The L-Space Web: Interviews

Private interview carried out by Mike Richardson.

(C)Copyright 1999, Mike Richardson - All Rights Reserved

Express permission given to to publish and distribute via lspace mirrors, no other duplication or reproduction permitted without asking me first.



This interview was conducted via email between Monday 4th and Friday 8th January 1999. Despite the best efforts of my ISP - who lost my inbox! Terry very kindly resent one set of answers - the interview appears complete and unedited. Please bear in mind that this is my first attempt at interviewing and I'm not a journalist by trade ;) Having said that, please enjoy the interview and let me have any comments or thoughts

Terry Pratchett on the PalmPilot...

"The Pilot is just a goddam box. I've got a drawerful of similar things, all of which were cutting edge, most of which could only do useful stuff if you bought expensive add-ons. I use it, and it's pretty good for what it does, but a lot of the bundled stuff is dull. As so often happens, it wants *you* to work *its* way.

So, while it is my palmtop of choice right now, it'll go in the drawer when the next good thing comes along -- the Palm V, maybe, or a CE machine. But it's a good start, and I've stayed with it for quite a while!"

MR: How long have you been using your PalmPilot and why did choose it?

TP: Since September '97 -- my editor in the US showed me his Pilot at the Worldcon in San Antonio. I was impressed, so I went and bought one. I have to say that, although I use it regularly, I'm less impressed in the long term -- anyone who designs a mach ine which *cries out* to be kept sitting in a cradle by the main machine, so that it can be updated, in that lying little phrase, at 'the touch of a button' AND THEN doesn't make the crade a recharge station...well, they're missing a trick.

MR: Which of the built-in applications do you like and how often do you use them?

TP: Most of them are pretty clunky. The one used most is the Datebook, sync'd with Organizer '97. It does the job.

MR: Do you use any third-party applications on your PalmPilot?

TP: Doc and MakeDoc are useful for porting over my files from InfoSelect, which is a freeform database on which I keep all my notes and phone numbers.

MR: How important is your PalmPilot in the creative process (i.e. do you store character notes etc. on it)?

TP: Huh? No! I *make* notes on it, of course, but as far as I'm concerned the Pilot is simply a useful 'dingy' for my desktop machine, or the laptop if I've away for some time.

MR: I've noticed that your an active poster to, how important is the Internet for you to keep in touch with your fans?

TP: I don't think about it any more. It just seems a normal thing to do:-)

MR: Do you ever visit any of the many Discworld-related websites, and what is your opinion of them in general - do they help or hurt?

TP: They're *fandom* :-)

MR: Have you looked at the new generation of electronic books like the Rocket eBook, Millenium eBook or the SoftBook and do you think these will change reading habits?

TP: Funny you should say that. I've been looking around. I believe that a lot of people will hang on to books, though -- as *books*. But electronic books seem to be the way to go for non-fiction, especially for stuff that dates quickly.

MR: I wonder if you need to sign these books with a digital certificate at signing sessions! Personally, I *love* books and hate libraries; I actively enjoy having lots of books and savour their physical presence.

TP: I like libraries *a lot* but I mostly treasure books for what's in them!

MR: How do you feel about people being able to download an electronic version of your work? How important is the physical packaging and consistent look and feel to you as an author, and would you have any concerns about illegal copying?

TP: It's going to be up to publishers to look into the copying question, since in many cases they're producing the printed version as well. I hear reassurances, but the world is full of busy little people, busily cracking uncrackable protection. My immediate key concern is how the author can ensure that their text remains as they wrote it, and doesn't get altered by crazy netheads.

MR: Given the massively reduced production costs for the publisher, is the proposed savings of 10-30% off paperback price enough (especially as Amazon regularly offer 40% discounts)?

TP: Of course not. What's the publisher contributing? Some advertising (probably on the Web) the selection and editorial process (and not all publishers are that good at it!) and...what? The author might as well just dump the stuff on a site of their own. Look at how much technology we can buy now... The trouble is, an editorial process is vital. The Web's full of kids with names like Zit who reckon that publishing is some repressive tool that prevents true artistic expression, but what they *mean* is that they resent a system that requires some grasp of spelling, grammar, punctuation and a creative ability that goes a bit further than remembering the comic you read last.

MR: Have you ever considered including a PalmPilot in a Discworld novel (like Hex and Anthill Inside)? Maybe Nanny Ogg could use it to store her potion recipes.... (I've always imagined the Luggage as a kind of DW Pilot!)

TP: Er...maybe you didn't read Jingo? Although that was a bit more Psion-ey. No, no PalmPilots in a DW novel. They're toys. Useful toys, but toys. In five years time you *know* we'll be using something else. I've got a draw full of bits of plastic that were really cool once...

MR: One of the main advantages of your novels is that Discworld exists differently in each readers imagination (and as the unique environment which inspires you to write). How much involvement do you have in the many transitions of Discworld to other media such as cartoons, computer games and the Clarecraft figures (which I collect, but see as something different and distinct from the original characters)? How much control can, or do you want, to retain over these products which wouldn't exist without your original work?

TP: I take the view that you can't stand over other creative artists. I only object if they've *really* got it wrong. In other words, I've got a lot of control -- but it'd be stupid to be jogging people's elbows all the time.

MR: Have you ever been approached to make a Discworld film? Given the current advances in technology (A Bugs Life, Antz and Toy Story), do you think the Discworld characters, environment and humour would translate well to the big screen? Would you use an existing story or write a film-specific screenplay, and who would you most like to play my favourite anthropomorphic personification?

TP: Yes, but usually by lowlifes in Hollywood. Mort is limping along, but I doubt it'll be made now. I'd rather cut off my arm that write a film-specific screenplay, but I wrote a pretty good script for Mort. Christopher Lee would be perfect in the role.

MR: Have you ever considered launching an official web site along the lines of

TP: Look, I answer my mail. I answer my emails. I must be one of the most approachable authors in the UK. I write a lot of books. And you want me to run a website as well? No, I hang out on a.f.p, but even now I'm spending too much time on the net. Seriously...if there is an official site, and my agent has raised it once or twice, it won't be named after me:-)

MR: What would you like to include on such a site and how do you see this medium differing from printed novels?

TP: Well, a Web site is a bunch of graphics and words, while a novel is a full sound and colour movie of your very own in your head. Look, people are getting over-excited because they've discovered the Web and you can do real neat stuff with it -- but it isn't the whole world.

MR: Have you ever considered making a Discworld novel available exclusively via installments using email?

TP: Yes, but then I go and lie down until the madness goes away.

MR: As you have said yourself, you *are* one of the most approachable authors in the world. Are you concerned about your own privacy on the internet? Your email address is widely publicised, does this ever cause problems with "web stalkers" or imitators? Do you ever lurk in newsgroups or discussions under a pseudonym?

TP: Occasionally I'll post to a n/g and get a rash 'Are you TP?' emails, but it's dawned on most people, I think, that this is no big deal anymore. I think people occasionally post as me. I don't give a damn, really. You don't need a pseudonym to lurk!

MR: How does the volume of fan mail received by email and post compare? How do the type of questions/requests/threats<g> differ between them? Personally, I enjoy email because of the way you can approach (and be approached) by complete strangers - which I did to you - and because it falls somewhere between the structure and formality of a written letter and the informality of casual conversation. How do you feel about fans making demands on your time in this way?

TP: Email is now so big I can't answer all of it, and I do try. The way I look at it now, I'll answer what I can -- what I can't, well, that's unfortunate. I don't mind fans making demands -- but a moment's thought will tell them that there's one of me and thousands of them, and I simply cannot answer every email, give every interview, help with every project...

MR: My son has progressed from Truckers, Diggers, and Wings at age 7 to "full-blown" Discworld novels by the time he was 10 and enjoys all of them immensely. Do you differ your approach to books aimed at younger readers (despite the fact that "older children" like I enjoy them as well!), and if so how? As the afp faqs can testify (to some length!), there are many parodies, sub plots, running gags and other subleties woven into each of the Discworld novels, how many of these do you think the average reader will appreciate? Are they akin to the Easter Eggs hidden in some software packages?

TP: There is a difference between the YA books and the rest, but I find it hard to describe -- I just know when I'm doing it. I put the Easter Eggs in everything -- maybe no one will get every one, but everyone will get, maybe, a different 75%

MR: Given the immense interest in Discworld and the resultant merchandise and fandom, do you ever feel that your creations have taken on a Frankenstein-esque life of their own, or are you happy to see them grown-up, left school and off to college? How do you feel when someone is prepared to pay large amounts of money for the first editions of The Carpet People or The Colour of Magic? Does the value which someone else attachs to a part of your existence change your perception of it?

TP: I still keep a lot of control over merchandising, which may appear large by book standards but are tiny compared to most media-related stuff. As far as I'm concerned, it's all part of the whole thing. As for the price of early hardbacks and so on...well, I don't think about it. It's best just to get on with the next book...

MR: You seem to have tapped a rich seam in the public imagination with the Discworld novels, do you ever feel the need to kill all the characters off in the DW equivalent of a nuclear holocaust?

TP: Nope.

MR: Do you feel that DW has become a burden or a blessing because you seem to be always defined by DW? One of my personal favourite novels from you is Good Omens with Neil Gaiman, do you plan more collaborations like this?

TP: No more collaborations are planned, for the best of reasons. As for being 'defined' by DW, well, many authors have been defined by one particular aspect of their work, and it doesn't worry me at all.

MR: Undoubtedly the most popular DW character (at least according to Clarecraft), is Death. Why did you choose to portray HIM as such a likeable character? Many of your DEATH-centric novels (e.g. Mort and Reaper Man) explore the relationships between mortality and immortality, yet always return to the inescapable inevitability of extinction. Is this an anthropomorphic personification of your own fear of dying and being forgotten?

TP: That's a long question, and it deserves a short answer. I'm not worried at all about death; like most people, I'm mildly apprehensive about what happens just *before* death. I just chose Death as a character because I knew he'd be a good one.

MR: On a more lighter note, how long have you been using the Internet. How do you feel that the Internet has changed since you started using it?

TP: More people are trying to sell stuff, usually sex.

MR: Are those changes good or bad and how would you like to see the future shape up?

TP: I'd like people to realise that they are using a textual medium and learn how to express themselves in words.

MR: Over the next 5 years, do you anticipate the Internet playing a larger, smaller, or equivalent part in your professional life?

TP: It's bound to be more. Sigh

MR: Do you anticipate the next century will be more neo Victorian (as in Neal Stephenson's "Diamond Age") or BladeRunner (as in Phillip K. Dick's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep")?

TP: No, it'll just be like now, with added stuff. The world is full of forgotten futures. But I'm generally pessimistic. I think a lot of chickens will come home to roost.

MR: Finally, given your drawer of "cool bits of plastic", what would be the specification of your ideal Personal Digital Assistant? What software would it run? Would it be connected to the Internet and how? What sort of user-interface would you want? How should it communicate with other users and your existing systems?

TP: Well, you remember Box from 'Star Cops'? That's just about do me.

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