Terence David John Pratchett, OBE (born 28 April 1948) is a British fantasy and science fiction author, best known for his Discworld series. Other works include the Johnny Maxwell Trilogy and the Bromeliad Trilogy. He also closely collaborates on adaptations of his books, such as computer games and plays.
Pratchett started to write by the age of 13 and his first work was published commercially at the age of 15. His first novel The Carpet People was published in 1971. The first Discworld novel The Colour of Magic was published in 1983 and since then, he has written two books a year on average.
Pratchett was the UK's best selling author in the 1990s. As of December 2007, he had sold more than 55 million books worldwide and has been translated into 33 languages. He is currently the second most read writer in the UK and seventh most read non-US author in the U.S.Pratchett's novels hold the record for the most shoplifted books in Britain. Pratchett was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1998 "for services to literature".His novel The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents won the 2001 Carnegie Medal for the best book for children.Pratchett and his work are often described as having a cult following.
Terry Pratchett was born in 1948 in Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire, England, to David and Eileen Pratchett, of Hay-on-Wye. Pratchett passed his eleven plus exam in 1959 and went to High Wycombe Technical High School. He credits his education to the Beaconsfield Public Library and described himself as a "nondescript student".
At the age of 13, Pratchett published his first short story The Hades Business in the school magazine. He published it commercially at 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.
About 1968, working as a journalist, Pratchett interviewed 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, which was also the name of the publishing house, published the book with illustrations from Pratchett in 1971. The book received a few but praising reviews. The book was followed by sci-fi novels The Dark Side of the Sun and Strata, published in 1976 and 1981, respectively.
After various positions in journalism, in 1983, he became Press Officer for the Central Electricity Generating Board in an area which covered three nuclear power stations. He later joked that he had demonstrated impeccable timing by making this career change so soon after the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in Pennsylvania, USA, and said he would write a book about his experiences, if he thought anyone would believe it.
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, which has published Pratchett until today (as of 2007). Pratchett received further popularity after the BBC's Woman's Hour broadcast the novel as a serial in six parts and after publishing The Light Fantastic in 1986. Subsequently, rights for hardback were taken by a big publishing house Victor Gollancz, which has also published Pratchett until today (as of 2007), and Smythe became Pratchett's agent. Pratchett was the first fantasy author published by Gollancz.
Pratchett gave up his work for the CEGB in 1987 after finishing the fourth Discworld novel Mort to fully focus on and make his living through writing. His sales increased quickly and many of his books occupied top places of the best-seller list. According to The Times, Pratchett was the top selling and highest earning UK author in 1996. Some of his books have been published by Doubleday, another Transworld imprint. In the U.S., Pratchett is published by HarperCollins.
According to the Bookseller's Pocket Yearbook from 2005, in 2003 Pratchett's UK sales amounted to 3.4% of the fiction market by hardback sales and 3.8% by value, putting him in 2nd place behind J. K. Rowling (6% and 5.6% respectively), while in the paperback sales list Pratchett came 5th with 1.2% by sales and 1.3% by value (behind James Patterson (1.9% and 1.7%), Alexander McCall Smith, John Grisham and J. R. R. Tolkien). His sales in the UK alone are more than 2.5 million copies a year.
Pratchett was the British Book Awards Fantasy and Science Fiction Author of the Year for 1994.In 1998 he was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to literature. Typically, his own tongue-in-cheek comment was "I suspect the 'services to literature' consisted of refraining from trying to write any." He has been awarded honorary Doctorates of Literature, by the University of Warwick in 1999, 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 the only author with five books in the BBC's Big Read top 100 (four of which were Discworld novels) and was the author with the most novels in the top 200 (fifteen). All the Tiffany Aching novels have received a Locus Award for Best Young Adult Book (2004, 2005, 2007).
Terry Pratchett married his wife Lyn in 1968 and they moved to Rowberrow, Somerset in 1970. Their daughter Rhianna Pratchett, who is also a writer, was born there in 1976. In 1993, the family moved south west of Salisbury, Wiltshire, where they currently live.
Pratchett lists his recreations as "writing, walking, computers, life".
He is also well known for his penchant for wearing large, black hats, as seen on the inside back covers of most of his books. He wanted to be an astronomer as a child and fulfilled this ambition by building an observatory in his garden. Terry Pratchett is an atheist and a Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association. Pratchett's interest in orangutans is reflected on one of his most popular fictional characters, the Librarian, and his work as a trustee for the Orangutan Foundation UK. His activities include visiting Borneo with a Channel 4 film crew to make an episode of "Jungle Quest" in 1995, seeing orangutans in their natural habitat. Following Pratchett's lead, fan events such as the Discworld Conventions have adopted the Orangutan Foundation as their nominated charity.
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". However, he did not express any dislike of the Potter books themselves.
In August 2007, he was diagnosed as having had a minor stroke in 2004 or 2005. This damaged the right side of his brain, and while affecting motor skills, has not impaired his ability to write. On 11 December 2007, he posted that the cause of the "phantom 'stroke'" was, "a very rare form of early onset Alzheimer's". However, he remains optimistic and plans to continue writing.
Terry Pratchett at Worldcon 2005 in Glasgow, August 2005Pratchett has written both fantasy and sci-fi literature but focuses almost entirely on fantasy because, according to his own words, "it is easier to bend the universe around the story" in fantasy.
Terry Pratchett makes no secret of outside influences on his work; they are a major source of humour. He imports numerous characters from popular culture and ancient history but adds an unexpected aspect. These references are fairly consistent. He likes crime novels, which is reflected in frequent appearance of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch in the Discworld series. He was an only child and his characters are often with no siblings because "In fiction, only children are the interesting ones." An example of such a character is Susan Sto Helit.
His earliest inspirations were The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. His literary influences have been P.G. Wodehouse, Tom Sharpe, Jerome K. Jerome, Larry Niven, Roy Lewis,G. K. Chesterton, and Mark Twain.
In addition to his distinctive writing style, Pratchett is known for the use of footnotes in his books. These footnotes usually involve a comic departure from the narrative or a commentary on the narrative, and occur in various numbers.
Another notable feature of Pratchett's style of writing is that most of his books are not subdivided into chapters. Pratchett stated that he does this because "life doesn't happen in chapters," nor do most films, and Homer did not write in chapters. He claims chapters to be unnecessary in books written for adults.However, there have been exceptions; Going Postal and Making Money are divided into chapters, as are the young adult books about Tiffany Aching.
Characters' and 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 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 to indicate the character of Death communicating directly to an individual's mind without speech. He also uses made up colours, such as ultrablack or octarine, a "greenish-yellow purple" colour.
Pratchett started to use computers for writing as soon as they became available. His first computer was a Sinclair ZX81, the first computer he used for writing was an Amstrad 464, later replaced by a PC. His experiments with computer upgrades is reflected in Hex. When he travels, he always takes a portable computer with him to write.
He is a computer game player and some of his works were adapted as games in close collaboration with him. Pratchett prefers a game that is "intelligent and has some depth" and used Half-Life 2 as an example.
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.
A shelf full of Terry Pratchett's Discworld Novels, British editions.Main article: Discworld
Now containing over forty books, the Discworld series is a humorous and often satirical fantasy work that uses the Discworld as an allegory for our everyday life. The name "Discworld" comes from the fact that the world is described as being shaped like a large disc resting on the backs of four giant elephants supported by the enormous turtle Great A'Tuin, swimming its way through space. Major topics of parody have included many science fiction and fantasy characters, ideas and tropes, Ingmar Bergman films, Australia, film making, newspaper publishing, rock and roll music, religion, philosophy, Egyptian history, trade unions, university politics, and monarchy.
See the Discworld article for a list of Discworld novels.
Together with Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, Pratchett wrote The Science of Discworld (1999), The Science of Discworld II: The Globe (2002) and The Science of Discworld III: Darwin's Watch (2005). All of these have chapters that alternate between fiction and non-fiction, with the fictional chapters being set within the universe of the Discworld, as its characters observe and experiment on a universe not unlike ours. In 1999 Terry Pratchett made both Cohen and Stewart "Honorary Wizards of the Unseen University" at the same ceremony at which the University of Warwick gave Terry Pratchett an honorary degree.
The Bromeliad Trilogy
The Johnny Maxwell Trilogy
1992 Only You Can Save Mankind
1993 Johnny and the Dead
1996 Johnny and the Bomb
1971 The Carpet People
1976 The Dark Side of the Sun
1989 The Unadulterated Cat (with Gray Jolliffe)
1990 Good Omens (with Neil Gaiman)
Books containing contributions from Pratchett
After the King edited by Martin H. Greenberg (1992) contains "Troll Bridge", a story featuring Cohen the Barbarian (also published in Knights of Madness and The Mammoth Book of Comic Fantasy, see below).
The Wizards of Odd edited by Peter Haining (1996) includes a Discworld short story called "Theatre of Cruelty"
The Flying Sorcerers edited by Peter Haining (1997) is the "sequel" to The Wizards of Odd and starts off with a Pratchett story called "Turntables of the Night", featuring Death.
Knights of Madness, again edited by Peter Haining (1998) is the "sequel" to The Flying Sorcerers and contains the Discworld short story "Troll Bridge" (also published in The Mammoth Book of Comic Fantasy, see below).
Legends, edited by Robert Silverberg, contains a Discworld short story called "The Sea and Little Fishes".
Meditations on Middle-Earth (2002)
The Leaky Establishment written by David Langford and recently re-issued for which Pratchett provided a foreword
The Mammoth Book of Comic Fantasy edited by Mike Ashley (2001) contains "Troll Bridge", a story featuring Cohen the Barbarian.
Once More* *With Footnotes edited by Priscilla Olson and Sheila M. Perry (2004) is "an assortment of short stories, articles, introductions, and ephemera" by Pratchett which "have appeared in books, magazines, newspapers, anthologies, and program books, many of which are now hard to find."
Now We Are Sick written by Neil Gaiman and Stephen Jones includes the poem called "The Secret Book of the Dead".
The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook 2007 includes an article by Pratchett about the process of writing fantasy.
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.
Johnny and the Dead was made into a TV serial for Children's ITV on ITV in 1995. In January 2006 BBC aired a three-part adaptation of Johnny and the Bomb.
A two part feature length version of Hogfather starring David Jason and the voice of Ian Richardson was first aired on Sky One in the United Kingdom in December 2006 and on ION Television in the USA in 2007. Pratchett was opposed to live action films about Discworld before because of his negative experience with Hollywood film makers. He changed his opinion when he saw that the director Vadim Jean and producer Rod Brown were very enthusiastic and cooperative. A film based on The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic (both books are being merged into one as they follow on) is currently under production also for Sky One.
Truckers was adapted as a stop-animation series for Thames Television by Cosgrove Hall Films. Wyrd Sisters and Soul Music were adapted as animated series by Cosgrove Hall Films for Channel 4 in 1996. An illustrated screenplay for Wyrd Sisters was published in 1998 and for Soul Music in 1997.
Terry Pratchett's novel The Wee Free Men is set to be turned into a film by Sam Raimi; currently the film is expected to be released in 2010. Director Terry Gilliam has recently announced in an interview with Empire (magazine) that he plans to adapt Good Omens.
The Colour of Magic, Guards! Guards!, Wyrd Sisters, Mort and Small Gods have been dramatised as serials, and The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents has been heard as a 90-minute play, all for BBC Radio 4.
The Colour of Magic, The Light Fantastic, Mort, and Guards! Guards! have been adapted into graphic novels.
GURPS Discworld (Steve Jackson Games, 1998) and GURPS Discworld Also (Steve Jackson Games, 2001) are role-playing source books which were written by Terry Pratchett and Phil Masters, which also offer insights into the workings of the Discworld and the power of narrative. The first of these two books was re-released in September 2002 under the name of The Discworld Roleplaying Game with art by Paul Kidby.
PC and console games
The Discworld universe has also been used as a basis for a number of Discworld video games on a range of formats, such as the Sega Saturn, the Sony Playstation, the Philips CD-i and the 3DO, as well as DOS- and Windows-based PCs. The following are the more notable games.
The Colour of Magic, the first game based on the series, and so far the only one directly adapted from a Discworld novel. It was released in 1986 for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum & Commodore 64.
Discworld, an animated "point-and-click" adventure game made by Teeny Weeny Games and Perfect 10 Productions in 1995.
Discworld II: Missing, Presumed...!?, a sequel to Discworld developed by Perfect Entertainment in 1996. It was subtitled "Mortality Bytes!" in North America.
Discworld Noir is the first 3D game based on the Discworld series, and is both an example and parody of the film noir genre. The game was created by Perfect Entertainment and published by GT Interactive for both the PC and PlayStation in 1999. It was released only in Europe and Australia.
Works about Pratchett
A collection of essays about his writings is compiled in the book Terry Pratchett: Guilty of Literature, edited by Andrew M. Butler, Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn, published by Science Fiction Foundation in 2000. A second expanded edition was published by Old Earth Books in 2004. Andrew M. Butler also wrote the Pocket Essentials Guide to Terry Pratchett published in 2001. Writers Uncovered: Terry Pratchett is a biography for young readers by Vic Parker, published by Heinemann Library in 2006.
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