The L-SPace Web: Interviews

Compuserve Interview


Transcript of the Formal Conference
held on
Sunday, August 11th, 1991
in the
CompuServe Science Fiction/Fantasy Forum

with

Terry Pratchett
author of the Discworld novels, which include
Guards! Guards!, Mort, Sourcery, Wyrd Sisters, Pyramids,
The Colour of Magic, The Light Fantastic,Equal Rites; and
Truckers, Diggers and Wings
(novels in the "Truckers" trilogy, also known as "The Bromeliad")



Terry Pratchett:
Hi, guys. England calling...
SysOp Barb Delaplace:
Hi, Terry, and welcome!
Terry Pratchett:
Just let me pull up a chair here...
Chief SysOp Wilma Meier:
G'day folks! Welcome Terry!
Terry Pratchett:
Three thousand miles of ocean between us, don't you love every mile of it?
Chief SysOp Wilma Meier:
Terry <--- Not only the 3,000 miles of water but an additional 3.000+ miles of land---in my case.
SysOp Barb Delaplace:
Wilma <--- Mine too, don't forget. <G>
Fox:
Are we sitting comfortably?
Terry Pratchett:
Okay...then you, Fox, begin...
Fox:
There have been rumours that you are intending on wrapping up the Discworld series. Is this true?
Terry Pratchett:
FOX...No, I'm slowing it down a bit. Two books a year for five years? My brain hurts. So I'll be working on some other stuff. But expect one a year until I die or you die.
Ben:
I'll say that I'm looking for more books than the eight Diskworld books available in the U.S.
Brian (pshrynk):
Terry, have you any plans to do any science fiction humor?
Terry Pratchett:
Brian..got one or two ideas. But currently I'm working on a couple of books allegedly for chidlren. Allegedly. The Truckers trilogy made the adult bestseller lists over here.
Fredrik Lien:
Terry, can you tell us more about that other stuff you'll be working on?
Terry Pratchett:
Sure. I've just sold a book about a kid who's playing a computer shootemup game and the aliens surrender to him. How can you play a game with a Don't Fire button? Had fun doing it.
Thad Overturf:
Terry, Do you use a computer to write, if so what (hardware/software), if not what?
Terry Pratchett:
Thad..use a Dell 386 and WordPerfect, never do handwriting, my last handwritten letter is still at the North Poles.
Fox:
Terry<- in The Dark Side of the Sun was there any special reason (apart from playing cards) for 52 races + joker?
Terry Pratchett:
Fox....nope. It's playing cards. Took me all of three seconds to to create.
Thad Overturf:
Do you submit computer file to publisher, or do they still demand hardcopy?
Terry Pratchett:
Thad...we tried it a few times with Gollancz, but I've got more computing power than they have...they never quite got up to speed on it. So I print out, just like Gutenberg.
Fredrik Lien:
The British editions of your books have these great illustrations by wossname, Josh Kirby? How come the American editions are different?
Terry Pratchett:
Fredrik...wanna know something? The US editions have consistently sold better without the Josh covers. I'm amazed. Maybe so are you. But John Silbersack showed me the figures. Over here, Craig Shaw Garder and all the rest of the gang has Josh Kirby covers to make them look, heheh, like me.
Fredrik Lien:
I bought some of those, because of the covers, but were disappointed by the contents.
Terry Pratchett:
Fredrick...I don't mind other people using Josh. It'll either work, or it won't. People READ the books, after all.
Fox:
How's the sales of Reaper Man going?
Terry Pratchett:
Fox...Hugely. 11 weeks in the top ten. Best seller yet. Gollancz may even...aaargh...do another reprint, they HATE that.
gaspode:
Despite being reviewd in the same column as Archer and Elton?
Terry Pratchett:
yeah, who ARE those guys? People buy my books because they like 'em.
Rene:
What are the latest Discworld books? The last ones we got here were Guards! Guards! and Eric, I think.
Terry Pratchett:
Okay. The Answers: Rene...since Guards! Guards! there's been Moving Pictures and Reaper Man.
Larne:
I can't help thinking that a lot of the things in your books, like the maiden/mother/crone symbolism in Wyrd Sisters are 'winks' to the Wiccan/pagan/magickal community. Is this true, or am I just imagining things?
Terry Pratchett:
Larne...winks? I'm a great winker. You can't write Discworld books without picking up stuff. And I know I've got a lot of New Age and pagan readers. At some big Wiccan festival this November I've got to go and judge a Magrat of the Year competition.
SysOp Barb Delaplace:
Terry <--- A member posted a message regarding a film series based on Discworld. Can you tell us more about it?
Terry Pratchett:
As far as Mort is concerned, I've been paid for the second draft of the script. There's been a UK company set up to do it. It'll get shot in Easten Europe (proabably) where there are places that look like Ankh-Morpork if they're cleaned up a bit.
Chief SysOp Wilma Meier:
Terry <--- What's the status of Good Omens the movie? Or should I ask that question of Neil next week?
Terry Pratchett:
As for Good Omens....yeah, talk to Neil...it's kind of at a delicate stage right now.
Chief SysOp Wilma Meier:
Terry <--- OK. Will do.
gaspode:
reviewed Reaper Man under shlock therapy.
Terry Pratchett:
I don't mind much about reviews. I get reviewed a lot tougher now. The UK book review mafia don't like to see fantasy in the charts.
Thad Overturf:
My wife wouldn't read fantasy/sci fi until I talked her into reading Wyrd Sisters, now she won't stop... Thanks
Brian (pshrynk):
Terry, Do you get on Compuserve or other nets much?
Terry Pratchett:
Brian...only hit and run via Tapcis. I've been on a few UK boards, but I get fed up with smart alec kids telling me I'm not me. So now when I go on I used a pesdue..psed..false name.
SysOp Barb Delaplace:
Terry <--- I'm reading Truckers and finding it delightful. When did you start writing juvenile fiction?
Terry Pratchett:
Barb...I thought that's what I always write <smirk>. I just write, and it sort of finds its own level. Truckers is only marketed for kids, the Discworld is marketed for adults, that -- apart from a few one-liners -- is all it is. Funnily enough, it's respectable to write fantasy for children, but not for adults.
Larne:
Do you object to being so often compared to Douglas Adams? (Although I do know at least one person who compares him to you, and unfavorably at that).
Terry Pratchett:
Larne...it's all a game. Actually, I object a bit now...I mean, I've got about 14 or 15 titles out there, I think I write like Terry Pratchett. I think Hitchhikers is in danger of looking dated now. But it sure had an effect.
Fox:
Terry<--How can I convince you that it would be a good idea to come and give a talk to all your avid fans at the bristol university sci fi society? (I've been told to offer you a banana daiquiri!) I've tried to go through your publishers but keep hitting a brick wall.
Terry Pratchett:
Fox -- I don't think I've ever been invited. Good grief, I'm in the local phone book, if you try going through publishers what can you expect?
Fox:
True. Can I extend an invitation now then?
Terry Pratchett:
Fox...ring me right after the conference, we'll talk, you mean a zillion $$$ of computer is being used to talk to a guy FIFTEEN MILES AWAY? I don't call THAT the global village!!!
Fox:
Well...putting it that way...
PSJog:
Terry, when is the third Truckers due in US? Has it been written?
Terry Pratchett:
PSjog...around the fall of this year, I'm pretty sure. It's been out in the UK since the Spring. Having to wait is YOUR punishment for throwing all our tea in the harbor.
Chief SysOp Wilma Meier:
<laughter>
Thad Overturf:
:)
SysOp Barb Delaplace:
(These Americans...<g>)
Larne:
I think they just knew Thatcher was coming and wanted out as soon as possible. :-)
Brian (pshrynk):
Terry, what's your favorite ale?
Terry Pratchett:
Brian..at Nolacon I was introduced to a banana dacquir (I never drink anything I haven't been introduced to). I thought it was non-alcoholic and drank a litre...seriously. It entered my bloodstream and now when I utter the magic work I beccome...DOCTOR DACQUIRI!!
SysOp Barb Delaplace
Terry <--- You've been writing for a number of years now. Do you think the field has changed since you first started? And if you do, do you think it's for the better or for the worse?
Terry Pratchett:
Barb...it's easier to make a living now than in the Sixties. I think there is a lot of bad fantasy around...too cutesy, too many singing elves. But I live by the market, so I can't complain too much.
SysOp Barb Delaplace:
Terry <--- (Too many dewey-eyed unicorns.) Do you think the bad fantasy is tending to crowd out the more creative and non-formulaic fantasy?
Terry Pratchett:
Barb...yes, in a way. The trouble is that fantasy is associated too much with the concensus fantasy universe. The one with the wizards in it. The one that looks like Tolkien's attic.
SysOp Barb Delaplace:
(I know that rack space in the bookstores in North American is at a premium, and when the sharecropper and standard series stuff is taking up space, it doesn't leave much room for anyone else.)
Terry Pratchett:
I don't worry too much. The Discworld is a serios, for gods' sake. But I try to ring the changes a bit.
Brian (pshrynk):
Terry, Any chance of a singing elf in an upcoming Disc World novel? Elfis lives, maybe?
Terry Pratchett:
Brian, you read Cr**g Sh*w G*ardn*r, yes?...,smirk>
Brian (pshrynk):
Terry, Um, no. Sorry.
Terry Pratchett:
You soon learn that if you selling well as a fantasy author there's pressure from the lit. establishment on the lines of: we'll let you ride in the front of the bus provided you stop calling it fantasy and start calling it magical realism or some made-up name like that.
Fredrik Lien:
Terry, do you have much fun when you're writing new books? I can just imagine you sitting in front of your PC, chuckling at your own jokes... Or is it a tough job, full of deadlines and writer's block?
Terry Pratchett:
Fredrik...wiring is as much fun as it's possible to have by yourself. Only once have I ever laughed at my own joke (it was the Dirty Harry sequence in Guards! Guards! if you really want to know). But I don't believe in writers block. I was a journalist for too long. You HAVE to write on newspapers. Otherwise you don't get paid and people shout at you. It's a job, but it's the best you can have.
SysOp Barb Delaplace:
Terry <--- The literary establishment here seems to ignore the SF/fantasy genre here. It sounds as though things are much closer in Great Britain.
Terry Pratchett:
Barb...fantasy and sf gets reviewed here verrry seldom. There's big divide between the 'good' books that always get reviewed and sell 2,000 copies, and the bestsellers which seldom get reviewed and sell millions. it's the same all over, I expect...but my point was that the knives come out a bit if you have th temerity to become popular in the 'wrong' genre.
Mike Resnick:
I vouch for that <g>
SysOp Barb Delaplace:
Terry <--- Ah, yes, I've seen that syndrome. <g>
Terry Pratchett:
Mike...laugh harder, it's a long way to the bank. But it's the cross we bear. Look at it like this...a great novel about human relationships that happened to be set in Arizona in 1888 would, over here, be a Western. It probably wouldn't get reviewed; it'd certainly get stacked with the Westerns. But it must surley be the same in the states.
Mike Resnick:
I believe you. My current cross is that I've written a batch of books and stories about Africa, and I have the temerity not to be black.
Brian (pshrynk):
Terry, If you sell well here, you're a Master of Western Lit.
Terry Pratchett:
Mike...over here I've found that some of the better specialist sf shops also stock the kind of stuff that the fan mentality might like...that's how I got to hear about Jo Bob Briggs and Daniel Pinkwater.
Fredrik Lien:
I heard that Cosgrove Hall is going to film Truckers. Is that for the cinema or TV, and how is it coming along?
Terry Pratchett:
Fredrik...Truckers HAS been made, more or less. Stop- motion animation. It will go out either in the spring or fall of next year.
Chief SysOp Wilma Meier:
[oh boy! oh boy!]
Terry Pratchett:
It just depends on the scheduling. I've seen some bits and it looks go. No offence to the US in general, but I turned down a couple of US approaches because I got a hint that they intended to cutsie it. Well, guys, there IS this cutsie tendency. You must admit it.
Larne:
How directly involved in the production were you?
Terry Pratchett:
Not involved in the production at all, beyond the fact that they wanted something that I liked...when I went to visit their studios everyone was acting very nervous, like the Vatican at the Second Coming.
SysOp Barb Delaplace:
<laughing>
Chief SysOp Wilma Meier:
[chortle]
Larne:
How do you feel about turning creative control over something you've written to someone else?
Terry Pratchett:
Larne, like I said...they didn't want to annoy me. I know they have to make changes...it'd be horrible if they didn't, and tried to do it just like the book. But I like their stuff.
SysOp Barb Delaplace:
Terry <--- I'm interested in anyone who can write humourous material. Do you bounce it off someone to see how it plays, or can you tell just from reading it?
Terry Pratchett:
Barb...I do a hel...sorry, got to remember this is the US I'm talking to ..a HECK of a lot of talking to fan groups and cons and writers groups and stuff. They get used to bounce ideas. I had the central idea for Wings while a actually talking to a fan group...had to rush off afterwards to write it down.
Mike Resnick:
You mean we can't say Hell here? Shit! No one ever told me!
Chief SysOp Wilma Meier:
<snrk!>
Terry Pratchett:
Wilma, an editor warned me that if I used the word 'damn' in Truckers in the US, I'd be banned in Alabama.
Mike Resnick:
Terry: they lied. I've used every obscenity and vulgarity that exists and I've never been banned, damn it.
Chief SysOp Wilma Meier:
Terry <--- !! No shit!?!
Terry Pratchett:
I begged and pleaded, because I WANTED to be banned in Alabama. But they took it out, while my real editor was on vacation. I sent them a fax: Darn you to Heck!. Children's book, remember. In theory, anyway. At risk from every smalltown prodnose.
Chief SysOp Wilma Meier:
Terry <--- No foolin'. [shaking head in bemusement] And I used to teach the little darlin's. <sigh> Some of them knew words that made *me* blush.
SysOp Barb Delaplace:
Terry <--- That brings up something else: has there every been anything in your books that your editors got nervous about -- ideas I mean, not language. Any subjects they didn't want you to approach?
Terry Pratchett:
No, damn it. I keep on trying, but everyone laughs. I always said, if SATANTIC VERSES had had a few gags in it, no- one would have minded. But the next Discworld book is about religion -- all the bits too tricky to put in Good Omens....ahahahah. Funny thing is, you can deal with tougher isssues in children's books than in adults ones. I think.
SysOp Barb Delaplace:
Terry <--- Quick! What's the title of that one going to be?
Terry Pratchett:
Barb...it'll be called Small Gods. It's contains the Discworld version of of the Crucifixion. But done with style (our hero ESCAPES...).
SysOp Barb Delaplace:
Terry <--- Wonder if it'll get published in the US?
Fredrik Lien:
Terry, any plans to exploit Discworld more commercially? How about the computer game, the T-shirt etc?
Terry Pratchett:
Fredrik...well, so far there's the models. They do very well over here. The Discworld itself is about, oh, $140, and walks out of the shops. But the whole set was done very well by some guys that really worked at it. They're doing a special edition DEATH ON HORSEBACK, last I heard. US distribution is patchy..you're too big! But I'll check with them to see if there WILL be any at Chicon. I get lots of approaches for other stuff, like computer games and rpgs, but I can afford to keep saying NO until I find ones I really like. Innovation did The Colour of Magic as a comic..I quite liked it.
Chief SysOp Wilma Meier:
Terry <--- A lot of US dealers have contacts over in the UK and often bring over stuff that we here might like to get our sticky hands on. <g>
Terry Pratchett:
Wilma...yeah. I'll bung off a fax later on, just to see.
Larne:
Speaking of which, are there plans for comic versions of the other Discworld books?
Terry Pratchett:
Lots of guys are trying to do deals. But most of the later books couldn't be done as comics. I think people like all the, uh, twiddly bits in the books...how can you get them in a comic? Friends though I am with Neil Gaiman, I think the first graphic novel has yet to be written.
Larne:
Actually, I even felt that about the first, a lot was lost without the narration.
Terry Pratchett:
Larne...missed a bit of your message, but I reckon that's what I was saying anyway. It'd work with the early books, which were just gag books, but not the later ones, when I discovered the Joy of Plot.
SysOp Barb Delaplace:
Terry <--- I'm always curious about how other writers work...what do you find the toughest technical aspect of writing?
Terry Pratchett:
Finding the time. This news probably doesn't leak over the pond, but every book I've done since Mort has been in the general bestseller lists, either as pb or hardcover or both.
SysOp Barb Delaplace:
(Congrats!)
Terry Pratchett:
So despite everything the literary mafia can do you become an official famous author. Which means every blessed organiser of every arts and lit festival in the land wants you to come along and give a talk, a zillion schoolchildren write to you to do projects on you, and the mail load every day gets bigger and bigger.
SysOp Barb Delaplace:
(And all without self-addressed stamped envelopes, of course. <g>)
Terry Pratchett:
I worked out the other day that only one word in three that I write is narrative -- the other two are in speeches and talks and letters to kids. And you're right about the SASES. Ho, boy.
Terry Pratchett:
Can I ask a question now? Why do I get so much mail from the Seattle area? Like, half of my mail from the US comes from the north-west.
PSJog:
Lotsa computer types in that area?
Chief SysOp Wilma Meier:
Terry - You have a big fan club there. [smile]
SysOp Barb Delaplace:
Terry <--- There was an article in our local paper discussing the US Pacific northwest, and suggesting it was a hotbed of creative, nonconformist, and just plain weird folks.
Larne:
I hear there are a lot of Wiccans down there, that might have something to do with it.
Terry Pratchett:
It's weird. I mean, I'm not kidding. Get maybe one every few months from say San Francisco...you mean Seattle is weirder? I like the place! Went down to the underground city...any folks who'd build a city on a mudhole by filling it with sawdust are Discworld kind of people!
Fredrik Lien:
Terry, how did you and Neil Gaiman work together on Good Omens? Who wrote what?
Terry Pratchett:
Lien ... I did the words, he did the spaces. Mind you, he tells it differently.
SysOp Barb Delaplace:
<rofl>
Fredrik Lien:
(heh heh)
Mike McC:
Do you get any letters from the Flat Earth Society? Hello, btw.
Terry Pratchett:
Mike McC, no, and I'm pretty sure that's a spoof society invented by Michael Bentine,too.
SysOp Barb Delaplace:
Terry <--- Most writes I know have a collection of reference books they can't manage without. Do you have a shelf of reference books? And if so, what are the titles?
Terry Pratchett:
Barb...got so many reference books I couldn't start.
SysOp Barb Delaplace:
Terry <--- I'll settle for a listing of categories, if you like. <g> I'm curious what a humourous fantasy writer finds useful.
Terry Pratchett:
But better than straight reference books are the ones that give you an insight to certain kinds of minds and certain kinds of history. What I really go for are Victorian Books of Days -- you know, the equivalent of Panati's books, which I always look for when I'm in the states. Ripley's Believe It Or Not kind of stuff. Ever come acrsss a book called EXTRAORDINARY POPULAR DELUSIONS AND THE MADNESS OF CROWDS? Neil finally found me a copy in NY recently. It's changed your life.
SysOp Barb Delaplace:
Terry <--- Yes, I can understand now that you mention it -- of course those would be ideal as grist for the writing mill.
Chief SysOp Wilma Meier:
Terry <--- Ahhh...Vanishing Hitchhiker kinds of books?
Terry Pratchett:
Yeah...but more than that. These are about REAL real things. Like the Dutch tulipmania in the 17th centyury, when the country's ENTIRE economy collapsed because of too much speculative trading in tulip bulbs. It really happened. And recently I've been researching ice fairs and ice palaces, which used to be a regular thing in Canadian cities. You just go around turning over interesting stones to see what's underneath, if you get my metaphor.
Chief SysOp Wilma Meier:
Terry <--- Completely.
SysOp Barb Delaplace:
Terry <--- Ice sculpture is _still_ a feature of some winter festivals in Canada, particularly in Montreal. To say nothing of US cities.
Terry Pratchett:
I know. And I read about them and I thought...ice palace, home of the dark winter god...and I had the well-known thought: if you build it, HE will come.
SysOp Barb Delaplace:
Aha! A story is born!
Terry Pratchett:
Not a story. But a step towards a story. You just have to have a childish mind. Incidentally, I've just been reading FALLEN ANGEL...I'm sure you guys know it?
Chief SysOp Wilma Meier:
Terry <--- Heard a thing or three about it but I'm waiting for Chicon to pick it up. (MAJOR shopping done at Worldcon.)
SysOp Barb Delaplace:
Terry <--- Yes, folks are discussing FALLEN ANGELS in the Sf Literature section.
Terry Pratchett:
Can you imagine it in the UK? I mean, the guys open the capsule, there's this British fan looking at them glumly and saying,`The beer here is SHIT'.
Mike McC:
Yes, do your books get translated into 'American' during the trip over the pond?
Terry Pratchett:
...A bit of tranlation gets done, but Roc seem to like the UK ambience.
SysOp Barb Delaplace:
Terry <--- In Canada we get the British editions, for which I'm glad -- I prefer them the way you wrote them.
SysOp Barb Delaplace:
Folks <--- Last call for questions for Terry Pratchett!
PSJog:
None here, but thanks _v._ much.
SysOp Barb Delaplace:
Well, then, I think we'll draw things to a close. Terry, thank you very much indeed for being our guest today!
Chief SysOp Wilma Meier:
Thanks Terry! [Applause!]
Terry Pratchett:
Fine. See you guys at Chicon?
SysOp Barb Delaplace:
Terry, you betcha!
Larne:
My Thanks too! See you there.
Chief SysOp Wilma Meier:
Night Terry! Thanks again!!
SysOp Barb Delaplace:
Bye, Terry!

A brief biography of works by TERRY PRATCHETT

Listing current as of August 1991

(Discworld books are marked "+")

The Carpet People, London: Colin Smythe 1971.

The Dark Side of the Sun, London: Colin Smythe 1976, New English Library 1978, Corgi 1988; New York: St Martin's Press 1976.

Sourcery, London: Colin Smythe 1981, New English Library 1982, Corgi 1988; New York: St Martin's Press 1981.

+ The Colour of Magic, London:Colin Smythe 1983 Corgi 1985); New York: St Martin's Press 1983, Signet 1985. Four-part comic adaption by Scott Rockwell, art by Steven Ross, etc, is currently being published by Innovation Corporation, Wheeling, WV.

+ The Light Fantastic, London: Colin Smythe, Corgi 1986; New York: Signet 1988.

+ Equal Rites>, London: Gollancz 1987, Corgi 1988; New York: Signet 1988.

+ Mort, London: Gollancz 1987, Corgi 1988; New York: Signet 1989.

+ Sourcery, London: Gollancz 1988, Corgi 1989; New York: Signet 1989.

+ Wyrd Sisters, London: Gollancz 1988, Corgi 1989; New York: Roc 1990.

+ Pyramids, London: Gollancz 1989, Corgi 1990; New York: Roc 1990.

Truckers, London: Doubleday 1989 (paperback 1990); New York: Delacorte 1990.

+ Guards! Guards!, London: Gollancz 1989, Corgi 1990; New York: Roc 1991.

The Unadulterated Cat (with Gray Jolliffe) London: Gollancz 1989

+ Eric, London: Gollancz 1989 (large format, illustrated by Josh Kirby; mass-market paperback, minus illustrations, by VGSF 1991.

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter (with Neil Gaiman) London: Gollancz 1990, Corgi 1991; New York: Workman 1990.

+ Moving Pictures, London: Gollancz 1990.

Diggers, London: Doubleday 1990 (paperback 1991); New York: Delacorte 1991. (second book in the Truckers trilogy, known as The Bromeliad in the US).

Wings, London: Doubleday, 1990 (third book in Truckers trilogy).

+ Reaper Man, London: Gollancz 1990.


Transcript Copyright (c) 1991 by CompuServe Science Fiction/Fantasy Forum. All rights reserved.


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