At the end of "The Long Utopia" by Stephen Baxter and Terry Pratchett:

Lobsang, Sally, and Stan are all "stranded" on the newly-cauterized world that the Silver Beetles are in the process of spinning to its death. They removed it from the chain of the Long Earth (East and West stepping), but they did not remove its connection to the long "Planetarium" (North stepping). It seems that they could have stepped to the bug world and started a whole new adventure in the long planetarium (at least the first step on the bug world had breathable atmosphere). It seems that, if this was a possibility, the Next or Lobsang would have "foreseen" it, and possibly it bears mentioning.

Was all of this an oversight on the part of the authors? Or are there context clues that express why this wouldn't be possible?

  • 2
    I noticed this too. I figured it was misdirection / setup for the next installment. Sir Terry's estate has forbidden more Discworld stories, I've heard no such restriction on Long Earth.
    – Politank-Z
    Jul 20, 2015 at 23:59
  • 1
    Perhaps we'll find out en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Long_Cosmos :)
    – BadPirate
    May 24, 2016 at 18:48
  • Just finished reading the book, and I had the same thought. Sally and Stan would have been expected to figure it out, so it should have been mentioned what stopped them (eg the cellar and cave complex being destroyed). Jun 20, 2016 at 6:51

2 Answers 2


I was considering asking this question about four hours ago, when I finished the book, but I actually think I have an answer.

If you remember, the children of New Springfield were the ones who did the stepping to the Planetarium. It was purely by accident that they learned it, and the book mentions that they continued to be used as a way of getting the Navy personnel there and back. The book doesn't, as far as I recall, mention whether they taught the Navy personnel how, so it's possible they were unable to. In that case, not having any New Springfield children with them, they would be unable to step there.

I know this is a dissatisfying answer, as you would expect Stan and Sally to be able to find their way there, the former being talented enough to isolate the entire planet from it's stepwise footprints and the latter being an extremely capable and experienced stepper. But that is a potential answer, since as far as I'm aware neither went there and George wasn't as talented a stepper as them so might not have been able to figure out how to get there. Remember that it was entirely an accident that Niko was able to get there, and children tend to be more open-minded than adults.

I don't remember there being any explicit reason mentioned in the book, unfortunately. It could just be an oversight, but it is an obvious one. Chalk it up to the fact that one of the authors died. I'm not sure of when he died in relation to the book being written, but perhaps, as a result, Baxter wasn't at his best.


Other solution: stepping north was possible only from underground cellar, which was no longer available due to planet deformation.

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