2014 Convention in the UK2017-11-02T19:57:27+00:00


Two More Years in Discworld – 2012-2014

Two years go past really quickly, and given that I’ve also been writing reports for the North American Discworld Conventions in alternate years, there’s plenty of writing to do. So to start with a quick recap of events at the Eignnnnnnnn (7ath) Convention which took place in Birmingham at the end of August 2012, under the Chairmanship of the excellent Brian Nisbet, with the usual guests,[1] perhaps the most exciting thing that came out of it was the announcement of the formation of Narrativia, a company set up to deal with Terry’s merchandising, film and TV production matters, with Rod Brown its Managing Director. He had been a director of the Mob Film Company producers of the three TV mini-series Hogfather, The Colour of Magic and Going Postal, so he knows Discworld well, and was obviously ideal for the appointment.

Onstage were Terry, Rhianna, Rob Wilkins, Guy Burt and Rod Brown, who fielded questions from the floor. We were told great 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. More of that anon. Mob’s option for Unseen Academicals was not renewed, having been stuck in development hell for all too long.

A week after the Convention, Terry went to Kingston-on-Thames’ Rose Theatre to see Youth Music Theatre’s production of Mort (words by Jenifer Toksvig, music by Dominic Haslam). This had a completely new cast and had gained a new, larger set since it was put on in Guildford in 2008.

While working on The Long Earth with Stephen Baxter, Terry had also been writing Dodger, a stand-alone Young Adult 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 2012, and sent on its way with a Victorian themed launch at the House of St Barnabas, 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 Terry’s coat of arms, but he 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. Had he been warned, he could have ‘discovered’ them. Ah, well. At the reception, RandomHouse Children’s Publishers MD Philippa Dickinson spoke of her pleasure at having been working with Terry for over twenty years – have a look at footage of the event on YouTube.[2]

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 something different from 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.[3]

The following month, on 8 October, Doubleday published A Blink of the Screen, a comprehensive collection of Terry’s shorter fiction drawn from the archive of his stories and short pieces that I’ve been collecting over the past four decades or so. As Terry said of me in the dedication, ‘Amazingly, he really likes doing this kind of thing…’[4] And it has a Foreword by that Pratchett fan and amazing novelist, Booker Prize-winner A. S. Byatt. Although not yet published in the US, I’m glad to say it will be. And its companion volume of non-fiction shorts, A Slip of the Keyboard, will be published this September, both in the UK and US.

Dodger was published by HarperCollins in the US on 25 September 2012. It has since been named a 2013 ‘Michael L. Prinz Honor Book’ by YALSA, a ‘Kirkus Best Teen Novel for 2012’, and by Booklist ‘The Top of the List winner for Youth Fiction’.

To mark the publication Terry and Rob went to the US for a short tour to talk to fans in New York and Chicago and attend the New York ComicCon (where they were able to catch up with Sean Astin, who had played Twoflower in the Mob mini-series). While in New York, according to an article Terry wrote for The Guardian (24 November), both suffered from food poisoning, and on a visit to Ground Zero, Terry passed out in the cab and stopped breathing. Rob was able to clear Terry’s airways – ‘no task for the squeamish’ as Terry said – and got him to hospital, where he was found to have an irregular heartbeat and low blood pressure. Fortunately Terry recovered sufficiently to be allowed to fly to the meeting in Chicago, and nothing was said about it while there.[5] The experience convinced Terry he should not be doing these sorts of tours any longer.

On 8 November 2012 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 much material returned to it that had been removed from the second and third editions. In the US, HarperCollins published the paperback edition of Snuff the day after Christmas 2012, and got Turtle out on 8 April this year.

Also on 8 November, Doubleday published 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 style information, and pages of advertisements, but it has a large, truly beautiful two-sided pull-out, which offers a comprehensive street map on one side, and an 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 owned and showed me years ago. In February 2013, Transworld issued Discworld: the Ankh-Morpork App for iPad, an animated app available through the Apple store, with city tours, street cries, etc.

On 9 November Terry took part in a live broadcast in BBC4’s Museum of Curiosity. This one was outside the programme’s regular series, being transmitted for charity from the great hall of the Natural History Museum, London. The other guests were author, comedian and TV presenter Dave Gorman, ex First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Alan West, (later Baron West of Spithead), comedian Helen Keen, palaeontologist Richard Fortey, and Erica McAlister, affectionately known as the Bug Lady because of her work as a Curator at the Natural History Museum. It was hosted by John Lloyd with Producer Dan Schrieber taking the role of curator. Terry’s contribution to the Museum of Curiosity was the bust of Charles Darwin.

Ten days later Rob was in New York along with Craig Hunter and Charlotte Moore (now Controller of BBC One), for the 40th International Emmy Awards where they scooped the Best Documentary Award for Terry Pratchett: Choosing to Die.

The fourth Nullus Anxietas convention took place from 8 to 10 March 2013 at Bell Ridges, Preston, Melbourne, and by all accounts a great time was had by all those attending.

As I mentioned in the last Convention programme book, in April 2012 Terry and Rob travelled to Borneo to revisit Biruté Galdikas’s Orangutan sanctuary and see what had happened since Terry last visited and reported in the 1995 documentary Terry Pratchett’s Jungle Quest. The Keo North documentary, filmed and directed by Charlie Russell, took a long time to come out, but it was finally transmitted by BBC2 on 27 March 2013 under the title Terry Pratchett: Facing Extinction.

The fourth volume in the Pratchett-Stewart-Cohen Science of Discworld series, Judgement Day, was published by Ebury Press in the UK on 11 April 2013 and immediately went to the top of the 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.[6]

The Corgi edition of Long Earth was published on 9 May, while the second volume in the series, The Long War, was published by HarperCollins in the US on 18 June, and by Doubleday in the UK two days later, traditional publication days being Tuesdays in the US, and Thursdays in Britain.

The third North American Discworld Convention took place in Baltimore MD, 5-8 July, with those arriving a day early able to celebrate Independence Day there. Terry was not able to attend, but he linked up by Skype. In spite of Terry’s absence, the Convention’s 800 plus members had a very enjoyable experience. Certainly I enjoyed myself. My sole sadness was seeing Richard John Artley, auction catalogue organiser and generous buyer, uberfan, Discworld play-producer, and scientific genius, looking so unwell, but I was still shaken to receive an email less than six weeks later, on 16 August, from the CEO of the company in Zurich that he worked for, telling me he had died in his apartment the previous night, aged just 49. It is a great loss to family, friends and Discworld fandom.

At the end of August, Youth Music Theatre UK put on Part 1 of their musical adaptation of Soul Music at the South Hill Park Arts Centre in Bracknell, Berkshire. We have to wait till the end of August this year to see the complete production, at the Rose Theatre, Kingston-on-Thames (28-31 August).

On Sunday 29 September, Terry, Rob and Rod Brown formed a panel held in the Brighton Dome, as the culmination of the Brighton & Hove Festival’s 2013 City Reads which had involved weekly group readings of Guards! Guards! at three libraries in the city during the summer, and a read-through of part of Stephen Briggs’s stage adaptation.

Just before the 2012 Convention (too late to be reported in the last overview), Terry was in Dublin, not only to give a sneak preview reading (by Rob) of part of Dodger in Trinity College Library’s magnificent Long Room, but also to participate in a session about the Science of Discworld with Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen in the Science Gallery’s Paccar Theatre. In November the same year, Terry was back in Trinity to see how The Duel, a short cartoon film set in Terry’s favourite Library, was getting on. It’s a collaboration between Trinity’s Animation Hub, the staff and students of Ballyfermot College, TCD, and animation studio Giant Creative.[7] Nearly a year later, on 16 October 2013, Terry, Rob and I flew to Dublin to see its premiere.[8] It can suitably be described as ‘smashing’!

A fortnight later, from 31 October to 3 November, the Irish Discworld Convention took place in Limerick, but Terry was unable to attend as it clashed with the World Fantasy Con in Brighton where he was appearing.

On 5 November Clarion Books (a division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) published the ultimate version of The Carpet People, releasing a trailer on YouTube.[9] This is the first time it has been published in the US, and it has numerous illustrations Terry produced for the original book launch in 1971 and for an interview published in his old paper, the Bucks Free Press, as well as some original pictures I had and those that appeared in the 2009 Doubleday edition. It also includes the original untitled Carpet People story as it appeared in the Press in 1965.

In Britain, two days later, Doubleday published the fortieth Discworld novel, Raising Steam. Instead of a conventional launch party, the publishers booked a steam train on the Watercress Line in Hampshire, on which we were served appropriately bubbly alcohol, and Devon cream teas, while travelling from Alton to Alresford and back. It was an altogether original and enjoyable event. The bound proofs are very rare, by the way: as is stated on the back cover, ‘100 copies only’ have been printed. The published book was issued in a standard edition, a Collector’s Edition for independent bookshops, with orange stained edges, a special edition for W.H.Smith with ‘Humphrey Newt’s Thunderbolt Carriage’, a short story Terry had written for The Bucks Free Press in June 1967, and two versions for Waterstones, a special slip-cased, numbered edition of 1,000 copies, and the other with a bookmark and special jacket (the design being the same as that used for the slip-case).

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 – his daughter Rhianna even booked them to play at his 60th birthday party. They now have a further close connection, an album based on Wintersmith. It was released by Park Records on 28 October and was followed by a 30 venue tour, ending with a performance in Salisbury on 19 December. Very sadly, Peter Knight told the audience that night that this was his final performance with the band, and he was leaving (again). But judging from past experience we may see him back yet again (and two days after I wrote these words I saw a notice of three Steeleye gigs taking place in Ireland in May – in Galway, Sligo and Dublin, presumably with a new fiddler. More events have since been announced.)

Victor Gollancz’s Discworld Calendars for 2013 and 2014 contain pictures by Marc Simonetti, the French artist whose Discworld work was first seen on covers of the French Pocket editions of Terry’s books,[10] and the 2015 Calendar is illustrated by Stephen Player. Since November 2013 Gollancz have been issuing a 21-volume Discworld Collectors’ Library, with two titles being published each month (and in one month three), the final pair being published at the time of this Convention. They do not have dustjackets, but the covers of all are blocked with wood engravings by Joe McLaren. Good Omens has also been published in a similar style. This is the first time a Gollancz edition contains the same text as the American and Corgi editions.

On 13 March, Transworld issued a new Corgi edition of The Folklore of Discworld, which had been updated to cover all forty Discworld novels, while on the 18th the first of the books published by Terry’s new US publishers, Random House, released their edition of Raising Steam under their Doubleday imprint, which went to no. 2 in the New York Times’ bestseller list, and on the 25th The Folklore of Discworld appeared under their Anchor imprint. Anchor published the first volume of the Science of Discworld series on 3 June and will be bringing out the second, The Globe, in December, at the same time as Doubleday US issue the Compleat Ankh-Morpork.

HarperCollins US published the third volume of the Pratchett-Baxter Long Earth series, The Long Mars, on 17 June, while Ebury Press brought it out in Britain on the 19th (usual reason – Tuesday and Thursday).

Terry’s non-fiction collection, A Slip of the Keyboard, with a Foreword by Neil Gaiman will be published on both sides of the Atlantic in late September (23rd in the US, 25th in the UK). while Random House Children’s Publishers will be releasing a collection of fourteen of Terry’s Bucks Free Press stories, beautifully illustrated by Mark Beech, called Dragons at Crumbling Castle and Other Stories. There’ll also be a special edition with additional material published in November.

The Corgi edition of Raising Steam will be published on 9 October, as will Doubleday’s Mrs Bradshaw’s Handbook, a companion guide to the railway of the novel.

The Polish company Micro-Art have released three busts, of Death as the Hogfather, Sam Vimes and Granny Weatherwax, and two miniatures – Reg Shoe and Dorfl the golem.

Rod Brown at Narrativia allows me to admit that Guy Burt is writing the scripts for the City Watch TV series, and that the Good Omens TV series is also signed up. Rhianna Pratchett is working on the script for a film of Wee Free Men, and a film of Mort is also under development (but not with Disney!).

On 27 May the University of South Australia announced their conferral of an honorary doctorate on Terry. As he was not able to travel to the Antipodes to accept it, the actual ceremony took place that day when Vice-Chancellor/President Professor David Lloyd made the pilgrimage to Terry’s home to confer the degree, hand over the certificate, and enrobe him with gown and cap.

Stephen Briggs, Roundworld’s own Lord Vetinari, having found life as a senior government civil servant, a thespian and the author/updater of Turtle Recall, somewhat too busy, has taken early retirement. He also passed over his range of merchandise (including the ever-popular UU scarf) to Sandra and Jo Kidby at PJSM Prints (www.pjsmprints.com), and I am now licensing the amateur dramatic productions of Stephen’s adaptations of Wyrd Sisters, Mort, Guards! Guards!, Men at Arms (published by Corgi), and the Oxford University Press editions of The Amazing Maurice & His Educated Rodents, Johnny and the Dead, and Dodger which they published last February. Professional productions are now of course in the hands of Narrativia.

Stephen has continued to record the Discworld novels for ISIS, HarperAudio, and Random House US Audio, and he also joined forces with Michael Fenton Stevens recording the four Science of Discworld books in which he read 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. (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 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.)

As to board games, Martin Wallace’s Treefrog Games has released Discworld Ankh-Morpork and The Witches (both illustrated by Peter Dennis and put together by the Discworld Emporium), while Leonard Boyd’s and David Brashaw’s Backspindle Games have brought out Guards! Guards! A Discworld Board Game (illustrated by Stephen Player) and have another project, Clacks, in preparation.

Terry’s UK and US publishers have now set up a wide-ranging website, to be found at www.terrypratchett.co.uk, or www.terrypratchettbooks.com, which brings together information on all Pratchett activities. It is run by Laura Swainbank,[11] 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 – and by then 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. There’s been wonderful generosity on the part of the 1,240+ donors.[12] 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 here, at this 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.

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 85 million copies worldwide (but 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 audio-books in such calculations?

That’s it, folks!

Copyright © 2014 Colin Smythe

[1] In order of their appearance in the program, Terry, Rob, me, Lionel and Patricia Fanthorpe, Ian Stewart, Jacqueline Simpson, Jack Cohen, Stephen Briggs, Stephen Baxter, Bernard Pearson, and Ian Mitchell.

[2] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2NRLvLSnZ2g

[3] Shortlisted for a 2013 Audie, in the Teen section, the reviewer noted that ‘Briggs’s voice reflects this literary hybrid perfectly.’

[4] Too true. Last year I became the happy owner of a copy of the issue of Terry’s school magazine The Technical Cygnet (vol.1 no. 8, December 1962) containing his first published story, ‘Business Rivals’, a much shorter version of ‘The Hades Business’. I’d despaired of ever seeing a copy, let alone owning one, and had no idea how much Terry had revised it before its publication in Science Fantasy the following August.

[5] http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/nov/24/terry-pratchett-signing-nearly-killed-me

[6] Ian Stewart in pseudonymical guise.

[7] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwxv7UBN8UM

[8] A short trailer can now be seen at http://vimeo.com/88069708 The Duel is the brainchild of David Lloyd, Trinity’s then Bursar who hatched it up quite without the aid of dried frog pills. Although now far, far away in the Antipodes as Vice Chancellor and President of the University of South Australia in Adelaide, he contrived to return for the event and laud its participants. (He’d previously been appointed Trinity’s Dean of Research at a remarkably young age – the youngest in Trinity’s history  –  so he was then known as the Baby Dean. He has since attained greater gravitas, or so he likes to think.)

[9] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6XSAhx6yG4

[10] Have a look at http://marcsimonetti.artworkfolio.com/

[11] lswainbank@randomhouse.co.uk

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

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