Report for 2013 North American Discworld Convention program book
My first act when starting to write these biennial reports (this being my eleventh) is to find out where the last one left off – which is complicated by the fact that I have in recent years been writing similar ones for the English and American Discworld Conventions, and in 2011 an Australian one too – and I do my best not to repeat information that you have already read in a previous program. And of course, my reports can never be completely up-to-date: there’s always a gap of about two months.
For example, in May 2011, some weeks after my copy deadline for the last American Convention report, Terry, Rob Wilkins and I had invitations to Trinity College Dublin Library to meet HM Queen Elizabeth II during her historic State Visit to Ireland, which transformed Anglo-Irish relations, hopefully for ever, yet there was nothing about that in the last Convention report which effectively ended with Terry’s visit to Australia and New Zealand in April. Security in Dublin was extremely tight, so the number of Dubliners who saw her and HRH Prince Philip in the flesh was relatively few.
The Queen had come to the Library to look at the Book of Kells, often described as the most beautiful book in the world, and other of its famous manuscript holdings. 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.
The premiere showing of Terry Pratchett, Choosing to Die, took place in Sheffield, Yorkshire, on 11 June at DocFest 2011 in advance of its British TV broadcast in BBC’s Panorama series on the 13th. Terry, Rob and I had flown up by helicopter to attend, and returned home by the same method later that day. The weather was perfect and I for one saw more of our country and its great houses than I’d ever seen before.
I was being dropped off at an airfield across the valley from my home in Gerrards Cross, when red lights started flashing, indicating we should definitely land in not more than five minutes. Fortunately Denham Airfield was three minutes away and we landed safely. Less fortunately the little red light would not stop flashing and Rob and Terry had to return home by car, after having tea with me.
This little drama was but the private precursor of a publicity storm around the documentary, starting with hundreds of complaints to the BBC about its controversial content, the vast majority coming even before the program had been aired. That week’s issue of the BBC’s magazine the Radio Times featured Terry on the cover, and the headline ‘5 minutes of television that will change our lives… Sir Terry Pratchett on the BBC’s most controversial documentary’. The debate generated by the programme soon went viral around the world, and its effects rumble on till today, but the program itself has picked up British and Scottish BAFTA Awards, a Grierson Award and an International Emmy.
As it clashed with the release of the documentary and Terry couldn’t attend in person, Anne Hoppe, Terry’s children’s book editor at HarperCollins represented him at a special luncheon in New Orleans to pick up, on his behalf, 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.)
In July 2011 the second North American Discworld Convention took place in Madison, Wisconsin, attended by a thousand fans and 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 this Con, Madison became ‘Ground Zero’ for The Long Earth, the first of Terry’s and Stephen’s proposed five-volume series, the second of which, The Long War, will have just been published by the time you read this. More information below….
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.
The DVD of Going Postal was finally released by Acorn Media in the US on September 9 2011 (a year after it went on sale in the UK), and for those not aware of a certain performance of ‘Return to Sender’, I’d suggest you look on YouTube – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8fJM8OZL-n4 for a wholly unofficial version.
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. The novel debuted at #3 on the New York Times hardcover fiction bestsellers list – the highest position yet for a Discworld novel in the US – and went on to spend four weeks on the Times list. It also debuted at #6 on the USA Today bestseller list, and made appearances on the bestseller lists of the San Francisco Chronicle, Denver Post, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly, and Indie Next, among others.
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 returning 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, with over 2,000 fans.
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 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, sending it straight to the number one spot, and it remained the top selling book in the UK for three weeks. By the end of December, it was confirmed it had been the UK’s bestselling hardback novel of 2011. Waterstones sold a special slipcased collectors’ edition, and also had an exclusive edition which had a ‘gold’ cover and a special short story at the back.
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 Wodehouse’s character Lord Emsworth. So there is 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 the Ukraine’, and ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’.)
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. (Gaps between events in this report mean that Terry was at home busily dictating the next book, or meeting with Stephen Baxter to work on the next Long Earth novel.)
In April 2012 Terry and Rob travelled to Borneo to revisit the Orangutan sanctuary and see what had happened since Terry last visited, and reported on in the 1995 documentary Terry Pratchett’s Jungle Quest. It resulted in a new documentary, Terry Pratchett: Facing Extinction, filmed by Charlie Russell, shown on BBC1 TV on 27 March 2013 – rather later than expected.
On 23 April, World Book Night was celebrated by hundreds of volunteers giving out special editions of Britain’s favourite twenty-five books (voted for in a public ballot), which included Good Omens by Terry and Neil Gaiman. Each copy of this special printing contains a special page in which the donor has written their name and where it was first given away. (This year, Good Omens was one of thirty-two books chosen for World Book Night US – April 23, 2013.)
The paperback edition of Snuff was published in the UK on June 7, 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. It was issued in two different bindings, one in green, and one in red, with a different front cover illustration, exclusive to W.H.Smith. Corgi 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 is continuing into next year. (All of the Discworld backlist has now appeared in the black/gold format as well.)
The following work began a long time ago. In the early 1980s, after finishing The 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 the Discworld novels appeared to be so well received – 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 selling 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. So he started work on Mort, and the Long Earth idea was put aside. It never completely vanished below the horizon, as Terry never allowed me to offer these short stories to anyone for publication. He said the idea was too good to let it go public with just a short story, apart from the fact that they needed revising, being only early drafts.
When we started planning a collection of Terry’s shorter writings in early 2010, Terry reread them and decided to ask his friend Stephen Baxter to collaborate with him on some novels based on them. A two book deal with Transworld and with HarperCollins in the US followed. After some initial minor ‘hissy fits’ (their description) 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’. 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 on 21 June at the Royal Institution (in association with ForbiddenPlanet.com) to a select audience, with a panel that included Terry and Stephen, with Dr Roger Highfield in the chair, as well as Dr David Wallace, a philosopher in physics at Balliol College, Oxford. David had, by the end of his exposition, convinced many of us that we thought we understood quantum, at least for the time being. This was preceded by a public launch event attended by both Terry and Stephen in Trafalgar Square open to everyone, in which massive inflated globes were deployed in a game of ‘keepy-uppy’. There was also a collaborative reading of the opening of the book on the internet.
Apart from the standard edition and a slip-cased ‘Collector’s Limited Edition’, Waterstones had a ‘Metallic Edition’ (in reference to the importance of iron in the novel) which had printed at the end ‘The High Meggas’, described, for some reason, as ‘the first few thousand words of the (very) unfinished novel that evolved into The Long Earth’. That it wasn’t: it’s obviously a short story in its own right. In fact Terry had written two versions of the story, the other, rather more unfinished, included an ‘elf’ which the character Larry Linsay called Elrond.
At the end of June Terry was in Dublin, not only to give a sneak preview reading (by Rob) of part of Dodger in Trinity Library’s Long Room, but also that day to participate in a session about the Science of Discworld series with Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen in the Science Gallery’s Paccar Theatre. And then in November, Terry was back in Trinity to see how his collaboration with the Animation Hub, the staff and students of Ballyfermot College, TCD, and animation studio Giant Creative, to produce a short cartoon film called The Duel, partly set in Terry’s favourite Library – TCD’s – was getting on. (It should be finished by early September.)
The Eignnnnnnnn (7ath) British Discworld Convention took place in Birmingham at the end of August 2012, under the Chairmanship of Brian Nisbet, with the usual guests and some more, and perhaps the most electrifying thing that came out of it was the session announcing the formation of Narrativia, a film and TV production company, with Rod Brown, an erstwhile director of the Mob Film Company which had produced the three TV mini-series Hogfather, The Colour of Magic and Going Postal, appointed as Managing Director. Onstage were Terry, Rhianna, Rob Wilkins, Guy Burt and Rod who fielded questions from the floor. We were told exciting news about the development of a City Watch series for TV in collaboration with BBC Worldwide (and subsequently BBC Wales, home of Dr Who and Torchwood), with original scripts written by Guy.
While working on The Long Earth with Stephen, Terry was also working on his new YA novel, Dodger, a stand-alone novel set in Dickens’ London, featuring ‘Charlie’ Dickens and Henry Mayhew, and a galaxy of historical and fictional figures. It was published on 13 September, and launched with a Victorian themed party at the House of St Bartholemew, in London’s Soho. In resplendent costume, Terry, daughter Rhianna, Rob and publicist Lynsey Dalladay were driven in a horse-drawn open carriage from Terry’s hotel in Mayfair to the event. As a surprise, the carriage doors displayed his coat of arms, but Terry didn’t spot it as the doors were held open for him and the arms weren’t visible. Terry has said he doesn’t mind there being surprises so long as he knows about them beforehand, so he can be prepared to be surprised at the right time. At the reception, RandomHouse Children’s Books MD Philippa Dickinson spoke of her pleasure at having been Terry’s children’s book editor for twelve years – have a look at footage of the event on YouTube.
The hardcover edition of Dodger came in a number of variant versions, to the near financial ruin of completist fans, to satisfy the demands for exclusivity of various chain stores: Waterstones had a deluxe, numbered edition as well as one with a special binding and ‘The Wise Words of Solomon Cohen’ inserted at the end; W. H. Smith’s edition (also for Easons in Ireland) had an extra scene of Dodger visiting Sweeney Todd in Bedlam; Asda’s contained a map of Dodger’s London, while Tesco’s offered a set of postcards (Queen Victoria, Dickens, Simplicity and Sweeney Todd) all by Paul Kidby (who had also drawn the map, the chapter heads and jacket (of course). There had been 120 bookproofs, and Waterstones also issued a sampler containing the first chapter of the book. Later, a large print edition came out, as well as the abridged audiobook read by Tony Robinson and the unabridged one, read by Stephen Briggs.
Dodger was published by HarperCollins on 25 September 2012 in the US, It has since been named a named a 2013 ‘Michael L. Prinz Honor Book’ by YALSA, a ‘Kirkus Best Teen Novel for 2012’, and Booklist’s ‘The Top of the List winner for Youth Fiction’.
A month later, in the UK Doubleday published a comprehensive collection of Terry’s shorter fiction, A Blink of the Screen, drawn from the archive of his stories and short pieces I had been collecting over the past four decades. As Terry said of me in the dedication, ‘Amazingly, he really likes doing this kind of thing…’ And it’s got a Foreword by that Pratchett fan and Booker Prize-winner, A. S. Byatt. Although not yet published in the US, I’m glad to say it will be, as will be its companion volume of non-fiction shorts, A Slip of the Keyboard, which has yet to be published in Britain. More of that in the next Convention’s report.
Doubleday then issued The Compleat Ankh-Morpork, produced by the Discworld Emporium. This ambitious and elaborate hardback successor to the 1993 Streets of Ankh-Morpork, a unique map and gazetteer of a fictional city, is quite amazing. Not only does it have Michelin guide type information, and pages of advertisements, but it has a truly beautiful two-sided large pull-out which offers a comprehensive street map on one side, a lovely artistic bird’s eye view of the entire city on the other. It is similar to those produced in the 19th century, particularly one of Denver, Colorado, that Bernard Pearson owned and had shown me. Transworld has since issued Discworld: the Ankh-Morpork App for iPad, a ground-breaking app with animation and with city tours, street cries, etc. Reviewers have been very impressed. Although the Compleat Ankh-Morpork is not yet available in the US, the app is available through the Apple store.
Victor Gollancz has continued publishing the Discworld Calendars, with the 2012 edition containing all new work by Paul Kidby The 2013 and 2014 editions are devoted to pictures by Marc Simonetti, the French artist whose work I’d first seen when it was sent for approval for use on the Pocket editions of the French translations. The 2015 Calendar will be illustrated by Stephen Player.
In November Gollancz published Turtle Recall, The Discworld Companion . . . so far, the fourth edition of the Companion, by Stephen Briggs and Terry (and a jacket illustration by Marc Simonetti). This has a great deal of material returned to it which had been removed from the second and third editions. HarperCollins plans to publish an American edition this Fall – good news, and timely.
Off the main highway, as it were, other things have been happening: Stephen Briggs’s stage adaptation of Making Money was published by Samuel French in early 2011, and Matthew Holmes has produced two musicals (published by A&C Black) for primary school use, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, and Johnny & the Bomb, published in August 2011 and 2012 respectively. 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.
The Mob, following their success with Hogfather, The Colour of Magic and Going Postal, have now extended their option on Unseen Academicals, but we have no production date as yet. [The option expired the following year. CS, June 27 2015]
Stephen Briggs, Roundworld’s own CMOT Dibbler, has found life as a senior government civil servant, a thespian and the author/updater of 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 the amateur dramatic productions of Stephen’s adaptations of Wyrd Sisters, Mort, Guards! Guards!, Men at Arms, The Amazing Maurice & His Educated Rodents and Johnny and the Dead. Professional productions are now of course in the hands of Narrativia.
Stephen has continued to record the Discworld novels for ISIS and for HarperAudio, and he also joined forces with Michael Fenton Stevens with recordings of the three Science of Discworld books in when he recorded the Discworld parts and Michael the scientific sections. They are also recording the fourth Science work, Judgement Day. 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. (I’d like 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.)
Martin Wallace’s Treefrog Games and Leonard Boyd’s and David Brashaw’s Backspindle Games have brought out board games, Discworld Ankh-Morpork (illustrated by Peter Dennis) and Guards! Guards! A Discworld Board Game (illustrated by Stephen Player) and both have plans for further offerings – I know Treefrog’s is called The Witches.
Transworld has now set up www.terrypratchett.co.uk, a wide-ranging website which is linked with HarperCollins’ www.terrypratchettbooks.com, and brings together information on all Pratchett activities. It is run by Gavin Hilzbrich, and the Pratchett Facebook page is 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. The principal photography has been completed and it is now in the editing stage, and should be ready for screening in time to be shown at the Irish Discworld Convention. 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.
The fourth volume in the Pratchett-Stewart-Cohen Science of Discworld series, Judgement Day, was published by Ebury Press on 11 April and immediately went to the top of the British Sunday Times non-fiction lists, where it stayed in pole position for two weeks before dropping to no. 2. The trio marked the event by giving an evening’s entertainment at London’s Conway Hall, which was filled to capacity. Waterstones’ copies were accompanied by a free pamphlet The World Not a Dysk, by Spread-the-word (-of Om-throughout-the-lands-of-the-heathen) Gladly.
Terry has been a long-time fan of one of the best known acts of the British folk revival, Steeleye Span, which was founded in 1969, and they were even booked to play at his 60th birthday party. They now have a further close connection. According to the band’s press-release, there’s ‘a brand new project, a record based on Pratchett’s Wintersmith novel. The subject matter is completely appropriate for Steeleye, a tale of ancient rituals and secret folk dances that perfectly complements their previous work whilst taking it in new directions. The resulting album will be released in the second half of the year.’
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 over 80 million copies worldwide (who’s counting?): put side by side, I calculate they’d now stretch from London to North Africa, and as the books are getting ever fatter, maybe further into the Sahara. And what width should one give to e-books and audiobooks in one’s calculations?
All I can say for certain is that paperback editions of The Long Earth, Dodger, and A Blink of the Screen are being published this year, as well as The Long War (the second book in the Long Earth series), and the fortieth Discworld novel, Raising Steam. A Slip of the Keyboard, a collection of Terry’s non-fiction pieces and essays, and I hope the Discworld Emporium’s Discworld Mapp, an atlas of the whole Discworld, will be released in 2014. Whatever comes next, Terry is writing as hard as he can.
Background illustration © and by courtesy of Marc Simonetti