The science fiction author Hal Clement wrote several stories set in planets with interesting features, perhaps most famously Mesklin, a planet with a flattened shape and a very strong gravitational force.

More recently, the fantasy author Terry Pratchett wrote several stories set in the famous Discworld, as well as a precursor sci-fi novel Strata featuring another flat world. His Bromeliad trilogy also features a main character called Masklin - a very similar world to Hal Clement's "Mesklin".

Was Terry Pratchett a fan of Hal Clement, with the name Masklin being a homage to him and his own flat worlds inspired by Clement's planetbuilding stories?

I'm not the only person to have guessed at such a connection, for what it's worth:

Incidentally, I would love to think that Terry Pratchett was glancingly recalling the Mesklinites in his childrens' SF triloy - Truckers, Diggers and Wings - featuring a colony of alien 'nomes' stranded on Earth. Though humanoid these likeable beings are very small, surely indicating a high-gravity origin, and are eventually led to safety by a hero called Masklin. This fragment of literary intertextuality, if that's the correct jargon, is probably not worth an entire thesis.

-- David Langford, Starcombing

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    I'd be surprised if Sir Terry hadn't read Mission of Gravity.
    – PM 2Ring
    Commented Jan 25, 2021 at 5:20
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    Not about the Bromeliad trilogy, but I can't help but notice that the extreme worlds (and their inhabitants) in Dark Side of the Sun are reminiscent of the planets with particularly unique characteristics noted at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hal_Clement#Planets Commented Jan 25, 2021 at 7:03
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    Mesklin is not a flat world. What's more, even the natives know it is not flat, but curved. That they think it is curved like the inside of (half) a bowl instead of like a ball, is completely excusable: The way the light is refracted due to the massive gradient of air density, anyone on the surface of Mesklin sees the landscape curve up. So, as Mesklin is decidedly not a disc or perceived as such, I see no connection to Sir Pterrys Discworld.
    – straycat
    Commented Jan 25, 2021 at 20:28
  • Sir Pterry wrote that the way to become a writer is to "read until you overflow". When he was young he read tons of SF and fantasy. So it's not surprising if there are identifiable influences in his work. Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 21:00

2 Answers 2


That was probably not the source of the name.

The Annotated Pratchett file about Truckers (the first book of the Nome trilogy) says that the name Masklin is a pun on the word 'masculine'. That resource is usually well researched and compiled by a whole newsgroup of Pratchett fans, so I trust its statement.

  • Why would that preclude it also being a reference to the Clement planet? Pterry's clever puns often brought together two or even three different references.
    – gidds
    Commented Nov 7, 2021 at 23:33
  • I would have liked to see a bit more argument from the Pratchett annotaters than "duh". What makes the "Masklin = masculine" theory more plausible than (say) "Masklin = Maskelyne"? For example, is the character particularly linked with masculinity in the story? Commented Mar 26 at 13:34

According to Marc Burrows' biography of Pratchett, The Magic of Terry Pratchett, at 12 years old Pratchett was a fan of the Victor Gollancz publishing company, which included Hal Clement's works, so it is very likely.

The Little Library finally gave Terry access to a depth of material that could satisfy a fanatic. Here he discovered the pulp paperbacks of Fritz Leiber, A. E. van Vogt and Henry Kuttner, and the distinctive custard yellow or violent magenta jackets of the Victor Gollancz publishing house, the publishers of Hal Clement, Algis Budrys, and Harry Harrison. Terry sank gratefully into all of them, immersing himself in a universe of black holes, lost civilisations, and planetary conquests.

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    This quotation must be regarded as suspect. Sir Terry was 12 in 1960, when black holes yet to be named thus, and no genuine black hole (as opposed to a vaguely described “dark star”) had ever appeared in a work of fiction.
    – Mike Scott
    Commented Jan 25, 2021 at 21:22
  • @Mike Scott while the term 'black hole' was not coined at the time, the concept has existed since Einstein published it, nearly half a century before. Commented Jan 25, 2021 at 21:28
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    Not in fiction, it hasn’t. The first black hole as postulated by Einstein seems to have been in the Jerry Pournelle story “He Fell Into A Dark Hole” in 1973.
    – Mike Scott
    Commented Jan 25, 2021 at 21:44
  • @Mike Scott A quick look at the wikipedia page for 'Black Holes in Fiction' lists three entries before 1960. Given the unlikeliness of that list being exhaustive, I assert there were more than three black holes in fiction at the time. Commented Jan 25, 2021 at 22:01
  • Those examples aren’t black holes as postulated by Einstein, and they weren’t (couldn’t) have been called black holes, a term which was coined in 1967.
    – Mike Scott
    Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 7:33

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