2006 Convention in the UK 2017-11-02T19:57:28+00:00

CR2006

Two years of Discworld – from 2004 to 2006

I suppose that the last two years have been dominated – at least in the media – by films and the rumours of films. Nothing has yet happened with Dreamworks Animations’ Truckers trilogy project, but Sam Raimi is on board for a production of Wee Free Men which is being optioned by Sony with planned production starting after his completion of Spiderman 3. As Terry has said in relation to another project ‘part of me is really excited, but the rest of me is watching with great care…’ On the small screen, in January 2006 we saw the BBC’s transmission of the Childsplay production of Johnny and the Bomb (produced and scripted by Peter Tabern)* and this is to be shown again – as a single feature so it’s said – in September, followed by its release on DVD. The final episode was not seen by many viewers as the scheduled transmission time was brought forward to accommodate the showing of some sports event – rather irritating.

The Mob Film Company’s four-hour (including adverts) mini-series of Hogfather (directed by Vadim Jean, produced by Rod Brown and Ian Sharples)† is going ahead as I write. Filming will have been completed by the time I’ve finished composing this round-up, and CGI magic will be worked on it by the Moving Picture Company. Transmission on Sky One is planned for December, with a number of showings. This is the highest budget production Sky One has so far funded and it’s been filmed in High Definition. A further Mob project is spoken of, but cannot be disclosed at this time. The BBC broadcast a radio dramatization of Small Gods, (produced by Claire Grove) and repeated their productions of Mort and Guards! Guards! as well as broadcasting read extracts from The Carpet People, the Bromeliad and Johnny Maxwell trilogies and the Tiffany Aching novels.

Doubleday (followed by Corgi a year later) published Going Postal in October 2004, and Thud! the following year, accompanied by Where’s My Cow? the text of (some of) which has been read to Sam Vimes Junior by his father regularly at 6.00pm each day come hell, dwarves or high water. Subtitled ‘A Discworld picture book for people of all sizes’ it firmly establishes a certain Terry Pratchett as a local author living, if not in Ankh-Morpork, at least on Discworld, with his portrait hanging in Young Sam’s nursery and with it on his bookshelf, so I wait to see biographical details of this author in the next edition of The Discworld Companion. An Ankh-Morpork City Watch Warrant Card with text by Terry also made its appearance in Waterstones shops at this time (produced for them by You Know Which Cunning Artificer).

To mark the 21st anniversary of the publication of the first Discworld novel, by special agreement, Doubleday issued a hardcover edition of The Colour of Magic ‘in association with Colin Smythe Ltd’, and 1,000 copies of these were signed by Terry, numbered and slipcased for sale through Ottakars. At the time Going Postal was published by Corgi it was also included in a slipcase package with the DVDs of the Cosgrove Hall productions of Wyrd Sisters and Soul Music, issued by Universal Pictures, and described as a ‘Limited Edition Double DVD and Book Set’. Paul Kidby’s illustrated The Art of Discworld (with text by Paul and Terry) was published in November 2004.

In October 1995 Doubleday issued The Carpet People in a signed, numbered and slip-cased edition of 1,000 copies for sale through Waterstones, and at the time of publication 1,000 copies of Thud!, signed by Terry, numbered and slip-cased were marketed through Ottakars.As neither publisher nor bookseller had put aside any of the numbered copies of Thud! for the author, to give them some slight cachet his copies were lettered A to L and initialled by me. (Note for collectors: the slipcased copies of The Colour of Magic and Thud! did not have dust-jackets.)

Corgi have also been issuing all the paperbacks in a larger format (known in the book trade as B-format), and these all have photographic designs, in black highlighted in gold. 750 copies of HarperCollins’ hardcover edition of Going Postal had an extra leaf tipped in, signed by Terry.

The ISIS unabridged audios, read by Stephen Briggs, and abridged versions, read by Tony Robinson, continue to appear, as do BCA’s quarter-leather Unseen Library copies (the last three rather later than usual), and Heinemann have published Vic Parker’s much-illustrated volume on Terry  in their Writers Uncovered series for young readers. In 2004 they published an edition of The Amazing Maurice in their New Windmills educational series. I should also mention that in 2004 Old Earth Books issued a second, enlarged edition (though it’s the first US edition) of Terry Pratchett: Guilty of Literature, edited by Andrew M. Butler, Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn.

Given the rarity of the early Discworld novels, Hill House Publishers plan to bring out facsimile editions of the first twelve, starting with, naturally, The Colour of Magic, which appeared earlier this year. Its copyright page has a note to this effect and on the back flap of the Paul Smith illustrated dust-jacket are the letters HHP, to differentiate it from the first edition. For the Josh Kirby enthusiast it also comes with a facsimile of the Josh Kirby jacket, first used on our second printing in 1989. [10 August 2015: At time of writing this I believed a contract had been negotiated and signed for the first two titles, but none was, or has been to this day. Nor have any royalties been paid on those sold.]

The third Tiffany Aching novel, Wintersmith, will be published in October (by Doubleday in the UK, HarperTempest in the US (imprints of Random House and HarperCollins respectively), while Gollancz (a subsidiary of Orion/Hachette) will be publishing an illustrated filmscript tie-in of Hogfather in November. HarperCollins (who now publish all Terry’s novels simultaneously in the US) have been issuing the first trade editions of the Johnny Maxwell trilogy to appear in the States, Only You Can Save Mankind in July 2005, Johnny and the Dead in January 2006, with Johnny & the Bomb scheduled for April 2007. They had previously only been published in the US in a single volume by the SF Book Club (in 1998).

Harper have also just published, under their William Morrow imprint, the Pratchett Gaiman collaboration Good Omens. It has a new introduction, some questions answered (‘Good Omens, the Facts (or at least, lies that have been hallowed by time)’), Terry writing about Neil, and Neil about Terry. As has occurred with other authors’ works, it’s been issued in two styles – one with a white jacket (with Neil’s name first, and a picture of Aziraphale) the other a black one (with Terry’s name first and a picture of Crowley). The pictures on the front and back end-papers switch round too – and to get the complete subtitle you need to have both versions side by side. A British equivalent volume to Noreascon’s 2004 Once More, With Footnotes has not yet appeared, due to the over-enthusiasm of those interested publishers and Terry’s determination to bring some sanity to the proceedings. Both bidders, Gollancz and Transworld, placed values on the book that Terry thought were far too high and ordered me to withdraw the book.

On the recently co-authored and related publishing fronts, Terry and Bernard’s Discworld Almanak (for the guidance of those who don’t visit the countryside much) appeared in October 2004, and in the following May we saw the appearance of (once again in collaboration with Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen) The Science of Discworld 3: Darwin’s Watch, while this year – a relief to many users of such things – there’s the Ankh-Morpork Post Office Handbook and Discworld Diary 2007 by the usual team, a 2007 Discworld Calendar and the very impressive Unseen University Cut-Out Book – a card version (drawn, coloured and with detailed instructions by Alan Batley) of Bernard Pearson’s rather more weighty original.

Our Cunning Artificer, having realised that fans’ floor boards will only sustain so much weight from his Discworld buildings, has followed Mr von Lipwig into the stamp business and his forays into this territory have tapped a hitherto unsuspected craving amongst Discworld – and non-Discworld – ‘flatalists’, with one of the inverted head sports of the $5 Ankh-Morpork Brass Bridge triangular blue (of which there are admittedly only ten), fetching £1,600 on eBay in the past weeks.

Gollancz have also reissued Dave Langford’s two quizbooks, The Unseen University Challenge and The Wyrdest Link, as chunky little hardcovers, with cover illustrations by David Wyatt.

Sadly,  Clarecraft closed last year, after fifteen years of Discworld models, the Baker family’s determination to keep production in Woolpit, instead of manufacturing in the Far East, with its much cheaper prices, finally succumbed to commercial considerations, but the glut of orders from those determined to get hold of the final items they wanted delayed the closure from the beginning of October until nearly Christmas, with sales in the last six months outstripping those of the previous fifteen.

BursarVixen Enterprises have added to their stable of alcoholic beverages ‘Black Hogswatch’ (5%ABV), ‘Founder’s Ale’ (an Unseen University special, commemorating Alberto Malich the Wise (Albert) – 4.3%ABV), and ‘Invalid’s Restorative’ (6.3%ABV), together with appropriate drinking vessels of diverse design. They and Sandra Kidby have acquired the remaining bronze and resin Nac Mac Feegles and Discworld portrait heads produced by Millennia Marketing (formerly Aurient Traders), lately departed from Discworld. Sandra has also expanded her range of Discworld T-shirts.

Stage productions – professional and amdram – of the adaptations of Terry’s plays continue unabated, amdram productions having taken place on every continent on the planet, but so far truly professional productions seem to appear only in the Czech Republic, Finland and Estonia. I had a most enjoyable evening at the opening night of a production of Maskerade at the Divadlo v Dlouhé Theatre in Prague in April (and a great week’s stay), and I gather all its performances this year are already booked out. There have now also been over 100 performances of their production of Wyrd Sisters which continues to have sell-out performances whenever it’s put on, and it’s also performed by a professional Czech company in Liberec (Divadlo F.X.Saldy), and by the Municipal Theatres of Kuopio and Hämeenlinna, Finland.

Mort continues to be performed by Eesti Draamateater in Tallinn, Estonia, and by Komorni Scena Arena of Ostrava, Czech Republic. There are proposed operas and musicals in Germany, and rumours of the House/McKenna version of Only You Can Save Mankind, which was shown to critical acclaim at the 2004 Edinburgh Fringe, going on tour in the United States. Stephen Briggs’ productions at the Unicorn Theatre, Abingdon, for the Studio Theatre Club of Going Postal (January 2005) and Lord and Ladies (February 2006) were sell-outs, as usual.

What more? Terry is hard at work on Making Money, extracts from which I expect to hear read during the Discworld Convention weekend. Both the Patrician and Moist von Lipwig will show off their financial acumen, I suspect. Terry’s non-writing activities include much concentration on Oblivion IV.

Terry’s books have now been published or contracted in thirty six countries, with world sales in the region of 45 million, and I’m told that with his sales in the USA having increased by 600% over the past few years, he’s now the seventh best-selling non-US based author there. Such popularity is flattering, but piracy attends the successful author, particularly in the field of the audio-book where the extent of such illegal copying is truly worrying, as anyone searching the internet can see. While appearances on eBay can easily be dealt with – when noticed (usually with the help of responsibly-minded fans) – piratical websites are much more difficult to deal with: get them closed down in one country, and in a matter of days they’re operating from another so the whole procedure has to be repeated. It makes depressing reading, but the fight against piracy continues, and from rumours I’ve heard about new software, in certain sectors of the war, the battle may well turn in the authors’ favour.

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*[There has to be a footnote] The actors include George MacKay (Johnny Maxwell), Zoe Wanamaker (Mrs Tachyon), Keith Barron (Sir Walter), and Frank Finlay (Johnny’s Grandad).

† [or two] with Sir David Jason as Albert, Joss Acland as Ridcully, Michelle Dockery as Susan, Marc Warren as Teatime, the voices of Ian Davidson as Death and Neil Pearson as the Raven – the list goes on, and also includes Pratchett novel readers Tony Robinson (Vernon Crumley) and Nigel Planer (Mr Sideney).

June 2006

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