In the halcyon days, the simpler times, of 2006, my friends bet me that I couldn’t watch a full season of a certain show in a week. That seems laughably easy now, but this was a year before Netflix offered internet streaming–watching or downloading shows online was still a hassle (and usually unlawful), and binge-watching was not the standard viewing practice it is today. But my friends really liked this show, and they wanted me to start watching it with them, so I gave it a go.
The show was LOST. I finished the first season in 3 days.
Man oh man, did I love LOST. My friends and I would go to the university’s science building and watch episodes together on a big projector in an empty classroom. I made my parents watch it, and my dad and I bonded over exchanging details and theories. When I was at school, I would call him up after each new episode, and we would compare reactions and speculate together.
It seems like a long time ago now, and I suppose it was. The series finale of LOST–for which I baked strawberry flavored fish biscuit-shaped cookies–was in 2010. Still, it was a big part of my life while I was in college, and I still judge how shows engage me with LOST as the standard. Of the many ideas and mysteries presented over the series, there is one that I feel particularly appropriate for the discussion at hand.
I don’t remember where I heard this–it might have been a TED talk with J.J. Abrams, or it might have been from the official LOST podcast (did I mention that I love LOST?), but the idea was that in writing the show, the Island was considered its own character. In the same way that the cast-aways had their own pre-Island stories that were revealed throughout the show, the Island wasn’t just a setting–it had its own history and motivation and presence within the ensemble cast.
That idea, of place as character, is something that has stuck with me. And that brings us, at last, to Fourecks.
More so than any of the Rincewind books we have discussed so far, I feel that Fourecks is built into the story as a character as well as a new place to be.
Rincewind’s main role in life is to be the unlikeliest of heroes, a plaything of the gods and of destiny, to keep the Disc moving as it should. In The Last Continent, he plays the same role, but this time the land itself is shaping him to its purpose.
You’ll notice that there is no real antagonist in he Last Continent. The central problem around which the plot revolves is the restoration of Fourecks as represented by the return of the rain. And ultimately, Fourecks is the one that makes it happen.
Even before Scrappy is introduced, we learn that Rincewind has been surviving in the outback of Fourecks since the events of Interesting Times, despite being unable to communicate with the native Fourecksians and possessing of no outdoorsmanly skills. He has literally been feeding himself with pub food that appears under the rocks themselves. In a fictional land based off of the continent everyone agrees wants you dead, Fourecks is going quite out of its way to keep Rincewind alive and fleeing.
This theme runs parallel to the other half of The Last Continent, where the other wizards are mucking about on Evolution Island. In that subplot, the flora and fauna of the island grow into whatever the wizards need, from cigars to handkerchiefs to a seaworthy vessel. The island evolves to be useful to its new inhabitants. It is motivated to become what the wizards want and need.
Fourecks works through the medium of humans and their myths to turn Rincewind into a Fourecksian folk hero who is able to undo the damage inadvertently done by his fellow wizards. But in contrast to Evolution Island, Fourecks has this clear motivation: to be as it should be.
That motivation rings true for me. No matter how much you anthropomorphize a natural place, it will always know what it is. Mountains don’t worry about if they’re mountainy enough. The land is the land is the land.
So remember–if you land on a mysterious island, it’s only a mystery to you.