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Terry Pratchett

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Title: Terry Pratchett  
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Subject: Making Money, Ankh-Morpork, Discworld, Terry Pratchett's The Colour of Magic, The Long Earth
Collection: 1948 Births, 2015 Deaths, 20Th-Century British Novelists, 20Th-Century English Novelists, 21St-Century British Novelists, Absurdist Fiction, British Book Award Winners, British Child Writers, Carnegie Medal in Literature Winners, Comedy Fiction Writers, Deaths from Alzheimer's Disease, English Atheists, English Children's Writers, English Fantasy Writers, English Humanists, English Journalists, English Male Journalists, English Science Fiction Writers, Euthanasia Activists, Knights Bachelor, Living People, Male Short Story Writers, Margaret A. Edwards Award Winners, Officers of the Order of the British Empire, People Associated with the Discworld Series, People Educated at John Hampden Grammar School, People from Beaconsfield, People with Alzheimer's Disease, People with Dementia, Prometheus Award Winners, Terry Pratchett
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Terry Pratchett

Sir Terry Pratchett
Pratchett at the 2012 New York Comic Con
Born Terence David John Pratchett
(1948-04-28) 28 April 1948 [1]
Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, England[2][3]
Occupation Novelist
Nationality British
Genre Comic fantasy
Notable works Discworld
Good Omens
Terry Pratchett's voice
Recorded May 2008 from the BBC Radio 4 programme Bookclub


Sir Terence David John "Terry" Pratchett, OBE (born 28 April 1948) is an English author of fantasy novels, especially comical works.[4] He is best known for his Discworld series of about 40 volumes. Pratchett's first novel, The Carpet People, was published in 1971, and since his first Discworld novel (The Colour of Magic) was published in 1983, he has written two books a year on average. His 2011 Discworld novel Snuff was at the time of its release the third-fastest-selling hardback adult-audience novel since records began in the UK, selling 55,000 copies in the first three days.[5]

Pratchett was the UK's best-selling author of the 1990s,[6][7] and has sold over 85 million books worldwide in 37 languages.[8][9] He is currently the second most-read writer in the UK, and seventh most-read non-US author in the US.[10]

Pratchett was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1998 and was knighted for services to literature in the 2009 New Year Honours.[11][12] In 2001 he won the annual Carnegie Medal for The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents, the first Discworld book marketed for children.[13][14] He received the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 2010.

In December 2007, Pratchett announced that he was suffering from early-onset Alzheimer's disease.[15] He has since made a substantial public donation to the Alzheimer's Research Trust,[16] and filmed a television programme chronicling his experiences with the disease for the BBC.


  • Background 1
    • Early life 1.1
    • Early career 1.2
    • Current life 1.3
      • Alzheimer's disease 1.3.1
  • Interests 2
    • Computers and the Internet 2.1
    • Natural history 2.2
      • Orangutans 2.2.1
    • Amateur astronomy 2.3
    • Terry Pratchett First Novel Award 2.4
  • Writing career 3
    • Awards 3.1
    • Fandom 3.2
  • Writing 4
    • The fantasy genre 4.1
    • Style and major themes 4.2
    • Influences 4.3
    • Publishing history 4.4
  • Works 5
    • The Discworld series 5.1
    • Other Discworld books 5.2
      • Science of Discworld 5.2.1
      • Folklore of Discworld 5.2.2
    • Other novels and writing 5.3
    • Children's novels 5.4
    • Collaborations and contributions 5.5
  • Adaptations 6
    • Radio 6.1
    • Theatre 6.2
    • Television 6.3
    • Feature films 6.4
    • Comic books and graphic novels 6.5
    • Role-playing games 6.6
    • Video games 6.7
    • Internet games 6.8
    • Music 6.9
  • Works about Pratchett 7
  • Arms 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11


Early life

Pratchett was born in 1948 in Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire, England, the only child of David and Eileen Pratchett, of Hay-on-Wye. His family moved to Bridgwater, Somerset briefly in 1957, following which he passed his eleven plus exam in 1959, earning him a place in John Hampden Grammar School.[17] Pratchett described himself as a "non-descript student" and, in his Who's Who entry, credits his education to the Beaconsfield Public Library.[18]

His early interests included astronomy;[19] he collected Brooke Bond tea cards about space, owned a telescope[20] and wanted to be an astronomer, but lacked the necessary mathematical skills.[19] However, this led to an interest in reading British and American science fiction.[20] In turn, this led to attending science fiction conventions from about 1963/4, which stopped when he got his first job a few years later.[20] His early reading included the works of H. G. Wells and Arthur Conan Doyle and "every book you really ought to read" which he now regards as "getting an education".[21]

At age 13, Pratchett published his first short story "The Hades Business" in the school magazine. It was published commercially when he was 15.[22]

Pratchett earned 5 O-levels and started 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 where he wrote, amongst other things, several stories for the Children's Circle section under the name Uncle Jim. One of these episodic stories contains named characters from The Carpet People. These stories are currently part of a project by the Bucks Free Press to make them available online.[23] While on day release he finished his A-Level in English and took a proficiency course for journalists.[24]

Early career

Pratchett had his first breakthrough in 1968, when working as a journalist. He came to interview Peter Bander van Duren, co-director of a small publishing company. During the meeting, Pratchett mentioned he had written a manuscript, The Carpet People.[25] Bander van Duren and his business partner, Colin Smythe (of Colin Smythe Ltd Publishers) published the book in 1971, with illustrations by Pratchett himself.[24] The book received strong, if few reviews.[24] The book was followed by the science fiction novels The Dark Side of the Sun, published in 1976, and Strata, published in 1981.[24]

After various positions in journalism, in 1980 Pratchett 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, U.S., and said he would "write a book about my experiences, if I thought anyone would believe it".[26]

The first Discworld novel Equal Rites. Subsequently, rights for hardback were taken by the publishing house Victor Gollancz, which remained Pratchett's publisher until 1997, and Smythe became Pratchett's agent. Pratchett was the first fantasy author published by Gollancz.[24]

Pratchett gave up working for the CEGB in 1987 after finishing the fourth Discworld novel, Mort, to focus fully on and make his living through writing. His sales increased quickly and many of his books occupied top places on the best-seller list. According to The Times, Pratchett was the top-selling and highest earning UK author in 1996.[24] Some of his books have been published by Doubleday, another Transworld imprint. In the US, 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 second 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).[27] His sales in the UK alone are more than 2.5 million copies a year.[10]

Current life

Terry Pratchett married his wife Lyn in 1968,[24] 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 to Broad Chalke, a village west of Salisbury, Wiltshire, where they currently live.[28] He lists his recreations as "writing, walking, computers, life".[29] He describes himself as a humanist and is a Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association[30] and an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society.[31] He is the patron of the Friends of High Wycombe Library.[32]

Pratchett is well known for his penchant for wearing large, black fedora hats,[33] as seen on the inside back covers of most of his books. His style has been described as "more that of urban cowboy than city gent."[34]

Concern for the future of civilisation has prompted him to install five kilowatts of photovoltaic cells (for solar energy) at his house.[35] Having been interested in astronomy since childhood, he has had an observatory built in his garden.[19][20] An asteroid (127005 Pratchett) is named after him.[36]

On 31 December 2008 it was announced that Pratchett was to be knighted (as a Knight Bachelor) in the Queen's 2009 New Year Honours.[11][37] He formally received the accolade at Buckingham Palace on 18 February 2009.[38] Afterwards he said, "You can't ask a fantasy writer not to want a knighthood. You know, for two pins I'd get myself a horse and a sword."[39] In late 2009, he did make himself a sword, with the help of his friends. He told a Times Higher Education interviewer that "'At the end of last year I made my own sword. I dug out the iron ore from a field about 10 miles away – I was helped by interested friends. We lugged 80 kilos of iron ore, used clay from the garden and straw to make a kiln, and lit the kiln with wildfire by making it with a bow.' Colin Smythe, his long-term friend and agent, donated some pieces of meteoric iron – 'thunderbolt iron has a special place in magic and we put that in the smelt, and I remember when we sawed the iron apart it looked like silver. Everything about it I touched, handled and so forth ... And everything was as it should have been, it seemed to me.'"[40]

Alzheimer's disease

In August 2007 Pratchett was misdiagnosed as having had a minor stroke in 2004 or 2005 that was believed to have damaged the right side of his brain. While his motor skills had been affected, the observed damage had not impaired his ability to write.[34] On 11 December 2007, Pratchett posted online that he had been newly diagnosed with a very rare form of early-onset Alzheimer's disease, which he said "lay behind this year's phantom 'stroke'." He has a rare form of the disease called posterior cortical atrophy (PCA),[41] in which areas at the back of the brain begin to shrink and shrivel.[16] Describing it as an 'embuggerance' in a radio interview, Pratchett appealed to people to "keep things cheerful", and proclaimed that "we are taking it fairly philosophically down here and possibly with a mild optimism."[42] Leading the way, Pratchett stated that he feels he has time for "at least a few more books yet", and added that while he understands the impulse to ask 'is there anything I can do?', in this particular case he will only entertain such offers from "very high-end experts in brain chemistry."[42] Discussing his diagnosis at the Bath Literature Festival in early 2008, Pratchett revealed that he now found it too difficult to write dedications when signing books.[43]

Pratchett at Worldcon 2005 in Glasgow, August 2005

In March 2008, Pratchett announced he was donating US$1,000,000 (about £494,000 at the time) to the Alzheimer's Research Trust, saying that he had spoken to at least three brain tumour survivors yet he had spoken to no survivors of Alzheimer's disease, and that he was shocked "to find out that funding for Alzheimer's research is just 3% of that to find cancer cures."[16][44][45] Of his donation Pratchett said: "I am, along with many others, scrabbling to stay ahead long enough to be there when the Cure comes along."[46]

In April 2008, the BBC began working with Pratchett to make a two-part documentary series based on his illness.[47] The first part of Terry Pratchett: Living With Alzheimer's was broadcast on BBC Two on 4 February 2009, drawing 2.6m viewers and a 10.4% audience share.[48] The second, broadcast on 11 February 2009, drew 1.72m viewers and a 6.8% audience share.[49] The programme won a BAFTA award in the Factual Series category.[50] He also made an appearance on The One Show on 15 May 2008, talking about his condition. He was the subject and interviewee of the 20 May 2008 edition of On the Ropes (Radio 4), discussing Alzheimer's and how it had affected his life.

On 8 June 2008, news reports indicated that Pratchett had an experience, which he described as: "It is just possible that once you have got past all the gods that we have created with big beards and many human traits, just beyond all that, on the other side of physics, there just may be the ordered structure from which everything flows" and "I don't actually believe in anyone who could have put that in my head".[51][52] He went into further detail on Front Row, in which he was asked if this was a shift in his beliefs: "A shift in me in the sense I heard my father talk to me when I was in the garden one day. But I'm absolutely certain that what I heard was my memories of my father. An engram, or something in my head...This is not about God, but somewhere around there is where gods come from."[53]

On 26 November 2008, Pratchett met the Prime Minister Gordon Brown and asked for an increase in dementia research funding.[54]

Since August 2008 Pratchett has been testing a prototype device to address his condition. Despite some improvements in his condition,[55] the ability of the device to alter the course of the illness has been met with scepticism.[56]

In an article published mid-2009, Pratchett stated that he wishes to die by 'assisted suicide' (although he dislikes that term) before his disease progresses to a critical point.[57] Pratchett was selected to give the 2010 BBC Richard Dimbleby Lecture,[58] entitled Shaking Hands With Death, which was broadcast on 1 February 2010.[59] Pratchett introduced his lecture on the topic of assisted death, but the main text was read by his friend Tony Robinson because of difficulties Pratchett has with reading – a result of his condition.[60][61][62]

Because of his condition, Pratchett currently writes either by dictating to his assistant, Rob Wilkins, or by using speech recognition software.[63]

In June 2011 Pratchett presented a one-off BBC television documentary entitled Terry Pratchett: Choosing to Die on the subject of assisted death. It won the Best Documentary award at the Scottish BAFTAs in November 2011.[64] He has also stated several times that, when he dies, he wishes to hear Thomas Tallis's Spem in alium played in the background.

In September 2012 Pratchett stated in an interview "I have to tell you that I thought I’d be a lot worse than this by now, and so did my specialist." In the interview it was stated that the cognitive part of his mind was "untouched", and his symptoms relating to the condition were physical (which is normal for PCA) and that putting a book together was actually better and easier now that it was done by dictation.[65]

In July 2014 Pratchett cancelled his appearance at the biennial International Discworld Convention due to the disease, stating that he had never been forced to miss a UK convention before this point.[66]


Computers and the Internet

Pratchett started to use computers for writing as soon as they were available to him. His first computer was a Sinclair ZX81, the first computer he used properly for writing was an Amstrad CPC 464, later replaced by a PC. Pratchett was one of the first authors routinely to use the Internet to communicate with fans, and has been a contributor to the Usenet newsgroup since 1992.[67] However, he does not consider the Internet a hobby, just another "thing to use".[26] He now has many computers in his house.[26] When he travels, he always takes a portable computer with him to write.[26] His experiments with computer upgrades are reflected in Hex.[68]

Pratchett is also an avid video game player, and collaborated in the creation of a number of game adaptations of his books. He favours games that are "intelligent and have some depth", citing Half-Life 2 and fan missions from Thief as examples.[69] He is also said to have enjoyed playing the first Tomb Raider game.[70]

Natural history

Pratchett has a fascination with natural history that he has referred to many times. Pratchett owns a greenhouse full of carnivorous plants.[71]

In 1995, a fossil sea-turtle from the Eocene epoch of New Zealand was named in honour of him Psephophorus terrypratchetti by the palaeontologist Richard Köhler.[72]


Pratchett is a trustee for the Orangutan Foundation UK[73] but is pessimistic about the animal's future.[35] Following Pratchett's lead, fan events such as the Discworld Conventions have adopted the Orangutan Foundation as their nominated charity, which has been acknowledged by the foundation.[74] One of Pratchett's most popular fictional characters, the Librarian of the Unseen University's Library, is a wizard who was transformed into an orangutan in a magical accident and decides to remain in that condition as it is so convenient for his work.

Amateur astronomy

Pratchett has an observatory in his back garden and is a keen astronomer. He has appeared on the BBC programme The Sky at Night.[75]

Terry Pratchett First Novel Award

Pratchett sponsors a biennial award for unpublished science fiction novelists, the Terry Pratchett First Novel Award. The prize is a publishing contract with his publishers Transworld.[76] In 2011 the award was won jointly by David Logan for Half Sick of Shadows and Michael Logan for Apocalypse Cow.[77] In 2013 the award was won by Alexander Maskill for The Hive.[78]

Writing career


Pratchett drinking Guinness shortly after receiving an honorary degree from the University of Dublin in 2008

Pratchett received a knighthood for "services to literature" in the 2009 UK New Year Honours list.[11][79] He was previously appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire, also for "services to literature", in 1998. Following this, Pratchett commented in the Ansible SF/fan newsletter, "I suspect the 'services to literature' consisted of refraining from trying to write any," but added, "Still, I cannot help feeling mightily chuffed about it."[80]

Pratchett was the British Book Awards' 'Fantasy and Science Fiction Author of the Year' for 1994.[81]

Pratchett won the British Science Fiction Award in 1989 for his novel, Pyramids,[82] and a Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel in 2008 for Making Money.[83]

Pratchett has been awarded nine honorary Doctorates; University of Warwick in 1999,[84] the University of Portsmouth in 2001,[85] the University of Bath in 2003,[86] the University of Bristol in 2004,[87] Buckinghamshire New University in 2008,[88] the University of Dublin in 2008,[89] Bradford University in 2009,[90] University of Winchester in 2009 [91] and The Open University in 2013[92] for his contribution to Public Service.

Pratchett won the 2001 Carnegie Medal from the British librarians, recognising The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents as the year's best children's book published in the U.K.[13][14]

Night Watch won the 2003 Prometheus Award for best libertarian novel.[93]

In 2003, BBC conducted The Big Read to identify the "Nation's Best-loved Novel" and finally published a ranked list of the "Top 200". Pratchett's highest-ranking novel was Mort, number 65, but he and Charles Dickens were the only authors with five in the Top 100 (four of his were from the Discworld series). He also led all authors with fifteen novels in the Top 200.[94]

Three of the four Discworld novels that centre on the "trainee witch" Tiffany Aching won the annual Locus Award for Best Young Adult Book in 2004, 2005 and 2007.[95]

In 2005, Going Postal was shortlisted for the Hugo Award for Best Novel; however, Pratchett recused himself, stating that stress over the award would mar his enjoyment of Worldcon.[96][97]

Pratchett received the NESFA Skylark Award in 2009[98] and the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 2010.[99] In 2011 he won Margaret A. Edwards Award from the American Library Association, a lifetime honour for "significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature".[100][101] The librarians cited nine Discworld novels published from 1983 to 2004 and observed that "Pratchett’s tales of Discworld have won over generations of teen readers with intelligence, heart, and undeniable wit. Comic adventures that fondly mock the fantasy genre, the Discworld novels expose the hypocrisies of contemporary society in an intricate, ever-expanding universe. With satisfyingly multilayered plots, Pratchett's humor honors the intelligence of the reader. Teens eagerly lose themselves in a universe with no maps."[100]

He was made an adjunct Professor in the School of English at Trinity College Dublin in 2010, with a role in postgraduate education in creative writing and popular literature.[102]

I Shall Wear Midnight[103] won the 2010 Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy presented by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) as a part of the Nebula Award ceremony.


Pratchett's Discworld novels have led to dedicated conventions, the first in Manchester in 1996,[104] then worldwide,[105] often with the author as guest of honour.[106] Publication of a new novel may also be accompanied by an international book signing tour;[107] queues have been known to stretch outside the bookshop and the author has continued to sign books well after the intended finishing time.[104] His fans are not restricted by age or gender, and he receives a large amount of fan mail from them.[104] Pratchett enjoys meeting fans and hearing what they think about his books; he says that since he is well paid for his novels, his fans "are everything to me."[108]


Pratchett has said that to write, you must read extensively, both inside and outside your chosen genre[109] and to the point of "overflow".[26] He advises that writing is hard work, and that writers must "make grammar, punctuation and spelling a part of your life."[26] However, Pratchett enjoys writing, regarding its monetary rewards as "an unavoidable consequence", rather than the reason for writing.[110]

The fantasy genre

Although in the past he has written in the sci-fi and horror genres, Pratchett now focuses almost entirely on fantasy, explaining "it is easier to bend the universe around the story".[111] In the acceptance speech for his Carnegie Medal he said, "Fantasy isn't just about wizards and silly wands. It's about seeing the world from new directions", pointing to J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter novels and J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. In the same speech, he also acknowledged benefits of these works for the genre.[112]

He "believes he owes a debt to the science fiction/fantasy genre which he grew up out of" and dislikes the term "magical realism" which is "like a polite way of saying you write fantasy and is more acceptable to certain people ... who, on the whole, do not care that much."[113] He is annoyed that fantasy is "unregarded as a literary form" because it "is the oldest form of fiction"[108] and he is "infuriated" when novels containing science fiction or fantasy ideas are not regarded as part of those genres.[109] He has debated this issue with novelist A. S. Byatt and critic Terry Eagleton, arguing that fantasy is fundamental to the way we understand the world and is therefore an integral aspect of all fiction.[114]

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 be achieved only at the expense of other writers".[115] Pratchett has denied claims that this was a swipe at Rowling, and said that he was not making claims of plagiarism, but was pointing out the "shared heritage" of the fantasy genre.[116] Pratchett has also posted on the Harry Potter newsgroup about a media-covered exchange of views with her.[117]

Style and major themes

Pratchett is known for a distinctive writing style that includes a number of characteristic hallmarks. One example is his use of footnotes,[118] which usually involve a comic departure from the narrative or a commentary on the narrative, and occasionally have footnotes of their own.[119]

Pratchett has a tendency to avoid using chapters, arguing in a Book Sense interview that "life does not happen in regular chapters, nor do movies, and Homer did not write in chapters", adding "I'm blessed if I know what function they serve in books for adults."[120] However, there have been exceptions; Going Postal and Making Money and several of his books for younger readers are divided into chapters.[121] Pratchett has offered explanations for his sporadic use of chapters; in the young adult titles, he says that he must use chapters because '[his] editor screams until [he] does', but otherwise feels that they're an unnecessary 'stopping point' that gets in the way of the narrative.

Characters, place names, and titles in Pratchett's books often contain puns, allusions and culture references.[122][123] Some characters are parodies of well-known characters: for example, Pratchett's character Cohen the Barbarian, also called Ghengiz Cohen, is a parody of Conan the Barbarian and Genghis Khan, and his character Leonard of Quirm is a parody of Leonardo da Vinci.

Another hallmark of his writing is the use of capitalised dialogue without quotation marks, used to indicate the character of Death communicating telepathically into a character's mind. Other characters or types of characters have similarly distinctive ways of speaking, such as the auditors of reality never having quotation marks, Ankh-Morpork grocers never using punctuation correctly, and golems capitalising each word in everything they say. Pratchett also made up a new colour, octarine, a 'fluorescent greenish-yellow-purple', which is the eighth colour in the Discworld spectrum—the colour of magic.[124] Indeed, the number eight itself is regarded in the Discworld as being a magical number; for example, the eighth son of an eighth son will be a wizard, and his eighth son will be a "sourcerer" (which is one reason why wizards are not allowed to have children).[125]

Discworld novels often include a modern innovation and its introduction to the world's medieval setting, such as a public police force (Guards! Guards!), guns (Men at Arms), submarines (Jingo), cinema (Moving Pictures), investigative journalism (The Truth), the postage stamp (Going Postal), modern banking (Making Money), and the steam engine (Raising Steam). The "clacks", the tower-to-tower semaphore system that has sprung up in later novels, is a mechanical optical telegraph (used in Napoleon's Era successfully) before wired electric telegraph chains, with all the change and turmoil that such an advancement implies. The resulting social upheaval driven by these changes serves as the setting for the main story.


Pratchett makes no secret of outside influences on his work: they are a major source of his humour. He imports numerous characters from classic literature, popular culture and ancient history,[126] always adding an unexpected twist. Pratchett is a crime novel fan, which is reflected in frequent appearances of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch in the Discworld series.[111] Pratchett was an only child, and his characters are often without siblings. Pratchett explains, "In fiction, only-children are the interesting ones".[127]

Pratchett's earliest inspirations were The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, and the works of Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke.[6] His literary influences have been P.G. Wodehouse, Tom Sharpe, Jerome K. Jerome, Roy Lewis,[128] Alan Coren,[129] G. K. Chesterton, and Mark Twain.[130]

Publishing history

While Pratchett's UK publishing history has remained quite stable, his relationships with international publishers have been turbulent (especially in America). He changed German publishers after an advertisement for Maggi soup appeared in the middle of the German-language version of Pyramids.[131][132]


The Discworld series

Pratchett began writing the Discworld series in 1983 to "have fun with some of the cliches"[20] and it is a humorous and often satirical sequence of stories set in the colourful fantasy world of Discworld. The series contains various 'story arcs' (or 'sub-series'), and a number of free-standing stories. All are set in an abundance of locations in the same detailed and unified world, such as the Unseen University and 'The Drum/Broken Drum/Mended Drum' public house in the twin city Ankh-Morpork, or places in the various continents, regions and countries on the Disc. Characters and locations reappear throughout the series, variously taking major and minor roles.

The Discworld itself is described as a large disc resting on the backs of four giant elephants, all supported by the giant turtle Great A'Tuin as it swims its way through space. The books are essentially in chronological order,[121] and advancements can be seen in the development of the Discworld civilisations, such as the creation of paper money in Ankh-Morpork.[120]

The subject of many of the novels in Pratchett's Discworld series is a parody of a real-world subject such as film making, newspaper publishing, rock and roll music, religion, philosophy, Ancient Greece, Egyptian history, the Gulf War, Australia, university politics, trade unions, and the financial world. Pratchett has also included further parody as a feature within the stories, including such subjects as Ingmar Bergman films, numerous fiction, science fiction and fantasy characters, and various bureaucratic and ruling systems.

Other Discworld books

Pratchett has written or collaborated on a number of Discworld books that are not novels in themselves but serve to accompany the series.

The Discworld Companion, written with Stephen Briggs, is an encyclopedic guide to Discworld. The third edition was renamed The New Discworld Companion, and was published in 2003. Latest edition of the companion will be published on 18 October 2012 and will be called Turtle Recall.[133] Briggs also collaborated with Pratchett on a series of fictional Discworld "mapps". The first, The Discworld Mapp (1995), illustrated by Stephen Player, comprises a large, comprehensive map of the Discworld itself with a small booklet that contains short biographies of the Disc's prominent explorers and their discoveries. Three further "mapps", have been released, focusing on particular regions of the Disc: Ankh-Morpork, Lancre, and Death's Domain. Briggs and Pratchett have also released several Discworld diaries and, with Tina Hannan, Nanny Ogg's Cookbook (1999). The design of this cookbook, illustrated by Paul Kidby, was based on the traditional Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, but with humorous recipes.

Collections of Discworld-related art have also been released in book form. The Pratchett Portfolio (1996) and The Art of Discworld (2004) are collections of paintings of major Discworld characters by Paul Kidby, with details added by Pratchett on the character's origins.

In 2005, Pratchett's first book for very young children was Where's My Cow? Illustrated by Melvyn Grant, this is a realisation of the short story Sam Vimes reads to his child in Thud!.

Pratchett resisted mapping the Discworld for quite some time, noting that a firmly designed map restricts narrative possibility (i.e., with a map, fans will complain if he places a building on the wrong street, but without one, he can adjust the geography to fit the story).

Science of Discworld

Pratchett has written four Science of Discworld books in collaboration with Professor of mathematics Ian Stewart and reproductive biologist Jack Cohen, both of the University of Warwick: The Science of Discworld (1999), The Science of Discworld II: The Globe (2002), The Science of Discworld III: Darwin's Watch (2005), and The Science of Discworld IV: Judgement Day (2013).

All four books have chapters that alternate between fiction and non-fiction: the fictional chapters are set within the Discworld, where its characters observe, and experiment on, a universe with the same physics as ours. The non-fiction chapters (written by Stewart and Cohen) explain the science behind the fictional events.

In 1999, Pratchett appointed both Cohen and Stewart as "Honorary Wizards of the Unseen University" at the same ceremony at which the University of Warwick awarded him an honorary degree.[84]

Folklore of Discworld

Pratchett has collaborated with the folklorist Dr Jacqueline Simpson on The Folklore of Discworld (2008), a study of the relationship between many of the persons, places and events described in the Discworld books and their counterparts in myths, legends, fairy tales and folk customs on Earth.

Other novels and writing

Pratchett's first two adult novels, The Dark Side of the Sun (1976) and Strata (1981), were both science-fiction, the latter taking place partly on a disc-shaped world. Subsequent to these, Pratchett has mostly concentrated on his Discworld series and novels for children, with two exceptions: Good Omens (1990), a collaboration with Neil Gaiman (which was nominated for both Locus and World Fantasy Awards in 1991[134]), a humorous story about the Apocalypse set on Earth, and Nation (2008), a book for young adults.

After writing Good Omens, Pratchett began to work with Larry Niven on a book that would become Rainbow Mars; Niven eventually completed the book on his own, but states in the afterword that a number of Pratchett's ideas remained in the finished version.

Pratchett has also collaborated with British science fiction author Stephen Baxter on a parallel earth series.[135] The first novel, entitled The Long Earth was released on 21 June 2012. A second novel, The Long War, was released on 18 June 2013.[136] The Long Mars was published in 2014.

In 2012, the first volume of Pratchett's collected short fiction was published under the title A Blink of the Screen. In 2014, a similar collection was published of Pratchett's non-fiction, titled A Slip of the Keyboard.

Children's novels

Pratchett's first children's novel was also his first published novel: The Carpet People in 1971, which Pratchett substantially rewrote and re-released in 1992. The next, Truckers (1988), was the first in The Nome Trilogy of novels for young readers, about small gnome-like creatures called "Nomes", and the trilogy continued in Diggers (1990) and Wings (1990). Subsequently, Pratchett wrote the Johnny Maxwell trilogy, about the adventures of a boy called Johnny Maxwell and his friends, comprising Only You Can Save Mankind (1992), Johnny and the Dead (1993) and Johnny and the Bomb (1996). Nation (2008) marked his return to the non-Discworld children's novel, and this was followed in 2012 by Dodger, a children's novel set in Victorian London.[137] On 21 November 2013 Doubleday Children's released Pratchett's Jack Dodger's Guide to London.[138]

In September 2014 an anthology of children's stories, Dragons at Crumbling Castle, written by Pratchett, and illustrated by Mark Beech, was published,[139] following the previous month's release of The Abominable Snowman.[140]

Collaborations and contributions

  • The Unadulterated Cat (1989) is a humorous book of cat anecdotes written by Pratchett and illustrated by Gray Jolliffe.
  • Digital Dreams, edited by David V Barrett (1990), contains the science fiction short story '"#ifdefDEBUG + "world/enough" + "time".
  • Good Omens, written with Neil Gaiman (1990)
  • After the King: Stories In Honour of J.R.R. Tolkien edited by Martin H. Greenberg (1992) contains "Troll Bridge", a short story featuring Cohen the Barbarian. This story was also published in the compilation The Mammoth Book of Comic Fantasy (2001, edited by Mike Ashley).
  • Now We Are Sick, written by Neil Gaiman and Stephen Jones (1994), includes the poem called "The Secret Book of the Dead" by Pratchett.
  • The Wizards of Odd, a short-story compilation edited by Peter Haining (1996), includes a Discworld short story called "Theatre of Cruelty".
  • The Flying Sorcerers, another short-story compilation edited by Peter Haining (1997), starts off with a Pratchett story called "Turntables of the Night", featuring Death (albeit not set on Discworld, but in our "reality").
  • Knights of Madness (1998, edited by Peter Haining) includes a short story called "Hollywood Chickens".
  • Legends, edited by Robert Silverberg (1998), contains a Discworld short story called "The Sea and Little Fishes".
  • The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Fantasy, edited by David Pringle (1998), has a foreword by Pratchett.[141]
  • The Leaky Establishment, written by David Langford (1984), has a foreword by Pratchett in later reissues (from 2001).
  • Meditations on Middle-Earth, an anthology of essays on Middle Earth compiled by Karen Haber, contains Pratchett's essay "Cult Classic" (2002)
  • 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."[142]
  • The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook 2007 includes an article by Pratchett about the process of writing fantasy.
  • The Long Earth, written with Stephen Baxter (2012)
  • The Long War, written with Stephen Baxter (2013)
  • The Long Mars, written with Stephen Baxter (2014)



Pratchett has had a number of radio adaptations on BBC Radio 4: The Colour of Magic, Equal Rites (on Woman's Hour), Only You Can Save Mankind, Guards! Guards!, Wyrd Sisters, Mort, and Small Gods have all been dramatised as serials, as was Night Watch in early 2008, and The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents as a 90-minute play.[143]

The 4-part BBC Radio 4 adaptation of Eric by Robin Brooks again started on 6 March 2013.[144][145]

Guards! Guards! was also adapted as a one-hour audio drama by the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company and performed live at Dragon*Con in 2001.


Johnny and the Dead and 14 Discworld novels have been adapted as plays by Stephen Briggs and published in book form.[146] They were first produced by the Studio Theatre Club in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. They include adaptations of The Truth, Maskerade, Mort, Wyrd Sisters and Guards! Guards! Stage adaptations of Discworld novels have been performed on every continent in the world, including Antarctica.

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.[147] In 2002, an adaptation of Truckers was produced as a co-production between Harrogate Theatre, the Belgrade Theatre Coventry and Theatre Royal, Bury St. Edmunds. It was adapted by Bob Eaton, and directed by Rob Swain. The play toured to many venues in the UK between 15 March and 29 June 2002.[148]

A version of Eric adapted for the stage by Scott Harrison and Lee Harris was produced and performed by The Dreaming Theatre Company in June/July 2003 inside Clifford's Tower, the 700-year-old castle keep in York. It was revived in 2004 in a tour of England along with Robert Rankin's The Antipope.

In 2004, a musical adaptation of Only You Can Save Mankind was premiered at the Edinburgh Festival, with music by Leighton James House and book and lyrics by Shaun McKenna.[149]

In January 2009, the National Theatre announced that their annual winter family production in 2009 would be a theatrical adaptation of Pratchett's novel Nation. The novel was adapted by playwright Mark Ravenhill and directed by Melly Still.[150][151] The production premiered at the Olivier Theatre on 24 November, and ran until 28 March 2010. It was broadcast to cinemas around the world on 30 January 2010.[152]

Pratchett has worked with Youth Music Theatre UK several times over the last few years to bring adaptations of both Mort and Soul Music (novel) to the stage. In August 2014, a brand new adaptation of Soul Music will be performed at the Rose Theatre, Kingston.[153]


Truckers was adapted as a stop motion animation series for Thames Television by Cosgrove Hall Films in 1992. Johnny and the Dead was made into a TV serial for Children's ITV on ITV, in 1995. Wyrd Sisters and Soul Music were adapted as animated cartoon series by Cosgrove Hall for Channel 4 in 1996; illustrated screenplays of these were published in 1998 and 1997 respectively. In January 2006, BBC One 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 U.S. in 2007. Pratchett was opposed to live action films about Discworld before because of his negative experience with Hollywood film makers.[154] He changed his opinion when he saw that the director Vadim Jean and producer Rod Brown were very enthusiastic and cooperative.[155] A two-part, feature-length adaptation of The Colour of Magic and its sequel The Light Fantastic aired during Easter 2008 on Sky One.[156] A third adaptation, Going Postal was aired at the end of May 2010. The Sky adaptations are notable also for the author's presence in cameo roles. He is also credited as having "mucked about" with these adaptations.

In 2012, Pratchett founded a television production company of his own, Narrativia, which is to hold the rights to his works, and which is in development of a television series, The Watch, based on the Ankh-Morpork City Watch.

Feature films

Pratchett has held back from Discworld feature films;[157] though the rights to a number of his books have been sold, no films have yet been made. In 2006 it was reported that The Wee Free Men was set to be directed by Sam Raimi, but in 2009 Pratchett said that he had "got [it] back" after reading the proposed screenplay.[158][159] Director Terry Gilliam has announced in an interview with Empire magazine that he plans to adapt Good Omens[160] but as of 2007 this still needed funding.[161] In 2001, DreamWorks also commissioned an adaptation of Truckers by Andrew Adamson and Joe Stillman[162] but Pratchett believes that it will not be made until after "Shrek 17".[163] In 2008 Danny Boyle revealed that he hoped to direct a Truckers adaptation by Frank Cottrell Boyce.[164]

Comic books and graphic novels

Four graphic novels of Pratchett's work have been released. The first two, originally published in the US, were adaptations of The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic and illustrated by Steven Ross (with Joe Bennett on the latter). The second two, published in the UK, were adaptations of Mort (subtitled A Discworld Big Comic) and Guards! Guards!, both illustrated by Graham Higgins and adapted by Stephen Briggs. The graphic novels of The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic were republished by Doubleday on 2 June 2008.

Role-playing games

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. 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.

Video 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:

Internet games

The world of Discworld is also featured in a fan created online MUD, multi-user dungeon.[165] This game allows players to play humans in various guilds within the universe that Terry Pratchett has created.


From The Discworld is a 1994 collection of 14 songs by Dave Greenslade inspired by the Discworld novels, with the author contributing to the production of the record. The album features songs and instrumentals about the books as well as some that appear in the novels, such as "A Wizard's Staff has a Knob on the End". The video of Soul Music used parts of the complete songs that were actually written and performed by Keith Hopwood and Phil Bush; the complete songs were released on an audio CD. Steeleye Span co-operated with Terry Pratchett to write and produce the album Wintersmith, based on the novels featuring the Wee Free Men, and published in October 2013.

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 (ISBN 0903007010). A second, expanded edition was published by Old Earth Books in 2004 (ISBN 188296831X). Andrew M. Butler also wrote the Pocket Essentials Guide to Terry Pratchett published in 2001 (ISBN 1903047390). Writers Uncovered: Terry Pratchett is a biography for young readers by Vic Parker, published by Heinemann Library in 2006 (ISBN 0431906335).


Arms of Terry Pratchett
Terry Pratchett's arms were granted by Letters Patent of Garter and Clarenceux King of Arms dated 28 April 2010.
Upon a Helm with a Wreath Argent and Sable On Water Barry wavy Sable Argent and Sable an Owl affronty wings displayed and inverted Or supporting thereby two closed Books erect Gules.
Sable an ankh between four Roundels in saltire each issuing Argent.
Noli Timere Messorem (Don't fear the reaper)[166]

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External links

  • Official website
  • Terry Pratchett at British Council: Literature
  • Terry Pratchett at the British Film Institute
  • Terry Pratchett at the Internet Movie Database
  • Terry Pratchett at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
  • Bookclub: BBC's James Naughtie and a group of readers talk to Terry Pratchett about his book Mort (audio)
  • Terry Pratchett Archive at Senate House Library, University of London
  • Terry Pratchett talking about The Long Earth with Stephen Baxter, Royal Institution video, 21 June 2012
  • 12 October 2009 radio interview discussing 'Unseen Academicals' and brain donation at BBC Wiltshire
  • Out of the shadows : Four videos in which Terry Pratchett reveals what it was like to be diagnosed with posterior cortical atrophy (PCA), a rare variant of Alzheimer's disease.
  • 2 May 2007 Live Webchat transcript at Douglas Adams Continuum
  • "29 September 2007 Live Webcast" (audio). Archived from the original on 7 March 2008. Terry Pratchett speaks and answers questions at the 2007 National Book Festival in Washington DC 
  • Meeting Mr Pratchett at The Age
  • Pratchett talks about his diagnosis with Alzheimer's, from the Daily Mail (UK)
  • On-line video interview for Czech TV (24. 4. 2011)

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