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Talk: Terry Pratchett

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talk at Books Inc in Mountain View

Pratchett opened his talk comparing the security at airports to "evil clowns at the circus." Shoes off, belt on, shoes off, belt off. "Trousers down -- they haven't done that yet -- you know they want to do it." There was a "guy with one leg. They took his shoe away." He found the focus on pocketknives puzzling in a country where we have so many guns.

On heart surgery

Pratchett had heart surgery last year. Afterwords his surgeon said that they had a little "fun and games." Pratchett asked if that was medical speak for "you nearly died." His surgeon responded, "heart surgery is medical speak for you nearly died." Apparently throughout the process Pratchett kept trying to get up saying, "he's got sandwiches." He never managed to get close to the man with sandwiches in his dream, so he chalks it up as a "near sandwich experience." Reflecting on this, he thinks that when you die "it's obviously some distance because they give you something to eat on the way." He doesn't know what type of sandwich it was, but if it was a cheese sandwich with a Branston Pickle he would go with but if it were a cucumber sandwich with the edges cut off he would turn away.

Q: What kind of sandwich would Death and the Death of Rats have?
A: Death would have a curry sandwich and the Death of Rats would have a double gloucester cheese sandwich (see Hard Cheese of Old England)

more notes in the extended

Q: Is Lord Vetinari human?
A: If it should become necessary to tell you one way or another I shall tell you in a book

Neil Gaiman: "The guy who wrote every other word in Good Omens"

Vimes: Vimes is a "father who suffers from Lego foot." (similar to Barbie hand -- the injuries one suffers when visiting your child's room)

On writing

Pratchett frequently talked about his writing process during the talk. Surprising to me, Pratchett described his writing style as "make it up as you go along." He often doesn't know what's going to happen until he writes it. "I think some guy in Australia has my brain on timeshare." "I have an idea of an ending... magic happens... emergence happens..." It may be "Tiffany's Third Thoughts": thoughts that watch you thinking about thinking about. Eventually a plot will emerge and there is also the 'corset-ry' stage where you put your knee in the spine of the book and cinch it together.

He carries around an HP Pocket PC with keyboard as he is constantly writing. He's afraid if he stops for a couple days he'll forget how. At home he has four screens. "Why four screens? That's all the card would support." If PCs had been developed for a reason we never would have gotten anywhere.

Future Discworld novels

  • The first and last Discworld soccer novel
  • Wintersmith, part of a four-part trilogy, "as most trilogies are." "I sold the book on the basis of the name" (see notes on his writing process).
  • A book that occurs at the same time as Colour of Magic and influences events in it. "This will probably do my head in to write it."
  • several others that I failed to transcribe

On Discworld movies

Pratchett said something along the lines that Discworld seems to be a place where movies don't happen. Either he gets excited people calling who have no money, or people call and say their not like all those other Hollywood people... which is how you know they're like all those other Hollywood people. They have money but they are purchasing the rights in case they become more valuable.

Pratchett is rich enough now that he isn't as easily swayed by pitches. In primitive languages they generally have counting "one, two, many," but there also needs to be one more term for when a herd of elephants is running at you: "one, two, many, shitloads." "I've got money, can you make me happy?"

He has enjoyed the Discworld plays. There have been performances of Discworld plays on every continent -- the Australians put on Wyrd Sisters in Antarctica. He saw a Czech performance that he laughed through. "But you don't know Czech. But I know the right places."

On mapping Discworld

Mapping increased the possibilities; had to figure out how it all worked. He did say though if Discworld does come to an end it will be because everything has become too defined. He can't do an Ankh-Morpork book without getting the city guard involved (like in comics, where Batman has nothing to do unless he can pursuade Superman to go on vacation).

Condom factory in Ankh-Morpork: "You won't find one of those in Minas Tirith"

On chapters, aka "Page furniture"

He will include them in children's books for parent's sake as it gives them a stopping point when they are reading to their kid. Kids like them too. He put them in one of his other books because he wanted a Victorian feel.

Comments (2)

Awesome. I wish I could have been there.


heart pTerry :) slightly annoyed me though that things like "ankh-morpork" and "wyrd sisters" were misspelled... but whatevs it happens

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