Sir Terry Pratchett - Biografia
Sir Terence David John Pratchett, è nato a Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire il 28 aprile 1948, unico figlio di David ed Eileen Pratchett, di Hay-on-Wye. Scrittore e glottoteta (cioé colui che progetta e sviluppa una lingua artificiale) di origini britanniche, deve la sua fama al ciclo di romanzi fantasy venati d'umorismo dedicati a Discworld (o Mondo Disco).
Familiare ai suoi lettori e fan con il nickname Pterry (nato nel newsgroup dedicato ai suoi libri), ha intrapreso molto presto il suo cammino di scrittore.
Si trasferì nel 1957 con la famiglia a Bridgwater (Somerset). I suoi interessi comprendevano l'astronomia: collezionò le Brooke Bond tea cards riguardanti lo spazio, possedeva un telescopio e desiderava diventare un astronomo, ma non possedeva le necessarie abilità matematiche. Ciò lo indusse ad interessarsi alla letteratura di genere science fiction sia britannica che americana e frequentò le convention su tale tema a partire dal 1963 fino a quando non ottennte il suo primo impiego un paio di anni dopo. Le sue prime letture comprendevano i romanzi di Herbert George Wells ed Arthur Conan Doyle.
Nel 1959, all'età di tredici anni, pubblicò "The Hades Business", il suo primo racconto, ospitato dal giornale della scuola che frequentava, racconto che venne poi ripubblicato dalla rivista "Science Fantasy" nel 1961.
Risale al novembre del 1965 "Night Dweller", il suo secondo racconto, pubblicato dalla rivista "New Worlds" n° 156. Sempre nel 1965 Sir Pratchett lasciò la scuola per lavorare come giornalista al "Bucks Free Press", dove tra le altre cose scrisse varie storie per la sezione "Children's Circle" con lo pseudonimo di Uncle Jim. Particolarità di tali racconti è che contengono personaggi aventi nomi utilizzati in seguito per il romanzo "The Carpet People". Copie originali di tale rivista possono essere consultate presso la High Wycombe Library, Buckinghamshire.
Un evento findamentale per la futura carriera di sir Pratchett avvenne nel 1968, quando intervistò Peter Bander Van Duren, co-direttore di una piccola casa editrice, ed a cui accennò del suo manoscittro "The Carpet People". Dello stesso anno è anche il matrimonio con Lyn in 1968, con la quale si trasferì a Rowberrow (Somerset) nel 1970.
Nel 1971 Van Duren ed il suo socio d'affari Colin Smythe (della Colin Smythe Ltd Publishers) pubblicarono il romanzo, contenente illustrazioni realizzate dallo stesso Pratchett.
Nel 1976 nacque la figlia Rhianna, attualmente giornalista ed anche lei scrittrice fantasy. Dello stesso anno è la pubblicazione del romanzo "The Dark Side of the Sun".
Dopo altre due esperienze lavorative con le testate giornalistiche di provincia Western Daily Press e Bath Chronicle, nel 1980 Sir Pratchett venne assunto come addetto dell'ufficio stampa della Central Electricity Generating Board in un'area che comprendeva tre centrali nucleari. In tempi successivi ha affermato che gli piacerebbe scrivere un libro su quella esperienza, se solo avesse la certezza che la gente gli crederebbe.
Nel 1981 venne pubblicato "Strata".
E' del 1983 la nascita di Discworld con la pubblicazione del romanzo "The Colour of Magic" da parte di Colin Smythe (agente di Pratchett). I diritti per la pubblicazione nel formato paperback vennero presto acquistati dalla casa editrice Corgi Books, la quale contribuì in modo rilevante al successo della pubblicazione grazie al suo supporto con una promozione molto efficace e la sua proposta alla BBC come un serial diviso in sei parti, trasmesso durante la trasmissione "Woman's Hour". L'entusiasmo dimostrato dal pubblico fu tale che nel 1987 venne trasmesso anche l'adattamento radiofonico di "Equal Rites".
Nel 1987 Sir Pratchett, dopo aver terminato la stesura di "Mort", decise di dedicarsi a tempo pieno alla carriera di scrittore e si dimise dall'impiego come addetto dell'ufficio stampa della Central Electricity Generating Board. Decisione azzeccata, visto il successo riscosso dai suoi romanzi ed il volume di copie vendute.
Nel 1989 Sir Pratchett grazie al romanzo "Pyramids" vinse il "British Science Fiction Award".
Nel 1996 The Times definì Pratchett come lo scrittore britannico al vertice della classifica delle vendite e dei guadagni.
Nel 1998 Sir Pratchett per i suoi servizi resi alla letteratura ha ricevuto l'onorificenza del titolo di Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).
Nel 1993 la famiglia Prathcett si traferì nel villaggio di Wiltshire, a nord-est di Salisbury, dove tutt'oggi vive.
Nel 1994 Sir Pratchett fu "Fantasy and Science Fiction Author of the Year" britannico.
Risale al 1999 il dottorato honoris causa in Lettere dall'Università di Warwick (il primo della lunga serie).
Del 2001 è il dottorato honoris causa è della University of Portsmouth. Nello stesso anno vinse la Carnegie Medal per il romanzo per ragazzi "The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents" ed al discorso tenuto durante la consegna affermò:
Fantasy isn’t just about wizards and silly wands. It’s about seeing the world from new directions.
Del 2003 sono il dottorato honoris causa della University of Bath ed il "Prometeus Award" per il romanzo "Night Watch". In tale anno inoltre Pratchett si è confermato come uno degli autori britannici più amati unendosi a Charles Dickens con cinque romanzi nella classifica della BBC "Big Read Top 100", quattro dei quali appartenevano al ciclo di Discworld.
Del 2004 sono il dottorato honoris causa della University of Bristol ed il "Locus Award for Best Young Adult Book" per il romanzo "The Wee Free Men".
Del 2005 è il "Locus Award for Best Young Adult Book" per il romanzo "A Hat Full of Sky".
Nell'agosto del 2007 allo scrittore è stato diagnosticato un leggero ictus, probabilmente risalente al 2004 od al 2005 e responsabile del danneggiamento della parte destra del cervello. L'evento sembrava aver danneggiato le abilità motorie, mentre la capacità di scrivere non era stata alterata. Ma l'11 dicembre 2007 Pratchett annunciò ai suoi lettori la diagnosi di una forma molto rara di morbo di Alzheimer precoce, probabile responsabile dell'ictus: l'atrofia corticale posteriore di cui soffre porta alla riduzione del volume di aree della parte posteriore del cervello. Lo scrittore affermò che sentiva di poter scrivere ancora alcuni libri.
Del 2007 è il "Locus Award for Best Young Adult Book" per il romanzo "Wintersmith".
Nel marzo del 2008 Pratchett ha annunciato che avrebbe donato la somma di un milione di dollari all'Alzheimer's Research Trust: turbato nel constatare che i finanziamenti stanziati per la ricerca sull'Alzheimer ammontano solo al 3% rispetto a quelli per la ricerca sul cancro, lo scrittore ha commentato che
Come molte altre persone, sto cercando di tirare avanti abbastanza a lungo per poter essere ancora qui quando verrà trovata la cura.
Pratchett ha inoltre amaramente constatato di aver parlato con almeno tre persone sopravvissute al cancro al cervello, ma di non averne ancora conosciuta una sopravvissuta all'Alzheimer. Il gesto dello scrittore ha ispirato alcuni fan a dare il via ad una campagna su Internet con il titolo "Match it for Pratchett", con lo scopo di raccogliere un altro milione di dollari da aggiungere alla donazione.
Pratchett ha parlato della sua malattia il 15 maggio 2008 Pratchett a "The One Show" della BBC ed il 20 maggio a "On the Ropes" (Radio 4). Nell'aprile del 2008 la BBC ha avviato una iniziativa di collaborazione con lo scrittore per realizzare una serie di documentari basati sulla sua malattia. La prima parte di "Terry Pratchett: Living With Alzheimer" è andato in onda su BBC Two il 4 febbraio 2009. La seconda parte è stata trasmessa l'11 febbraio.
L'8 giugno 2008 Sir Pratchett ha affermato:
It is just possible that once you have got past all the gods that we have created with big beards and many human traits, just beyond all that, on the other side of physics, there just may be the ordered structure from which everything flows. [...] I don’t actually believe in anyone who could have put that in my head.
Dall'agosto del 2008 Sir Pratchett sta testando un prototipo di elmetto anti-demenza sviluppato dal dottor Gordon Dougal, con la prescrizione di indossarlo per 6 minuti al giorno: dopo tre mesi di utilizzo sono stati riscontrati dei piccoli miglioramenti nelle condizioni del paziente, ma molti esperti rimangono scettici. Il 26 novembre del 2008 lo scrittore ha incontrato il Primo Ministro Gordon Brown e gli ha chiesto di aumentare l'entità dei fondi dedicati alla ricerca sull'Alzheimer e le altre forme di demenza.
Sono del 2008 i dottorati honoris causa del Trinity College di Dublino e Buckinghamshire New University, mentre il romanzo "Making Money" gli è valso il premio "Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel".
Dal 18 febbraio 2009 Terry Pratchett si fregia del titolo di Sir: ha ricevuto a Buckingham Palace dalla regina Elisabeht del Regno Unito l'investitura a cavaliere (Knight Bachelor) per i suoi servizi alla causa della letteratura. Il suo commento è stato:
You can't ask a fantasy writer not to want a knighthood. You know, for two pins I'd get myself a horse and a sword.
Sempre del 2009 sono i dottorati honoris causa della Bradford University e della University of Winchester. In un articolo Sir Pratchett ha affermato che spera di poter ricorrere a quello che lui definisce "suicidio assistito" prima che il processo di degenerazione giugna ad un punto critico.
Sir Pratchett ha elencato come suoi passatempi scrivere, camminare, i computer, la vita. Descrive se stesso come un umanista ed è un Distinguished Supporter della British Humanist Association.
Sir Pratchett ha cominciato ad utilizzare i computer come strumento di scrittura appena sono stati disponibili. Il suo primo acquisto è stato un Sinclair ZX81, ma il terminale che ha utilizzato per la stesura dei suoi romanzi è stato un Amstrad CPC 464, sostituito in seguito da un PC. Attualmente in casa ha installati molti computer e quando viaggia è solito portarsi dietro un notebook. Una trasposizione del suo rapporto con tali macchine si coglie nel "personaggio" di HEX, installato presso la Unseen University di Discworld. La passione di Pratchett per i videogiochi lo ha inoltre portato a collaborare alla creazione di una serie di titoli tratti dai suoi romanzi. E' stato uno dei primi scrittori ad aver utilizzato Iternet come mezzo per comunicare con i propri lettori, soprattutto attraverso il newsgroup di Usenet alt.fan.pratchett nell'arco di un decennio.
E' stato l'autore best-selling britannico degli anni '90 e nel dicembre del 2007 è stato stimato che abbia venduto oltre 55 millioni di libri in tutto il mondo, tradotti in 36 lingue.
Sir Pratchett è sostenitore della Orangutan Foundation UK ma è pessimista in merito al futuro della specie degli oranghi. Penso sia superfluo ricordare che uno dei suoi personaggi più noti, il bibliotecario della Unseen University, è un umano trasformato in orango.
Alla serie di romanzi centrati su Discworld i fan di Sir Pratchett hanno dedicato varie conventions in tutto il mondo, la prima delle quali è stata organizzata a Manchester nel 1996.
Le sue considerazioni in merito al futuro della civiltà lo hanno convinto ad installare un impianto di celle fotovoltaiche da cinque kilowatt nel giardino di casa. Non mancano un osservatorio astronomico privato ed una serra piena di piante carnivore.
Tipico del suo abbigliamento è l'ampio cappello nero.
Le prime fonti di ispirazione di Sir Pratchett sono stati "The Wind in the Willows" di Kenneth Grahame, i romanzi di Isaac Asimov ed Arthur C. Clarke. e' stato influenzato anche da P.G. Wodehouse, Tom Sharpe, Jerome K. Jerome, Larry Niven, Roy Lewis, G. K. Chesterton, Mark Twain.
Tra i caratteri distintivi dello stile di scrivere proprio di Sir Pratchett vi sono l'uso delle note a pié di pagina e la stesura dei romanzi senza ricorrere alla suddivisione delle pagine in capitoli, in quanto "la vita non avviene in capitoli, nemmeno lo fanno i film". Uniche eccezioni sono "Going Postal", "Making Money" ed alcuni dei libri dedicati ai ragazzi.
I nomi di personaggi e luoghi, i titoli stessi dei romanzi di Pratchett spesso contengono citazioni o sono parodie: due esempi sono costituiti da Cohen the Barbarian (parodia di Conan il Barbaro e Genghis Khan) e da Leonard of Quirm (citazione di Leonardo da Vinci). Altro tratto distintivo è riportare i dialoghi di Death unicamente con le lettere maiuscole.
Pratchett ha inventato per lo spettro di Discworld un nuovo colore, l'octarine, da lui definito verdastro-giallo-porpora fluorescente. Il colore della magia, appunto.
Pratchett non ha fratelli o sorelle e molti dei suoi personaggi sono nella stessa condizione, in quanto "nella fiction, i figli unici sono quelli interessanti."
Mentre la storia editoriale britannica di Pratchett è rimasta piuttosto stabile nel corso degli anni, si è rivelata turbolenta quella estera, sopratutto con gli editori americani e tedeschi. In quest'ultimo caso, cambiò casa editrice per le sue pubblicazioni in Germania dopo che l'edizione di "Pyramids" uscì con una pubblicità della Maggi stampata sulle pagine centrali.
La serie di romanzi dedicati a Discworld sono caratterizzati dalla satira e dall'umorismo con cui raccontano le vicissitudini dei personaggi che popolano il mondo a forma di disco e supportato da quattro elefanti ed una tartaruga. Le storie, gli intrecci, sono abmientati in luoghi ormai familiari ai fan, come ad esempio la Unseen University e l'osteria "The Mended Drum" nella città di Ankh-Morpork.
Gli eventi vengono narrati in ordine cronologico e si coglie in pieno il processo di civilizzazione degli abitanti di Discworld, come ad esempio gli eventi che hanno portato all'invenzione del cinema o della carta moneta o dell'editoria. Il tutto è una parodia del nostro mondo e delle sue dinamiche.
Sir Pratchett ha collaborato alla stesura di alcuni libri "guida" ed esplicativi della serie: il primo è stato "The Discworld Companion", scritto con Stephen Briggs. Non mancano le mappe, prima delle quali è stata "The Streets of Ankh-Morpork", i diari, la cui serie è cominciata con "Discworld's Unseen University Diary 1998", il libro di cucina "Nanny Ogg's Cookbook" e lo studio sul folklore "The Folklore of Discworld". Non è mancato un approccio con la scienza, che ha portato alla stesura di tre libri in collaborazione con Ian Stewart e Jack Cohen, dove il romanzo fantasy si alterna alla divulgazione scientifica: "The Science of Discworld" (1999), "The Science of Discworld II: The Globe" (2002), "The Science of Discworld III: Darwin's Watch" (2005). Nel 1999, drante il conferimento deil dottorato honoris causa in Lettere dall'Università di Warwick (il primo della lunga serie), Sir Pratchett ha nominato Stewart e Cohen "Honorary Wizards of the Unseen University" (Maghi Onorari dell'Università Invisibile).
Appartenenti al genere science-fiction sono i romanzi "The Dark Side of the Sun" del 1976 e "Strata" del 1981. Altri esempi di racconti ambientati al di fuori dal mondo di Discworld sono "Good Omens" (scritto nel 1990 con Neil Gaiman e l'anno successivo nominato per l'attribuzione dei premi "Locus" e "World Fantasy Awards"), e più recenetemente "Nation" del 2008.
After writing Good Omens, Pratchett began to work with Larry Niven on a book that would become Rainbow Mars; Niven eventually completed the book on his own, but states in the afterword that a number of Pratchett's ideas remained in the finished version.
Pratchett's first children's novel was also his first published novel: The Carpet People in 1971, which Pratchett substantially rewrote and re-released in 1992. The next, Truckers (1988), was the first in The Bromeliad trilogy of novels for young readers, about small gnome-like creatures called "Nomes", and the trilogy continued in Diggers (1990) and Wings (1990). Subsequently, Pratchett wrote the "Johnny Maxwell" trilogy, about the adventures of a boy called Johnny Maxwell and his friends, comprising Only You Can Save Mankind (1992), Johnny and the Dead (1993) and Johnny and the Bomb (1996). Nation (2008) marks his return to the non-Discworld children's novel.
Collaborations and contributions
The Unadulterated Cat is a humorous book of cat anecdotes written by Pratchett and illustrated by Gray Jolliffe.
After the King: Stories In Honour of J.R.R. Tolkien edited by Martin H. Greenberg (1992) contains "Troll Bridge", a short story featuring Cohen the Barbarian. This story was also published in the compilations Knights of Madness (1998, edited by Peter Haining) and The Mammoth Book of Comic Fantasy (2001, edited by Mike Ashley).
The Wizards of Odd, a short-story compilation edited by Peter Haining (1996), includes a Discworld short story called "Theatre of Cruelty".
The Flying Sorcerers, another short-story compilation edited by Peter Haining (1997), starts off with a Pratchett story called "Turntables of the Night", featuring Death (albeit not set on Discworld, but in our "reality").
Legends, edited by Robert Silverberg (1998), contains a Discworld short story called "The Sea and Little Fishes".
Digital Dreams, edited by David V Barrett (1990), contains the science fiction short story "# ifdefDEBUG + “world/enough” + “time”.
Meditations on Middle-Earth (2002)
The Leaky Establishment, written by David Langford (1984), has a foreword by Pratchett in later reissues (from 2001).
Once More* With Footnotes, edited by Priscilla Olson and Sheila M. Perry (2004), is "an assortment of short stories, articles, introductions, and ephemera" by Pratchett which "have appeared in books, magazines, newspapers, anthologies, and program books, many of which are now hard to find."
Now We Are Sick, written by Neil Gaiman and Stephen Jones (1994), includes the poem called "The Secret Book of the Dead" by Pratchett.
The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook 2007 includes an article by Pratchett about the process of writing fantasy.
Good Omens, written with Neil Gaiman (1990)
The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Fantasy, edited by David Pringle (1998), has a foreword by Pratchett.
Pratchett has had a number of radio adaptations on BBC Radio 4: The Colour of Magic, Equal Rites (on Woman's Hour), Only You Can Save Mankind, Guards! Guards!, Wyrd Sisters, Mort, and Small Gods have all been dramatised as serials, as was Night Watch in early 2008, and The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents as a 90-minute play.
Additionally, Guards! Guards! was also adapted as a one-hour audio drama by the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company and performed live at Dragon*Con in 2001. It can be heard as a free podcast in three parts. Part 1 Part 2 Part 3
Johnny and the Dead and 14 Discworld novels have been adapted as plays by Stephen Briggs and published in book form. In addition, Lords & Ladies has been adapted for the stage by Irana Brown, and Pyramids was adapted for the stage by Suzi Holyoake in 1999 and had a week-long theatre run in the UK. In 2002, an adaptation of Truckers was produced as a co-production between Harrogate Theatre, the Belgrade Theatre Coventry and Theatre Royal, Bury St. Edmunds. It was adapted by Bob Eaton, and directed by Rob Swain. The play toured to many venues in the UK between 15 March and 29 June 2002. In 2004, an adaptation of Only You Can Save Mankind, a musical with music by Leighton James House and lyrics by Shaun McKenna, premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
In January 2009 the National Theatre in London announced that their annual Winter family production in 2009 will be a theatrical adaptation of Pratchett's novel Nation. The novel will be adapted by playwright Mark Ravenhill and directed by Melly Still, director of the National Theatre's highly successful 2005 Winter family show Coram Boy.
Truckers was adapted as a stop motion animation series for Thames Television by Cosgrove Hall Films in 1992. Johnny and the Dead was made into a TV serial for Children's ITV on ITV, in 1995. Wyrd Sisters and Soul Music were adapted as animated cartoon series by Cosgrove Hall for Channel 4 in 1996; illustrated screenplays of these were published in 1998 and 1997 respectively. In January 2006, BBC One aired a three-part adaptation of Johnny and the Bomb.
A two-part, feature-length version of Hogfather starring David Jason and the voice of Ian Richardson was first aired on Sky One in the United Kingdom in December 2006, and on ION Television in the USA in 2007. Pratchett was opposed to live action films about Discworld before because of his negative experience with Hollywood film makers. He changed his opinion when he saw that the director Vadim Jean and producer Rod Brown were very enthusiastic and cooperative. A two-part, feature-length adaptation of The Colour of Magic and its sequel The Light Fantastic aired during Easter 2008 on Sky One. A third adaptation, of Going Postal, is in production.
Pratchett has held back from Discworld feature films; though the rights to a number of his books have been sold, no films have yet been made. The Wee Free Men is set to be directed by Sam Raimi but has not started filming. Director Terry Gilliam has announced in an interview with Empire magazine that he plans to adapt Good Omens but as of 2007 this still needed funding. In 2001, DreamWorks also commissioned an adaptation of Truckers by Andrew Adamson and Joe Stillman but Pratchett believes that it will not be made until after "Shrek 17". However, in 2008 Danny Boyle revealed that he hoped to direct a Truckers adaptation by Frank Cottrell Boyce.
Comic books and graphic novels
Four graphic novels of Pratchett's work have been released. The first two, originally published in the US, were adaptations of The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic and illustrated by Steven Ross (with Joe Bennett on the latter). The second two, published in the UK, were adaptations of Mort (subtitled A Discworld Big Comic) and Guards! Guards!, both illustrated by Graham Higgins and adapted by Stephen Briggs. The graphic novels of The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic were republished by Doubleday on the 2 June 2008.
GURPS Discworld (Steve Jackson Games, 1998) and GURPS Discworld Also (Steve Jackson Games, 2001) are role-playing source books which were written by Terry Pratchett and Phil Masters, which also offer insights into the workings of the Discworld. The first of these two books was re-released in September 2002 under the name of The Discworld Roleplaying Game, with art by Paul Kidby.
PC and console games
The Discworld universe has also been used as a basis for a number of Discworld video games on a range of formats, such as the Sega Saturn, the Sony Playstation, the Philips CD-i and the 3DO, as well as DOS and Windows-based PCs. The following are the more notable games:
The Colour of Magic, the first game based on the series, and so far the only one directly adapted from a Discworld novel. It was released in 1986 for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64.
Discworld, an animated "point-and-click" adventure game made by Teeny Weeny Games and Perfect 10 Productions in 1995.
Discworld II: Missing Presumed...!?, a sequel to Discworld developed by Perfect Entertainment in 1996. It was subtitled "Mortality Bytes!" in North America.
Discworld Noir is the first 3D game based on the Discworld series, and is both a parody of the film noir genre and an example of it. The game was created by Perfect Entertainment and published by GT Interactive for both the PC and PlayStation in 1999. It was released only in Europe and Australia.
Main article: Discworld MUD
The world of Discworld is also featured in a fan created online MUD, multi-user dungeon, and can be found at discworld.atuin.net. This game allows players to play humans in various guilds within the universe that Terry Pratchett has created.
Works about Pratchett
A collection of essays about his writings is compiled in the book Terry Pratchett: Guilty of Literature, edited by Andrew M. Butler, Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn, published by Science Fiction Foundation in 2000 (ISBN 0903007010). A second, expanded edition was published by Old Earth Books in 2004 (ISBN 188296831X). Andrew M. Butler also wrote the Pocket Essentials Guide to Terry Pratchett published in 2001 (ISBN 1903047390). Writers Uncovered: Terry Pratchett is a biography for young readers by Vic Parker, published by Heinemann Library in 2006 (ISBN 0431906335).
Sir Terry Pratchett: born 28 April 1948, Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire. Major source of education: Beaconsfield Public Library (though school must have been of some little help). After passing his 11-plus in 1959, he attended High Wycombe Technical High School rather than the local grammar because he felt ‘woodwork would be more fun than Latin’. At this time he had no real vision of what he wanted to do with his life, and remembers himself as a ‘nondescript student’. But he had an interest in radio, he and his father belonging to the Chiltern Amateur Radio Club in the early 1960s, their joint handle being ‘Home-brew R1155’. It was from this that Terry’s interest in computers grew – when a transistor cost a week’s pocket money and you built things like a radio round one.
When Terry was thirteen, his short story ‘The Hades Business’ was published in the school magazine Technical Cygnet, and two years later, commercially, in Science Fantasy. With the proceeds he bought his first typewriter. Other short stories – ‘Solution’, ‘The Picture’ and maybe others, yet undiscovered – also appeared in the Cygnet. Terry was in line for a bright future. Having earned five O-levels and started A-level courses in Art, History and English, he decided after the first year to try journalism, and when a job opportunity came up on the Bucks Free Press, he talked things over with his parents, and left school in 1965. While with the Press he still read avidly, took the two-year National Council for the Training of Journalists proficiency course (and came top in the country in its exams) and passed an A level in English, both while on day release.
Terry married Lyn Purves at the Congregational Church in Gerrards Cross in October 1968, by which time he had interviewed Peter Bander van Duren, my fellow director of our publishing company Colin Smythe Limited, for the Bucks Free Press about a book he had edited on education in the coming decade, Looking forward to the Seventies. At this time Terry mentioned to him that he had written a book called The Carpet People and asked whether we would consider it for publication? So Peter passed it to me. Yes. It was a delight, and it was obvious that here was an author we had to publish. We got Terry to produce about thirty illustrations and published it in 1971, with a launch party in the carpet department of Heal’s store in Tottenham Court Road, London. Peter and I both wrote a blurb and as each wouldn’t give way as to which was to be used, we used both. The Carpet People received few reviews, but those few were ecstatic, with it being described as being ‘of quite extra-ordinary quality’ (Teacher’s World) and ‘a new dimension in imagination ... the prose is beautiful’ (The Irish Times). What the reviews would have been like had reviewers seen the illustrations in colour – Terry hand-coloured the illustrations in about half a dozen copies – can only be guessed. (These coloured illustrations have been on display on the L-Space site for a few years, and many of them will be used in an illustrated edition of the second version of the book to be published by Random House Children’s Books in 2009).
While at the Bucks Free Press, as well as his other duties Terry took on responsibility for writing the stories for the children’s column, the first of which featured the world and characters that later became The Carpet People. During his time there he wrote sixty short stories for it, never missing an episode for over 250 issues. He left the Press for the Western Daily Press on 28 September 1970, but he returned to the Press in 1972 as a sub-editor. On 3 September 1973 he joined the Bath Evening Chronicle. (At this time he also produced a series of cartoons describing the goings-on at the government’s fictional paranormal research establishment, ‘Warlock Hall’ which Peter commissioned for our monthly journal Psychic Researcher, published by us, that he edited.) Terry and Lyn’s daughter Rhianna was born in 1976, and many of his books have been dedicated to her. The Dark Side of the Sun (1976) and Strata (1981) were both written on dark winter evenings, when it wasn’t possible to work in the garden. In 1980 Terry was appointed a publicity officer for the Central Electricity Generating Board (now PowerGen) with responsibility for three nuclear power stations (‘What leak? – Oh, that leak’ and in a phone call from his boss at 6.30am ‘Have you heard the news? No? Well, it’s not as bad as it sounds….’).
In 1981, he spoke about Strata, ‘Fundamental to the story is a theme hinted at in my previous sf book The Dark Side of the Sun, that nothing in the universe is “natural” in the strict sense of the term; everything, from planets to stars, is a relic of previous races and civilisations. Life is not an afterthought on the universal scheme of things, but an integral part of it which was in there shaping its development from the beginning. It might be true, for all I know.’ And he added, ‘I am also working on another ‘discworld’ theme, since I don’t think I’ve exhausted all the possibilities in one book!’ Indeed he had not, as the future was to show. He was working at the CEGB when we published the first of the Discworld books, The Colour of Magic, in 1983. Given that it consisted of four connected tales, I hesitate to call it a novel, and our contract actually defines it as a collection of short stories. Terry’s paperback publisher at the time was New English Library, whom we had licensed to publish The Dark Side of the Sun and Strata (both with cover illustrations by Tim White) but they failed to market Strata adequately – the fact they’d just been taken over by Hodder & Stoughton at the time did not help matters as Hodder’s sales representatives had heard of few of the NEL authors they were now selling, with the possible exception of Robert Heinlein. (NEL published Strata in 1982, but when they remaindered their stock in 1985, I bought about 300 copies and so kept the book in print for a few more years.)
In 1983 I was able to interest Diane Pearson at Corgi in The Colour of Magic, and as soon as I knew that Corgi would be interested rights I got NEL to forego their option clause - 'As Strata sold so badly, you don't want to publish Terry's next book, do you?' 'No, we don't.' 'Oh dear. Well never mind. I expect I'll be able to find another paperback publisher in due course,' sort of exchange – and Diane in turn convinced Corgi to buy the paperback rights. Corgi succeeded in getting BBC Radio 4 ‘Woman’s Hour’ to broadcast it as a six-part serial, immediately after which NEL rang to ask whether the paperback rights were still free: of course, they were too late. Corgi’s publication of the first Discworld novel in late 1985 was the turning point in Terry’s writing career. ‘Woman’s Hour’ later broadcast his third novel, Equal Rites. At the time, I was told that no other books had generated so much reaction from their listeners.
The Light Fantastic was published in 1986, by which time it had become obvious to Terry and myself that if he was to maximise his potential, then he had to move to a major hardcover publishing house, as our small company was unable to cope with the demands of bestsellers, and that this should be done while we were still friends. Victor Gollancz’s SF list was very well known and respected, and Terry indicated that he’d like to be published by that company. I suggested to a friend at Gollancz, David Burnett, that they should consider taking Terry on, and although they had never published fantasy before, only traditional SF, once the editor of their SF list Malcolm Edwards was convinced of their saleability, we struck a co-publishing deal for three titles, Equal Rites, Mort and Sourcery, and these appeared under Gollancz’s imprint ‘in association with Colin Smythe’. With Terry’s increased popularity, however, it became obvious that this arrangement would cause a conflict of loyalties for me, so it was terminated and I became his literary agent. Until the appearance of The Last Continent, all Discworld novels were published in hardcover by Gollancz, while Corgi published all the paperback editions (except Eric).
In September 1987, soon after he had finished writing Mort, Terry decided that he could afford to devote himself to full-time writing, rather than merely doing so in his spare time after work: he thought he might suffer a drop in income for a while but that it would pick up in due course – and anyway, he enjoyed writing more than fielding questions from the Press about malfunctioning nuclear reactors, so he resigned his position with the CEGB (about which he says he could write a book if he thought anyone would believe him). His sales – and income – picked up very much more quickly than he expected, and his next Gollancz contract was for six books, with much larger advances.
Terry’s collaboration with Neil Gaiman on Good Omens was published in May 1990. There have been film options and rumour of options ever since, with Terry Gilliam’s name often associated with it, but it has yet to escape from Development Hell. However, late in 2007 the Costa Book Awards carried out a survey of the most re-read books, and Good Omens came fifteenth, ahead of The Bible and The Hitchhiker’s Guide. Also in 1990, Clarecraft Designs, a company in Suffolk, founded by Bernard Pearson, was licensed to produce a series of models of Discworld characters, and before it closed in 2005 it had produced over 200 figurines, many of which were also produced as pewter miniatures. In October 2008, the Polish company, Micro-Art Studios, started producing Discworld miniatures under licence, based on Paul Kidby’s illustrations.
As Discworld grew in Terry’s imagination, so did the complexity of the city of Ankh-Morpork, and Stephen Briggs, with Terry’s input, set about creating a street map of the city mostly based on the descriptions of the activities of Samuel Vimes and the City Watch. This was painted by Stephen Player, and with an accompanying booklet was published as The Streets of Ankh-Morpork by Corgi in November 1993. Following its success – it reached no. 4 in the bestseller non-fiction list, if I remember correctly – Terry and Stephen created The Discworld Map, published by Corgi in 1995, again painted by Stephen Player.
Sales continued to improve, Soul Music (published by Corgi in May 1995) spent an unbroken run of four weeks in the no.1 position on the paperback bestseller list, The first Discworld computer game (if we exclude the ill-fated Piranha’s very basic 1986 Colour of Magic, created by Delta-4 for Amstrad, Commodore and Spectrum computers), produced by TWG/Perfect 10, was released by Sony’s games company Psygnosis on St Patrick’s Day 1995 (which in 2009 was still being lauded as ‘one of the best adventure games out there’). In 1996 both Maskerade and Interesting Times featured in the top ten hardcover and paperback lists of titles most in demand prior to Christmas.
In 1997 I read that Reaper Man (1991) was Britain’s eighth fastest-selling novel for the previous five years: a remarkable achievement for any book at that time, let alone a so-called ‘genre’ novel. (Of course, the Harry Potter phenomenon was soon to change that market out of all recognition, and we should now be surprised at nothing.)
Of his books for young readers, all published by Doubleday, Truckers (1989), the first volume of what is known in the USA as the Bromeliad Trilogy, was a landmark in that it was the first children’s book to appear in the British adult paperback fiction best-seller lists. It was followed by Diggers, and Wings (both 1990), the revised version of The Carpet People (1992), and all three Johnny Maxwell books, Only You Can Save Mankind (1992), Johnny and the Dead (1993), which had been the first Terry had started work on, but put aside to write Only You as a result of the Gulf War, and Johnny and the Bomb (1996), which won the Smarties Prize Silver Award that year. Film rights in the Truckers series were acquired by Dreamworks Animation in 2001, but only now are things moving on that front, with Frank Cottrell Boyce writing the script.
In 1993 Corgi started issuing abridged versions of the Discworld novels as audio-books read by Tony Robinson, and two years later the unabridged versions started to be released by Isis Publishing. Of the first twenty-three, twenty-one were read by Nigel Planer and two by Celia Imrie, and since the twenty-fourth, all have been read by Stephen Briggs, who has also read the Truckers trilogy, The Dark Side of the Sun, Strata and Good Omens for Isis. Chivers (now part of the BBC) have issued the Johnny Maxwell novels and The Carpet People, all read by Richard Mitchley. In the States, Terry’s most recent novels have been also read by Stephen Briggs for release by HarperAudio. Almost all are available for download from audible.com and from audible.co.uk.
Playtexts by Stephen Briggs, of Mort, Wyrd Sisters, and Johnny and the Dead (this by Oxford University Press), were also published in 1996, as was Gollancz’s publication of Feet of Clay, described on the jacket as a ‘chilling tale of poisoning and pottery’, featuring, among others, Commander Sir Samuel Vimes, Captain Carrot and the City Watch. The Pratchett Portfolio of Paul Kidby’s illustrations of Discworld denizens, with accompanying text by Terry, was published in September and November saw the publication of Hogfather, the paperback edition of Maskerade, and the release by Psygnosis of Perfect Entertainment’s game, Discworld II: Missing, Presumed.... As to sales, Hogfather and Maskerade shared the honours by being top of the hardcover and paperback lists respectively two weeks running. It was the third time Terry had had books in the no.1 positions in both lists simultaneously, and as far as I know, no other author had succeeded in doing this even once up to that time. And Hogfather held the no.1 position in the hardcover fiction list for five weeks. The Times stated that by their calculations, he was probably the highest earning author of 1996 in Britain, and certainly had the greatest sales.
Jingo, in which Ankh-Morpork and Klatch go to war over an island in the Circle Sea that tends to rise and sink, and the Patrician and the City Watch have to settle matters, was published in 1997, as was Discworld’s Unseen University Diary for 1998 (the first of eight co-written with Stephen Briggs and illustrated by Paul Kidby), and Cosgrove Hall’s cartoon series Wyrd Sisters was shown on Channel 4, with Astrion releasing it and Soul Music on video. (For some reason, possibly the arrival of a new head of department, although also commissioned by Channel 4, Soul Music was only transmitted in the middle of the night on 27 December 1999, over two years after its release on video). Corgi have published the illustrated film-scripts of both. Stephen Briggs’ stage adaptations of Guards! Guards!, and Men at Arms were also published that year.
Terry’s twenty-second Discworld novel (and first hardcover to be published by Transworld’s Doubleday imprint) – The Last Continent (definitely not about Australia, but just vaguely Australian) – was published at the beginning of May 1998 and was twelve weeks in the no.1 position in the hardcover fiction best-seller list in Britain. The next, Carpe Jugulum, in which the witches battle vampires for the Kingdom of Lancre, was published on 5 November and it and the paperback edition of Jingo (published on the same day) jointly held the no.1 positions in the hardcover and paperback fiction lists for four weeks running.
Also in May 1998, Corgi published The Tourist’s Guide to Lancre by Terry, and Stephen Briggs, illustrated by Paul Kidby, and Terry’s and Paul’s Death’s Domain was published in May 1999. The third computer game, called Discworld Noir, was also released about that time, as were a double volume containing The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic, entitled The First Discworld Novels, published by Colin Smythe Ltd. At the same time, the paperback edition of The Last Continent came out and stayed for something like twelve weeks in the no.1 position on the Sunday Times paperback bestseller fiction list. In August Steve Jackson Games issued the GURPS Discworld game with contributions by Terry (though citing Terry and Phil Masters as joint authors) and illustrated by Paul Kidby, which was followed in 2001 by GURPS Discworld Also, illustrated by Sean Murray.
As far as Britain is concerned Terry was the 1990s’ best-selling living fiction author (but this was before the Harry Potter phenomenon),. His sales now run at well over three million books a year. In 2001, it was reported that during the first 300 weeks’ existence of the British Booktrack’s (now called Bookscan) weekly bestselling chart, over 60 titles had continuously been in the top 5,000 bestselling titles, and the author with the most titles in this listing was Terry with twelve novels, The Colour of Magic, Guards! Guards!, Pyramids, Soul Music, The Light Fantastic, Reaper Man, Interesting Times, Sourcery, Men at Arms, Equal Rites, Mort and Wyrd Sisters. By 2008 only twelve titles remained in that category, and three of those were Terry’s – The Colour of Magic, The Light Fantastic, and Mort. No other author had more than one. The Bookseller’s article announcing this fact therefore crowned him ‘evergreen king’.
In 2003 the BBC Big Read showed Terry as having as many titles in the top 100 best-loved books – five – as Charles Dickens. (Initially Terry was told he had seven in the list, this being the figure the BBC gave him when they interviewed him for the programme, thus beating Dickens by two books. Subsequently the number was reduced – for some reason not yet divulged – to five, so there was a dead-heat for first place, and all those questions in the interview that referred to his seven titles therefore had to be deleted.) The second 100, as listed in The Big Read Book of Books contained a further ten of Terry’s novels.
Terry has also written a number of short stories, a number of which have Discworld themes. The longest, ‘The Sea and Little Fishes’ was published in October 1998 (in Legends, a collection edited by Robert Silverberg). He finds that short stories involve him in almost as much work as a full-scale book, and if he is already writing a novel – which is almost all the time – he finds it very difficult to stop and change tracks, as it were, and write a short piece, so there are fewer of that genre around than one might expect. A non-Discworld story, ‘Once and Future’, appeared in a collection in the USA in 1995, but it has not been and will not be published in Britain in the foreseeable future. A collection of short stories, Once More, with Footnotes was published in the US to coincide with the 2004 Worldcon, when Terry was its Guest of Honor. A similar collection has yet to appear in the UK, but I (and Pratchett fandom) live in hopes.
When he took up his position with the Western Daily Press in 1970 Terry and Lyn moved to a cottage in Rowberrow in Somerset, and in 1993 when he found he could not enlarge the cottage further, the family moved to what Terry has described as ‘a Domesday manorette’ south west of Salisbury. Alert fans will have seen pictures of this on the TV interview at the time Soul Music was published, and in Salisbury Newspapers’ July 2001 issue of Limited Edition, under the title ‘Planet Pratchett’. Just before the 1993 move, Terry slipped outside the front door of the cottage, hit his head, and mildly concussed himself, blotting out his memory of the previous few hours. Unfortunately, he had received a cheque from me that morning for a rather large sum of money. He knows he put it somewhere safe, but still has no recollection where, and it has yet to turn up, much to Terry’s puzzlement. The replacement was safely banked, without problem.
Terry’s work for the Orang-Utan Foundation is common knowledge. In 1995 he went out to Borneo with a film crew to see orang-utans in their native habitat, and among the praise that ‘Terry Pratchett’s Jungle Quest’ received was a comment by Sir Alec Guinness in his diary (published the following year), that it was – apart from one other programme – ‘the most impressive thing I’ve seen on the box this year’). Terry has also done a year’s stint as Chairman of the Society of Authors (1994-95) was elected a permanent member of its Council, and was chairman of the panel of judges for the 1997 Rhône-Poulenc Prizes for Science Books (later known as the Aventis Prizes, and since 2006 the Royal Society Prizes, as they are now owned and managed by the Society).
His fiftieth birthday at the end of April 1998 was celebrated by a party hosted by Transworld Publishers. While news of a celebration could not be kept from him, I think that its size – fifty guests to a dinner at the Ivy Restaurant in Soho, with various original presents – took him completely by surprise. But what hit the headlines that year was his appointment as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen’s 1998 Birthday Honours List ‘for services to literature’. The initial soundings-out from Downing Street came as such a surprise to him that initially he suspected that it must be an elaborate hoax. However, accompanied by his family, he went to Buckingham Palace on 26 November 1998 to receive the decoration from the Prince of Wales.
The Fifth Elephant (the working title of which had been Uberwald Nights) was published in November 1999, as was Nanny Ogg’s Cook Book (written in collaboration with Stephen Briggs, with recipes by Tina Hannan, and illustrated by Paul Kidby).
In July 1999 he received an honorary Doctorate of Literature (D.Litt.) from the University of Warwick (and in turn granted doctorates of the Unseen University to Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, co-authors with him of The Science of Discworld, which had been published the previous month). This was the first of a string of honorary doctorates, from the University of Portsmouth (2001), the University of Bath (2003), and Bristol University (2004).
Terry’s twenty-fifth Discworld novel, The Truth, was published in November 2000. This novel had been started some years previously but he put it aside as for some time he could not see how the plot would develop. An idea of how long ago he started planning it is given by the original working title – Interesting Times – which got used for a different novel, published in 1994.The Truth is about Ankh-Morpork’s first newspaper, so Terry was able to make use of some his experiences from his own reporting days. It was the first Discworld novel to have been published simultaneously in Britain and America.
It was followed in May 2001 by Thief of Time, featuring Susan, History Monks, the Auditors, the Five Horsemen (including the one who left before they became famous) and even chocolate-covered coffee beans... In August 2001 Gollancz published the 2002 Discworld calendar, entirely made up of pictures by Josh Kirby. They also published the 2002 Diary - The Thieves’ Guild Diary. The Last Hero, featuring Cohen the Barbarian, the Silver Horde, and a cast of ?thousands, amazingly illustrated by Paul Kidby, was published in October 2001. This was followed a couple of weeks later by The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents, which won the prestigious Carnegie Medal for the best children’s book of the year. Before the repeat presentation before the Librarians invited to the event, Terry was able to palm the gold medal and replace it with a chocolate-centred gold ‘coin’ of the same size, which he proceeded to eat, to the amazement of his audience.
Sadly, Josh Kirby died in November 2001, aged seventy-two. He had illustrated the covers of Terry’s books since Corgi first started publishing him in 1985 and it must be true to say that outside America – and for many there – the first Discworld book almost every fan acquired would have had a Kirby picture on its cover, and in many European countries Kirby covers are still essential.
Terry’s second collaboration with Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, The Science of Discworld II - The Globe, was published by Ebury Press in May 2002, followed in November by Night Watch, the first Discworld novel without a Josh Kirby cover on it (if you don’t count our first edition of The Colour of Magic, which had been published before Josh was selected by Corgi to do the covers). Instead it had a magnificent Paul Kidby painting based on Rembrandt’s ‘The Nightwatch’.
In Autumn 2002 (the year Terry’s sales accounted for 4.3% of the UK’s general retail market for hardback fiction), Gollancz published The (Reformed) Vampyre’s Diary and a Calendar with work by a number of artists, both for 2003, a year in which Doubleday published Monstrous Regiment, The New Discworld Companion (with Stephen Briggs) and The Wee Free Men, a novel for younger readers, set on Discworld, featuring the Nac Mac Feegle and a young girl discovering she has witch-powers, Tiffany Aching. This won the 2004 W.H.Smith People's Choice Book Award in the Teen Choice Category. It also won the Locus Award for the Best Young Adult Novel of 2003. Terry’s second novel featuring Tiffany Aching, A Hat Full of Sky, which brought Granny Weatherwax in as a major player, was published at the end of April 2004.
Going Postal, the thirty-third novel in the Discworld sequence, was published in October 2004 (with an ever-enlarged selection of stamps emanating from the Cunning Artificer, Bernard Pearson, some of which are reproduced on the book’s end-papers), and became the UK’s biggest selling hardback novel for 2004. It was followed by The Art of Discworld, in which Terry’s text accompanies Paul Kidby’s illustrations. There were only calendars and no diaries for 2004 or 2005 as Terry had not been able to decide on suitable themes for Stephen Briggs and Paul to work on.
The 21st anniversary of the November 1983 publication of the first Discworld novel, The Colour of Magic (which has sold well over a million copies in the Corgi edition alone) took place in 2004, and to mark this Transworld (in association with Colin Smythe Ltd) issued an anniversary hardcover edition of it with a photographic black and gold cover (with 1,000 signed, numbered and slip-cased copies), as well as the next six novels in paperback with similar cover designs. (By 2009, all the Discworld novels will also be available in this alternative format.)
The third Science of Discworld book with Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, called Darwin’s Watch, was published in May 2005, and his next Discworld novel, Thud!, appeared at the beginning of October, and apart from its usual appearance at the top of the British bestsellers list, and according to Bookscan it broke all records for one week’s sales of an adult hardback fiction novel since they began keeping UK book sales data. Meanwhile, the American edition published by HarperCollins reached the no. 4 position in the New York Times’ bestseller list – the first time in the top ten there.
At the same time Doubleday and HarperCollins issued a short picture book, Where’s My Cow? illustrated by Melvyn Grant, which shows Sam Vimes reading it to his young son, as described in Thud!, but adding his ‘improvements’. This book, the ‘Children’s Winner of the Ankh-Morpork Librarians’ Award’, was written by an Ankh-Morpork author, one Terry Pratchett, whose portrait even hangs in a corner of Young Sam’s nursery. Unfortunately, no biographical details of this author appear in it, and he has not yet featured in any of Terry’s other Discworld books.
2006 started with Terry completing Wintersmith, the third Tiffany Aching novel, the appearance of a three-part adaptation of Johnny and the Bomb on BBC1 TV (http://johnnyandthebomb.tv/ ), the announcement that Sam Raimi planned to direct Wee Free Men (after completing the third Spiderman film – see Variety’s news story at http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117935766?categoryid=1236&cs=1&query=pratchett&display=pratchett ,
Empire.com’s at http://www.empireonline.com/news/story.asp?NID=17804 and the BBC’s at http://news.bbc.co.uk/cbbcnews/hi/newsid_4590000/newsid_4598600/4598672.stm ), though I haven’t heard much on that front since then.
A two-part four-hour dramatized mini-series adaptation of Hogfather (by Mob Films) for transmission on Sky1 was transmitted in December 2006, and the DVD is now available. Filmed as live-action with CGI, with the late Ian Richardson as the voice of Death, Sir David Jason as Albert, Marc Warren as Teatime and Michelle Dockery as Susan. Filming the snow scenes took place in February 2006 in Scotland and main filming was completed at the Three Mile Studios in London, with the CGI being created by the Moving Picture Company. In April 2007 it won a BAFTA Interactivity Award, the citation being to Aidan Conway, Giles Pooley, Rod Brown, Ian Sharples (Mob Film Company/Sky One Networked Media). Sky invested more in this than in any previous production they’d commissioned, and their confidence was more than justified by the viewing figures of 2.8 million for this £6 million project, making it the highest rated multi-channel commission ever (to that time), beating BBC3’s October 2006 figures for Torchwood.
While all this was making headlines, Terry finished his next Moist von Lipwig novel, Making Money, published in September 2007, which became the best selling adult fiction novel published that year in the UK, and he finished writing his next young adult novel, Nation, set on a small island in the almost Pacific in the aftermath of a Krakatoa-like eruption. In 2007, too, he had been working with Jacqueline Simpson, eminent folklorist, and former Secretary of the Folklore Society, on The Folklore of Discworld.
Sir David Jason, Tim Curry, Sean Astin and Christopher Lee (as the voice of Death) are four of the major names in The Colour of Magic, the Mob’s second Discworld mini-series for Sky1 and RHI Entertainment, which combined the first two Discworld novels under the title of the first book, and was transmitted in Britain in two parts, on Easter Sunday and Monday 2008 and later in the year in North America and Australia. It was mostly filmed in and around Pinewood Studios in south Buckinghamshire (near where I live), with forays to Horsley Towers in Surrey, Cardiff docks, Snowdonia (north Wales) and Niagara Falls. The Mob’s next foray into Discworld will be Going Postal, with an intended transmission date in Spring 2010.
While on tour in America in summer 2007, Terry told audiences at the National Book Festival in Washington DC (during which Terry breakfasted at the White House and dined at the Library of Congress with the other featured authors) and in New York, that he’d had a stroke, but the symptoms had been misdiagnosed, and were of a far worse illness, posterior cortical atrophy, a rare variant of Alzheimer’s disease, which was diagnosed in December. As he knew he would have to inform his publishers, he thought it wise to make a public announcement (first releasing the news at www.pjsmprints.com/news/embuggerance.html): he knew the news would leak out anyway, and he preferred that people should have the full facts immediately. This got considerable press coverage, but it did not prevent him from completing Nation, and by March 2008 he’d decided that he would hit back at the disease and help the search for a cure – or at least help find methods to control it – by donating a million dollars to the Alzheimer’s Research Trust. It took him some time to be prescribed the best drug presently available to combat the symptoms, Aricept, but he does have to pay for it as he is considered too young to be given it without charge by the National Health Service.
2008 has marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the publication of the first Discworld novel, The Colour of Magic, as well as Terry’s sixtieth birthday and his and Lyn’s fortieth wedding anniversary, all of which were celebrated in different ways, public and private. On 14 June he held a five hour signing outside Foyle’s bookshop on London’s South Bank to mark the publication of the Making Money paperback, fortunately in fine weather – and it gave those in the queue an excellent chance to see the Royal Air Force’s fly-past as it headed for Buckingham Palace at the end of the Trooping of the Colour, it being the Queen’s official birthday. The queue was also entertained by songs from the musical of Only You Can Save Mankind, composed by Leighton James House, lyrics by Shaun McKenna, which should be seen on stage in 2010 (an earlier version of which was seen at the 2004 Edinburgh Fringe).
To mark his sixtieth birthday, Terry’s daughter Rhianna arranged an open-air concert by Steeleye Span (one of Terry’s favourite groups) in their home village in Wiltshire. This was followed in August by the 2008 Discworld Convention, the sixth in Britain. The Folklore of Discworld was published on 11 September with the much-acclaimed non-Discworld young adult novel, Nation, almost entirely set on a not quite Pacific island, were officially published on the same day, with a launch party held at the headquarters of The Royal Society (which has a ‘walk-on’ part in the book), in London, while the Illustrated Wee Free Men (illustrated by Stephen Player) appeared in early October.
Terry has now written forty-nine books (of which thirty-seven are Discworld novels) and co-authored a further fifty. Between them they have sold over 65 million copies in thirty-seven languages, which I calculate would be a pile of books over 1,000 miles high, stretching further than Land’s End in Cornwall to the furthest tip of the Shetland Islands off the north coast of Scotland – or from New Orleans to Chicago, and then some.
Apart from these events, Terry has been interviewed about his books and his thoughts on Alzheimer’s Disease and the government’s attitude to treating the sufferers, pointing out that up to now (December 2008) Alzheimer’s research has only been getting 3% of the funding that cancer research gets from the government, as well as highlighting the inadequate treatment available to sufferers, on television, radio and in the press. His vociferous support seems to be having a positive effect on the government. As Rebecca Wood, the Chief Executive of the Alzheimer’s Research Trust said: ‘Terry promised to “scream and harangue” about dementia research. He did much more than that. He became a voice for the 700,000 people in the UK who live with dementia but cannot scream and harangue so loudly. Dementia research is still vastly underfunded, but this is changing thanks to Terry’s incredible work.’
He has also been appearing at various festivals, including those in Cheltenham and Edinburgh. He was busy before he discovered he had early onset Alzheimer’s, but now even more so, as he appears to have become the public face of the disease: his particular variant leaves the cognitive parts of his mind virtually untouched, as anyone who has recently seen or heard him on TV or radio or elsewhere can vouch. He even spoke at the Tory Party’s annual conference in September this year, and received a standing ovation. The filming of a two hour documentary by IWC Media for the BBC about his life, Discworld and Alzheimer’s is in preparation and is due for transmission in early February 2009 as part of BBC Headroom, the BBC’s two-year mental health and wellbeing initiative.
This inevitably focuses on activities in the English-speaking world north of the Equator, and much could and should be written about his popularity in other countries and other languages – stage adaptations have been performed on six continents (including Antarctica), and his popularity south of the Equator is considerable. Australia, for example, accounts for about 5% of Transworld’s sales of Terry’s books, and both Thud! and Making Money were no.1 in the Australian hardback fiction bestsellers’ list on publication.
On 9 September 2008 he received a fifth honorary degree, from Buckinghamshire New University (based in High Wycombe, where he’d worked for the Bucks Free Press in the 1960s), and where he was also the guest speaker at the ceremony, and on 12 December he received an honorary doctorate of literature (LittD) from my alma mater, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin University, the first he has been given by a university that was founded before the 20th century.
The year climaxed with the announcement that Terry had been included in the 2009 New Year’s Honours List, being appointed a Knight Bachelor, ‘for services to literature’, with the press handout adding that it was ‘in recognition of the huge impact his work has had across all ages and strata of society and across the world’. Amongst the mass of worldwide press reportage, the Independent (London) devoted half its leading article ‘Honours earned and omitted’ to Terry, ending with the words ‘In a period of personal adversity, Mr Pratchett has shown genuine courage. The knighthood of this modest man is an example of what our honours system should be about – and the best reason of all not to scrap it.’
In January 2009 the Royal National Theatre announced that it was going to stage an adaptation of Nation by Mark Ravenhill in the Olivier Theatre, over Christmas 2009. The previews started 11 November, with the press night on the 24th, and it is going to be shown on NT Live around the world on 30 January 2010. Terry completed Unseen Academicals some months behind schedule, mainly because of its length (135,000 words – none of his other novels have been more than about 110,000 words) and the complexity of its ‘threads’ and time-line that had to be checked carefully to ensure everything flowed smoothly without internal contradiction. Editing his work now is not nearly as easy for him as it used to be as he now dictates, either to Rob Wilkins or through a voice recognition program. He has also dictated about 40,000 thousand words of I Shall Wear Midnight, and parts of a projected autobiography. His character in Going Postal, presently being produced by the Mob in Hungary, has already been filmed. Other events during 2009 have been the award of further honorary degrees, from Bradford and Winchester, his attendance at the First North American and First Irish Discworld Conventions, work on the creation of a sword made from iron ore he collected on Salisbury Plain (with the addition of a little bit of ‘thunderbolt iron’ from the Sikhote Alin meteorite to give it that special extra-terrestrial ‘something’), and written a cogently-argued article, published in the Mail on Sunday in August, on the right of a terminally-ill person to be able to choose when to die without being viewed as a potential criminal. But for Terry there seems no need for him to worry about that decision for years to come – as readers of Unseen Academicals will recognise, when they finish an immensely enjoyable, beautifully crafted, work.