2016 Convention in the UK 2017-11-02T19:57:06+00:00

2016 Convention report

The 2016 Report

Since my last report, the world has changed, with the death of Sir Terry Pratchett, Knight Bachelor, OBE, on 12 March 2015 after battling Posterior Cortical Atrophy since before it was diagnosed in December 2007, and finally its development into classic Alzheimer’s disease. In the end it was a merciful release. Our sincerest condolences went out to Lyn and Rhianna.

I miss his phone calls, his company, his humour, and his erudition, but we will always have his books, the deep moral sense that pervades and imbues them, their supreme craftsmanship, his skill in writing works to which we return again and again, his characters, his puns.[1] I miss the challenges he set me, and the pleasure involved in their achievement, sometimes to his considerable surprise. There will never be another like him, but his values will influence and inspire his readers for as long as his books are read. Children become adults; teenagers become professors and heads of industry. And as Terry influenced them, they influence the world.

Ω

My last report effectively ended with the publication of The Long Mars, the fourth volume in the Long Earth series, on 19th June 2014 here and on 17th June in the US – the UK’s preferred publication date for books being Thursdays and America’s on Tuesdays ­– but I failed to mention that Anchor, the paperback imprint of America’s Doubleday, had published the first volume in the Pratchett/Stewart/Cohen Science of Discworld series on June 14th.

The 2014 convention, held from 8-11 August at Manchester’s Palace Hotel,[2] provided us with an unexpected fire alarm at about 4.30am when all the residents had to leave the building until the fault – as it turned out – was discovered.[3] Fortunately it was dry outside but it had been caused by the previous day’s heavy rainstorm and water had seeped into the system, shorting the alarm. Otherwise the event was very successful, and all attendees were given a copy of an untitled Folio MMXIV (for want of a better title) by Terry, containing a dedication by him, a note ‘The Bifurcated Trousers of Storytelling’ and two scenes from another trouser-leg of the story-line of Raising Steam, ‘The Skeleton in the Cavern’ and ‘Counterblast’, together with his ‘Ode to Multiple Universes’ and some words from Rob Wilkins. Guests included the usual crowd, Rob, me, two Stephens, Ian, Jack, Jacqueline, Bernard, Ian and Reb, to whom was added fan Ben Aaronovitch, author of the Rivers of London series and episodes for Dr Who.

On 21 August Gollancz published its 2015 Calendar (illustrated by Stephen Player) and the Discworld Emporium’s WE R IGORS Diary. The following week Youth Music Theatre UK’s production of Soul Music was performed at the Rose Theatre, Kingston. This now contained Part 2 of the musical, with Part 1, produced in 2013 at South Hill Park in Bracknell, being considerably modified.

In September Doubleday published Dragons at Crumbling Castle and other stories, a selection of Terry’s Bucks Free Press stories for children, written under the pseudonym of ‘Uncle Jim’, and now delightfully illustrated for this edition by Mark Beech. It was unexpectedly successful, selling over 100,000 copies before the end of the year. (It was issued in the US by Clarion the following February.) A fortnight later A Slip of the Keyboard, a collection of Terry’s non-fiction writings appeared under the Doubleday imprint in the UK and the US.

On 9 October, Corgi published the paperback Raising Steam (which Anchor released three weeks later in the US) and Mrs Bradshaw’s Handbook, in which she describes the various places for tourists to visit along the route of the Ankh-Morpork and Sto Plains Hygienic Railway. On the 25th, Doubleday published a special, slip-cased edition of Dragons for Waterstones, with a different introduction, extra stories and a commentary about each by Doubleday’s Suzanne Bridson. On the 28th, Anchor issued the Emporium’s Compleat Ankh-Morpork City Guide, and in December Palgrave Macmillan published Philosophy and Terry Pratchett, edited by Jacob Held and James South. On the 29th Gollancz published another edition of Good Omens, on which Neil’s name takes prime authorial position. On the first issue, maybe the first printing, the cover lacks the Time Out quote which now appears on it. The 2014 edition with the cover designed by Joe McLaren will still be available.

Meanwhile BBC Radio 4 had launched a six episode adaptation by Dirk Maggs of Terry’s and Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens, the first episode being broadcast on 18 October to much acclaim, Terry and Neil having ‘walk-on’ parts as two road policemen. (The production was released by the BBC on CD on 15 January 2015, with 50 minutes of extra material not part of the broadcast version.) On 27 October, Park Records released a deluxe edition of Steeleye Span’s CD Wintersmith, with fourteen more tracks than had been on the original CD issued in 2013, eight of them being from live performances, and in November they released a DVD, The Wintersmith Tour, which had been recorded on 19 December 2013 in the Salisbury Playhouse, in which Terry took part.

On 20 January 2015 Anchor published The Science of Discworld II: The Globe, a week later HarperCollins issued the paperback edition of The Long Mars, and in February Oberon published three of Stephen Briggs’ stage adaptations, Feet of Clay, Unseen Academicals and The Rince Cycle (an adaptation of the first two Discworld novels), which were also published as a single volume, All the Discworld’s a Stage.

During these months Terry’s health was deteriorating, and his death on 12 March with Pongo, his beloved tabby cat on his bed and his family beside him, was a welcome release for him. The final messages on Twitter, posted at 3.00pm, read ‘At last, Sir Terry, we must walk together. Terry took Death’s arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night. The End.’ Terry’s Humanist funeral at the Salisbury Crematorium took place on 25th March, his remains arriving in a hearse drawn by black-plumed horses, according to his wishes.

The shock of Terry’s death took many forms among the fans, but two I’ll mention: the massive graffiti near Brick Lane in East London by Jim Vision and Dr Zadok painted in the style of Josh Kirby’s book covers, featuring a portrait of Terry, Death (as himself on Binky and as Bill Door), Albert, the Great A’Tuin, Rincewind, the Luggage, and various other Discworld characters. By its nature it was ephemeral, being over-painted by Star-Wars images, but so many pictures were taken that it will never been forgotten. Nor will ‘GNU Terry Pratchett’, inspired by Terry’s words in Going Postal ‘A man is not dead while his name is still spoken’. This will run through the internet as long as there are fans remembering him.

The Pratchett publishing industry, however, rolled on like a juggernaut – predetermined publication dates could not be changed: Corgi’s new edition of Truckers, illustrated by Mark Beech, was released on 12 March,[4] Doubleday New York published A Blink of the Screen on 17 March, and on 9 April Corgi published their paperback of The Long Mars. Rob and Stephen Briggs travelled to Australia for Nullus Anxietas V, which tool place April 9-11 in Parramatta, NSW. On 7 May Corgi published the paperback edition of A Slip of the Keyboard and on 9 June Anchor brought out Darwin’s Watch. On the 18th Doubleday issued The Long Utopia, which was published the following week by HarperCollins in the US.

Three further conventions took place in 2015 – the third Dutch ‘Cabbagecon’ on 27-28 June in Berg en Dal; the fourth German Scheibenwelt Convention held at Burg Ludwigstein from 10 to 13 September; and the fourth Irish Discworld Convention, at the Cork International Airport Hotel.[5] I cannot comment on the first two, as I only attended the Cork event, which was very successful, and I’m delighted that Siobhán Greaney and her Committee will also be running the 2017 event there.

On 30 July Corgi published Terry’s Richard Dimbleby Lecture Shaking Hands with Death, with an Introduction by Rob Wilkins, to be followed on 20 August by Gollancz’s 2016 Discworld Calendar and the Emporium’s 2016 Diary: A Practical Manual for the Modern Witch (with additional illustrations by Peter Dennis). At midnight on 26/27 August Doubleday launched Terry’s final novel The Shepherd’s Crown at Waterstones’ flagship Piccadilly shop, having successfully ensured that the news of Granny Weatherwax’s death did not leak beforehand. US publication by HarperCollins followed on 1 September.

On 23 September Anchor published the US paperback edition of A Slip of the Keyboard, and on 13 October Doubleday US followed it with The World of Poo (which had appeared in the UK in 2012), a collaboration with the Discworld Emporium, whose Compleat Discworld Atlas was published in the UK on 22 October. Like the Compleat Ankh-Morpork, this has a large double-sided sheet, with the map of the Discworld on one side and a beautiful star-eye view of it on the other, the book itself with descriptions of all the countries on the Disc, and illustrated by Peter Dennis. A truly superb production.

Since his death Terry has received two awards, one on each side of the Atlantic, both received on his and his family’s behalf by Rob. On 13 November the Children’s Book Circle announced the 2015 Eleanor Farjeon Award to Terry, celebrating his huge contribution to the world of children’s literature, the ceremony for which took place on 2 December, and then on 14 March the  Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers America (SFWA) announced that Terry was to be the 2016 recipient of the Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award. SFWA’s President Cat Rambo wrote “I deeply regret Sir Terry’s untimely passing, and my inability to give him the award in person. He’s shaped the genre in ways that will resonate for centuries.” Rob flew to Chicago to attend the SFWA Nebula Conference and to accept the award on behalf of Terry’s family, returning less than 24 hours before he and I flew to Paris to attend the launch party for La couronne du berger at La Dimension Fantastique.[6] This was only one of the events that Librairie L’Atalante had arranged throughout France to mark the publication of the French translation of The Shepherd’s Crown, and it was also attended by Patrick Couton, Terry’s French translator who has won awards for previous translations of Terry’s books.

Stephen Briggs’s The Shakespeare Codex, an adaptation of The Science of Discworld II: The Globe, with a good dash of Shakespeare’s work stirred into the pot, was performed the Unicorn Theatre Abingdon from 5-9 April.

On 14 April the Barbican Theatre in London was the venue for an amazing Memorial event for Terry. The lucky ticket holders acquired their free tickets via a random ballot (there had been nine applicants for every seat), and they were treated to a three-plus hour (without interval) event, hosted by Rob, which included Rhianna talking about her father, the Epiphoni Consort singing Thomas Tallis’s ‘Spem in Alium’ and ending with ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’ introduced from Bora Bora by Eric Idle, who had voiced the characters for the first two Discworld computer games; Steeleye Span on stage performing tracks from their Wintersmith album; Sir Tony Robinson; and Neil Gaiman; Terry’s editors reminiscing over their time working with him; Transworld’s MD Larry Finlay also reminiscing; Bernard Pearson and Dr Pat Harkin sharing their memories.

The event ended with the awarding of the Venerable Order of the Honey Bee to a select number of Terry’s enablers, apart from his family.[7] This took the form of magnificent 18ct gold lapel pin badges made by fans Bethan Williams (who carved the wax bee) and master goldsmith Tom Lynall who engraved, assembled and polished them and made the honeycomb. Each took them about 60 hours to make, the bees alone having ten separate parts and all have the registered ‘DW’ Discworld and the Birmingham anchor Assay Marks. Each also have a pin-protector, with a gold forget-me-not.

All those in the audience received a Discworld.Com goodie bag, which contained Speak His Name,[8] a book similar in format to Folio MMCIV, a sprig of lilac pin badge, a box of dried frog pills, a Bottle of CMOT Dibbler’s Ankh Water, some post cards and a packet of monogrammed tissues. This remarkable event had almost entirely been organised over the previous year by Rob Wilkins, Sandra Kidby and their helpers.

On 21 April, Doubleday published Seriously Funny: The Endlessly Quotable Terry Pratchett, though I’d have preferred two or three quotes a page rather than one – Terry was all for giving people perceived value for money – and three times the number of quotes, for which there was ample space, would have been far better value for one’s tenner (less 1p.). (And one can get a whole novel for that.)

In May the Folio Society published their edition of Mort, illustrated by Omar Rayyan (who painted the jacket picture for Once More, with footnotes), together with a very limited leather-bound edition that sold out in a matter of hours. They are also going to publish an edition of Small Gods in September.

On 2 June Corgi published the paperback edition of The Shepherd’s Crown, while on the 14th HarperCollins brought out the final volume in the Long Earth series, The Long Cosmos, under their Harper imprint, and Doubleday followed in the UK by publishing it on the 30th. Ray Friesen’s graphic novel of Small Gods was published by Doubleday on 28 July, while Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Colouring Book by Paul Kidby appeared on 18 August, as did the 2017 Discworld Calendar which features pictures painted by Josh Kirby for the earliest Discworld novels. On the day before the start of this Convention, Doubleday Children’s brought out The Witch’s Vacuum Cleaner, the second volume of short stories taken from Terry’s writings in the Bucks Free Press, this time both the standard and the special edition, with Suzanne Bridson’s commentaries, appearing together. As before, Waterstones are to issue a larger, specially bound edition. Apart from the Gollancz Terry Pratchett Diary (undated) which is to be published on 13 October, I don’t yet know of any later firm publications, though Rob Wilkins will be writing Terry’s biography, and a series of Discworld Encyclopaedias were also mentioned.

But while that’s the list of books, the Memorial event at the Barbican treated the audience to a lot of information – Neil Gaiman is working on the script of a multi-part TV series of Good Omens, Mort is being made into a film by Terry Rossio, the second highest grossing screenwriter of all time, behind the successes Aladdin, Shrek, and Pirates of the Caribbean. The Wee Free Men is being adapted for the screen by Rhianna Pratchett, and by the time you read this I expect further information to have been revealed at Comic-Con International 2016, which is being held 21-24 July at the San Diego Convention Center. BAFTA winner Charlie Russell is working on a fourth documentary, this to be about Terry’s life, with parts of a 4½ hour filmed interview that Rob conducted with Terry in October 2014. Things are happening with the Watch series, quite what we were not told, but you can be sure that Terry’s film, TV and merchandising company, Narrativia – directors: Rod Brown (Managing), Rhianna Pratchett and Rob Wilkins – is at the heart of it all. Snowgum’s Troll Bridge progresses, and you can subscribe to their reports at info@trollbridge.film.

My own enlarged checklist of Terry’s writings, together with my contributions to previous convention programme books, is now online at www.colinsmythe.co.uk, though I do not doubt it requires some fine-tuning, and I’d be happy to receive suggestions on how to improve it.

Book sales increase, but I have not been keeping count of book sales recently, and therefore any figure I give would be a guesstimate, but it must be in the region of 90 million by now.

The Discworld Monthly newsletter, run by Jason Anthony, and Wossname, by Annie Mac and her colleagues, continue to inform and entertain. Their devotion to their publications is a constant source of admiration.

(I have seen a couple of independent memorial anthologies: in the UK, In Memory: A Tribute to Sir Terry Pratchett, edited by Sorin Suciu and Laura May, and in the US, The Longest Night Watch… In Memory of Terry Pratchett, published by Writers Colony Press, the proceeds going to Alzheimer’s Research UK and the Alzheimer’s Association in their respective countries. There is also one coming from a group of Spanish fans.)

And where to get your Pratchett books and memorabilia, here at the Convention and during the rest of the year? Two sources stand out: www.discworld.com (the new incarnation of PJSM Prints), personified by Sandra and Jo Kidby, who have travelled all the way from Wiltshire to provide for your needs, and www.discworldemporium.com which has come from Wincanton (which might be as far from here as Sandra’s base – I haven’t checked) and is represented by the august presence of the Cunning Artificer himself, Bernard Pearson (Isobel is minding the shop), ably supported by Ian Mitchell and Reb Voyce. What more could you possibly need?

FOOTNOTES

[1] And his footnotes.

[2] This is an iconic Gothic building faced with terracotta designed by Alfred Waterhouse and his son Paul, and built for the Refuge Insurance Company. With its 217 foot high tower, it is one of the city’s best known landmarks. Inside, everywhere one looks its original usage is self evident, great marble staircases, tiled passages, and elaborate offices now bedrooms. Sadly, not a wheel-chair-friendly edifice.

[3] At least one person, the Cunning Artificer, staunchly refused to leave his bed.

[4] The Mark Beech illustrated edition of Diggers was published on 3 December 2015, and Wings on 7 April 2016.

[5] As a guest I also found the Hotel management extremely helpful and an added bonus is that it is within easy walking distance of Cork Airport.

[6] For French-speaking SF and Fantasy fans this shop, at 106 rue La Fayette, 75010 Paris, is definitely worth a visit.

[7] I was asked at the Convention who  belongs to the Order, so here’s a list. With Rob Wilkins as Grand Master, its members comprise Lady Pratchett, Rhianna Pratchett, Sandra Kidby, and in alphabetical order, Mark Boomla, Stephen Briggs, Rod Brown, Philippa Dickinson, Malcolm Edwards, Larry Finlay, Pat Harkin, Paul Kidby, David Lloyd, Kevin O’Malley, Bernard Pearson, Colin Smythe, and Samir Thantrey.

[8] It contains an introduction by Rob Wilkins, some quotes from novels and five pieces by Terry, ‘The Hades Business’, ‘Thought Progress’, ‘Terry Pratchett’ by Neil Gaiman, ‘A Word about Hats’, ‘Terry Pratchett’ by Rhianna Pratchett, ‘A Voice in the Darkness’ (Chapter 2 of The Shepherd’s Crown) and ‘A Little Advice for Life’.

Background image © Josh Kirby Estate, All Rights Reserved