Terence David John Pratchett, OBE (born 28 April 1948) is a British fantasy, science fiction and Children's literature. He is best known for his popular and long-running Discworld series of comic fantasy novels. Pratchett's first novel, The Carpet People, was published in 1971, and since his first Discworld novel (The Colour of Magic) was published in 1983, he has written two books a year on average. Pratchett is also known for close collaboration on adaptations of his books but has held back from Discworld feature films so far.
Pratchett was the UK's best-selling author of the 1990s, and as of December 2007 has sold more than 55 million books worldwide, with translations made in 33 languages. In 2001 he won the Carnegie Medal for his children's novel The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents.
Despite his popularity, Pratchett is often described as having a ‘Cult following’ - a factor seen as having, in the past, hindered his literary recognition. Pratchett, who was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire "for services to literature" in 1998, holds the record for the most shoplifted author in Britain.
Terry Pratchett was born in 1948 in Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire, England, the only child of David and Eileen Pratchett, of Hay-on-Wye. He passed his Eleven plus exam in 1959, earning him a place in a Technical school (High Wycombe Technical High School). Pratchett described himself as a "nondescript student", and in his Who's Who (UK) entry, credits his education to the Beaconsfield Public Library.
His early interests included Astronomy; he collected Brooke Bond Tea cards about space, owned a telescope and desired to be an astronomer, but was no good at mathematics. However, this led to an interest in reading British and American science fiction. In turn, this led to attending science fictions from about 1963/4, which stopped when he got his first job. His early reading included the works of H. G. Wells and Arthur Conan Doyle and "every book you really ought to read" which he now regards as "getting an education".
At the age of 13, Pratchett published his first short story The Hades Business in the school magazine. It was published commercially when he was 15. Pratchett earned 5 O-levels and started 3 A-level courses, in Art, English and History. Pratchett's first career choice was Journalism and he left school at 17 in 1965 to start working for the Bucks Free Press. However, he finished his A-Level in English, and took a proficiency course for journalists.
Pratchett got his first 'break' in 1968, when working as a journalist. He came to interview Peter Bander van Duren, co-director of a small publishing company. During the meeting, Pratchett mentioned he had written a manuscript, The Carpet People. Bander van Duren and his business partner, Colin Smythe (of Colin Smythe Publishing) published the book in 1971, with illustrations by Pratchett himself. The book received strong, if few reviews. The book was followed by the science fiction novels The Dark Side of the Sun and Strata (novel), published in 1976 and 1981, respectively.
The first Discworld novel The Colour of Magic was published in 1983 by Colin Smythe in Hardback and by New English Library in Paperback. The publishing rights for paperback were soon taken by Corgi, an Imprint of Transworld (company), the current publisher. Pratchett received further popularity after the BBC's Woman's Hour broadcast The Light Fantastic as a serial in six parts, after it was published in 1986. Subsequently, rights for hardback were taken by the publishing house Victor Gollancz, which has remained Pratchett's publisher, and Smythe became Pratchett's agent. Pratchett was the first fantasy author published by Gollancz.
Concern for the future of civilisation has prompted him to install five kilowatts of photovoltaic cells (for solar energy) at his house. In addition, his childhood interest in astronomy has led him to build an observatory in his garden. Pratchett appealed to people to "keep things cheerful", and proclaimed that "we are taking it fairly philosophically down here and possibly with a mild optimism." Leading the way, Pratchett stated that he feels he has time for "at least a few more books yet", and added that while he understands the impulse to ask 'is there anything I can do?', in this particular case he will only entertain such offers from "very high-end experts in brain chemistry." Of his donation Mr. Pratchett said: "I am, along with many others, scrabbling to stay ahead long enough to be there when the Cure comes along.” Pratchett's donation inspired an internet campaign where fans hope to 'Match it for Pratchett', by raising another $1 million.
In April 2008, the BBC began working with Pratchett to make a documentary series based on his illness. He also made an appearance on The One Show on 15 May 2008, talking about his condition. He was the subject and interviewee of the 20 May 2008 edition of On the Ropes (Radio 4), discussing Alzheimer's and how it had affected his life.
Computers and the InternetEdit
Pratchett started to use computers for writing as soon as they were available to him. His first computer was a Sinclair ZX81, the first computer he properly used for writing was an Amstrad CPC 464, later replaced by a PC. Pratchett was one of the first authors to routinely use the Internet to communicate with fans, and has been a contributor to the Usenet newsgroup alt.fan.pratchett since 1992. However, he does not consider the Internet as a hobby, just another "thing to use". the University of Portsmouth in 2001, the University of Bath in 2003 and the University of Bristol in 2004.
The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents won the 2001 Carnegie Medal for best children's Novel (awarded in 2002).
In 2003 Pratchett firmly reinforced his credentials as one of Britain's most loved authors, by joining Charles Dickens as one of the only two authors with five books in the Radio 4's Big Read 'Top 100' (four of which were Discworld novels). Pratchett was also the author with the most novels in the 'Top 200' (fifteen).
The first three Discworld novels centring on the Tiffany Aching 'trainee witch' character have each received the Locus Award for Best Young Adult Book (in 2004, 2005 and 2007).
Pratchett's Discworld novels have led to dedicated conventions, the first in Manchester in 1996, then worldwide, often with the author as guest of honour. Publication of a new novel may also accompanied by an international book signing tour; queues have been known to stretch outside the bookshop and the author has continued to sign books well after the intended finishing time.
Pratchett has said that to write, you must read extensively, both inside and outside your chosen genre and to the point of "overflow".
The fantasy genreEdit
Although in the past he has written in the sci-fi and horror genres, Pratchett now focuses almost entirely on fantasy, explaining "it is easier to bend the universe around the story". In the acceptance speech for his Carnegie Medal he said: 'Fantasy isn’t just about wizards and silly wands. It’s about seeing the world from new directions', pointing to J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter novels and The Lord of the Rings. In the same speech, he also acknowledged benefits of these works for the genre. He "believes he owes a debt to the science fiction/fantasy genre which he grew up out of" and dislikes the term "Magical realism" which is "like a polite way of saying you write fantasy and is more acceptable to certain people - and who, on the whole don't care that much." He is annoyed that fantasy is "unregarded as a literary form" because it "is the oldest form of fiction"
On 31 July 2005, Pratchett criticised media coverage of Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling, commenting that certain members of the media seemed to think that "the continued elevation of J. K. Rowling can only be achieved at the expense of other writers".
Characters, place names and titles in Pratchett's books often contain puns, allusions and culture references. Some characters are parodies of well-known characters: for example, Pratchett's character (Genghis) Cohen the Barbarian is a parody of Conan the Barbarian and Genghis Khan, and his character Leonard of Quirm is a parody of Leonardo da Vinci.
Another hallmark of his writing is the use of capitalised dialogue without quotation marks, used to indicate the character of Death communicating telepathically into a character's mind. Pratchett also made up a new colour, octarine, a 'fluorescent greenish-yellow-purple', which is the eighth colour in the Discworld spectrum - the colour of magic.
Pratchett makes no secret of outside influences on his work: they are a major source of his humour. He imports numerous characters from classic literature, popular culture and ancient history, always adding an unexpected twist. Pratchett is a crime novel fan, which is reflected in frequent appearances of the Ankh-Morpork in the Discworld series.
The Discworld seriesEdit
- See the Discworld article for the list of Discworld.
Pratchett's Discworld series is a humorous and often Satirical sequence of stories set in the colourful fantasy Discworld. The series contains various 'Discworld' (or 'sub-series'), and a number of free-standing stories. All are set in an abundance of locations in the same detailed and unified world, such as the Unseen University's and 'Broken Drum' Pub in the twin city Ankh-Morpork, or places in the various continents, regions and countries on the Disc. Characters and locations reappear throughout the series, variously taking major and minor roles.
The Discworld itself is described as a large disc resting on the backs of four giant elephants, all supported by the giant turtle Great A'Tuin as it swims its way through space. The books are essentially in chronological order,
The subject of many of the novels in Pratchett's Discworld series is a Parody of a real-world subject such as film making, Newspaper publishing, Rock and roll music, Religion, Philosophy, Egyptian history, Australia, university politics, Trade unions, and the financial world. Pratchett has also included further parody as a feature within the stories, including such subjects as Ingmar Bergman films, numerous fiction, science fiction and fantasy characters, and various bureaucratic and ruling systems.
Other Discworld booksEdit
Pratchett has written or collaborated on a number of Discworld books that are not novels in themselves but serve to accompany the series.
The Discworld Companion, written with Stephen Briggs, is an encyclopedic guide to Discworld. The third (and latest) edition was renamed The New Discworld Companion, and was published in 2003. Briggs also collaborated with Pratchett on a series of fictional Discworld "mapps". The first, The Discworld Mapp (1995), illustrated by Stephen Player, comprises a large, comprehensive map of the Discworld itself with a small booklet that contains short biographies of the Disc's prominent explorers and their discoveries. Three further "mapps", have been released, focusing on particular regions of the Disc: Ankh-Morpork, Lancre and Death's Domain. Briggs and Pratchett have also released several Discworld diaries and, with Tina Hannan, Nanny Ogg (1999). The design of this Cookbook, illustrated by Paul Kidby, was based on the traditional Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, but with humorous recipes.
Collections of Discworld-related art have also been released in book form. The Pratchett Portfolio (1996) and The Art of Discworld (2004) are collections of paintings of major Discworld characters by Paul Kidby, with details added by Pratchett on the character's origins.
In 2005, Pratchett's first book for very young children was Where's My Cow?. Illustrated by Melvyn Grant, this is a realisation of the short story Sam Vimes reads to his child in Thud!.
Science of Discworld
Pratchett has written three Science of Discworld books in collaboration with Professor of mathematics Ian Stewart (mathematician) and reproductive biologist Jack Cohen (scientist), both of Warwick University: The Science of Discworld (1999), The Science of Discworld (2002) and The Science of Discworld (2005).
All three books have chapters that alternate between fiction and non-fiction: the fictional chapters are set within the Discworld, where its characters observe, and experiment on, a universe with the same physics as ours. The non-fiction chapters (written by Stewart and Cohen) explain the science behind the fictional events.
In 1999, Pratchett appointed both Cohen and Stewart as "Honorary Wizards of the Unseen University" at the same ceremony at which the University of Warwick awarded him an honorary degree.
- Now We Are Sick written by Neil Gaiman and Stephen Jones 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.
Pratchett has had a number of radio adaptations on Radio 4: The Colour of Magic, The Light Fantastic (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.
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 15th March and 29th 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.
Johnny and the Dead was made into a TV serial for Children's ITV on ITV, in 1995. In January 2006, Radio 4 aired a three-part adaptation of Johnny And The Bomb (serial).
A two-part, feature-length version of Terry Pratchett's 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 makings. 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.
Truckers (TV series) was adapted as a Stop motion animation series for Thames Television by Cosgrove Hall Films. Wyrd Sisters and Soul Music were adapted as two animated cartoon series by Cosgrove Hall Films for Channel 4 in 1996; illustrated Screenplays of these were published in 1998 and 1997 respectively.
Pratchett has sold a number of his book rights, but so far no films have 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) 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 (film series) 17".
Comic books and graphic novelsEdit
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.
GURPS Discworld (Steve Jackson Games, 1998) and GURPS Discworld (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 gamesEdit
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, a sequel to Discworld developed by Perfect Entertainment in 1996. It was subtitled "Mortality Bytes!" in North America.
- Discworld is the first 3D game based on the Discworld series, and is both an example and Parody of the film making Genre. The game was created by Perfect Entertainment and published by GT Interactive for both the PC and Sony Playstation in 1999. It was released only in Europe and Australia.
The world of Discworld is also featured in an online MUD, multi-user dungeon, and can be found at discworld.atuin.net. This game allows players to play humans in various guild within the universe that Terry Pratchett has created.
Works about PratchettEdit
A collection of essays about his writings is compiled in the book Terry Pratchett: Guilty of Literature, edited by Andrew M. Butler, Edward James (historian) 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 (book publisher) in 2006 (ISBN 0431906335).
- Terry Pratchett's official site at HarperCollins (US publisher)
- Terry Pratchett's official site at Transworld (UK, EU and Canada publisher)
- The L-Space Web: A Terry Pratchett / Discworld Web Site
- Discworld Monthly: free monthly newsletter about Terry Pratchett and his works
- From Rim To Hub: Discworld/Terry Pratchett fan site Includes a character list, quotes, frequently updated news, and information on the books and films.
- Terry Pratchett Quotes archive: a searchable database of quotes from Terry Pratchett's novels
- Bookclub: BBC’s James Naughtie and a group of readers talk to Terry Pratchett about his book Mort (audio)
- Regular updates from Terry and his PA at Sandra Kidby's site
- May 2, 2007 Live Webchat transcript at Douglas Adams Continuum
- September 29, 2007 Live Webcast: Terry Pratchett speaks and answers questions at the 2007 National Book Festival in Washington DC (audio)
- Meeting Mr Pratchett at The Age
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