2012 Convention in the UK 2017-11-02T19:57:28+00:00


The 2012 Convention – the past two years

It has been even more difficult than usual to write the biennial report for this Convention’s programme book in strictly chronological order: Sir Terry Pratchett (hereafter ‘Terry’) has been involved in so many different activities that I have tried to make a report of each as complete and unfragmented as possible.

So… the 2010 Convention finished on 30 August, and over the weekend we had celebrated a unique event – not just the usual unique events, but also, courtesy of Richard O’Brien, The Rocky Horror Discworld Show, a one-off, never-to-happen-again interaction between Discworld and Transylvania, recordings of which were forbidden, but not photos. And I can mention here that the text of Jacqueline Simpson’s lecture – Elves: Nasty or Nice? A Treatise (with a Foreword by Terry) was published by the Discworld Emporium in a limited edition of 500 copies for sale during the Convention.

Meanwhile, in the US, on 24 August HarperCollins had issued The Wee Free Men, the Beginning (containing The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky and the first chapter of Wintersmith) as a run-up for the publication of I Shall Wear Midnight on 28 September. On 2 September, the UK edition of Midnight was launched at Waterstones Piccadilly at a special midnight signing by Terry (suitably clad in a tartan night-shirt) attended by 350 lucky winners of a draw for tickets. As well as the standard edition, Amazon sold a collector’s edition of 2,500 copies with an additional treatise by Jacqueline Simpson, and an extra picture by Paul Kidby and there was also a version with a special binding and slipcase. In November, Doubleday issued a special edition of about 3,000 copies sporting special dustjackets with the cover design incorporating the faces of 2,000 fans, with their names printed on the inside of the jacket.

The DVD of the Mob’s production of Going Postal (broadcast at the end of the previous May) was released by Fox on 23 August.

During the Summer of 2010 the National Portrait Gallery put some of the mystery portraits in its collection on display at Montacute House in Somerset and invited various people to invent lives for those portrayed. Terry called the character in ‘his’ portrait Sir Joshua Easement, describing him as a late Elizabethan adventurer whose early career was influenced by a totally inadequate sense of direction and his later life by his complete lack of any olfactory ability. On his erratic travels he picked up a superb black and white animal to give to Queen Elizabeth I – a skunk, whose odour only he could not smell.

He ended his career at the Royal Court as Captain of the Gongfermours, in charge of the latrines, and departed this life in explosive circumstances. His biography and those of six other sitters (by authors including John Banville, Joanna Trollope appear in a paperback being published by the NPG in February 2011, Imagined Lives: Mystery Portraits from the National Portrait Gallery c.1520-1640. (Such has been its popularity that it was transferred to the NPG in London, where it opened on 3 December 2011.)

At the end of September we received the shocking news that Terry’s US agent Ralph Vicinanza had died in his sleep. All our plans were reorganised so we could fly to New York for his funeral on 1 October. We then had to work out the implications for us of his unexpected death.

At the end of October 2010 Terry received a Life Achievement Award[1] at the 2010 World Fantasy Convention, held in Columbus, Ohio, but he was unable to attend it as he was involved with the production of Choosing to Die (more below). The following month, in London, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Galaxy (the choc bar sponsors, nothing extra-terrestrial) National Book Awards.

At the end of November, The Cunning Artificer held his annual Hogswatch Event, the last occasion that his shop in Wincanton hosted the event under that name as Bernard, Isobel, Ian Mitchell and Reb Voyce were to come together to form a partnership called the Discworld Emporium the following March. Apart from their regular activities (stamps, etc) they have most recently been hard at work on an amazingly advanced version of the city map of Ankh-Morpork, completely superseding the 1993 Streets. Not for nothing is it being called The Compleat Ankh-Morpork City Guide. It is presently scheduled for publication next November.

Terry gave his inaugural lecture and master classes as Adjunct Professor at Trinity College Dublin (Dublin University) at the beginning of November 2010. On that first professorial visit he took time off to visit the great 5,000 year-old megalithic passage tomb at Newgrange, Co. Meath, overlooking the River Boyne. There was a cold, wet wind blowing, but nothing could lessen the tremendous impact that the tomb had on Terry and the rest of us: once a year at the winter solstice the rising sun’s rays can shine directly along the tunnel and light up the floor of the central chamber, just after dawn. Terry was definitely Impressed.

He followed that  with teaching visits to Trinity in March and November 2011 and February and May 2012. At the end of last June he, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen were the speakers at a Science Block event there, and after that he and Rob went to the Long Room of Trinity’s Library for a reading of the opening chapter of Dodger to a very select audience of 80 (selected by ballot), all the Library would permit.

On 8 January 2011 Terry was rung at home to be told he had won YALSA’s (the Young Adults Library Services Association, a division of the American Library Association) Margaret A. Edwards Award (sponsored by the School Library Journal) in honour of his ‘significant and lasting contribution to writing for teens’. (He had already won one of YALSA’s 2009 Michael L. Printz Honor Awards for Nation.) He was to have been presented with the Award at a special luncheon in June at the ALA’s annual conference which was taking place in New Orleans, but it clashed horribly with the release of the TV documentary Choosing to Die, and he very regretfully had to give up his plans to attend.

Anne Hoppe, his children’s book editor at HarperCollins accepted it on his behalf. That year too, I Shall Wear Midnight won the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA)’s André Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy, which was accepted on Terry’s behalf by Emily Whitten, Chair of the 2011 North American Discworld Convention.

In March 2011, the Royal Mail issued a series of stamps called ‘Magical Realms’, which include portraits of Rincewind and Nanny Ogg (painted by Howard Swindell) as well as characters from the worlds of Harry Potter, Narnia and Arthurian myth. Although I’d been having discussions with Royal Mail about the two Discworld related designs and the title of the issue for over a year, and the designs had been seen by H.M. the Queen and received the Royal Assent in October, there was an image and information embargo until thirteen weeks before their 8 March 2011 release.

Following on the success of his Scottish BAFTA winning two part documentary Terry Pratchett: Living with Alzheimers (transmitted in May 2009), Terry embarked on a much more ambitious and controversial subject, with Terry Pratchett: Choosing to Die, filmed, produced and directed by Charlie Russell (who had filmed and directed the earlier documentary), in which viewers saw for the first time on British television someone, the retired hotelier Peter Smedley, killing himself by taking and drinking a lethal cocktail at Dignitas, a Swiss clinic that specialises in assisted dying. His wife bravely supported him throughout, and it had a major effect on those present in the room at the time, including Terry (all at the invitation of the Smedleys) as well as all those who watched the documentary.

There were almost 800 complaints to the BBC about the programme, the vast majority of which were received before the Choosing to Die was even transmitted on 13 June. I believe that most of the 1.6 million viewers who viewed it on BBC2 would agree that it was necessary, even if it made most uncomfortable and moving viewing. It has helped many people to make up their minds about the subject in a way that nothing else could. Since then, it has received Scottish as well as national BAFTA Awards for Best Single Documentary. It also received a Royal Television Society Award and a Televisual Bulldog Award.

Before starting on the Ankh-Morpork map the Emporium had been working on the artwork for Ankh-Morpork: A Discworld Board Game, designed by Martin Wallace of Treefrog Games, which was released in September 2011 to much praise. Martin and his wife Julia are departing these shores for New Zealand, but I doubt that will affect his games-creating abilities.

Terry had also licensed Backspindle Games to produce a game which its creators had been working on for well over a decade, Guards! Guards!, illustrated by Stephen Player. The original idea was shown to Terry in 1995 and at the time he said that it was one of the best proposals he’d so far seen for a board game. Its creators Leonard Boyd and David Brashaw kept refining it over the years, and in 2008 came back to show Terry how it had evolved. It was given to Discworld fan play-testers who approved of it (as they had of Treefrog’s creation) and they got a licence.

At the beginning of April 2011, Terry and Rob attended Nullus Anxietas III – the Australian Convention held in Penrith, NSW. I’ve heard little about it except that the charity auction held there raised an extremely impressive A$15,922, one of its highlights proving to be the sale of the pyjamas Rob wore when reading extracts from Snuff during ‘Bed-Time Stories’ on Friday night, which fetched a remarkable – and puzzling – A$1,150.

After the Convention and before speaking at Sydney’s Opera House, Terry flew to New Zealand for a quick visit, and on a day off from ‘official’ duties, he and Rob explored Hobbiton, which is once again a working movie set. Terry discovered that not one hobbit home had a loo, inside or out. Forestalling Rob’s photographic tendencies, the film company insisted on his agreeing to a US$5 million indemnity against any of his pictures being published prior to the film release of The Hobbit.

In May Terry, Rob and I were invited to visit Trinity College Dublin again when H.M. Queen Elizabeth II made a State Visit to Ireland, during which she visited Trinity’s Library to see the Book of Kells and the other great manuscripts on display there. Afterwards members of the College staff, the Irish academic community and some other fortunate individuals, including the three of us, had the great privilege of being introduced to her.[2]

In July the second North American Discworld Convention took place in Madison, Wisconsin, attended by nearly a dozen guests, most importantly, Terry, Stephen Baxter, and Esther M. Freisner, as well as a brief but fascinating visit from Neil Gaiman. As a result of their visit, Madison became ‘Ground Zero’ for The Long Earth.

Later that month Terry, who has been working with researchers at University College London since his diagnosis with Posterior Cortical Atrophy, attended a ceremony with his wife Lyn at which he was appointed an Honorary Fellow at that august seat of learning.

Matthew Holmes has produced two musicals (published by A&C Black) for primary school use, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, published in August 2011, and this month Johnny & the Bomb. Both come with scores and a CD with the music. Meanwhile the Polish company Micro-Art continue to produce superb miniature models of Discworld characters.

Apart from all this, Terry had been working on his 39th Discworld novel, Snuff, which was published on 11 October 2011 in the US and two days later in the UK. Terry spent a week on tour in America, speaking at Seattle’s University Bookshop, in New York at the Barnes & Noble Tribeca, and in Washington DC when he spoke at the National Press Club, also making an unexpected visit to the Capclave Con (‘where reading is not extinct’) before leaving for the airport, to return for the launch in Britain. Here he and Rob took part in a sell-out ‘Evening with Terry Pratchett’ at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London.

The following night he attended his publisher’s book launch on a Thames paddleboat, the P.S. Elizabethan (temporarily renamed The Wonderful Fanny) – a memorable occasion, with a journey downriver past the Tower of London, under Tower Bridge and then back to the Westminster Pier. During the launch, Transworld’s MD Larry Finlay announced that Snuff was the fastest selling (adult) novel by a British novelist in the UK since records (i.e. computerised recording of book sales) began – over 55,000 copies in its first three days on sale, and it remained in the top position for a second week.

In May 2012 Snuff won Britain’s only award for comic literature, the 2012 Bollinger Everyman P.G. Wodehouse Award, part of the prize being the naming of a pig in memory of The Empress of Blandings, owned by the Wodehousean character Lord Emsworth. There is therefore now a Gloucester Old Spot pig rejoicing (maybe) in the name of ‘Snuff’. (Earlier porkers were saddled with names such as ‘A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian’, and ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’.)

The paperback edition of Snuff was published in June this year, and it was accompanied by the publication of Miss Felicity Beedle’s The World of Poo – one of young Sam Vimes’ favourite books (created by the Discworld Emporium and Terry to give a flavour of the type of book that was proving so popular amongst the younger kids of Ankh-Morpork). Poo reached number two on the Sunday Times hardback bestsellers list. Transworld also reissued the first five Discworld novels with refreshed Josh Kirby covers in the larger B format paperback, the start of a programme of reissues that will continue into next year. I think all have appeared in the black/gold format now.

On 23 April 2012, World Book Night was celebrated by hundreds of volunteers giving out special editions of the nation’s favourite twenty-five books (voted for in a public ballot), including Terry’s and Neil’s Good Omens. Each contains a special page in which the donor has written their name and where it was given away.

The following item began a long time ago. In the early 1980s, after finishing Colour of Magic, Terry had an idea for an SF series, which he called The Long Earth, and wrote a couple of short stories – ‘The High Meggas’ and ‘To See How Far It is’ – to settle himself him into the relevant universe, but he put them aside to write The Light Fantastic. Then, after finishing Equal Rites, he returned to them for a time in early 1986, but we then discussed the way his writing should go, and Terry decided that as Discworld appeared to be successful – his new publishers, Victor Gollancz were very enthusiastic about Equal Rites, and the Corgi paperback edition of The Colour of Magic (published in January 1985) was doing very well, and had been read on the BBC’s ‘Woman’s Hour’ – there appeared to be sufficient mileage in that series for a few more Discworld books.

He therefore started work on Mort, and the Long Earth idea was put aside. However, it never completely vanished below the horizon, as Terry had never allowed me to offer the short stories to anyone for publication, quite apart from the fact he needed to revise them, being only early drafts. He said the idea was too good to let it go public with just a short story. Given my hope that they should appear in his shorter writings collection which we started planning in early 2010, Terry reread them and decided to ask his friend Stephen Baxter to collaborate with him on some novels based on them, so a two book deal with Transworld and with HarperCollins in the US was set up.

After some initial minor hissy fits between the two writers as they worked out how to work together, they settled down to a productive collaboration. The Long Earth, the first of a projected five-volume series, was published on 16 June 2011, going straight to no.1 in the Sunday Times hardcover fiction bestseller list, with the Independent describing it as ‘a triumph’. It was published in a standard hardcover edition, a large trade paperback edition for airports, Ireland and elsewhere, a slip-case edition and a special metal jacket edition for Waterstones, called ‘the Iron Edition’, which also contained Terry’s original story ‘The High Meggas’. About 120 proof copies had been produced at the end of April, six weeks before publication.

The publicity activities were impressive, led by a Long Earth event to a select audience at the Royal Institution, with a panel that included Terry and Stephen, with Dr Roger Highfield[3] in the chair, as well as Dr David Wallace, a philosopher in physics at Balliol College, Oxford. It was Dr Wallace who by the end of his exposition had convinced many of us that we thought we understood quantum, at least for the time being. This was preceded by an event in Trafalgar Square open to everyone, in which massive globes were deployed in a public game of ‘keepy-uppy’; and there was also a collaborative reading on the internet.

While working on this collaboration, Terry was also working on his new young adult book, Dodger, a stand-alone set in 1840s London, using characters from history and fiction. It is due to be published in September this year and there will be a similar array of binding versions of it with a number of ‘added value’ items, details of which are presently under wraps. About 120 bookproofs have already been printed, and samplers containing the first chapter have been available in Waterstones bookstores.

The Mob, following their success with Hogfather, The Colour of Magic and Going Postal, have now optioned Unseen Academicals, but we have no production dates as yet.

Last April Terry and Rob travelled to Borneo to revisit the Orangutan sanctuary and see what had happened since Terry last visited, and reported in the 1995 documentary Terry Pratchett’s Jungle Quest. It will result in a new documentary, also filmed by Charlie Russell, to be shown, it’s hoped, later this year.

The Dreamworks production of Truckers progresses and, according to the IMDb, Anand Tucker is Director and John Orloff the screenwriter.

Victor Gollancz has continued publishing the Discworld Calendars, with the 2011 edition containing pictures by Josh Kirby that hadn’t been used in any Calendar before, and the 2012 edition containing new work by Paul Kidby. The 2013 edition is devoted to paintings by the French artist Marc Simonetti, whose work I’d first seen when it was sent us for approval for use on the French Pocket editions of the Discworld novels.

Stephen Briggs, Roundworld’s own CMOT Dibbler, has found life as a senior government civil servant, a thespian and the author/updater of the Discworld Companion (the next edition of which is to be published by Gollancz this Autumn under the title Turtle Recall), somewhat too busy. He has therefore given up most of his Discworldly responsibilities, so an expanded range of his merchandise (including the ever-popular UU scarf) is now available from Sandra and daughter Jo Kidby at PJSM Prints (www.pjsmprints.com), and I have taken over the job of licensing amateur dramatic productions of Stephen’s adaptations of Wyrd Sisters, Mort, Guards! Guards! and Men at Arms.

Stephen has continued to record the Discworld novels for ISIS and for HarperAudio, and will record Dodger. He also joined forces with Michael Fenton Stevens with recordings of the three Science of Discworld books in which he recorded the Discworld parts and Michael the scientific sections. Michael has also read The Long Earth and The Folklore of Discworld (to which has been added Terry’s and Jacqueline’s discussion recorded just before the start of the 2010 Convention). Helen Atkinson Wood (Mrs Miggins in Blackadder 2) has recorded The World of Poo.

Jason Anthony and Annie Mac and their teams continue to keep us informed and entertained with Discworld Monthly and Wossname: Discworld fandom owes them debts of gratitude. Sadly Joe Schaumberger, who founded Wossname in 1999 as an outpost of the Klatchian Foreign Legion, died in March 2011. (I’d like at this point also to acknowledge the great debt owed by Pratchett fans to Leo Breebaart and everyone else who set up and maintained L-Space – http://www.lspace.org/. Although Real Life has made it almost impossible for him to keep it up-to-date, it is still an invaluable resource with the mass of information it holds. The Annotated Pratchett File alone has helped an incalculable number of readers over the years.)

Transworld has now set up a wide-ranging website www.terrypratchett.co.uk which is linked with, for the USA, HarperCollins’ www.terrypratchettbooks.com, and is the source of new information on Pratchett activities. Its boss is Gavin Hilzbrich, with the Facebook page being looked after by Lynsey Dalladay

Snowgum Films’ Kickstart initiative to raise A$45,000 to complete the filming of Terry’s short story ‘Troll Bridge’ reached its target figure fifty-seven days ahead of the deadline, by which time the sum pledged had reached a staggering A$82,000. This has enabled them to be much more ambitious, filming scenery in New Zealand, using superior camera equipment, and so on. Wonderful generosity on the part of the 1,240+ donors.[4] The principle photography has been completed and it is now in the editing stage. Since the end of the Kickstart initiative, people have continued to donate to the project, so the total figure donated at time of writing is about A$85,000.

There has been no increase in the number of languages – thirty-eight – that Terry’s books have been translated into, but book sales are now nearer 80 than 70 million worldwide (but who’s counting?): put side by side, I calculate they’d now stretch from London to Sicily, and as the books are getting ever fatter, maybe further, even to Africa. And what width should one give to e-books and audiobooks in one’s calculations?

All I can say for certain is that A Blink of the Screen (the collection of Terry’s shorter fiction, with a foreword by A.S.Byatt), Dodger and The Compleat Ankh-Morpork will be published by the end of November, a total of seven new books this year (quite apart from the reissues), and that 2013’s Pratchett publications will include A Slip of the Keyboard (his non-fiction shorter writings), paperback editions of The Long Earth and Dodger, and the Discworld Emporium’s major update of the Discworld Mapp. And who knows what else? Another Discworld novel? Whatever comes next, Terry is working in top gear.

[1] Formally called the Karl Edward Wagner Special Award

[2] http://www.dianeduane.com/outofambit/2011/05/17/an-afternoon-at-trinity/

[3] He was the first person to bounce a neutron off a soap bubble, was Editor of the New Scientist 2008-2011, and now describes himself as 80% Director of External Affairs and the Science Museum Group and 20% author, journalist and broadcaster.

[4] http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/snowgumfilms/terry-pratchetts-troll-bridge/posts/76540?ref=email&play=1&show_token=cf066580b3cf8775

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