My Current Mood in a Picture

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

My Pratchett Pilgrimage

Earlier this year (or was it last year?) I went to a book signing to see Terry Pratchett, and to get my books signed. After I came home I wrote an article about it, however I never got the chance to have it published in the Books section of the Sydney Morning Herald. Remembering that when I entered a short story competition, the judge from the Sydney Morning Herald rejected my story, or as it were, stories, if favor of some other child in the school (Note: The Sydney Morning Herald has never been a fan of the Fantasy Genre. Even if you set your Fantasy tale in the modern era, they will not like it), I decided that those Philistines that call themselves reviewers didn't deserve my article. So here it is now.

My Pratchett Pilgrimage
By Jacob Martin

As I got to the Children’s Bookshop, I did not remember where it was, my purpose for being there was far more important, for this was where I could get to meet Terry Pratchett, author of the Discworld series of books, one of my favorite book series of all time, in the flesh, and what’s more, I could meet him and get a selection of my Pratchett collection of books personally signed for free! You don’t get that from other authors, and all I had to do was turn up after a thirty minute drive.

The kindly owner of the bookshop knew there was going to be a big crowd, so he limited the number of people who could come to hear the Terry Talk, but since I turned up so early, so eager to meet my favorite author, I was permitted to sit on the floor to hear the master of humorous fantasy writing speak. Here are the highlights:

“Is some of what your books say true?” asked somebody, inquiring about the Discworld book Monstrous Regiment, where a girl dresses up as a soldier to find her brother who has gone off to fight in a war.

“Let me get this straight, apart from the Troll and the Vampire, it’s all true!” said Terry Pratchett, “There were an estimated 1500 women who fought in the American Civil War dressed up as men, and barely any of them were found out, unless they were shot and the doctor had to inspect them. You also got situations in country areas where there were a “husband and wife” that was actually more like a “wife and wife”, and nobody talked about it, because nobody knew that the “husband” was simply a woman dressed up in a suit and a tie. Keep in mind men never figured this out because we’re stupid. We always thought short hair equals a boy and long hair equals a girl, but we also thought girl with short hair was just “boy with squeaky voice”.

This was a question that Terry Pratchett was asked, and as with most questions he was asked, he could turn dull questions into fascinating side-stories. But back at the beginning of the talk, he began talking about his more recent books and what inspired him to become a writer.

“I used to read a lot, I read a lot of books from my local library. I collected library tickets, because with each one I could borrow and read a book” said Pratchett, “Gradually I got a hundred and thirty four library tickets. By then I was classed as an honorary adult, and they didn’t kick me out of the adult section, because the librarian let me borrow any book I liked, even ones that were hardly suitable for me. The ones that weren’t suitable for me, are the ones I learnt most from, and quickly…”

He coughed for a moment, and allowed people to have time in which they could laugh at his jokes.

“I learned a lot from my mother as well, like how I used to question logic. I began this by wondering why I was the only boy in the world with a turtle named [after the man who ran the first Marathon] and why if the man who ran the Marathon ran through Athens, it was still called the Marathon, to which my mother replied “Well if it was called the Athens there would be buses and timetables and maps telling you how to get through it” he continued.

His response to the Hogfather TV Movie series adapted from his Discworld book was quite hilarious.

“At least they got old actors to play the wizards. But when you got really old actors playing wizards, you get wizards played by really old actors. Their wives were on the set whispering lines in their ears that they had forgotten”

Terry Pratchett is a bit of an actor/impression artist himself, as he uproariously recreated what happened on set in a sort of one man show, with voice impressions ranging to squeaky to old and bewildered.

“Which brings me to the theory that men store their memory in their wives, like an ATM of brain function” he said. “Another incident was that while we were filming the feast scene, which was as lavish as you could get, the fire alarm went off, and everybody including the actors playing wizards ran up the stairs in full costume, in view of some tourists. I explained this not as “We’re filming a movie”, but as “This… is a very old British custom… it is the Running of the Wizards… if you can catch them, you can grab their pointy hats off their heads and see what’s underneath…”

Pause for hysterical laughter from the mainly adult and smart teenager members of the audience, including me.

I asked Terry “Two questions, how did you figure out to use the H.P. Lovecraft Mythos in two of your books, and is what Neil Gaiman said about your collaboration with him on Good Omens true?”.

“The H.P. Lovecraft Mythos is essentially public property now” said Terry, “It consists of many dimensions that have various things in them, some good, some horrible. And I was thinking as I was driving, “In several other dimensions, I’m having accidents! I’m dead in another part of the universe!”. But I used that same concept in the book I’m writing called Making Money, where there’s this Cabinet with endless doors inside, left right and center. It is said that it contains everything in the universe except the color pink, which tells us that it was not constructed by a girl aged four to twelve, because you simply can’t tear them away from pink in that age bracket!”

He answered my second question: “As for Good Omens, basically everything he [Neil Gaiman] said about it is true, we didn’t have the internet that was readily available in those days, so we had to send manuscripts by mail to each other. The entirety of the book has no elements that haven’t been touched by both of us”

He then talked about what the Discworld series began as, after one audience member referred to Pratchett as the “Douglas Adams of Fantasy”:

“I started out with Science Fiction. Douglas Adams’s books wouldn’t be understood back in the 60s because back then Science Fiction had only begun its mainstream run with Star Trek and the like. In the 80s Fantasy was becoming mainstream, and I read The Lord of the Rings, and loved it, but there was something wrong with it. In the 80s there was some good and some bad Fantasy, and generally it was derivative of Tolkien, but I decided, I could have some fun with this [the Fantasy genre] and the Discworld series “took the piss”, as best I can put it, out of the Fantasy that was around at the time. I didn’t like Tolkien’s Elves, because I liked the idea of the Irish Mythology more, where Elves had no souls and they either helped you or they didn’t, they were at best, fickle, and they stole babies and tricked you. And also with Tolkien, there was no sense of redemption for Orcs. Men and Elves could fall from grace, but Orcs could never rise up and say “Bugger this, I’m going to the pub” in the middle of a battle. That’s why my Troll characters can have good personalities”

After the talk finished, I was first in line to get my books signed, and I was explaining to him that I was an unpublished author, and that I wanted his blessing, and he simply said: “Tell me your name first”, as he smiled. He had dealt with awestruck fans like myself before. I told him my name so that he could write the dedications in the books I brought with me to be signed. My favorite dedication from Pratchett was the one he put in my copy of The Last Continent, his Discworld book that makes fun of Australian stereotypes. The dedication read: To Jacob, No Worries.

A fitting conclusion to his visit to Australia and my Pratchett Pilgrimage, that could not have ended better.

No comments: