Interviews With Terry Pratchett
In the Words of the Master...
Here are a number of excerpts from articles by Terry Pratchett that I think
fall under the heading of 'annotations' but which are either not associated
with one particular novel, or else so long they would break the flow of the
Quotation marks (" ") indicate the beginning and ending of quotes from
different Usenet articles. For further clarity I am putting my own
editorial text in square brackets ([ ]) for the rest of this section.
- What are the 'rules' and 'regulations' of headology? It just seems to be
an area that is not properly defined.
"Ah. It appears you have discovered Rule 1."
- Should Terry write Discworld novels with new characters, or should he
write Discworld novels with established characters. Should he, in fact,
listen to what his readers have to say on this subject?
"1. I always listen to advice. It's polite.
2. If I heeded all the advice I've had over the years, I'd have written
18 books about Rincewind. Absolutely true. The most common plea in my
mail right now is 'when are we going to read about Rincewind in XXXX?'
I'm being instructed that I have a duty to my readers -- if I was
innocent, I'd be attaching corks to that battered pointy hat even now.
But perhaps this is an issue on which I have thought long and hard. After
all, it's my living and ten years of my life.
If Discworld continues, then old characters will continue -- Rincewind
will get red dust in his sandals, the Watch will be back, Gaspode will
probably limp into stories. And new characters will arise. Why not? It's
not as if there are rules. What will probably end Discworld is simple
crowding -- the Watch already make Ankh-Morpork based stories a little
problematical, and I won't get into the comic book convention of having
Captain Courage out of town so that Commander Socko can take centre
"My publishers have never insisted that I 'write another Discworld
book'. If I rang them up and said 'the next one's a Western' (or
whatever) they'd probably say 'Oh, right.' In fact the current contract
does NOT specify that my next book, for example, must be Discworld.
Of course I listen to my readers! So the next book will be:
Set in Ankh-Morpork/not set in Ankh-Morpork. With lots of the good old
characters/with a whole cast of new characters. Written like the old
books, which were better/written like the later books, which were better.
With lots of character development/none of that dull character
development stuff, which gets in the way of the jokes. Short/long.
You want fries with that?"
- About the Discworld CD-ROM Game, and its sequel.
"What I did on the Computer Game
by Terry Pratchett
a) rewrote and tinkered and generally worked quite hard on the script,
although the guy that drafted it was pretty good;
b) approved (and sometimes didn't approve) the characters -- I think the
game's got the third version of Rincewind and of the Librarian, for
I think some of the puzzles are a shade too obtuse, and when Discworld II
is done I'll probably get more involved in them. But the look and feel of
the game is pretty close to the early Rincewind books, I think. As game
adaptations go, I was about as closely involved as possible for someone
who doesn't write code. It seemed to us all that 'Shouting at people' was
a fairly realistic statement of the position."
- About Unseen University's financial status.
"Unseen University owns quite a lot of land in the area of Sator Square
and while the rents are pretty low there are a lot of properties. There
have been various bequests by former Archchancellors and so on over the
history of the university. I suspect UU also earns money for generalised
magical services in the city (the Pork Futures warehouse, for example).
Over the millennia, it all adds up.
Finally, UU expenses are not high. As far as I can tell, the senior
wizards don't draw salaries but are paid in big dinners. Merchants in the
city tend to 'give' UU foodstuffs because, well, wouldn't you prefer the
local wizards to be fat and happy rather than thin and grouchy?"
- Are there any plans for Pterry to appear on Europe-wide TV?
"I don't know. I hope not."
- On interviews.
"People...(including everyone who interviews me for their Uni magazine,
'cos I must have done a hundred of those things) Rule I of interviews
Write a list of your main questions to fix things in your mind; Throw it
away; Start the interview; Then LISTEN to what the guy is saying so that
you can follow any interesting thread; Because if you don't, then what
you'll get is a quiz, not an interview.
Sigh... It happens to me all the time:
Q Where did you get the idea for the Discworld?
A I stole it from an old man I met and now I've decided to tell you all.
Q Who is your favourite character?
- Does Terry keep earlier drafts of his novels around?
"I save about twenty drafts -- that's ten meg of disc space -- and the
last one contains all the final alterations. Once it has been printed out
and received by the publishers, there's a cry here of 'Tough shit,
literary researchers of the future, try getting a proper job!' and the
rest are wiped."
- On answering letters.
[ Terry's wife Lyn reads all his mail first, and selects the reply order ]
"It tends to arrive on my desk in this order:
Stuff that really needs to be dealt with today.
Stuff that needs an answer quickly.
Fan mail with SAEs (Lyn encourages politeness) or which is particularly
interesting, worthy, funny or whatever.
Any other mail from abroad (because it's usually taken a while
to get here).
People who send me their MS without checking first, and others of that
However, I tend to stir it all up and in fact answer in the order:
Ones written in green ink on mauve paper
Ones with more exclamation marks that sanity dictates
It's a strange fact, isn't it, that emails of all sorts tend to get
answered within 24 hours while 'real' mail takes days or weeks or
- On the quality of Tolkien's writing.
"What is a master writer?
I read Tolkien now and notice the gaps, the evasions, all the 'bad'
things... but few books have had the effect on me that TLOTR had when I
was thirteen. Is he better or worse, for example, than Anita Brookner,
widely regarded as a 'fine writer' although terribly dull to read? What
is a writer supposed to achieve?
Before I rank Tolkien, I'd like to know how the scoring is being done."
- Why Terry switched his German publishers (from Heyne to Goldmann).
"There were a number of reasons for switching to Goldmann, but a deeply
personal one for me was the way Heyne (in Sourcery, I think, although
it may have been in other books) inserted a soup advert in the text ...
a few black lines and then something like 'Around about now our heroes
must be pretty hungry and what better than a nourishing bowl'... etc,
My editor was pretty sick about it, but the company wouldn't promise not
to do it again, so that made it very easy to leave them. They did it to
Iain Banks, too, and apparently at a con he tore out the offending page
and ate it. Without croutons."
[ A scan of the offending page is available from the Pratchett Archives. ]
- On people wanting to write their own Discworld stories.
"There is no question that using characters, backgrounds, plot threads,
etc, etc of an author in copyright can get you into serious legal
trouble -- there have been cases over this recently in the States. Try
publishing a James Bond novel without consulting the Fleming estate and
see what happens. It's amazing that people don't realise this. Publishers
are used to getting stories with a covering note saying 'Here's a story
I've set in Harry Spiven's 'World of Hurts' universe...' and the
publishers say 'Did you get his permission?' and the writer says 'I don't
have to do that, do I?' and the publishers go white and say 'Does the
Pope shit in the woods?'
That's the REAL world. Now let's talk about FANDOM.
The law isn't any different. But there's people out there writing HHGTTG
stuff, Red Dwarf stuff, Star Trek stuff and Discworld stuff for the
amusement of their friends. Authors react on an individual basis. Some
hate it and try to stop it. Anne McCaffrey -- I think, although I'm open
to correction here -- doesn't mind so long as her main characters are not
used. Douglas Adams seems to have tolerated/given permission for a welter
of Hitchhikers stuff in the ZZ9 fanzine.
It seems to me that if something is being done on an amateur basis by a
fan for fans, and is clearly their own work, and is done out of a shared
regard for the basic subject matter, then it would be kind of chilly for
an author to run around hammering people. It's fandom, for god's sake. I
don't give anyone permission, I just smile and think what the hell.
There's a danger, of course, that some dumb bugger out there will
interpret this as an indication that Discworld is now in the public
domain or open to franchising. It is neither. If anyone tries a
commercial rip-off -- not a parody, not fanac, but a cynical attempt to
cash in on my Discworld -- then the sewage farm will hit the three
"I'd rather fanfic went on somewhere where I don't see it. Why? Because
if A Fan writes a piece about, say, Discworld tax collectors, and I chose
to write about Discworld tax collectors a year later, A Fan will send me
the 'nyer, ripoff, you nicked my idea' email."
- What is the 'H.P. Lovecraft Holiday Fun Club'?
"Nothing serious, really. This was just the name I gave to a group of
people that seemed to turn up at every UK convention in the late 80s --
me, Neil Gaiman, Jo Fletcher, Mary Gentle, Mike Harrison, etc, etc... As
to why... well, it just seemed to fit in that well-known group of clubs
like the Saudi Arabian Beer-Mat Collectors Association and the Venetian
League of Joggers."
- About special deluxe editions of the Discworld novels.
"We have been talking about some special Discworld editions, maybe with a
few choice interior illustrations and some heavy leather covers. I
personally would like to see them with chains, too.
The snag for me is that the publishers keep talking about 'limited'
editions. I've got a psychological objection to 'limited' editions. I
like unlimited editions."
- On the lack of chapters in the Discworld novels.
"DW books don't have chapters because, well, I just never got into the
habit of chapters. I'm not sure why they should exist (except maybe in
children's books, to allow the parent to say "I'll read to the end of the
chapter and then you must go to sleep."). Films don't have chapters.
Besides, I think they interfere with the shape of the story. Use a
bookmark is my advice."
"I have to shove them in the putative YA books because my editor screams
until I do."
- On Discworld language use.
"A certain amount of DW slang comes from Palari or Polari, the fairground
/ underworld / theatre 'secret language' (which seems to have a lot of
roots in old Italian). UK readers with long memories might recall the
pair of gay actors 'Julian and Sandy', in the old Round the Horne radio
show in the Sixties and Seventies (innocent times, innocent times); they
spoke almost pure Palari."
- Why don't you use a Macintosh for your writing?
"In fact I type so fluently that I can't deal with a mouse. My mother
paid for me to have touch-typing lessons when I was 13, and they took.
Hah! I can just see a DW book written with voice-recognition software!
Especially in this cat-ridden house! 'That's Ankh-Morpork, you bloody
stupid machine! GET OFF THE TURNTABLE!' As to goshwowness -- well, it
seems now that a 50MHz 486 is what you need if you're not going to have
silicon kicked in your face on the beach. But... Macs do interest me...
it's just that I associate them with manipulation rather than input."
- Where are all these references to science, physics in particular, coming
"How much physics do I know? How do I know that? I don't know about the
stuff I don't know. I've no formal training but I've spent a lot of time
around scientists of one sort of another, and I'm a great believer in
[ People on the net (who tend to have a university or technical
background) are often impressed by Terry's many references to the
physical sciences in his novels ("Oh wow, you can really tell he used to
work for a nuclear power plant!" is an often-heard cry), but frankly I
think they are underestimating the non-university audience out there.
Most of the things Terry mentions in passing (e.g. Big Bang, quarks,
wave/particle duality) are covered in high school physics classes (or at
least in Holland they are), and surely everybody who does not
deliberately turn away from anything scientific in content will have seen
references in newspapers, on tv or in magazines to things like quantum
particles or the "Trousers of Time"? ]
- How do you write?
"How do I write? God, this is embarrassing. Look, I just do it. It's
pictures in the head and memories and thinking about things and it all
comes together. It's something I do."
"1) Watch everything, read everything, and especially read outside your
subject -- you should be importing, not recycling.
2) Use a wordprocessor... why do I feel this is not unnecessary advice
here? It makes everything mutable. It's better for the ego. And you can
play games when all else fails.
3) Write. For more than three years I wrote more than 400 words every
day. I mean, every calendar day. If for some reason, in those
pre-portable days, I couldn't get to a keyboard, I wrote hard the
previous night and caught up the following day, and if it ever seemed
that it was easy to do the average I upped the average. I also did a hell
of a lot of editing afterwards but the point was there was something
there to edit. I had a more than full-time job as well. I hate to say
this, but most of the successful (well, okay... rich) authors I know
seem to put 'application' around the top of the list of How-to-do-its.
Tough but true."
"Application? Well, it means... application. The single-minded ability to
knuckle down and get on with it, as they say in Unseen University
- The advantages of having a background in journalism.
"Yes, Dave Gemmell and Neil Gaiman were both journalists. So was Bob
Shaw. So was I. It's good training because:
1) any tendency to writers' block is burned out of you within a few
weeks of starting work by unsympathetic news editors;
2) you very quickly learn the direct link between writing and
3) you pick up a style of sorts;
4) you get to hang around in interesting places;
5) you learn to take editing in your stride, and tend to be
reliable about deadlines;
6) you end up with an ability to think at the keyboard and reduce
the world to yourself and the work in hand -- you have to do
this to survive in a world of ringing telephones and shouting
None of this makes you talented or good, but it does help you make the
best of what you've got."
- On the use of dog Latin.
"People in the UK, even in public (i.e., private) schools, don't assume
that "everyone knows Latin". Latin is barely taught anywhere anymore --
it certainly wasn't taught to me. But dog Latin isn't Latin, except by
accident. It's simply made-up, vaguely Latin-sounding phrases, as in Nil
Illegitimo Carborundum. 'Fabricati Diem, Punc' is total nonsense in Latin
[no doubt there are readers out there who could construct the correct
phrase that might have fallen from the lips of Dirty Hadrian]."
- On the writing of Good Omens.
"Neil and I had known each other since early 1985. Doing it was our idea,
not a publisher's deal."
"I think this is an honest account of the process of writing Good
Omens. It was fairly easy to keep track of because of the way we sent
discs to one another, and because I was Keeper of the Official Master
Copy I can say that I wrote a bit over two thirds of Good Omens.
However, we were on the phone to each other every day, at least once. If
you have an idea during a brainstorming session with another guy, whose
idea is it? One guy goes and writes 2,000 words after thirty minutes on
the phone, what exactly is the process that's happening?
I did most of the physical writing because:
1) I had to. Neil had to keep Sandman going -- I could take time
off from the DW;
2) One person has to be overall editor, and do all the stitching
and filling and slicing and, as I've said before, it was me by
agreement -- if it had been a graphic novel, it would have been
Neil taking the chair for exactly the same reasons it was me for
3) I'm a selfish bastard and tried to write ahead to get to the
good bits before Neil.
Initially, I did most of Adam and the Them and Neil did most of the Four
Horsemen, and everything else kind of got done by whoever -- by the end,
large sections were being done by a composite creature called
Terryandneil, whoever was actually hitting the keys. By agreement, I am
allowed to say that Agnes Nutter, her life and death, was completely and
utterly mine. And Neil proudly claims responsibility for the maggots.
Neil's had a major influence on the opening scenes, me on the ending. In
the end, it was this book done by two guys, who shared the money equally
and did it for fun and wouldn't do it again for a big clock."
"Yes, the maggot reversal was by me, with a gun to Neil's head (although
he understood the reasons, it's just that he likes maggots). There
couldn't be blood on Adam's hands, even blood spilled by third parties.
No-one should die because he was alive."
- On rumours that Neil Gaiman claims to have come up with some of the ideas
in Reaper Man, most notably the title and the Death storyline.
"To the best of my recollection the Reaper Man title was suggested by
Faith Brooker at Gollancz (although I can't swear to this). But I know,
and have gone on record about this, that the central idea of Reaper Man
actually came from reading a fan letter from a lady who wrote "Death is
my favourite character -- he can be my knight on a white charger any day
of the week". The lady concerned can be produced to the court, m'lud.
Listening intelligently while a fellow author talks about an upcoming
book isn't the same as 'suggesting the storyline and some other bits' and
in fairness to Neil I doubt that he put it quite like that -- this sounds
like something which has picked up a bit of spin in the telling. We've
known each other for a long time, we share a similar conceptual universe
-- we'd both agree happily that he has the darker end of it -- and we've
often talked about what we're working on and tried out stuff on one
another. And that's it, really."
- How big is his publisher's influence on what gets written?
"Question was: do the publishers force me to write DW books? (the subtext
being, we'd like you to do other stuff). And the answer is, no, you can't
work like that. It works the other way round -- I say I'm planning two
more, they say, fine, here's a contract. The DW is sufficiently big and
vague that it can cover Small Gods and Eric, so I've got a wide field
to work in. But... I'll say here again... the days of twice-yearly DW
books have probably gone. I'm still planning to write them regularly, in
fact publishing schedules might end up bringing out two in a year, but I
want to do other stuff as well. The fact is that each DW book sells more
than the one before, and the backlist sales keep on rising. I don't write
DW because of this, but it suggests that there's a readership out
there. I can't imagine how anyone can be forced to write a book."
- On the joint copyright notice in his novels.
[ All Terry's novels are "copyright Terry and Lyn Pratchett", and people
on the net were wondering about the reasons for it. ]
"Copyright does not necessarily have anything to do with authorship -- an
author can assign copyright wherever he or she likes. Lyn and I are a
legal partnership, and so we hold copyright jointly (for various mildly
beneficial reasons) in the same way that, if we ever bothered to form a
limited company, that would hold the copyright. At random I've picked a
few favourite books off the shelf, and can say that it's not unusual for
copyright not to be held simply in the name of the author. I do all the
- On the various Discworld covers.
"No, Kirby's Nanny Ogg is pretty good. And he's getting better (...he's
getting better...) at someone who looks about right for Magrat. But he
hasn't really got a clue about Granny.
The artist who does the American book club editions -- can't recall his
name -- does not, I think, do good covers, but he makes a very good job
of getting the characters right. They're not my idea of the characters,
but they're certainly based squarely on the plot. His Granny on the cover
of Equal Rites was notable."
"The next UK paperback reprint of TCOM (they do a couple a year) will not
have a Kirby cover. This is an experiment -- there's been feedback to me
and to Transworld that suggests there are a large number of potential DW
readers out there who think they don't like fantasy and don't get past
the Kirby covers."
[ Scans of both the original Josh Kirby cover and of the new cover by
Stephen Player are available from the Pratchett Archives. ]
"Current cover policy is to have a fairly small graphic on the front of
the hardcovers but a full traditional design on the front of the
paperback; I'm not too unhappy about this, because I wasn't very keen on
the Lords and Ladies hardcover artwork."
- On American editions of his books.
"I'm also nervy about 'translating' things into American. ("Friends,
Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears = Yo, muthers,
y'knowwhatI'msayin?") I've seen what even intelligent, well-travelled
American writers think is normal British conversation ("I say, good
show!") and I'd hate to be guilty of that sort of thing in reverse."
"As far as Johnny and the Dead and Only You Can Save Mankind are
concerned: well, I dunno. It was bad enough having to translate Truckers
into American, and then it was published so badly by Dell in hardcover we
took the paperback rights away from them (which we are looking to sell
now). And the two more recent books are very British, or at least
European -- I can just imagine the dog's breakfast an US editor would
make of them. My agent's got 'em, but I'm not that keen to sell."
- On reference books.
"I've got Brewer's, of course [See the annotation for p. 117/103 of The Colour of Magic
] , and if I need an instant reference it's a handy book.
He also did a Reader's Companion which is even better. But Ebenezer is
only the tip of an iceberg of similar books, of which the Victorians were
"Whenever I go to the States I always return with my luggage stuffed with
Panati's and Straight Dope books [See the annotation for p. 165/107 of Good Omens
] (I've seen the Straight Dope books here, but never seen
an imported Panati (they've got titles like "Extraordinary Origins of
Everyday Things")). I'm afraid I spend money like water in American book
shops; I dunno, they just seem more inviting. The oddest book shop I've
been in is Win Bundy's Singing Wind Book Ranch..."
- Likes and Dislikes.
"I hated the Alice books."
"I didn't like the Alice books because I found them creepy and horribly
unfunny in a nasty, plonking, Victorian way. Oh, here's Mr Christmas
Pudding On Legs, hohohoho, here's a Caterpillar Smoking A Pipe, hohohoho.
When I was a kid the books created in me about the same revulsion as you
get when, aged seven, you're invited to kiss your great-grandmother."
"May I also add that the film The Return of Captain Invincible, which is a series of bad moments pasted together with great songs and a budget of fourpence, is also a regularly-viewed video in the Pratchett household. And David Byrne's True Stories also. Flame me if you wish. I
laugh with scorn at threats."
"These are modern authors whose books I will automatically buy knowing
that life is going to get that little bit richer:
George McDonald Fraser (The Flashman books)
Carl Hiaasen (still to get well known over here)
Donald Westlake (a pro)
But I read more and more non-fiction, biographies and stuff these days."
[About Joanna Trollope:] "An intelligent lady who writes worthwhile books
for an audience largely neglected by 'real' writers, and who occasionally
comes up with a bit of description I really wish I'd thought of. The
current TV adaptation of The Rector's Wife is pretty awful."
[About P. J. O'Rourke:] "PJ may be many things, but fascist he is not, as
becomes obvious when you read his slightly more serious writings -- but
he clearly does like to wind up the kind of people who are too free with
'fascist' accusations. He's so far to the right that on many issues he's
coming back at you from the left. [...] I like PJ."
"I got Corgi to republish Roy Lewis' The Evolution Man a few years ago.
To the best of my knowledge it's the only fiction he's done. Like I said
in my intro, it's honest, genuine sf... and one of my all-time favourite
"If anyone can ever get hold of it, the classic funny cricket match was
in the book England, Their England by A. G. McDonnell. A forgotten
"[Carl Hiaassen] is a writer I try to promote here at every opportunity.
He hasn't written a bad book. I recommend Native Tongue or maybe
- Is there any truth to the rumour that you and Neil Gaiman had a fall-out
over the Good Omens film project?
"Me and Neil... oh gawd. Yes, it's true to say we didn't agree over the
way the film should be going. But that's about it. There's no flying
daggers -- at least, I haven't thrown any and none have hit me."
- Speaking of movies, what happened to the plans for a movie based on
"A production company was put together and there was US and Scandinavian
and European involvement, and I wrote a couple of script drafts which
went down well and everything was looking fine and then the US people
said "Hey, we've been doing market research in Power Cable, Nebraska, and
other centres of culture, and the Death/skeleton bit doesn't work for us,
it's a bit of a downer, we have a prarm with it, so lose the skeleton".
The rest of the consortium said, did you read the script? The Americans
said: sure, we LOVE it, it's GREAT, it's HIGH CONCEPT. Just lose the
Death angle, guys.
Whereupon, I'm happy to say, they were told to keep on with the
medication and come back in a hundred years."
"The person also said that Americans "weren't ready for the treatment of
Death as an amusing and sympathetic character". This was about 18
months/2 years before Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey."
"Currently, since the amount of money available for making movies in
Europe is about sixpence, the consortium is looking for some more
intelligent Americans in the film business. This may prove difficult.
It could have been worse. I've heard what Good Omens was looking like
by the time Sovereign's option mercifully ran out -- set in America, no
Four Horsemen... oh god."
"What you have to remember is that in the movies there are two types of
people 1) the directors, artists, actors and so on who have to do
things and are often quite human and 2) the other lifeforms.
Unfortunately you have to deal with the other lifeforms first. It is
impossible to exaggerate their baleful stupidity."
- If movies are too expensive, how about some more Discworld television
"There's some approaches. There's always some approaches. But too often
they're from people who want to do a 'funny fantasy' and paste the
Discworld label on it. I have to repeat the old mantra: Discworld isn't
internally funny to the people who live there -- there's no baseball
playing frogs. And too often the approach is [sub-text] "I bet a humble
print author like you would be overjoyed to be on REAL TELEVISION, eh?"
They get what Nanny Ogg calls the derriere velocitie PDQ, I can tell
"We are talking usefully to UK TV people and, yes, there is serious
interest in doing the Guards books as a sort of 'Hill Street Octarines'.
It might work. Even if it doesn't, people are close enough for me to
scream at them."
"IF IT ALL HAPPENS ('cos we're dealing with screen here) then there would
be Guards! Guards! as the pilot and Men at Arms as 'the series'."
- Why does the Librarian have such troubles communicating with humans?
Surely, as a highly trained, intelligent librarian he is literate, and
therefore can write down what he wants to say?
"Personally, I think he does it out of spite."
- Responding to newspaper articles mentioning "Estimated wealth of sci-fi
novelist Terry Pratchett: UK# 26,500,000".
"This began with some survey done by a magazine called Business Age.
Since it's off by the national debt of Belgium my agent rang them up to
find out what the hell was going on. Various factoids emerged, like
frinstance their assumption that I sell pro rata as much in the States as
I do here (hollow laughter from the American readers). And we suspect
they fall for the common error that a mere appearance in the bestseller
lists means millionaire status (in a poor week the book at number ten
might not have sold 100 copies). But the big wobbler is that the estimate
is of 'worth', not 'wealth' -- they've hazarded a wild guess at the value
of the Discworld rights, as far as we can tell including film rights as
well. Remember copyright lasts for 50 years and the books are consistent
high backlist sellers. It's similar to pointing to a bright kid and
saying 'he's worth three million quids' -- i.e., all the money she or he
might earn during their life, at compound interest. It's fairy money.
The kind Robert Maxwell had."
- On his perennial problems with publishers in America.
"Well, I sell some [books]. I had a sort of publisher, in the same way
that duckweed counts as a plant. Let's hope HarperCollins does better."
"I can only repeat: my last publishers were so good they spelled my name
wrong in the books, made sure they had covers in 50 shades of mud, and
kept them out of the shops. HarperCollins are bringing out Small Gods
in January and are talking about some kind of accelerated schedule to
I've seen the US Small Gods cover, by the way. It's quite different
from anything else of mine, and mainly text... looks rather posh..."
"HarperCollins have been sent the Soul Music MS and are serious about
publishing it this summer in an effort to 'catch up'. That means in
theory that new Discworld books should be published in the US at (more or
less) the same time as in the UK. But it leaves Lords and Ladies and
Men at Arms in a kind of limbo; HC are committed to bringing them out
"as soon as possible" and it's in their interests to do so, because
they've had to front advances which they can't recoup until they start
"Blame publishers. HarperCollins have got Lords and Ladies, Small
Gods, Men at Arms and Soul Music. I think Roc have got Eric. I'd
be happy to see them all out in one go. As for the Map... I suspect it'll
never get a US publication. It seemed to frighten US publishers. They
don't seem to understand it.
"That seems to point up a significant difference between Europeans and
A European says: I can't understand this, what's wrong with me? An
American says: I can't understand this, what's wrong with him?
I make no suggestion that one side or other is right, but observation
over many years leads me to believe it is true."
"The last I heard, my editor was mumbling a bit over [the Johnny books].
Though he personally loved J&tD I think he thought Americans wouldn't (as
in: no-one in the book is American, WWI happened on another continent
that American kids couldn't find on an atlas with three tries, and it
feels, ugh, European. I'm paraphrasing his far more diplomatically worded
As I understand it, Lords and Ladies and Men at Arms will come out in
trade paperback "fairly soon" after Soul Music, to get them out of the
way -- ie, to desperately try to catch up on the schedule. But it looks
as though SM is slipping back, 'cos I saw the proofs only a week or so
ago. Basically, it's the usual arrogance of US publishers towards their
readers -- and counter-productive, since I know that quite a large number
of UK editions find their way into the US."
"The twisted thinking is as follows. Thousands of hardcover UK Discworld
books cross the Atlantic after every pub date, certainly undermining the
sales or potential sales of US copies; this pattern has become
established because of the long delay before US publication.
HarperCollins thought the only way they could retrieve the situation was
leap the gap and publish the next 'new' title as soon as possible,
bringing out the other two over the next year more or less as 'new
backlist titles' while also continuing to publish genuinely new Discworld
books. This would mean that Lords and Ladies and Men At Arms would be
late, but they'd have been late anyway, and titles from Soul Music on
would have an American pub. date pretty close to the UK one.
That was the theory. Unfortunately, it has contained one major flaw, in
that it is being put into practice. It seems to be thought that a
publication date for Soul Music that is 7-8 months behind the UK one is
'contemporary', which is an interesting use of the word. Moreover, I have
a horrible suspicion that they'll see two 'new' Pratchett books on their
list next year and, on the basis that the left hand does not know what
the left hand is doing, decide that 'Interesting Times' can be postponed
until 1996 (having come out in the UK in November, 1994).
Sometimes I think I'd have done better staying with Roc, sad covers and
all -- at least they were catching up..."
- Is Strata a Discworld novel or isn't it?
"Strata used the idea of a Discworld but I've never thought of it as a
Discworld novel within the meaning of the act. The first Discworld novel
was The Colour of Magic. Let the message go throughout the kingdom..."
- About the Discworld album by Dave Greenslade.
"It's called From The Discworld. Most of the tracks are themes for the
books (I particularly like the Small Gods one) but there are two songs,
'The Shades of Ankh-Morpork' and something about a wizard's staff. There
is also the insidious tune of the 'Stick and Bucket Dance', even down to
that special chord folk music has to have at the end so that people know
they can come out now."
[ The CD was released by Virgin (UK:CDV 2738), and features the following
1. A'Tuin the Turtle
2. Octarine The Colour of Magic
3. The Luggage
4. The Shades of Ankh-Morpork
5. Wyrd Sisters
6. The Unseen University/The Librarian
8. A Wizard's Staff has a Knob on the End
11. Small Gods
12. Stick and Bucket Dance
13. The One Horseman and the Three pedestrians of the Apocralypse
14. Holy Wood Dreams ]
- At the end of Wings you implied that the Nomes would return some day
for any remaining Nomes. Do you plan to write another book where the
Nomes return or one about the world the Nomes now call home?
"I won't do one about any new planets, but there may be another book
about the nomes."
- On computer games.
"I have played Elite, Wing Commander, X-Wing and altogether too
many outer-space-shoot-em-ups. I mean, don't they all have shields,
missiles and stuff?"
"Well, right now I'm storming through Privateer under the callsign of
Flash Bastard, whose career has progressed throughout the whole Wing
- Are Diggers and Wings going to be made into TV programs as follow-ups
"Cosgrove Hall were just getting them storyboarded when Thames folded.
They're still not a dead issue, but suffering as do many things when
people at the top change: no-one likes to be associated with something
started before their time."
"Cosgrove Hall still want to do them. They're also interested in... well,
other stuff I've done. Right now a number of other people have come out
of the woodwork with money and interesting ideas -- J&tD seems like a
starter, for one. But the BBC does not figure largely in current
- Why isn't the Ankh-Morpork Mappe released as a poster?
"Transworld have considered doing the Mappe as a poster. There are snags.
Where does the key go? The key as a booklet attached for some reason
avoids the dreaded VAT; as a poster, VAT would be on it."
- About future Discworld merchandising:
"Ankh-Morpork postcards will probably happen. There was a recent meeting
to thrash out the whole T-shirts/calendars/towel and body splash thing,
and they (and Discworld stationery) were near the top of the list..."
- About the continuing rumours that he will soon be sanctioning an official
"It's the word 'official' that always pulls me up. It suggests I've got
some kind of control or stake and I wouldn't want that. The best I can
say is that, over the past few months (after hearing that Clarecraft's
Discworld collectors club membership is in the high hundreds, and
[Stephen Briggs] is disappearing under scarves) is that I'm no longer
killing people who say they think one would be a good idea, since there
are clearly many (if you can believe this) people out there with no net
access who want some kind of Discworld club. I'm not sure that's the
answer you're looking for..."
- Do you deliver your manuscripts in digital form?
"The US publishers want discs. Gollancz tried setting from disc a few
years ago and it seemed quite successful, but I think it stopped when the
lad who knew how to work their Amstrad moved on. I've been set from disc
once or twice by Corgi. But the instant-books you're looking for won't
happen because: 1) books have to be scheduled ahead of time, for cost,
sales and PR reasons 2) it's easier to squeeze a melon though the eye of
a needle than it is to get a UK publisher to think in other than
"Basically, most publishers still hanker for paper MS -- even the ones
that can set from disc want a print-out too. [...] So now we're back to
typos hand-set by experts (anyone who got that red and black eight page
'extract' piece with my moody pic on the front that came out about two
years ago will see what a creative typesetter can do -- there is at least
one really creative typo per page). Mind you, copy-editors can be bad --
it's taken me a long time to make mine understand that there is a
distinct difference between Mr and Mister. Mr = minor honorific, an
invisible word, Mister = John Wayne getting angry."
- A philosophical question: why are elves considered evil, while cats (who
do the same nasty things) are not?
There is no inconsistency. Nanny Ogg has a point of view. So has Death.
So have I. But there's no such thing as 'the official Discworld opinion'
on, say, cats.
Personally, I like cats. And they are also nasty cruel bastards. Just ask
that two-thirds of a shrew that's outside our back door right now."
"Okay, try this. Cats are nasty cruel bastards but that's because they
are cats. As far as we know, they have no grasp of the concept of not
being nasty cruel bastards. Humans, on the other hand, do."
- About the spoken-word versions of the Discworld novels.
"Transworld intended to bring out all the Discworld on tape eventually
-- I think the first three titles are coming out RSN." [ RSN = Real Soon
"There may be Braille/audiotape versions by people like Books For The
Blind. Every so often I get requests -- as do most authors, I expect --
to allow Braille editions and special tapes, and we always say, "fine,
sure, no fee, no problem". But we NEVER GET TOLD WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. So I
don't know what's out there. It's a bit of a shame."
- On the subject of dedications.
"With the exception of requests, like "Can you sign it to Scrummybunikins
with lots of Hugs", there are about 35 different Discworld dedications
(some of which I don't have time to do with the queues being the length
they are -- if you've got the Death Grin dedication in Mort, treasure
it, because I hardly ever do it these days). As for quality of
handwriting, well, mine never was good...
Far More Wishes is part of a set (Best Wishes, Better Wishes, Even Better
Wishes, More Wishes, Far More Wishes, Still More Wishes, Extra Wishes, A
Whole New Quantum of Wishes and -- for those people with two carrier bags
full of books -- Son of Best Wishes, Bride of Best Wishes, and Return of
the Killer Best Wishes for 20,000 Fathoms). Also look out for the special
Boo! in Mort and Reaper Man, our new Read it And Reap one in Reaper
Man, the special turtle drawing in Small Gods, and various Now Reads
Ons, Enhanced Wishes, etc, etc. Kids! Collect the Entire Set!"
[ This explanation prompted FAQ maintainer Nathan Torkington to reply
"I can't wait to see what happens when you reach the fifty book mark, and
people at the head of the queue say "just wait a sec and I'll back the
car in". The dedications will probably be:
Read Douglas Adams
Get a life
Get a job
Don't you have anything better to do with your time
Son of fuck off
My god, did I really write all these damn books
Yes, by god, I do regret it now
I don't know why I don't have a rubber stamp made
Look, just bugger off I'm fed up to the teeth with banana daiquiris
I wish I had said "money"
This is the last dedication
Bloody trade editions
Oh, how cute, you have the hardback and paperback editions
Oh, and the US ones too
I'm memorising your face and your adenoidal laugh
You're next, matey
Third prodigal son of a fling with the daughter of the baker to fuck off"
Terry was very impressed by this list, and so were other readers of
a.f.p. Terry says that since this discussion appeared on the net he is
now occasionally asked for specific dedications along these lines. ]
"Book-specific ones tend to be: Mort and Reaper Man: 'Boo!', 'HAVE
FUN', the Death grin, or 'Read It And Reap'. Small Gods: almost always
'The Turtle Moves!' Pyramids: usually the 'Hi! in the Pyramid' Wyrd
Sisters: often 'Really wyrd'..."
"Read It And Reap has now been established as a 'generic' line which
doesn't just get used in Reaper Man."
- What order are the Discworld books in?
"As far as I am concerned, the Discworld books are in chronological
order. Anything that suggests differently is probably because of the
Trousers of Time, magical leakage from the HEM and so on..."
- It was rumoured in Octarine magazine that you and Robert Rankin were
not "the best of friends". Any truth to this? (By the way: I hear that
Rankin likes to throw wild parties in his jacuzzi.)
"I'll nail this one right now. We don't see much of one another but we
get on fine. That was Octarine stirring it up. I know nothing
whatsoever about parties in jacuzzis, or rubber chickens."
- More about book shop tours and signing sessions.
"Well, the tour's over, and back I come to unload a stack of emails
including a few on the lines of: some signings were chaos/badly organised
(I'll better add that they added: we know it wasn't your fault, you were
distantly seen to be scribbling at speed...). Some interesting points
were raised so, in honour of the afp'ers who queued, I thought I'd post a
general reply here.
I don't organise signings. The publishers don't organise signings;
shops clamour to get certain authors, and the publishers try to select
the few dozen for this tour based on all kinds of stuff like number of
shops already picked in that chain, location and so on. But the
organisation of the signing itself is done by the shop. Not all of them
can hack it. Believe me, I know this, and the reasons include:
-- this shop's idea of a good signing hitherto is fifty people
-- this shop doesn't understand about, er, a 'fan' type signing, where
there's dedications and maybe some older titles and an occasional
-- the shop doesn't understand about signings at all,
including the need for a proper table and chair for the signer, or
a cup of tea. It happens. I carry my own bag of pens because most
shops would provide one Biro.
A lot of them can run a signing, and the problems simply are the
unavoidable ones you have if 300 people all want a book signed at the
same time, and want to say "hi".
I'm sort of stuck. I can't run the thing from the desk. Besides, I was
signing for six or seven hours most days, and my brain turns to cheese.
My PR lady can help a bit, and does. If we spot a handicapped person in
the queue, and tactful inquiry suggests they'd welcome it, they get to
the front (I have to say that, to my annoyance, the staff in some shops
seemed oblivious to this aspect). If the shop runs out of a title -- it
happened a few times -- she can get some from the reps secret stash.
On this tour I think that, despite my warnings, I signed everything. Most
of the time people with a big stack were asked to wait until the end. I'm
loathe to let shops decide how many books I'm going to sign so they're
told that I'll sign everything if there's time -- otherwise, in an effort
to be helpful, they'd make their own rules.
Some problems would be solved by doing fewer signings (and people'd
complain). We left out too many places this time as it was.
It definitely was a busy tour. I would like to apologise to the relatives
of the fan who gave me 29 books to sign in Odyssey 7, Manchester. I'm a
little twitchy towards the end of a day of signing and did not mean to
kill and eat him."
"With a little more leisure I realise that the aforesaid postings
concerned one particular shop. They did indeed seem far more interested
in shifting books than running a proper signing, and this has been
carefully noted for future reference. They had also not spotted that an
author, in order to sign, needs a table and a chair.
But a lot of shops seemed to do it well -- the Waterstones in Manchester,
for example, seemed very good at hustling pregnant ladies, etc, to the
front of the queue. In fact I think you merely had to look as though your
Signings that don't involve a talk are invariably advertised as 'an
hour'. But there's always some extra time in the program."
"Some shops on the tour -- they have been noted -- acted as if having a
shop full of people buying books was terribly inconvenient. I know that
one stopped taking phone orders because the staff got fed up."
"On the latest tour I've heard that some shops have been telling people
'he'll only sign Soul Music'. This is shopspeak on the lines of "It's
out of print" (which really means "Who cares and bugger off, you pimply
person"). Shops have no say in what I'll sign or not sign. So I'll
I'll sign everything of mine -- if there's time. It's all down to queue
length. If you've got an entire bag of books then generally I arrange to
sign them after the queue has gone. You don't even have to buy the
current title, although you may be subject to some righteous wragging if
this is the case."
"The tour just finished may have been the first one in which someone
brought a computer in to be signed -- a Sparc workstation, I recall."
"I'm not against flash photography! But repeated flash photography during
a long day -- well, ever tried looking down at a white page after staring
into a flash gun?"
"What is always very touching are the people who bring in their already
signed books to witness the new ones being signed. It's like their first
Communion or something..."
- Is the Mappe of Ankh-Morpork based on London?
"We started with a LOT of real cities -- mostly in England, mostly old.
There's a lot of Oxford and some Durham and Shrewsbury and odds and ends
from everywhere, including a street in Abingdon opposite the theatre that
puts on the Discworld plays. I think Stephen even said somewhere that
London isn't the only city with a Hyde Park, but I could be wrong. But
frankly any old city with a wall and a wiggly river looks like
- Do religious fanatics ever get mad at you for writing Small Gods?
"I may have posted something on these lines before, but a lot of mail
about Small Gods is split between 1) pagans who say that it really
shafts the Big Beard In the Sky religions and 2) Christians who say that
it is an incredibly pro-Christian book.
I suspect the latter is because Brutha displays tolerance, compassion,
charity, steadfastness and faith, and these are now considered Christian
virtues (i.e., virtues that modern Christians feel they should have...)"
- Annotations and References.
"If I put a reference in a book I try to pick one that a generally
well-read (well-viewed, well-listened) person has a sporting chance of
picking up; I call this 'white knowledge', the sort of stuff that fills
up your brain without you really knowing where it came from. Enough
people would've read Leiber, say, to pick up a generalised reference to
Fafhrd, etc., and even more people would have some knowledge of Tolkien
-- but I wouldn't rely on people having read a specific story."
"I like doing this kind of thing. There are a number of passages in the
books which are 'enhanced' if you know where the echoes are coming from
but which are still, I hope, funny in their own right."
"Sometimes I... well... I just write stuff which hasn't been pinched from
ANYONE (shuffles feet, looks embarrassed...)."
- When will you be visiting the USA?
"The publishers keep on saying "We've got to bring you over next year". I
think I've found the logical flaw in this invitation..."