1998 Convention report

From Convention to Convention: Two years on the Discworld

[The first of my convention reports]

When Paul asked me to write an update of news of events and happenings since the last Convention and said he needed about 1200 words, I felt that I would have difficulty in writing as much. In the event, I found I needed more than double that. The following report attempts also to be up-to-date to the time of the Convention and has necessitated the consumption of a number of bottles of the product of reannual grapes. So here’s what’s happened since :-

The Pratchett Portfolio (text by Terry and illustrations by Paul Kidby) was published on 26 September 1996, and Hogfather on 7 November, being reprinted five times before Christmas (and a year later in paperback). Stephen Briggs’ adaptations of Men at Arms and Guards! Guards! were published by Corgi in May 1997.

In April 1997 we saw the first appearance of a Discworld novel converted to a visual medium (apart from the computer games), namely Channel 4’s transmission of the Cosgrove Hall production of Wyrd Sisters, and Astrion (who have recently been bought by Polygram’s subsidiary Vision Video) issued it and Soul Music on video on 20 October, but for some unfathomable reason (possibly to do with changes in the hierarchy of Channel 4) Soul Music has yet to be transmitted in the UK – although I gather it has been seen elsewhere. Pluto released its soundtrack on CD (with complete lyrics, not just the few lines used in the film) on 3 November. The Illustrated Screenplay of Soul Music was published by Corgi in December 1997, and that of Wyrd Sisters this July.

Although Dave Langford’s The Unseen University Challenge (hands up who got all the answers right – without cheating!) was published before the last Convention, I use it as a lead-in to the fact that the Discworld came up as a specialist subject on Mastermind (some years after it had been rumoured that the producers had banned it as a suitable subject: either the rumour was a false canard on said producers, or they had decided to face reality).

The Discworld Unseen University Diary for 1998 was published on 23 October 1997, and Jingo, published a fortnight later, was five weeks in the no.1 position of the hardcover fiction best-seller list and sales exceeded 140,000 copies. The Last Continent was published by Transworld/Doubleday – Terry’s new principle hardcover publishers – on 1 May 1998 and has topped the fiction best-seller lists for over twelve weeks.

The Tourist’s Guide to Lancre also appeared on 1 May 1998. A collaboration of Terry, Stephen Briggs and Paul Kidby, it is not a map in the strict sense of the word, but you can find your way around Lancre with it, all the while admiring the scenery in a way that would be impossible with a merely flat Ordnance Survey type product. A very few copies exist in which the key to the map is inaccurate, due to a change from names on the map to numbers. Some tens of thousands have a cancel page but the major part of the edition, map and all, have been reprinted.

The release of the audio-cassettes have not followed the order in which the books were published. Corgi’s condensed versions of the novels read by Tony Robinson and issued since the last Convention are Lords & Ladies, Men at Arms, and Interesting Times (all in July 1996), Reaper Man, Soul Music and Maskerade (November 1996), Eric and Feet of Clay (May 1997), Hogfather (November 1997) and The Last Continent (May 1998), and it is planned to release Jingo and Carpe Jugulum in November. Meanwhile, Isis have issued complete tapes of Lords & Ladies (July 1996), Witches Abroad (September 1996), Soul Music (December 1996), Small Gods (Febrruary 1997), Moving Pictures (May 1997), and Pyramids (September 1997) all read by Nigel Planer and Wyrd Sisters (October 1996), read by Celia Imrie.

Geoffrey Cush’s adaptation of Guards! Guards!, directed by Peter Benedict (who also played Lupine Wonse) starring Paul Darrow as Captain Vimes, has just finished its nationwide tour. A combination of Darrow and Discworld fans ensured that a number of the theatres experienced the best audiences they had had over the previous six months, and even those theatres’ regular customers often surprised themselves by enjoying it. Although Discworld purists disapproved, the attendance figures do show that Terry’s work can be considerably modified and still entertain. It is this strength that I am sure will continue to confound his critics long after they are dead. Given the longevity of Terry’s family, I don’t doubt that he will outlive them too. It is possible that the production will appear in the West End around Christmas time.

Perfect Entertainment’s Discworld II – ‘Missing, presumed….’ was released by Psygnosis in November 1996, followed soon after by the Official Strategy Guide, by Paul Kidd (Boxtree). Psygnosis issued some interesting publicity material, including signed copies of a print of Josh Kirby’s picture for the box, a T-shirt with the detail from it of Death on Binky and a another one with Paul Kidby’s image from the cover of the instruction book, screen savers, and a CD with Eric Idle singing ‘That’s Death’. Perfect Entertainment used images of Rincewind and the Death of Rats from the game on their T-shirts. (I’ve seen a video of the opening scenes from the next game that Perfect are producing, Discworld Noir, this time with GT Games, but I should not really include it in this survey as it won’t be out till next year.)

Posters Plus have already issued six of Josh’s pictures as full size posters: ‘The Discworld’, ‘The Light Fantastic‘, ‘Reaper Man‘, ‘Jingo’, ‘Death in his study’ (from Eric), and ‘Soul Music’, and expect to issue Stephen Player’s two maps as well as pictures by Paul Kidby. Paul (through his PJSM Prints) issued sets of four Hogswatch greetings cards each for Christmas 1996 and 1997, as well as publishing two prints in black and white of Errol, and in colour, ‘Discworld Family Values’, ‘The Fresh Start Club’, ‘The Night Watch’, ‘Pale Rider’, and ‘Wyrd Sisters’.

From Ramtop to Rimfall, the newsletter of the Guild of Fans and Disciples, and TWK (the renamed The Wizard’s Knob) have both entertained and informed their readers, the former having reached issue 17 and the latter issue 11. Flourishing in the Czech Republic is ‘The Friends of the Work of Terry Pratchett and his Discworld’ Club. Being the only club based outside the UK and therefore deserving a mention here, it recently brought out the thirteenth issue (vol.4 no.2) of Cori Celesti. All three are produced and run by determined and enthusiastic fans, and while I do not doubt that other names should be acknowledged, those of Phil Penney, Steven Dean and Martin Schwarz stand out in my mind. Clarecraft’s Discworld Collectors Newsletter has now reached volume 5, no.2, and the Guild’s American branch has just published the second issue of its newsletter, Wossname.

Bernard ‘the Cunning Artificer’ and Isobel Pearson, having separated from Clarecraft and set up B & I Waxworks, have produced a magnificent range of candles that I suspect are – contrary to Bernard’s intentions – considered far too good for people actually to want to use. The Cunning Artificer has also produced scenic plates illustrating Death’s study and Nanny Ogg’s cottage, as well as a limited edition of the buildings of Unseen University, starting with the Tower of Art. Bernard is also collaborating with Mark Ayling to produce an 17” high Death’s Clock with a battery operated mechanism, and there are other projects in the design stages, including Twoflower’s Iconograph, and Cutwell’s Doorknocker, but there are no dates for these as yet.

Eric and Arthur Wall have produced a number of alcoholic beverages to entertain fans – ‘Nanny Ogg’s Scumble’, ‘Ridcully’s Revenge’, supplied with a bag of hops, and a drinking horn designed and produced by the Cunning Artificer, and ‘Black Hogswatch’ (which came with a Cunning Artificer mug portraying the Hogfather and a bag containing nuts and chocolate coins). And while I am on the subject of alcohol, the Australian company marketing the Discworld II computer game produced bottles of white wine which they called the ‘Fountain of Youth’, 1996 vintage.

Clarecraft, under the benevolent guidance of Bob and Trish Baker, has produced a number of new figures, but the untimely death of their sculptor Leigh Pamment was a tragic loss. Items produced in the last two years include two mirrors (of Rincewind and of Death); the limited edition of the Discworld which Leigh was working on when he died; Death as Hogfather and as Bill Door; the Death of Rats holding the Death of Fleas; Foul Ole Ron; Greebo as a man; Susan; three bonzai mountains, and the three musicians Imp, Glod and Lias, from Soul Music; while the collectors’ coats of arms for 1997 and 1998 were those of the Thieves’ and the Seamstresses’ Guilds.

Clarecraft also issued a poster of Josh’s Rincewind and Eric over the Discworld, and for the 1997 Clarecraft event a print of Death and Mort on Binky by Jay Hurst, 200 of which were numbered and signed by Jay. Artists UK (run by Keith Savory) has issued three of Josh’s pictures – ‘Soul Music’, ‘The Librarian in the UU Library’ and a special one of Death, Rincewind, the Luggage, the Librarian, Nigel the Destroyer and assorted trolls and/or demons – each in a limited, signed and numbered edition. Julia Froggatt, trading under the name ‘Lyndisfarne’, has produced over forty cross-stitch kits using designs based on the pictures of Josh, Paul and Steven.

On the non-Discworld front, Stephen Briggs’ adaptation of Johnny and the Dead was published as an Oxford University Press playscript at the end of 1996. A number of Terry’s earlier short stories that had gone out of print in their original publications were republished in new collections: ‘Final Reward’ was republished in Space Movies II (Severn House, 1996), ‘Theatre of Cruelty’ in Wizards of Odd (Souvenir Press, 1996), ‘Turntables of the Night’ in The Flying Sorcerers (Souvenir Press, 1997), all three being edited by Peter Haining; “#ifdefDEBUG+’world/enough’+’time'”, in Cyber-Killers (edited by Ric Alexander, Orion, 1997), ‘Troll Bridge’ in The Mammoth Book of Comic Fantasy (edited by Mike Ashley, Robinson Publishing, 1997).

One hitherto unpublished short that appeared in 1995, but did not come to my notice until last year was ‘Once and Future’ in ‘A Collection of Original Arthurian stories’ called Camelot (edited by Jane Yolen, New York: Philomel). This book has not been published in the UK so is rather difficult to get hold of, and at the moment there are no plans for it to be published here, but ‘The Megabyte Drive to Believe in Santa Claus’, which had hitherto only appeared in the Western Daily Press (on 24 December 1996) has been reproduced for your delectation elsewhere in this Programme.

On to nonfiction: recollections of Terry’s childhood were published in Playground Memories (edited and published by Nick Gammage in October 1996); his comments on The Moomintroll appeared in My Favourite Book: Celebrities’ Childhood Choice (compiled by William Watt and published by Glasgow City Libraries and Archives in 1997), and on excellence in schools in Education: what it means to you, published by the Department of Education and Employment in July 1997. A seventy word biography of J.R.R.Tolkien appeared as a Postcard Biography, published by the National Portrait Gallery, London, in 1997.

Terry’s introduction to the Royal Mail’s official pack containing the series of stamps issued to commemorate the centenary of the death of Lewis Carroll and the birth of C.S.Lewis is to appear on 17 July, and he has also signed 1,000 or so first day covers specially prepared by Westminster Press to mark the event.

Issue 5 of The ZX Files published earlier this year (for fans of the ZX Spectrum), carried with it a tape of the original Discworld game The Colour of Magic produced by Delta 4 for Piranha in 1986, as well as printing a guide to the game, its creators and characters. (Part 2, published a year or so earlier, had printed the solution.)

Now, a few words on some of the gifts Terry got as fiftieth birthday presents, including a Toby Jug of his mug and a special beer (you can guess who produced these), and a number of unique items – including a specially printed copy of the first edition of The Carpet People, specially bound in carpet and encased in a magnificent box (from Transworld, who also laid on the surprise party and gave him a Methuselah of champagne), a plate reproducing an aerial view by Paul Kidby of the Discworld (from me), and from Gollancz a collection of fifty model chocolates – ‘Terry’s Gold’ – each reproducing in miniature a different dust jacket from one of their fifty Pratchett publications.

A few weeks later came the excellent news that Terry had been appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. He described himself on alt.fan.pratchett as being ‘shocked and chuffed’, and commented ‘It’s odd, though, when you think about it. Will I ever win a Hugo or Nebula award? No. BFS or World Fantasy Award? Not a chance in hell. Major children’s book award? No – not gritty, not relevant, too popular. The Booker, etc?… I’m on a different planet. And then suddenly there comes this OBE, out of the official honours system, which I’d never, ever considered had anything to do with me. I find it very strange and curiously democratic…’

Now comes the time to use the reannual grape to forecast up to the time of the Convention and beyond: Gollancz plan to publish Discworld’s Ankh-Morpork City Watch Diary for 1999 in time of the Convention and The Death Trilogy, a Discworld Omnibus, containing Mort, Reaper Man and Soul Music on 22 October. A pre-Discworld picture by Josh Kirby was going to be used on the cover, but as Terry said, it portrayed everything about Death that the Death of the Discworld manifestly is not, so that design never got past the proof-stage. The new cover uses the illustration from Eric that appeared on the cover the 1996 Convention’s programme. Samuel French are publishing the Briggs adaptation of Maskerade on 18 September.

The next Discworld novel, Carpe Jugulum, will be published in November, as will the paperback of Jingo. The Bromeliad Trilogy (Truckers, Diggers and Wings in a single volume) which was to have been published last May has now been rescheduled for 5 November. In September the Ink Group will issue their 1999 Discworld Wall Calendar (with illustrations by Josh Kirby, including that for the two-in-one edition of the first two Discworld novels) and the 1999 Day-to-day Calendar which contains extracts from the Discworld Companion and many hitherto unpublished illustrations by Paul Kidby. Chapel House are producing a quantity of Discworld bookmarks, the first ones to be issued using details from Josh’s pictures, and these will be on sale at the Convention, as should the Calendars. The AD2,000 ones will feature Paul’s work.

Terry’s short story, ‘The Sea and Little Fishes’ will be appearing in Legends, edited by Robert Silverberg, and published by HarperCollins on 5 October. Josh did two illustrations for this title, the first from the original version of the story which was slightly shortened at the editor’s suggestion and it happened that the passage deleted was the scene that Josh had illustrated. This illustration was used on HarperCollins’ advance publicity jackets which will doubtless become much sought after. HarperCollins have also issued a prepublication sampler containing Terry’s story, with Josh’s second picture on the cover, and ‘The Wood Boy’ by Raymond E. Feist. Again, this is a relative rarity as only 1,000 copies of this sampler have been printed, of which Terry and Feist signed 200. Be particularly nice to your local bookseller and you may be able to get hold of a copy…. if someone hasn’t beaten you to it. HarperCollins’ publicity department are describing Legends as ‘unquestionably the most commercial fantasy collection ever published’!

Having been unavailable for over five years, ‘Hollywood Chickens’, which first appeared in More Tales from the Forbidden Planet (editor Roz Kaveney, Titan Books, 1990), will be republished at the end of August in Knights of Madness: Further Comic Tales of Fantasy edited by Peter Haining (Souvenir Press).

Martin Shufflebotham’s Blue Cat Pottery Company hopes initially to produce six mugs, using artwork by Josh and Paul. Although planned for 1997 and delayed, it does now look as if they will be now be produced in time for this Christmas. The first three to be issued will have Josh’s pictures for the covers of Reaper Man, Guards! Guards! and Witches Abroad, to be followed by three with pictures by Paul, including ‘Pale Rider’ and ‘The Night Watch’.

I think that’s about it. I find I’ve recorded over 120 items. Not bad for two years! If I’ve forgotten anything or anyone, please accept my apologies: it has certainly not been intentional.

Background image © Josh Kirby Estate, All Rights Reserved.