shot, and from Vimes' subsequent actions, he heard it clearly.

There isn't another shot at Colon (because the gonne is empty) and instead Cruces hits him before his escape. But he has clearly reloaded by the time Vimes catches up with him.

[p.264] "Captain Vimes? One thing a good Assassin learns is—" There was a thunderous explosion, (1) and the lamp disintegrated. "—never stand near the light." Vimes hit the floor and rolled. Another shot (2) hit a foot away, and he felt the splash of cold water.

[p.266] The gun jerked and fired (3?) at the same moment as Carrot leapt sideways...The gonne fired four times. (3?, 4, 5, 6) It didn’t miss once. She hit the man heavily, knocking him backwards. Vimes rose in an explosion of spray. "Six shots! That's six shots, you bastard! I’ve got you now!"

(This is one of possibly two very distant references to the first James Bond film, Dr. No. A Bad Guy empties his revolver into a sheet-covered fake Bond. Real Bond then confronts him and orders him to drop the gun, which he does. Bond then seems to allow the Bad Guy (who thinks he's being subtle) to pick up the gun again, but this time he gets nothing but a click. Whereupon Bond says, "That's a Smith & Wesson, and you've had your six," and shoots the Bad Guy. In fact he shoots him twice (though I've seen one TV showing where this is cut) and the second shot is a coldly deliberate 'execution' shot. This made it memorable, because examples of screen Bond being as nasty as his book counterpart are rare (deliberately not saving Bad Guys from the consequences of their own Badness doesn’t count) and I can think of only two: "I never miss" in The World is Not Enough and "Yes, considerably," in the reboot Casino Royale.)

I'm taking shot (3?) apparently at Carrot to also be the first of the four shots at Angua, making Vimes' total a correct one. He pursues Cruces and catches up as

[p.268] Cruces was lying a few feet away, fighting for breath and hammering another rack of pipes into the gonne. Vimes grapples with him and

Now we’ll start to count:

[p.268] The gonne exploded. (1)There was a tongue of red fire, a firework stink and a zing-zing noise from three walls. Something struck Vimes' helmet and zinged away towards the ceiling.

After which, Vimes has possession of the gonne...

[p.269] (Vimes) swore afterwards that he didn't pull the trigger. It moved of its own accord, pulling his finger with it. The gonne slammed into his shoulder (2) and a six-inch hole appeared in the wall by the Assassin's head, spraying him with plaster...He brought the gonne around, not aware of thinking, and let the trigger pull his finger again. (3) A large area of the door and frame became a splinter-bordered hole...Vimes managed to haul the barrel upwards just as it fired, (4) and the shot took away a lot of ceiling...Doors were opening. Doors closed again after the gonne fired again, (5) smashing a chandelier...Vimes shot the lock off, (6) kicked at the door and then fought the gonne long enough to duck.

Note that Vimes doesn't reload and, unlike Cruces after [p.264] he isn't 'off-camera' with an opportunity to do so at any time during the rest of the scene.

[p.272] Vimes drops the gonne. Fourteen lines later, Cruces picks it up. There's still no mention of reloading, but then Carrot runs Cruces through with his sword—

[p.273] And he died. The gonne fell from his hands, and fired at the floor. There was silence. (That makes 7)

Did I miscount somewhere along the line? I don't think so, but if I did – or if indeed this was an error since corrected, let me know!

One other question, and that possible second Dr. No reference: did Carrot hear and count those six shots, then – fully justified by Angua’s death – perform a Bond-style execution on another man with an empty gonne? Which then suggests, was the last shot and consequent miscount added at an editor's request, to prevent Carrot sullying his Nice reputation? (But remember that Good is not the same as Nice, and Personal is not the same as Important.)

There's only one person who can answer that, and I'm not asking, because he's got a sword too!

Date: 2010-09-19 01:10 am (UTC)
sabremeister: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sabremeister
I've noticed that error, too, almost every time I read the book. The last time I did so must have been about five years ago...

And I am also surprised that it's not mentioned anywhere in the APF.

Date: 2010-09-19 09:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] petermorwood.livejournal.com
Next time I'm in a bookshop, I'll take a look at the current imprint; no need to leaf through the whole last section, all I need to see is "...and fired at the floor."

If it's there, I'll email Colin Smythe and point it out to him (maybe direct him to this LJ, which sets it out pretty clearly.) Even after 17 years, errata are still errata. He may even be able or willing to cast some light on why it happened and/or why it hasn't yet been fixed.

After all, until I phoned Terry from Switzerland with the copy I'd just bought open in front of me, he didn't know about the notorious Maggi Soup ad in Pyramiden.

The reason? Heyne also published the German-edition Star Trek novels, and Die Romulaner ("The Romulan Way") had the same-style "part of the plot" ad. We didn't know if Paramount or Pocket Books had agreed to this and didn't know who to ask, but when we found the Discworld version we knew Terry could tell us if it had been done with permission or not.

As it turned out, Not. Definitely Not.

Date: 2010-09-19 01:15 am (UTC)
ailbhe: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ailbhe
I always took that to be the Gonne's shot, not requiring human intervention of any kind.

Date: 2010-09-19 01:15 am (UTC)
ailbhe: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ailbhe
Or dwarf, or anyone else, of course.

Date: 2010-09-19 01:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] irishkate.livejournal.com
Ditto - a kind of ghost shot...

Date: 2010-09-19 09:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] petermorwood.livejournal.com
That's an interesting thought; however to my mind, if intentional it would have been set up or at least hinted at somewhere in the preceding pages. Instead of which, the constant emphasis was that it had only six shots available, despite a couple of places where a "ghost shot" would have come in very handy.

If an established limit is suddenly stretched, that stretch needs justified. My own view is that either it was a genuine mistake, or that theory about an editorial addition to preserve a character's "good name."

Date: 2010-09-19 06:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ffutures.livejournal.com
I hadn't noticed, but given the way in which the Gonne warps reality I'm not even very surprised.

Date: 2010-09-19 07:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] barberio.livejournal.com
I assumed it to be deliberate.

Date: 2010-09-19 10:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] petermorwood.livejournal.com
What got me was that repetition of six: chambers, pipes, shots etc., with NO hint anywhere that the gonne might, in extremis, be capable of one more shot despite being out of ammunition.

Date: 2010-09-19 10:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] barberio.livejournal.com
But the gonne by that point had become an abstract near-magical killing thing rather than it's component engineering.

Date: 2010-09-19 10:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] petermorwood.livejournal.com
Yet any ability to fire more than six times was never suggested anywhere. I'd have expected proof of that, or at least an implication that in the right hands and the right circumstances it was capable of doing something besides getting into someone's head and making them use it. Vimes, of course, was the wrong head for this.

But only just. Remember how he shot Prince Cadram at the end of Jingo? Only Vetinari grabbing the bolt prevented that from being a real shooting, Cadram knew it -

And the look on the Prince's face, (Vimes) knew, would keep him warm on cold nights...

The warping of Vimes' inner policeman (Shoot them all. Clean up the world...) is something we see again in, among others, The Fifth Elephant and Thud, where it's called "The Beast." In most cases he can control it, as with the gonne's blandishments (good word, I don't get many chances to use it.)

But when he goes off pop, don't be in the way, and you'd better hope that either he calms down or has someone handy to calm (or hold) him down. It was lucky for Cruces that Carrot was there.

Lucky for, oh, about one page.

Date: 2010-09-20 09:59 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] barberio.livejournal.com
I think it fits with the 'narativium' kind of reality shaping that occurs in the setting tho. Counting the shots is a stylistic trope of gun-play stories... Just as much for it not working out correctly as when it does. "Even if you were right, that would be one plus one plus two plus one, not one plus *two* plus one plus one."

A new perspective.

Date: 2010-09-19 11:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jaxomsride.livejournal.com
The gonne fired, but was there a shot? There was a silence in other words the chambers were empty.
More artistic than a simple "click" perhaps.

Re: A new perspective.

Date: 2010-09-19 11:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] petermorwood.livejournal.com
I read it as a live shot, since There was silence is a new line, separate from the preceding action. In addition, if there had been no shot, just silence, then I think Terry would have given Vimes something to say about it, because he's just witnessed a murder.

Here's one short response, slanted several different ways by changing the punctuation and chucking in some italics.

"You knew it was empty?"
"You knew it was empty!"
"You knew it was empty!"
"You knew it was empty..."
"You knew it was empty..."

And a reply like "I wasn't sure, captain. Were you?" would be just the sort of simple-on-the-surface thing Carrot would say.

Until you think about it. Remember "Throw the book at him, Carrot!" Dwarfs have trouble with metaphors. Usefully so.

CSI Ankh-Morpork

Date: 2010-09-20 07:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] keristor.livejournal.com
I want to watch that series! (Yes, I know it's not *that* CSI but it would be an awesome series...)

Re: CSI Ankh-Morpork

Date: 2010-09-21 07:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] radlein.livejournal.com
Yes, but what Who song would they use for the opening credits? "Boris the Spider"? "Armenia City in the Sky"?

Date: 2010-09-22 05:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] owlmirror36.livejournal.com
Digging into the ancient midden that is Google Groups, I see that the mysterious seventh shot was brought up multiple times.

http://groups.google.com/group/alt.books.pratchett/browse_thread/thread/5f8f23de04174896/11bd61f529688909

http://groups.google.com/group/alt.fan.pratchett/msg/2b4e086fdcbc3d76

(etc)

I have a memory of this showing up in the APF, but it clearly is not in the current versions... when was it removed, I wonder? Or am I confabulating a false memory?

Date: 2010-09-22 06:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] petermorwood.livejournal.com
Thanks for those links; it's reassuring to see that other shot-by-shot breakdowns give the same result.

I have no memory of ever seeing this in any annotation file, so leaving aside various second-guesses after the event about different clip-capacity etc., it was either a Mistake (in a convoluted scene like this, easy to do) or is perhaps my equally second-guess theory of an unauthorised editorial insertion to ensure that Carrot wasn't stabbing an unarmed man.

Date: 2010-09-23 07:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] owlmirror36.livejournal.com
Well, the memory must have been false. I just spent far too much time digging into my own archives of the APF, and Usenet/Google Groups archives, and archive.org snapshots of the APF, and I cannot find the seventh shot referenced in any of them. Men at Arms was first announced in APF v6.0, and there are the first set of sketchy annotations in APF v.7.0. v7a did have an expansion of the MAA annotations, but not the one under discussion.

Oh, well.

As for the reason for the seventh shot... well, it might have been, as you say, that PTerry just lost track of the shots, or someone did not want to have an unarmed man killed. Although I don't think it could have been that last, because the Gonne itself was still prompting Vimes to shoot. Would it not know that it was empty?

But it might have been an homage to various other films/stories where the director/writer loses track of the number of shots.

And another thought did occur to me: Would it be possible to design a gun where the central spindle of a six-shooter as described is itself a chamber for a seventh bullet; one that would be designed to be fired only when the main chamber is empty?

Or -- and this is really reaching -- one or more of the shots fired to no effect was an hallucination.

OK, I guess that's it.

Date: 2010-09-23 08:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] petermorwood.livejournal.com
Well, I sent Colin a link to this LJ post and he's going to pass it on to Terry when The Man is less busy: I Shall Wear Midnight came out a couple of weeks ago and he's working on Snuff, so being distracted by something from 17 years ago isn't top of the list. :-)

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