SPOILERS Moist von Lipwig Character Discussion

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Tonyblack

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#1
The character up for discussion next is Moist von Lipwig.



I want to stress first that these discussions are ongoing. Please feel free to resurrect them at any time and add your feelings. There will be a link to all these discussions on the Discworld Books Forum.



So . . . Moist von Lipwig? A man that gets a second chance in life and what he does with it. That’s an oversimplified description. I will admit that I wasn’t sure what to make of the character and that Making Money was, for me, for a long time, my least favourite book. That has changed and I will address that at some stage in this discussion.



But tell us what you think of Moist von Lipwig?
 

RathDarkblade

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#2
I liked him. ;)

At the time, I wasn't sure what to make of Moist von Lipwig. I liked the concept (condemned man gets a second chance), and I enjoyed Moist's adventures in philately, but I wasn't sure if he would be a returning character or if, like Pteppic and Brutha, Moist was a one-off.

But I can see in retrospect that Pterry was getting tired of writing the same characters - Vimes, Vetinari, Rincewind, UU, Witches - again and again. I can't remember how Pterry put it, but to the best of my recollection, it was something like this: "Everyone likes Vimes, what a good boy he is, hooray. But the Discworld is bigger than that, and there are other tales that need telling." And so, Moist von Lipwig was born. :)

(By the way, how many times can you use the word 'philately' in conversation?) :)

I know I'm in a minority here, but I enjoyed Making Money too. At the end of "Going Postal", Moist had (almost) all he wanted. For the sake of the story, if Moist was going to return, he would need some reason to start from scratch - thus, enter Vetinari.

Is this the reason some people dislike MM - because Moist was more or less railroaded into becoming the chairman of the Bank? But he wasn't. He didn't have to meet with Topsy Lavish or Mr Fusspot. He chose to. If he didn't, she wouldn't have taken the measure of him, or taken the steps she did in her will.

Once Moist is Chairman, of course, trouble follows him like the famous Smell follows Foul Ole Ron (or Gaspode). ;) I enjoyed MM because I enjoyed seeing how Moist would get into trouble, and then think himself out of it, as he did in GP. (Naturally, the stakes were higher here). And yes, Moist does talk himself out of trouble. Mr Bent's antics are just the icing on the cake. :)

Comments?
 
Oct 1, 2009
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#3
I like the Moist books. I think with them Pterry wanted to start a new series that focused on the technological and economic modernization" of Ankh Morpork that had been started in bits and drabs with The Fifth Elephant and The Truth, with Vetinari as the puppetmaster working behind the scenes to push the city into the century of the (Fruitbat?).

Of the first two Moist books, Going Postal is the best one. So good that I was really bothered by the way the TV version (which I just saw for the first time) totally dumbed down the plot.

Making Money has some very good parts but huge amounts of it drag (like the interminable scene at UU where they're getting the golem arm and the scenes with Cosmo). One of the biggest problems I have with MM is that Moist didn't solve his biggest obstacle--overcoming the charge of stealing the gold--himself. He needed Mr. Bent to rescue him. Although the scene where Moist confesses his past as a criminal in the Rat's chamber is one of the best things Pterry ever wrote.

Raising Steam is not strictly a Moist story, but he's one of the main characters. He's not as impressive there doing the "con man" thing because the story takes place over such a long time and because Pterry wanted to turn him into some kind of action here, which is quite of character for him.

My favorite Moist scenes are his little "pushing the envelope" scenes with Vetinari, where the latter has to constantly remind him that he's one mistake away from a permanent hemp fandago.
 

=Tamar

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#4
I understood that Going Postal had to make the end more threatening for the television watchers, but I prefer the version in the novel, with the people doing a visual representation of the process of tracing the movements of money, while Moist and Vetinari watch from above, described like a Busby Berkeley musical film (and recalling the overhead view of the political machinations at the palace party in Night Watch, with people moving from one little group to another, with the color-coding changing as alliances change). It's the dance of money in society. With the ending comments about how the money is in the promise that it is there as long as you don't actually look, it leads _directly_ into the financial-malfeasance plot of Making Money. It is especially linked in the fact that the rich financiers work together to prevent the one bank from collapsing at the end of GP. Vetinari knew what a mess it really was, and assigned Moist to clean it up, as he had the Post Office.
I wish we could have gotten the third volume in what was clearly intended to be a sub-series trilogy.
 

Molokov

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#5
I think, at the time that Terry wrote MM, he planned to finish out the Moist trilogy with "Raising Taxes" where Moist reforms A-M's taxation system. But something derailed this (pun intended) and we instead got Raising Steam - yes, Moist is the main character in this book (which I noticed only on a re-read) and it's got some really great sequences... it's just that a) we don't spend much time inside Moist's head in RS, and b) there's so much else going on and c) the dwarf politics plot in the latter half of the book is somewhat disappointing compared to the first half of the book which has loads of great development of the steam train industry.

When I first read RS I was fairly disappointed, and it felt like a mix of a Moist and City Watch/Vimes book. On a re-read, it's definitely Moist as the protagonist - Vimes is hardly in it at all - and the first half of the book is wonderful. It's the political plot and the train-chase sequence that is the disappointment to me - it felt rushed.

Nevertheless, Moist is a curious character - he was never doing bad things to hurt people, he was only ever doing it for the thrill and to make greedy and arrogant people lose their money. It's only during GP that he realises (thanks to Adora and Pump) that his actions have hurt the small people, so he starts falling into good ways. However, by the time of Making Money, he's missing the thrill of what he used to do (hence the opening scene where he breaks into the Post Office by scaling a wall) and so Vetinari maneouvers him into the bank - which serves two purposes 1) it allows them to refine and "uncorrupt" the banking system and 2) it gains Moist a whole lot more dangerous enemies to outwit, thus allowing him that thrill that he so desperately (if unconsciously) wants.
 

Tonyblack

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#6
With Going Postal, we saw Moist go from being a crook, determined to escape justice using his wits. The whole stealing thing seemed to be more like a game to him. The fact that he had so much cash stashed away is proof that it wasn't about making himself rich. One of the pivotal scenes in the book is when Mr Pump tells Moist that he has been responsible for deaths. And he's also using his own identity for the first time in possibly years. He was given the second chance and realises that he can still use his talents without hurting people in the process.

This redemption arc is what (I think) makes Going Postal a more engaging book than Making Money. By Making Money, we already know that Moist isn't likely to steal anything - he's also more settled in his life. And he finds that lacking in excitement somewhat. I do enjoy Making Money a lot more now and I think a part of that is realising working out why Moist's character is a bit flat in MM.

Terry has actually stated that he had plans to make a book about raising taxes. It's possible that he may have written a part of it - we'll never know now.

Raising Steam was more of an ensemble piece - we were seeing most of the story from Moist's point of view, but I think that was more down to a literary device rather than RS being a Moist book as such. It was good to see Vimes through Moist's eyes in much the way we saw Vimes through Polly's eyes in Monstrous Regiment.
 

RathDarkblade

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#7
Note: I'm using spoiler tags here because I'm bringing in discussion of the GP film, which some people may not have seen. Thank you. :)

I think Raisin raised the Going Postal TV version, and that she was bothered by it being "dumbed down". This is also something I was surprised by - especially the fact that the Reacher Gilt of the film
killed Crispin Horsefry himself
instead of sending out Mr Gryle after him, which is what happens in the book. This was definitely out of character for someone like Reacher Gilt. Using someone like Mr Gryle would be so much more Reacher's style.

I also missed having Igor in Reacher's house. It's a little touch, but it made Crispin so much more nervous, and made the Reacher-Crispin encounter in the book more fun. :)

Oh, and where were the other members of the Board in the film? They were completely absent, and yet at the end of the book, they play a pivotal role. :oops:

One last thing: I really didn't like the way that the film gets Adorabelle Dearheart to
stop Moist and Boris.
I understand this is a great dramatic effect, etc. etc., but it's very out of character for her. If Boris reared, she might have been killed. And why would she care so much about Moist at the time, anyway?

So yes, the GP film just didn't do it for me. :(

Any thoughts? ;)
 

Penfold

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#8
One of the things I really enjoyed about GP and MM was the part they played in worldbuilding. I mean, with all the plethora of sci-fi and fantasy books out there, how often do any of them actually touch on economic systems, or the cause and effects of currency beyond it costing a few generic silver pennies or gold coins for an item.
 
Oct 1, 2009
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#9
Agreed. With GP and MM, and a bit later, RS, you could see that Pterry was moving toward a more global view of the DW and the growing network of cultural and economic interrelationships enabled by technological developments. It would have been interesting to see how all of these developments would have changed the lives of those still living in relatively rural areas. For example, the thought of Granny Weatherwax sending or receiving a clacks or taking a ride on a train (can you imagine her doing headology on an engine?) would be irresistible.
 

Tonyblack

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#10
Well the railways and telegraph/telephone certainly changed our own world - it shrank it and created a much more cosmopolitan world. I think this is where Terry was going. I wonder if he felt that RS was a more important book to write, knowing his time was limited, than Raising Taxes. RS seemed almost like a finale of the series with the Disc becoming a lot more open and A-M and the great city states gaining control of the main continent of the Disc. Moist plays a very important part in this and he had to change as a person to do this.
 
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Yeah, I tend to think that Pterry might have abandoned the Raising Taxes idea even before he knew that his time was limited. It didn't really seem like an idea that had much "legs" to it. RS was a far more suitable theme for Moist's talents.
 

RathDarkblade

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#12
One of the things I really enjoyed about GP and MM was the part they played in worldbuilding. I mean, with all the plethora of sci-fi and fantasy books out there, how often do any of them actually touch on economic systems, or the cause and effects of currency beyond it costing a few generic silver pennies or gold coins for an item.
I agree, Penfold. :) There certainly aren't very many fantasy or science fiction stories out there that deal with (say) inflation or currency fluctuations. Then again, perhaps that kind of topic is difficult to excite people about.

I've written a few stories set within the Roman Empire. The Empire's instability during the 3rd century AD was caused - among other things - due to overspending, inflation and oppressive taxation, which led to coin clipping and other practices that debased the denarius, to the point that the Romans suffered a severe financial crisis. (There were many other factors, including military, economic, administrative and political, as well as widespread corruption and an over-reliance on slave labour).

So if I were to write a story about this period, how would I make the debasement of the denarius exciting? ;) Alas, the Roman Empire did not have a Moist von Lipwig. I'm sure I could create one, but I don't think even a genius like Moist could extract the Romans from the mess they created - it was so widespread that surely only a Hercules could clean up that Augean Stables. ;)

Thoughts?
 

Tonyblack

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#13
I remember reading that Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" books were a metaphor for the loss of the bucolic ways of Olde England to the rise of the Industrial Revolution. Terry, on the other hand, seems to embrace the industrialisation of his world. Moist plays a huge part in that. He's Vetinari's "fixer" in that respect.
 

=Tamar

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Well, Rath, the situation you describe resembles 18th century England, where there were similar issues with the currency (and to some extent Germany in the 1930s, which spread to the US, UK, and the rest of Europe). The solution in the 18thC appears to have been the complete redoing of the currency system early in the19th century. I don't know much about it but I suspect it had to do with a new source of gold as well as their military strength used against Asia and Africa.

To make a story about a deteriorating system work, I think you'd have to create a lot of very appealing characters for the reader to identify with and care about, who are making ordinary small deals and starting small businesses, etc, all based on an assumption that tomorrow their money is still going to be worth something like what it is today. Then it isn't, and they have to come up with stopgaps. You could even have the monied classes equally perturbed, in a no-villains scenario. (Something like the deteriorating situation in Original Star Trek, "The Trouble with Tribbles", where it isn't money but an infestation of cute parasites that have to be dealt with. Too bad we can't just space'em all in real life.)

There is some similarity to the present, as sometime around 2000 AD the man in charge of the US money system announced openly that he was going to make the currency purchasing value go down 50%, so that loans from outside the US would be paid in money worth half its nominal value. The result for, e.g., me and everyone else, is that everything costs twice what it did in living memory, and what used to be a comfortable income is now somewhat pinched.

The energy of the story is in the scramble to make something work in the short term, because in the long term, nothing works. On the other hand, the short term can last a century or so, which for story purposes can be enough. Rome pulled out of it somehow, didn't it? England did it one way, Germany did it another way, we're still working in it with experiments in global currency.

It depends on what you want to do with the story. Are you describing a dystopia, or an evolving society?
One possible structure would the one John Brunner used in his overpopulation novel, Stand On Zanzibar, where he detailed an entire book full of deaths and at the end, there was still a major increase in population. Dismal but impressive.
OR maybe when Rome won some new territory the main characters move to a place where they can make a fair living for a few generations. I don't know, I''m not a writer. The best advice I've read from writers is start with characters and see where they take you.
 
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RathDarkblade

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#15
=Tamar, I'm not actually writing it yet. :) At the moment, I'm up to my ears in an adventure story set during the reign of Vespasian (roughly 70 AD, so about 130 years before the crisis I described above).

My question was more of an "if" - i.e. if I were to write a story set in that period, how would I make it exciting or interesting? Rome at that time expanded about as much as it was going to, so winning new territory was out of the question - it'd just make things worse.

What happened in real life was that the Roman Emprie split into two - the Western part (with a capital in Rome) and the Eastern part (with a capital in Constantinople, today's Istanbul). This meant two Roman emperors working either in cooperation or competition, as well as two "junior" emperors (their heirs) to help out. This steadied the ship a little, but didn't help in the long run.

So what can I do to make that century (roughly 200 to 300 AD) interesting? Over 20 Roman emperors lost their lives within that period, and just one of them died peacefully in bed. Maybe I can take that angle? A newspaper ad: "Be Emperor of Rome! It's an exciting job, and you can really make some money, but don't hold out for a pension!" ;) Just an idea - needs development, obviously. What do you think? :)
 
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#16
Oh dear lord, Rath, please don't go down the LWhitehead path of "I've got a story about _____. Now tell me what I should include in it. :)
 
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RathDarkblade

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#17
*LOL* Not to worry, I've got plenty of ideas of my own (plus my own library to help with the research). ;) I was just throwing some ideas out there to see if anyone likes them. :)

Anyway, back to Moist von Lipwig.

I wonder what "Raising Taxes" would've been like. *thinkthinkthink* The time period that Pterry was thinking of - early-to-mid 19th century - was also when the first modern income tax came in (1799). It was introduced into Great Britain by Pitt the Younger in his budget of December 1798, to pay for weapons and equipment for the French Revolutionary War. So ... perhaps Moist has to introduce an income tax? :) Or a Window Tax? (It happened). Or a tax on tea, or on sugar, or on cotton ... oh dear. Now he's got the donkey up the minaret! How to get it down? :)

I also wonder what "Scouting for Trolls" would've been like. But I don't think Moist would have been in that one - would he? ;)
 
May 20, 2012
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Well, one thing we know is that they already had taxes in Ankh-Morpork. The old method of collection was to hold someone upside down and collect what fell out of their pockets. But there are also forms to fill out if someone notices you, like Captain Carrot. So there was some evolution attempted.

It seems likely to me that the Thieves' Guild would be the obvious choice for tax collection, because they already have a system in place, with prorated amounts according to income, receipts, annual estimates, etc. There are limits to how much a thief can steal, and lawyers can steal more, at least in the days of Wyrd Sisters. I suppose Moist might have recruited the less-talented thieves, or the independent ones that were caught by the Watch before the Guild got hold of them. He probably would have had to get a golden bowler hat. (For the Undertaking it would of course be a gold hardhat.)

Alternatively, maybe there could be a special group of monks - not the ones who take on the burden of monetary excess to relieve others of the spiritual pain, but a humbler group who wouldn't keep the money. Set it up as a donation system? Pledge week/fortnight/month is so annoying, people might sign up just to make it stop.
But how would Moist have introduced it? He had enough trouble introducing paper money, and people liked the idea of that because it weighed less.
Then there is the problem that was reported as the real reason Sir Terry went with Raising Steam: he couldn't think of a way to make taxes funny. Maybe Moist would have to find a way to make it seem like a game - Wheel of Fortune, only you play for the amount of taxes you will pay, so you go for lower scores instead of higher ones.
 

Tonyblack

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#19
I remember Terry telling us he was working on a book called Unseen Academicals, that was about football (I think this was the Clarecraft event in 2005) and I thought it was a terrible idea. Terry proved me wrong. I wasn't sure about a book on taxes, but it doesn't stop me being curious. One thing is for certain, it would have probably exceeded my speculations.

Going back to Moist - I think that I was unsure about how a third Moist book would work, because of my initial disappointment with MM. It was difficult to imagine where Terry would take the character of Moist that was original as I don't think the character growth in MM was great. In RS though, we got to see different side to Moist. In it he was more like I imagined Moist to be before his "angel". Only in this case he was using his talents very much for the city. There was growth and a certain maturity that wasn't necessarily in MM. I did think it was somewhat harsh that Vetinari somewhat snubbed him at the end. I understand that V had saved his life and given him great opportunities to change and be a better man - but would some recognition of his achievements in the building of the railway, would not have been out of order.

Having said that, I feel I'm going to have to reread RS again soon, as a closer read might change my mind.
 

RathDarkblade

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#20
In "Mrs Bradshaw's Handbook", we learn that Moist is the Chairman of the AM&SPHR (Ankh-Morpork and Sto Plains Hygienic Railway). So perhaps Vetinari did reward him after all? Or was he the Chairman to begin with - or was that Harry King?

I might need to re-read RS myself... :)
 

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