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Creator / A.A. Pessimal

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Been there. Done that. And now writing about it.

A prolific creator of Fan Fiction, mainly but not exclusively set in an Expanded Universe which seeks to add more detail to Sir Terry Pratchett's Discworld. Other universes and creations which have received the Pessimal treatment include Good Omens, Dad's Army, Father Ted, Scandinavia and the World, Frasier, Daria, The Big Bang Theory and Viz.

The creator is believed to be functionally illiterate in several world languages, including English, and in his early fifties lives in current semi-retirement somewhere in the North of England. He has been a university student (twice) with dispiriting and indifferent results. He has served in the British Army — he notes in a way that combined the better qualities of George MacDonald Fraser's McAuslan, Terry Pratchett's Corporal Nobbs, and other outstanding uniformed icons. This may have included guided tours of Stroke Country and the beauty spots of Northern Ireland, experiences that informed his later writings. As this is mandatory for authors looking for something interesting to put on the About The Author page, he has also, in no particular order of importance, been a professional cook/chef, kitchen porter, dishwasher, storeman, bank employee, dustbinman, carpetlayer, roofer/tiler, salesman, manager of old people's home, barman, funeral director's general factotum, and male stripper. note 

He took to fanfic like a swamp dragon takes to shoe polish, and cannot be stopped, despite attempts by a despairing wife to drag him from the keyboard. He is also the sort of unreformable geek who still builds Airfix models for pleasure and recreation, and his strawberry plantation in the back garden has had an exceptionally good summer. Despite cats.

The author has recently spent time in a typical British hospital, albeit one which has been at the centre of several major investigations concerning the possibility that patients were being murdered by staff. He now believes no actual murders ever happened and the deaths were the result of good old fashioned British management practices combined with administrative screw-ups. He got out alive, anyway, and may incorporate his experiences into future stories.

Fanfics with their own pages:

The works of Pessimal may be found on Fanfiction Dot Net.

Tropes exploited and done to death by this author include:

  • Accent Interest: South Africa appears in its Discworld alternate of "Rimwards Howondaland". Sam Vimes accepts that a people living so close to the Rimfall at the edge of the world are going to be a little bit strange, and notes they succeeded in winning a bitter and protracted War of Independence against Ankh-Morpork, so they're entitled to be a bit bloody-minded. Even so, he is fascinated by the way they talk. Vowel shifts occur a lot in their language and he wonders why they seem so keen to eliminate the perfectly inoffensive vowel "a" from their spoken Morporkian. As well as the guttural "g's" and "k's" that make their native language — and spoken Morporkian — sound like the product of a bad throat. Not to mention rhoticity. Elsewhere, wizard Ponder Stibbons is fascinated by his Rimwards Howondalandian girlfriend's spoken Morporkian, which makes her sound as if she's chewing bricks and spitting gravel. He does note that she's also very attractive. And interested in him.
  • Action Mom: Hyperemesis Gravidarum explores the implications of professional Assassins getting pregnant. As the Guild hasn't officially been recruiting women for all that long, this is the first time this has happened, and everybody involved needs to learn fast.
  • All Dogs Are Purebred: It is assumed that dog breeds evolved on the Disc in much the same circumstances and to meet much the same needs there as on Earth. Therefore they will look pretty similar on both worlds. The Rhodesian Ridgebacks owned by Johanna are typical of the breed — but faulty research got the colours wrong, so that they'd be disbarred from Crufts or the AKC as not quite pure-breed.
  • All There in the Manual: Mainly. The author prides himself on sticking as closely to canon as possible and incorporates a lot of stuff from the wider Discworld franchise which is not to be found in the novels but which is regarded as canonical. This includes information from the yearbooks, the city map and guidebook, the Discworld Atlas, and other Pratchett writings outside the canonical novels. Readers are usually informed about completely new OCs (surprisingly few) and many of the characters he has expanded are actually there in canon, albeit as placeholders, one-line cameos and names/job descriptions. Leaps of imagination such as Discworld's "South Africa" and "North America" are presented with an advisory that these are — perhaps — South Africa and Quebec as Pratchett may have eventually envisaged them.
  • Alliterative Family: Andreas Smith-Rhodes and his wife Agnetha Smith-Rhodes.
  • Attention Deficit Creator Disorder: At least five stalled tales, which he faithfully promises he will get round to. One day.
  • Author Avatar: Lieut. Philip Holtack in Slipping Between Worlds.
  • Badass Family: Johanna Smith-Rhodes began as a standalone character, an attitudinal and pugnacious "South African", or nearest thing to, who has to find her feet in a perilous new place very quickly. As the stories progress, other family members are introduced. Her cousin Julian Smith-Rhodes is well-educated, urbane and witty, from the upmarket end of the family. And a veteran of, at the last count, three desperate firefights. Her younger sister Mariella is a student at the Assassins' School, who thought she would be a good investment. After she nearly kills an adult man trying to kill her, the Guild was not wrong. Johanna's parents are introduced in Hyperemesis Gravidarum. They are a marriage of Mama Bear (or perhaps Mama Rattel) and Papa Wolf. When johanna becomes a mother of daughters, the Guild takes a interest.note  A niece, also almost called Johanna Smith-Rhodesnote , has been offered an Assassin scholarship. Unseen. The name is enough. And behind everything is Uncle Charles Smith-Rhodes, the undisputed and respected head of the Family.
  • Bilingual Bonus: All over the place. It's asking a lot of an author with a linguistics degree not to insert his polyglot tendencies and his delights in the quirkiness of spoken language. Most recently he's been having a lot of fun with French-Canadian swearing, and the way the various languages in the Frisian continuum note  sound to each other.
  • Black Gal on White Guy Drama: Julian Smith-Rhodes' necessarily discreet romance with Ruth N'Kweze. This is something neither of their countries would be wholly crazy about should it become common knowledge.
  • Cast Full of Gay: It only appears this way. Two Assassins, a female circus performer and a Thief are out-lesbian. And André, the undercover policeman who excitedly gets involved with musical theatre at the end of Maskerade... well, what do you expect? While André is Straight Gay, other one-off characters take the stereotypes up to eleven, if only to rehash Julian and Sandy jokes from Round the Horne.
  • Court Jester: Alison Grose is one of the first women to graduate from the Fools' Guild. Forced by the machinations of Lord Vetinari to take a complement of female students, the Guild is at a loss as to what to do with them after they graduate. It is at pains to point out that while they have been forced by circumstances to liberalise, they are not that liberal. Alison, aware she is not especially wanted in Ankh-Morpork, gladly accepts an offer from King Verence of Lancre to become his Court Jester. Verence, a much-respected Guild graduate and a King, believes a female jester can't be any worse and may indeed be refreshingly different. The Fools' Guild, therefore, has to accept that like it or not, there is now a fully accredited Lady Jester out there. Alison takes full advantage of exile to a remote backwater Kingdom to begin to develop the skills of Clown, Jester and Troubador in excitingly new and novel ways - knowing the only other Guild member for several hundred miles around to notice this is Verence, and he is not likely to complain.
  • The Catchphrase Catches On: Pessimal wondered about Lancre witches post-Granny Weatherwax after her death (and the death of Terry Pratchett). How would she be remembered? All witches now reverently intone the blessing mayhersoulhavemercyonthegods when her name is mentioned. This convention has so far only appeared in one tale. Looking around the Internet in late 2019, this is spreading and has popped up on quite a few forums and websites when Granny (mayhersoulhavemercyonthegods) is invoked. It's popping up in some surprising places, in fact.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Miss Alice Band, frequently, when calling out Assassin colleagues on rare examples of cross-fingered wishful thinking.
  • Everything Sounds Sexier in French: Madame Deux-Epées.
  • Expy: After several years of nagging from colleague, friend, and avowed Marvel geek Nimbus Llewelyn, on the basis that since a) the Assassins Guild canonically has a Black Widow house, b) the Watch canonically has a witch/air policewoman of aristocratic pseudo-Russian extraction called Olga Romanoff, c) and Pessimal has a well-known taste for stroppy redheads, there is a very clear opening, the inevitable happened, and the Pessimal Assassins Guild now has a Natasha Romanoff a.k.a. 'Natasha the Terrible' on its books.
  • Fairy Tale: as with Terry Pratchett, the universal notion of the fairy story comes up for re-evaluation. The Baba Yaga exists as part of "Russian" witchcraft, and this is not so much a specific person as a job description. Her flying mortar and pestle eventually ends up in one of the hangars of the Ankh-Morporkian Air Watch, as yet another flying vehicle to add to the squadron strength. Meanwhile, some fables such as that of the Three Little Piggies and the Big Bad Wolf are hazy folk-memories of a long-ago war between werewolves and were-boars.
  • Fan-Created Offspring: Canon character Ponder Stibbons gets three daughters with Miss Smith-Rhodes, a one-off character in canon. The girls are a Witch, a student Assassin, and a creative mind.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Pessimal is good at this. As parts of the Discworld already have an, er, Australian and a New Zealand-like ambiance, he added a "South Africa"-like country based on several sly hints Pratchett dropped in canon. Canada, Eh? has been added, in the form of "Aceria". The country of Hergen, which exists in name only, has been made into a Discworld referent to Ireland, with all this implies mainly due to its geographical proximity to Llamedos. note 
  • Father's Quest: Discworld-set fic Strandpiel, sees Wizard Ponder Stibbons, older, married, and a father of daughters, realising his oldest daughter has inherited his awareness of Magic and is becoming a Witch. When he finds her vanished from the house one night, he realises she has come to the notice of the Dungeon Dimensions, who are trying to break her will and turn her into an agent in the living world. Ponder takes a deep breath and follows, determined to get her out of there. note  A few years later, he then has to do it all over again on behalf of his youngest daughter.
  • Female Rockers Play Bass: One fic sees young witch Rebecka Smith-Rhodes drawn to music. Her first instructor, wanting a partner and supporting musician for her Minstrel act, teaches Bekki to pick out simple repetitive themes on the lower bass strings of guitars and mandolins, which she can then build her lead instrumentation around. After returning to Ankh-Morpork, her this-man-is-not-my-boyfriend-OK?, a musician, shows her how to do the same on an upright bass. Finally her musician and inventive-genius little sister devises the first true bass guitar on the Disc. And gives it to Bekki. Who realises. In the band of Life, she is fated to be the bass player.
  • Fictional Age of Majority: The Discworld of A.A. Pessimal has Ankh-Morpork follow British custom and law, as a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Great Britain (specifically England). The age of majority at which a young person is legally counted fully adult is when they turn eighteen. By default, other named countries which have a "post-colonial" relationship with Ankh-Morpork such as Fourecks, the Foggy Islands and Rimwards Howondaland follow this lead. However, the various provinces and states of the Semi-Untied States of Aceria vary between eighteen and twenty-one. Ankh-Morpork has no minimum age of consent for marriage or for smoking tobacco, but the Guild of Gamblers insists on a minimum age of sixteen and the Guild of Seamstresses will not employ people under eighteen. The Seamstresses are strict about this.
  • Fictional Flag: The fics reflect the evolving Discworld of Terry Pratchett, where the various nations of the Disc become mirror-reflections of Roundworld countries. Thus, Quirm's flag is suspiciously similar to the French tricolour, Borogravia's is the gold-over-black of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Rimwards Howondaland flies the pre-1994 blue, white and orange of the old South Africa. However, Ankh-Morpork retains its canonical flag of the hippos and shield (this also appears as an inset on the flag of the Discworld's "South Africa", where the union flag would have been in our world). In The Price of Flight its Air Force is also awarded a Standard which is not a million miles away from the banner of the Royal Air Force on our world - except that the Air Watch Standard carries the hippo-and-shield flag of Ankh-Morpork where the Union Flag goes on the RAF's colours.
  • Flash Forward Fic: His Discworld fics are now routinely taking place up to twenty years after the end-point in the canonical timeline.note  Things have begun to change in Ankh-Morpork; a seemngly ageless Vetinari still runs the City and Sam Vimes is older and determined not to retire as Watch commander. Housemistresses at the Assassins' Guild School are now younger than the canonical characters Pessimal began with, and the guild itself is poised to change its Master, as Lord Downey contemplates retirement. Social change has happened in Ankh-Morpork with its equivalent of "housing projects/council estates" appearing to replace slum landlordship. The city has a Standing Army, a well-resourced Navy, and the beginnings of an Air Force. Pessimal's second-generation OC's are coming of age into a changed world.
  • Footnote Fever: Lots and lots. This follows the lead of Terry Pratchett.
  • Foreign Language Title: The tale Strandpiel is 98% in English but given the subject matter ("South African" expats and family groups in Ankh-Morpork), the chapter titles are all in Afrikaans. (Except where the author was stuck for an Afrikaans equivalent for a Discworld concept note , and plundered something from Dutch that appeared to fit better.)
  • Fun with Acronyms: One that Word of God claimed was accidental but provided potential for later humor: naming conventions for ships in Ankh-Morpork's navy include the prefix His/her Ankh-Morkporkian Majesty's Ship.
  • His Code Name Was Marty Stu: Pessimal's self-insert is good natured, easy-going, somewhat dim and slow on the uptake, cannot see the patently bleeding obvious when it's right in front of his nose, but has sporadic flashes of brilliance. Which, unsurprisingly, is exactly how the author sees himself.
  • Murder, Inc.: See explanation below. Assassins fascinate him: how can people train to kill for a living, accomplish serial inhumations, and remain generally well-adjusted, all-too-human, and even personally likeable?
  • Original Flavour: He strives for accuracy of tone, character and setting in his fics.
  • Only Child Syndrome: Olga Romanoff and Natasha Romanoff are cousins. If they agree on one thing, it is that as only children they were deprived of a chance to fight The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry with an actual sibling. Therefore they have no choice other than to fight at one step removed, as cousins.
  • Post-Soviet Reunion: * The Discworld as expanded in A.A. Pessimal's fanfics begins with the canonical idea that there is a Fantasy Counterpart Culture analagous to our Russia. Canon hints that there was an unspecified catastrophe which caused the Discworld's Russia to implode, leaving scattered remnants around the Central Continent. Pessimal suggests that an original Rodinian Empire, itself a remnant of the fabled Dark Empire, endured a revolution that expelled the monarchy and ushered in a "Union of Soviets". This too collapsed after maybe eighty years, and after a despairing attempt at Democracy, Rodinia fractured, with its most coherent remnants being the nation of Mouldavia, and what is now Far Überwald (subject to Lady Margalotta). Other Rodinian-speaking remnants exist in Zlobenia, Borogravia, Kazakhstan and the Vortex Plains. In the "modern day", nationalists of various persuasions are agitating for reunion, and both the Tsarist and the Soviet camps have plausible leaders. Lord Vetinari takes very good care to have all these people where he can see them, and makes sure these talents are gainfully occupied working for him, in Ankh-Morpork.
  • Professional Killer: A large corpus of work is set in the Assassins' Guild School on the Discworld
  • Prone to Sunburn: In one fic, Johanna Smith-Rhodes advises her daughters:
    We're redheads. In strong sunlight, we end up the same colour that everybody else starts out as. Eventually.
  • Recursive Fanfiction: Only one so far: Fanfic author Nimbus Llewelyn took the characters of Madame Deux-Epées and Johanna Smith-Rhodes and incorporated them into one of his tales. It's quite good: A Guide to the Bachelorettes of the Discworld. The author would welcome more tributes of this sort.
  • Real-Person Fic: A Good Omens fic, in which the angel and the demon seek to spread the word through rock and pop music, had to be taken down from FFN as it contravened the "no real people" rule. Not being able to work out how to do it without referring to real people, the story All The Best Tunes? was migrated to A03, who aren't so picky.
  • Reference Overdosed: As with Pratchett, there are lots of footnotes and Shout Outs.
  • Rewrite: Pessimal expanded a couple of Assassin characters who only existed in canon — apparently — as bit-part players and cameos who were no more than a one-line name and job description. The character expansions were done based on shrewd guesses and extrapolation. Later information not available to him at the time (the canonical Assassins' Guild Yearbook) carries sparse information that Terry Pratchett's interpretation of the characters was somewhat different. The personality of Madame Deux-Epées is broadly correct but the portrait of her is of a woman of different physical appearance to Pessimal's description, for instance. And far from being young and "South African", as intelligent extrapolation suggested, such canonical Miss Smith-Rhodes as there is turned out to be a dour middle-aged spinster in a mob-cap who teaches Domestic Science. note  Word of God is that Pessimal far prefers his own interpretations and that it's too late to change, although aspects of Madame Deux-Epées' canonical back-story have been Retconned into the Pessimal Discworld.
  • Sex Miseducation Class: The thirteen-year-old girls at Seven-Handed Sek's convent school for girls get their Personal and Social Development from a young nun, only a few years older than they are, who is haltingly, fumblingly, embarrassingly useless at it. The teachers are fine with it being on the curriculum as long as somebody else teaches it, and the young nun in question was assigned the job by being lower on the pecking order. note .
  • Single-Target Law: The Assassin's Guild rule concerning crocodiles needed to be re-envisioned in the case of Guild student Arachne Webber. Arachne, who in canon graduated to a diplomatic posting in Fourecks, asked permission to keep a pet spider as a companion animal, promising her tutors it would be confined to a suitable habitat. Her pet was misidentified as a "hitherto un-known species of tarantula, which will grow no larger than the size of her hand" and permission was given. time passed, and the Guild realised it was in fact a prime example of the Sloth-Eating Spider of Tezuma, which is capable of growing nine feet across from claw-tip to claw-tip.
  • Sisterhood Eliminates Creep: His Discworld involves the infamous Marriage Guidance Counsellors who were all-female and often teamed up on one male.
  • Spexico: The in-canon reference to a strange region where people speak a language full of ¡Ole!note  and run with the bulls is expanded into an up to eleven Spain-like country called Toleda. The Tezuman country is of course Mexico. An invented state called Paraquat blends Toleda/Spain and an up to eleven South America into, er, Spexico.
  • Spicy Latina: The trapeze, tightrope and circus artiste Dolores de Chiliconcarna y Fajitas y Cuidado de las Llamas de Gutierrez (real name Doris O'Higginsnote ) - who despite being very shrewd and capable, becomes one of the first female members of the Fools' Guild. She is also a close friend of Miss Alice Band.
  • Spin-Offspring: The author is moving on somewhat from the "original" cast, partly because their timelines were starting to get clogged up with too much adventure and too little mundanity. There really weren't too many spaces left in their diaries. By the time of tales like Gap Year Adventures and Strandpiel, the focus has moved on from the original core cast of four Lady Assassins, first to a younger sister, and then to the next generation. Strandpiel deals with the oldest daughter of Johanna Smith-Rhodes and Ponder Stibbons, who realises first that she isn't really cut out to be an Assassin. As she lacks a willy, she can't go to Unseen University and follow her father. So what else can a girl inconveniently burdened with magical talent do, apart from train to become a Witch... thus, a Witch with a well-concealed streak of Assassin (she discovers she's also her mother's daughter, and it's there when she really needs it) and a Wizard-level intellect grows to adulthood. Meanwhile the middle sister of three is absolutely un-magical but is a natural for an Assassin education.
  • Stealth Pun: Blue Öyster Cult LPs, song titles, and band personnel crop up more often than is humanely feasible. The story Hear Them Chatter on the Tide actually introduces a religious sect who venerate shellfish of a cerulean colour, for instance, as well as making liberal use of the song SubHuman. In Fresh Pair Of Eyes, the song Harvester of Eyes becomes part of the Order of Service in the Temple of the Great God Blind Io. Who is intimately associated with eyeballs. (In-Universe, the sung liturgy is attributed to the Reverend Bloom and the Reverend Roeser). It isn't just BOC lyrics. Barely-there canonical character Miss Smith-Rhodes is fleshed out as an Assassin from "Southern Africa" because in our universe, a man called Cecil Rhodes founded a country called Rhodesia; a man called Iain Smith was its last white leader before Robert Mugabe took over. The name "Smith-Rhodes" could only be associated with the general concept of "South Africa". (A land called Smith-Rhodesia is in fact a province of "Rimwards Howondaland"). And many, many, many, more.
  • Siblings in Crime: The Krayfish Twins run a mob operation in Ankh-Morpork. Ronnie and Reggie are feared for their ruthless qualities and general nastiness. But they love good floristry, chocolate and well-tailored clothes and accessories; Veronica and Regina Krayfish remain very feminine and stylish crime overladies.
  • Situational Sexuality: Dealt with in the tales of the Assassins' Guild School, among both boys and girls. But note SlashFic remarks below. It happens, and is treated sympathetically without dwelling on the details. Much. It's a fact of boarding school life.
  • Slash Fic: Averted, even despite the prominent lesbian characters. This author has tried, but finds he can't write sex without bursting out laughing. For all the wrong reasons. There's a good reason why the bedroom door closes when it does...
    • His only (pitifully bad) attempt at slashfic - NSFW - is here. This counts as Early-Installment Weirdness. Those interested in this sort of thing should read it before it gets deleted and rewritten as a "mainstream fic". Look on it as an awful warning of how bad it could potentially get, the only reason he kept it up. note 
  • Snipe Hunt: The search for the Balgrog. The monopedos rabbit of Ephebe.
  • Song Fic: A character called Alice miscalculates during a lesson in preparing a hallucinogenic incapacitant. She inadvertently goes on a mind-bending trip and encounters smoking caterpillars, talking chessmen and a dormouse in a teapot. See Discworld fic White Rabbit. A Jefferson Airplane song is intimately involved. Alice Band even finds herself merging with the essence of Grace Slick to sing it.
    • The author betrays his passion for the Blue Öyster Cult with many allusions to their lyrics. As a sort of Genius Bonus, mainly so obscure only another BOC fan would spot them. Although one BOC song in particular does not need a great deal of special knowledge to spot in his works or indeed those of Terry Pratchett, and it crops up quite a bit...
  • The War on Straw: Averted during The Civil Assistant. Although there are some rather expected forces opposed to the Vimes-Ramkins family's plan to drastically alter their responsibilities as landlords and provide healthy, sanitary housing for their tenants (the greedy aristocrats who hate the thought of lost revenue, the Guilds of Morticians and Barber-Surgeons who recoil at the loss of income from a decreased death rate), other Guilds who reject the offer do so for well-thought out and meaningful reasons. Most prominently, the Guilds of Domestic Servants and Chefs, who have traditionally relied upon the "perks" of reliable food, fresh clothing, warm beds to sleep in, etc to entice prospective members, and with an increase in general living standards can only offer "long hours of hard work for little thanks or reward".