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for Books and Writers
by Bamber Gascoigne

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015)


Terry Pratchett was an English writer of comic fantasy novels, best known for his Discworld series, which made him a household name. Before J. K. Rowling and the Harry Potter phenomenon, Pratchett was Britain's best-selling living author. Most of his novels were intended primarly for adults, but they also have had a strong appeal to adolescent readers. Pratchett died of complications related to Alzheimer's-type dementia at the age of 66.

"Great A'Tuin the turtle comes, swimming slowly through the interstellar gulf, hydrogen frost on his ponderous limbs, his huge and ancient shell pocked with meteor craters. Through sea-sized eyes that are crusted with rheum and asteroid dust He stares fixedly at the Destination." (from The Color of Magic, 1983)

Terry Pratchett was born in Beaconssfield, Buckinghamshire, the only child of David Pratchett, an engineer, and Eileen Kearns Pratchett, a secretary. From early on, he was an avid reader, esperially interested in science fiction and astronomy. Later in life Pratchett was able to fulfill his boyhood dream by building a private observatory in his garden. A main-belt asteroid, 127005 Pratchett, was named after him in 2002.

Library became an important part of Pratchett's education. He also had  an unpaid Sunday job in the local library. Pratchett's favorite writers included Kenneth Grahame, G.K. Chesterton, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and H.G. Wells. When he got in his hands The Lord of the Rings trilogy he read it in one 24-hour sitting.

Pratchett studied at High Wycombe Technical High School, where he published his first story 'The Hades Business', in the school magazine. It also appeared in Science Fantasy in August 1963. With the earnings of the story, Pratchett bought a second-hand Imperial 58 typewriter. (Since about 1982, Pratchett began using computers.) By his own admission, he was not much of a student. After leaving school Pratchett worked as a journalist. From 1980 to 1987 he was employed by Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) as a publicity officer, with responsibility for three nuclear power stations.

Pratchett's debut novel, The Carpet People (1971), was a children's fantasy. He didn't start to write regularly until after his third novel, Strata (1981). The Colour of Magic (1983), the first work in the Discworld series, introduced the concept of a flat world resting on the backs of four elephants who stand on the back of a gian turtle floating through space ("the only creature in the entire universe that knows exactly where it is going.") An alternate world that is distorted version of our own, Discworld offered a seemingly inexhaustible source of ideas for further stories.  In addition, with the success of his novels, Pratchett created a growing interest in the genre of comic fantasy, which had been often ignored by "serious" literary criticism.

In 1987, Pratchett left the CEGB to become a full-time writer. He published over fifty books in the Discworld series, which has been called "the most annotated series of modern books in existence." The first two parts, The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic (1986), were  adapted for the TV film Terry Pratchett'ss The Colour of Magic in 2008. Prachett himself played the role of an astrozoologist. Besides films, Discworld stories have been adapted for theater, radio, graphic novel, and computer and board games.

At the end of 2007, Pratchett was diagnosed with posterior cortical atrophy, a form of Alzheimer's. In 2009 he was knighted by the Queen. Although typing at a keyboard became difficult, he remained active and continued to write and attend fantasy conventions as a celebrated guest. In 2011, he hosted the BBC documentary Terry Pratchett: Choosing to Die, about assisted suicide ‒ illegal in Great Britain. With Stephen Baxter he co-wrote The Long Earth sequence, which included The Long Earth (2012), The Long War (2013), The Long Mars (2014), The Long Utopia (2015), and The Long Cosmos (2016).

After Pratchett's condition deteriorated in 2014, he was forced to cancel several public appearances. The illness also affected the ability to speak and to swallow safely. Pratchett died of complications from Alzheimer's disease in Broad Charlke, Wiltshire, on March 12, 2012. In his final tweets he wrote: "Terry took Death's arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under thee endless night." "The end." Pratchett was married to Lyn Purves from 1968; their daughter Rhianna Pratchell became also a writer.

During his literary career, Pratchett published over 70 novels, but only two collections of short stories and other short-form fiction, A Blink of the Screen: Collected Short Fiction (2013) and Dragons at Crumbling Castle and Other Stories (2014). According to Pratchett, he didn't feel comfortable working in the limitations of the short story.

Discworld is ruled by magic, but it is not totally unlike our own. In addition to wizards, vampires, werevolves, witches, trolls, dwarfs, and rats who talk, Pratchett's universe is peopled by, among others, policemen, thieves, beggars, politicians, soldiers, and all kinds of craftsmen and workmen who work for their livelihood. The biggest city is the smelly Ankh-Morpork; its main exports are banking, assassination, wizardry, and trouble.

There are no computers in Discworld, and its technological level (or "technomancy" as Pratchett called it) resembles much that of the preindustrial Europe. Pigeons and speaking tubes are used in communication. The Leonardo da Vinci of Disworld, named Leonard da Quirm, has invented flying and killing machines, but considered a thread for public safety he is locked up in the Patrician's Palace. The appearance of a steam locomotive in Raising Steam (2013) anticipates the beginning of the industrial revolution. "Pratchett's themes are the big ones," Ben Aaronovitch wrote in his review in The Guardian, "the threat and promise of change, the individual's search for meaning within their own society, and the fine moral judgments that have to be made between competing rights and freedoms." (The Guardian, 27 November 2013)

The themes and motifs of Pratchett's stories play with history, religious beliefs, literature, popular culture, and conventions of quest and sword and sorcery fantasy. Pratchett was aware of Hindu mythology in which a tortoise carries a world on its back. Moreover, the Hindu god Indra rides on an elephant. "Fantasy in a sense pervades our culture to such an extent that any work of fiction is automatically a fantasy," Pratchett claimed ("Fantasy is the whole cake: An Interview with Terry Pratchett", in "Do you consider yourself a postmodern author?": Interviews with Contemporary English Writers, edited by Rudolf Freiburg & Jan Schnitker, 1999, p. 184). Pratchett also made excursions into the Faust legend (Eric, 1989), Shakespeare's Macbeth (Wyrd Sisters, 1988) and A Midsummer Night's Dream (Lords and Ladies, 1992), The Phantom of the Opera (Maskerade, 1995), the origins of rock n' roll (Soul Music, 1994), and the magic of Hollywood (Moving Pictures, 1990). 

Death is a regular character in the series and always speaks IN CAPITAL LETTERS. He is a black-hooded skeleton with a scythe, but instead of being the terrifying "Grim Reaper" of the old folk tales, he feels sympathy humanity ‒ he is not cruel by nature, "merely terribly, terribly good at his job." In Mort (1987) Death takes a holiday and leaves the management of his business to a bungling apprentice. At the end he takes back his job and brings predictability back into a world where anything goes. Death's skeletal horse, named Binky, is extremely intelligent.

"Things just happen, one after another. They don't care who  knows. But history . . . ah, history is different. History has to be observed. Otherwise it's not history. It's  just . . . well, things happening one after another." (from Small Gods, 1992)
Pratchett's humour relies heavily on slapstick, silliness, and one-liners. His satirical style was essentially the same whether he wrote for children or adults. However, the author himself insisted that the Discworld series was never intended for children. The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (2001), which was awarded the prestigious Carnegie Medal, was Pratchett's first young-adult novel. Most of the Discworld novels do not have chapters, but there are  section breaks. Explaining why only a few of his books have chapter divisions, Pratchett blaimed his editor who forced him to use them in the "putative YA books." (Crossover Fiction: Global and Historical Perspectives by Sandra L. Beckett, 2009, p. 147)

Pratchett once said in an interview that he wouldn't mind being banned, "the occasional ban here and there does wonders for the ratings." Allegedly a copy of Good Omens (1990), which Pratchett wrote with Neil Gaiman, is in the Vatican library. The novel takes a satirical look at prophecies, the apocalyptic theology, and religious fanaticism, including witch-hunts. "The English, by and large, being a crass and indolent race, were not as keen on burning women as other countries in Europe. In Germany the bonfires were built and burned with regular Teutonic thoroughness. Even the pious Scots, locked throughout history in a long-drawn-out battle with their arch-enemies the Scots, managed a few burnings to while away the long winter evenings. But the English never seemed to have the heart for it." 
For further reading: "Fantasy is the whole cake: An Interview with Terry Pratchett" in "Do you consider yourself a postmodern author?": Interviews with Contemporary English Writers, edited by Rudolf Freiburg & Jan Schnitker (1999); Alternative Worlds in Fantasy Fiction by Peter Hunt and Millicent Lenz (2003); 'Good Discourse: David Porter talks to the creator of Discworld, Terry Pratchett OBE', in Third Way (June 2003, Vol 26 No 5); An Unofficial Companion to the Novels of Terry Pratchett, edited by Andrew M. Butler (2007); Secrets of The Wee Free Men and Discworld: The Myths and Legends of Terry Pratchett's Multiverse by Carrie Pyykkonen and Linda Washington (2008); Terry Pratchett: The Spirit of Fantasy: The Life and Work of the Man Behind the Magic by Craig Cabell (2012); '"Does Not Happen": M.T. Anderson and Terry Pratchett Imagine the Nation' by Adrienne Kertzer, in Children and Cultural Memory in Texts of Childhood, edited by Heather Snell and Lorna Hutchison (2014); Fantasy, Politics, Postmodernity: Pratchett, Pullman, Miéville and Stories of the Eye by Andrew Rayment (2014); Discworld and the Disciplines: Critical Approaches to the Terry Pratchett Works, edited by Anne Hiebert Alton and William C. Spruiell (2014); The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales, edited by Jack Zipes (2nd ed., 2015); Fantasy and the Real World in British Children's Literature: The Power of Story by Caroline Webb (2015); Discworld and Philosophy: Reality Is Not What It Seems, edited by Nicolas Michaud (2016)

Selected works:

  • The Carpet People, 1971
  • The Dark Side of the Sun, 1976
  • Strata, 1981
  • The Colour of Magic, 1983
    - Magian väri (suomentanut Marja Sinkkonen, 2000)
  • The Light Fantastic, 1986
    - Valon tanssi (suomentanut Marja Sinkkonen, 2001)
  • Mort, 1987
    - Mort  (suomentanut Margit Salmenoja, 1994)
  • Equal Rites, 1987
    - Johan riitti! (suomentanut Marja Sinkkonen, 2001)
  • Sourcery, 1988
    - Velhous verissä (suomentanut Mika Kivimäki, 2002)
  • Wyrd Sisters, 1988
    - Noitasiskokset: kiekkomaailman tarinoita (suomentanut Margit Salmenoja, 1993)
  • Truckers, 1989
    - Suuri ajomatka: onttujen ensimmäinen kirja (suomentanut Katja Ruunaniemi, 2005)
  • Pyramids, 1989
    - Pyramidit (suomentanut Mika Kivimäki, 2002)
  • The Unadulterated Cat, 1989 (illustrated by Gray Jolliffe)
    - Tosikissa ei kirppuja kiroile (suom. Seppo Hyrkäs, 1990)
  • Guards! Guards!, 1989
    - Vartijat hoi! (suomentanut Marja Sinkkonen, 1999)
  • Diggers, 1990
    - Louhoksen valtiaat: onttujen toinen kirja (suomentanut Katja Ruunaniemi, 2006)
  • Eric, 1990
    - Eric (suomentanut Mika Kivimäki, 2003)
  • Moving Pictures, 1990
    - Elävät kuvat (suomentanut Mika Kivimäki, 2003)
  • Wings: The Third Book of the Nomes, 1990
    - Yläilmoissa: onttujen kolmas kirja (suomentanut Katja Ruunaniemi, 2007)
  • Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, 1990 (with Neil Gaiman)
    - Hyviä enteitä: noita Agnes Nutterin Hienot ja Oikeat Ennustukset (suomennos: Marja Sinkkonen, 1992) 
  • Witches Abroad, 1991
    - Noitia maisemissa (suomentanut Marja Sinkkonen, 1997)
  • Reaper Man, 1991
    - Viikatemies: kuunnelma (suomentanut ja sovittanut Jukka Voutilainen, 1994) / Viikatemies (suomentanut Marja Sinkkonen, 1994)
  • Lords and Ladies, 1992
    - Herraskaista väkeä (suomentanut Mika Kivimäki, 2004)
  • Only You Can Save Mankind, 1992
  • Small Gods, 1992
    - Pienet jumalat (suomentanut Mika Kivimäki, 2004)
  • Johnny and the Dead, 1993
  • Men at Arms, 1993
    - Vartiosto valmiina palvelukseen (suomentanut Mika Kivimäki, 2005)
  • The Streets of Ankh-Morpork: Being a Concife and Possibly Even Accurate Mapp of the Great City of the Discworld, 1993 (with Stephen Briggs)
  • Interesting Times, 1994
    - Kiintoisia aikoja (suomentanut Mika Kivimäki, 2006)
  • Mort: A Discworld Big Comic, 1994 (with Graham Higgins) 
  • Soul Music, 1994
    - Elävää musiikkia (suomentanut Mika Kivimäki, 2005)
  • The Discworld Companion, 1994 (with Stephen Briggs)
  • Maskerade, 1995
    - Naamiohuvit (suomentanut Mika Kivimäki, 2006)
  • The Discworld Mapp: Being the Onlie True & Mostlie Accurate Mappe of the Fantastyk & Magical Dyscworlde, 1995 (with Stephen Briggs)
  • Feet of Clay, 1996
    - Savijaloilla (suomentanut Mika Kivimäki, 2007)
  • Hogfather, 1996
    - Valkoparta karjupukki (suomentanut Marja Sinkkonen, 1998)
  • Johnny and the Bomb, 1996
  • Johnny and the Dead: The Play, 1996 (with Stephen Briggs)
  • Mort: The Play,  1996 (with Stephen Briggs)
  • Wyrd Sisters: The Play, 1996 (with Stephen Briggs)
  • The Pratchett Portfolio, 1996
  • Guards! Guards! The Play, 1997 (with Stephen Briggs)
  • Jingo, 1997
    - Pojat urhokkaat (suomentanut Mika Kivimäki, 2007)
  • Men at Arms: The Play, 1997 (with Stephen Briggs)
  • Discworld's Unseen University Diary 1998, 1997 (with Stephen Briggs)
  • The Discworld Companion Updated, 1997 (with Stephen Briggs)
  • A Tourist Guide to Lancre, 1998 (with Stephen Briggs)
  • Carpe Jugulum, 1998
    - Carpe jugulum (suomentanut Mika Kivimäki, 2008)
  • The Last Continent, 1998
    - Viimeinen manner (suomentanut Mika Kivimäki, 2008)
  • Maskerade: The Play, 1998 (with Stephen Briggs) 
  • Discworld's Ankh-Morpork City Watch Diary 1999, 1998 (with Stephen Briggs) Death's
  • Domain, 1999 (with Paul Kidby) 
  • Discworld Assassins' Guild Yearbook and Diary 2000, 1999 (with Stephen Briggs)
  • Nanny Ogg's Cookbook, 1999 (with Tina Hannan and Stephen Briggs)The Science of Discworld, 1999 (with Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart)
  • The Fifth Elephant, 1999
    - Maanalainen elefantti (suomentanut Mika Kivimäki, 2009) 
  • Carpe Jugulum: The Play, 1999 (with Stephen Briggs)
  • The Truth, 2000
    - Totuuden torvi (suomentanut Mika Kivimäki, 2009)
  • Discworld Fools' Guild Yearbook and Diary 2001, 2000 (with Stephen Briggs)
  • Lords and Ladies: The Play, 2001 (with Irana Brown) 
  • The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, 2001
    - Mahtava Morris ja sivistyneet siimahännät (suomentanut Leena Peltonen, 2002)
  • The Last Hero, 2001
  • Thief of Time, 2001
    - Aikavaras (suomentanut Mika Kivimäki, 2010)
  • Gurps Discworld Also, 2001 (with Phil Masters)
  • Discworld Thieves' Guild Yearbook and Diary 2002, 2001 (with Stephen Briggs)
  • Discworld (Reformed) Vampyre's Diary 2003, 2002 (with Stephen Briggs)
  • The New Discworld Companion, 2002 (with Stephen Briggs)
  • Discworld Roleplaying Game: Adventures on the Back of the Turtle, 2002 (with John M. Ford and Phil Masters) 
  • Interesting Times: The Play, 2002 (with Stephen Briggs)
  • Night Watch, 2002
    - Yövartiosto (suomentanut Mika Kivimäki, 2010)
  • The Truth: The Play, 2002 (with Stephen Briggs)
  • The Fifth Elephant: The Play, 2002 (with Stephen Briggs)
  • Monstrous Regiment, 2003
    - Hirmurykmentti (suomentanut Mika Kivimäki, 2011)
  • The Wee Free Men, 2003
    - Vapaat pikkumiehet (suomentanut Mika Kivimäki, 2003)
  • The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents: The Play, 2003 (with Stephen Briggs)
  • Discworld Companion Revised, 2003 (with Stephen Briggs)
  • The Art of Discworld, 2004 (with Paul Kidby) 
  • A Hat Full of Sky, 2004
    - Tähtihattu (suomentanut Mika Kivimäki, 2004)
  • Once More with Footnotes, 2004
  • Going Postal, 2004
    - Posti kulkee (suomentanut Mika Kivimäki, 2012)
  • Monstrous Regiment: The Play, 2004 (with Stephen Briggs)
  • The Discworld Almanak: The Year of the Prawn, 2004 (with Bernard Pearson) 
  • Going Postal: The Play, 2005 (with Stephen Briggs)
  • Jingo: The Play, 2005 (with Stephen Briggs)
  • Science of Discworld III: Darwin's Watch, 2005 (with Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen)
  • Thud!, 2005
    - Muks! (suomentanut Mika Kivimäki, 2012)
  • Wintersmith, 2006
    - Talventakoja (suomentanut Mika Kivimäki, 2007)
  • Ankh-Morpork Post Office Handbook: Discworld Diary 2007, 2006 (with Stephen Briggs)
  • The Unseen University Cut Out Book, 2006 (with Alan Batley and Bernard Pearson)
  • The Illustrated Hogfather Screenplay, 2006 (with Vadim Jean)
  • The Wit and Wisdom of Discworld, 2007
  • Lu-Tze's Yearbook of Enlightenment 2008, 2007 (with Stephen Briggs)
  • Making Money, 2007
    - Lyödään rahoiksi (suomentanut Mika Kivimäki, 2013)
  • The Colour of Magic: The Illustrated Screenplay, 2008
  • Nation, 2008
    - Valtio (suomentanut Mika Kivimäki, 2009)
  • The Folklore of Discworld, 2008 (with Jacqueline Simpson)
  • Sourcery: The Illustrated Screenplay, 2008 (with Vadim Jean)
  • Unseen Academicals, 2009
    - FC Akateemiset (suomentanut Mika Kivimäki, 2014)
  • Nation: The Play, 2009 (with Mark Ravenhill)
  • I Shall Wear Midnight, 2010
    - Keskiyö ylläni (suomentanut Mika Kivimäki, 2011)
  • Snuff, 2011
    - Niistäjä (suomentanut Mika Kivimäki, 2016)
  • The Compleat Ankh-Morpork: City Guide, 2012
  • The Long Earth, 2012 (with Stephen Baxter)
    - Pitkä maa (suomentanut Mika Kivimäki, 2013)
  • 'Miss Felicity Beedle's The World of Poo, 2012 (with Bernard Pearson and Isobel Pearson)
  • Dodger, 2012
    - Viemärin valtias (suomentanut Mika Kivimäki, 2014)
  • The Long War, 2013 (with Stephen Baxter)
    - Pitkä sota (suomentanut Mika Kivimäki, 2014)
  • The Science Of Discworld, 2013 (with Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen)
  • The Science Of Discworld II: The Globe, 2013 (with Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen) Turtle
  • Recall: The Discworld Companion . . . So Far, 2013 (with Stephen Biggs)
  • Raising Steam, 2013
    - Täyttä höyryä (suom. Mika Kivimäki, 2017)
  • A Blink of the Screen: Collected Short Fiction, 2013
  • Mrs Bradshaw's Handbook, 2014
  • The Science of Discworld IV: Judgement Day, 2014 (with Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen)
  • A Slip of the Keyboard: Collected Non-Fiction, 2014
  • The Long Mars, 2014 (with Stephen Baxter)
    - Pitkä Mars (suomentanut Mika Kivimäki, 2015)
  • Dragons at Crumbling Castle and Other Stories, 2014
  • The Long Utopia, 2015 (with Stephen Baxter)
    - Pitkä Utopia (suomentanut Mika Kivimäki, 2016)
  • The Shepherd's Crown, 2015
  • The Compleat Discworld Atlas, 2015 (with Ian Mitchell, et al.)
  • The Witch's Vacuum Cleaner, 2016
  • The Long Cosmos, 2016 (with Stephen Baxter)

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