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April 2008
Locus Magazine
Terry Pratchett: Acts of God
Terry Pratchett was born in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, UK, and published his first story, "The Hades Business", at age 13. He worked as a journalist for several years, then as a press officer in the nuclear power industry for eight years, while writing and publishing novels in his spare time. He became a full-time writer in 1987.

Pratchett's first novel was YA humorous fantasy The Carpet People (1971), followed by satirical SF novels The Dark Side of the Sun (1976) and Strata (1981), before launching into his humorous Discworld series with The Colour of Magic (1983). Originally intended as an "antidote" to the bad fantasy so widespread in the late '70s and early '80s, Discworld now encompasses more than 35 volumes, including several for young adults. Pyramids (1989) won the British Fantasy Award, Night Watch (2002) won the Prometheus Award, and YA A Hat Full of Sky (2004) won the Mythopoeic Award.

Photo by Liza Groen Trombi
Discworld is a huge phenomenon, with its own dedicated conventions, and spin-offs that include games, guides, diaries, cookbooks, quiz books, cartoons, and TV movies. The books make major bestseller lists in the UK and the US, and have won major literary awards: The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (2001) received the 2002 Carnegie Medal and was shortlisted for the 2002 Guardian Children's Book Prize.

His other non-Discworld books include satirical fantasy Good Omens (1990, with Neil Gaiman) and two humorous young adult SF/F trilogies: Bromeliad or Book of the Nomes (1989-90), and the Johnny Maxwell series (1992-96). His next novel, YA Nation, is his first non-Discworld novel in more than ten years.

Pratchett was made an officer of the British Empire (OBE) in 1998 in honor of his services to literature, and has received three honorary doctorates from British Universities. He lives in Wiltshire with his wife Lyn (married 1968). They have one daughter, Rhianna.

In December 2007, Pratchett publicly announced that he had been diagnosed with a rare form of early-onset Alzheimer's.
Excerpts from the interview:

“I think SF will end up getting subsumed into mainstream fiction. Mainstream steals more and more from it, without a shadow of a doubt, while at the same time screaming at the top of its voice that it's not science fiction. It's astonishing what convoluted logic they will apply. Here is something that would definitely be SF if an SF writer wrote it, but because a literary writer wrote it, it can't be SF.

“Now fantasy -- that's the horse turd in the bucket of wine! If you have one bucket of horse turds and one bucket of wine, put one horse turd in the bucket of wine and now you have two buckets of horse turds. But if you pour some of the wine into the bucket of horse turds, it's still a bucket of horse turds. Any recognizable fantasy element introduced into an otherwise innocent novel turns that novel into a fantasy. Isn't it interesting, how it's so one-way?”


“I know lots of fans have been introduced to the Discworld books by the Tiffany Aching books and The Amazing Maurice. They are good primers, really. But The Wee Free Men is probably the best book (overall) that I have written, and the series continues to be incredibly successful. Rereading it, I found myself laughing in places. Then I thought, 'I can't laugh. It's my own gag!' In Colour of Magic and Light Fantastic, the gags are constructed, whereas in later books the gags turn up automatically from the character and the situation. I do like the incongruities, the little side bits with no real importance to the plot, like the female golem in Making Money. And I've had so much fun with the dwarves and their sexuality!”


“Currently I'm working on Nation, which is a non-Discworld book for kids. I cannot write the next Discworld book while this one is in my head. I've got the Johnny Maxwell toolbox and I've got the Discworld toolbox. With Ankh-Morpork, it's like every tool being worn to your hand -- I know how the world is constructed. This one needs a different toolbox, and I have to manufacture the tools as I go along. It's set on an alternate Earth with minor differences which are not of particularly great importance, but it enabled me to do some things....

“The story kind of started when I heard a choir singing 'For Those in Peril on the Sea'. There is another verse 'for those in peril in the air,' but quick as a flash, in my head I wrote the extra verse 'for those in peril on the land.' It's made up by a man who is navigating a boat which is caught up in a tsunami. During Krakatoa, a ship was swept three kilometers into a rain forest by the wave.

“I thought that was the start of the book, but in fact the start is somewhere over there, and that bit is something that's going to come later. But that's the idea that kicked it off, and I had this image in my mind for months. It's gotten heavier as it's gone along, but it's got room for humor. It's a children's book, and the nice thing about children's books is it's amazing what you can do with them -- amazing how far you can go.”

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