Matthew Peterson: Hello everyone! Welcome to the very first episode of The Author Hour, Your Guide to Fantastic Fiction. I'm your host, Matthew Peterson. This season I'm going to interview over 50 world renown authors, like Anne Rice, Terry Brooks, Meg Cabot, Diana Gabaldon and Ursula K LeGuin. But Iím really excited about this first episode.
Today I've got Terry Pratchett, Eoin Colfer, Jody Lynn Nye and Piers Anthony. The theme of this episode is satire, puns and humor. My first interview was recorded in person at the first ever North American Disc World Convention. And here it is!
My first guest today is Sir Terry Pratchett, international best selling author of the Disc World Fantasy Series. Heís one of the most read authors in the world, with over 65 million books sold. Some of the awards he has received include the Carnegie Medal Locus Award, Mythopoeic Award, ALA notable Books for Children, ALA Best Books for Young Adults, Books Sense Pick Prometheus Award and the British Fantasy Award. Itís truly a pleasure to have you on the show today.
Terry Pratchett: Thank you very much.
Matthew Peterson: I have a confession to make. I actually read your first book, The Color of Magic, just last week.
Terry Pratchett: Well, I knew there must be someone, somewhere in the world, that hadnít read it.
Matthew Peterson: [Laughs] Yep! Thereís a lot of them in the series, over 35?
Terry Pratchett: Well, it depends, you know, even some of my childrenís books are set in Discworld. Itís a slightly kind of different way of looking at it. And what with the spin off things and the science of Discworld. I myself have actually lost count of the number of books with some kind of Discworld connection.
Matthew Peterson: They started back in 1983, with The Color of Magic.
Terry Pratchett: Uh huh, yea.
Matthew Peterson: I actually listened to the audio book version, I really enjoyed it. And I hear that a mini-series was done off of The Color of Magic.
Terry Pratchett: Well, um . . .shall we say . . . 2 episodes.
Matthew Peterson: Two episodes?
Terry Pratchett: But, I mean, it was movie length and cut down, and subsequently weíve done, Hogfather and theyíve just finished the filming of Going Postal, which was more recently filmed. Plus thereís other ones in the pipeline.
Matthew Peterson: Uh huh. You have a new book thatís coming out. What is that new book?
Terry Pratchett: Well, coming out in October, as I understand it, is Unseen Academicals, which is the latest book and indeed the longest one, written under some stress, but I think one of my best ones.
Matthew Peterson: Your best ones?
Terry Pratchett: Well, I think my books improve . . . see I kind of learn writing by writing books. Rather strangely the first book I wrote, sold. Which is kind of strange, because it doesnít usually happen. But Iíve been writing professionally now, throughout the decades, if I wasnít getting better, something would have to be wrong.
Matthew Peterson: Yeah. Well, you have quite a following. This is your very first North American Discworld Convention.
Terry Pratchett: Yes, yes, I wondered when it was going to happen Ďcause there have been a couple in Australia and ones throughout Europe, and thereís more this year, but Iím very, very pleased to have been here. It has been an amazing occasion.
Matthew Peterson: I hear it sold out weeks ago.
Terry Pratchett: Oh yes, yes.
Matthew Peterson: A lot of people were interested.
Terry Pratchett: People are talking about another one, now.
Matthew Peterson: Oh, another one?
Terry Pratchett: Yeah
Matthew Peterson: What can we expect for the future of Discworld?
Terry Pratchett: Well it depends on my state of health, but Iím writing another childrenís book at the moment, and Iím involved with that. Iíve always got a few books planned for the future.
Matthew Peterson: I understand a couple years ago you were diagnosed with Alzheimerís. Ironically, just yesterday, I discovered that my grandfather also has Alzheimerís. So, I know youíve donated quite a lot of money. At least over a million dollars and youíve done a lot of good work in helping to get the word out and helping with research.
Terry Pratchett: Uh huh
Matthew Peterson: Is there any advise youíd give people. . . .
Terry Pratchett: Yeah, donít get it.
Matthew Peterson: Donít get it [laughs]
Terry Pratchett: Um, what Iíve got is um, the short term is PCA, itís a form of Alzheimerís.
Matthew Peterson: Okay.
Terry Pratchett: And itís not quite like, itís very rare, and itís not quite like ordinary Alzheimerís. For example, my last childrenís book, Nation, which as been picking up awards--I guess undoubtedly my best book--was written by a guy with a form of Alzheimerís and so was Unseen Academicals. And Iím well on the way to finishing the next book. It affects me in a different way than what you might call common or garden Alzheimerís. I donít act much differently than the average 61 year old. But it does weird things to my vision. Print tends to move as I read it, and I certainly would not want me to have a driving license. Things sort of disappear. Itís as though youíre followed around by some kind of invisible giant that takes things away. But I suppose many people my age feel like that anyway. Iím reasonably well. . . . One day Iíll die, one day weíll all die. And no one knows . . . . Iíve had this for two years now and not getting that much worse. So, itís bully on for the next book. Itís always bully on for the next book.
Matthew Peterson: Just continue on.
Terry Pratchett: Oh, yeah.
Matthew Peterson: Yeah. Thereís a lot of people, like I mentioned , that enjoy what you do. You go to a lot of conventions. You have Discworld conventions based on your series.
Terry Pratchett: Well, one of the things I like to do is get kids reading. And for some reason, I donít know why it is, and lots of people have been telling me at this convention, it tends to go like this, you know, "My boy is more or less dyslexic and wouldnít read any books, and Iíve got him on Discworld and now heís a Professor of Comparative Linguistics at Oxford University. I think thatís all about writing fantasy, itís a strange kind of fantasy, that I write, it isnít kind of like the normal sort. It is that itís uni-age, you can enjoy it as an adult and you can enjoy it as a child, but I always make certain that the ones that are expressly childrenís books are written with kids in mind. ĎCause there is nothing worse than pretending that itís a childrenís book, but waving at mom and dad over the top of the page. That sometimes happens. If you get the Carnegie Medal for a childrenís book, which I got for the Amazing Morris and his Educated Rodents, there are childrenís librarians voting for that, and kids themselves and they know if itís a childrenís book or not.
Matthew Peterson: Thatís how my wife is, Ďcause I have 5 children. She can definitely see when a movie or a book is really kind of for the parents, and just tacking on the children as an after thought. . . I understand you were knighted just last year.
Terry Pratchett: First of all I got an OBE which is kind of a "knight-light".
Matthew Peterson: "Knight-light." OK. [laughs]
Terry Pratchett: Well itís something like that. Itís kind of an "order of merit" and then this spring I was knighted. I got a letter from the queen and you go off to Buckingham Palace and sheís quite a small lady now, Ďcause she is getting on. But she managed to uh . . .
Matthew Peterson: [Laughs] Did she get the sword?
Terry Pratchett: Sheís pretty swift with the sword, but sheís used to it now and she hardly ever chops anyoneís head off. And that was it . . . I mean . . . for "services to literature" and Iíve done charitable work and things like that. Kind of worries me, in the US, because people insist on calling me "sir".
Matthew Peterson: And I was wondering about that, is it "Sir Terry" or is it just Terry?
Terry Pratchett: No, I am Sir Terence Pratchett, because Terence is my baptismal name. But frankly, it doesnít really matter. What am I going to do? You know, come in here and chop peopleís heads off. No! When I got the OBE, people said, you know, youíre not much of a monarchist, so why accept it. And I said, "Best reason there could be! It makes my mum proud." And then the knighthood turned up. And I thought, Well, Sir Arthur C Clark, you see, he got a knighthood, and I thought, itís probably a good thing that a writer of fantasy and science fiction is honored, because it honors the genre itself. I think itís an important genre. Indeed fantasy is the oldest genre of them all. And perhaps itís a good thing that the genre, via myself, gets some recognition.
Matthew Peterson: Yeah. It gets, sometimes, a bad rap. People say, "I donít really write fantasy, I have fantasy in my book, but I donít actually write fantasy."
Terry Pratchett: Oh yes! Oh my word, yes. Yes, "itís magical realism you know." The trouble is . . . put it like this . . . if I set a book in Tombstone, around about the time of Wyatt Earp, and Iíd put in the Earps and the Clanceys and horses and cacti and silver mines, if I put in one lousy dragon, theyíd call it a fantasy book.
Matthew Peterson: [Laughs] Yeah.
Terry Pratchett: Well, but you know, it used to worry me a lot, but it just makes me smile a bit now.
Matthew Peterson: Yeah. I actually write fantasy. My first book came out last year. I was talking to Ginger Buchanan, who is one of the editors for ACE. And I told her it was a science fiction, and she said, "Itís a fantasy".
Terry Pratchett: Is it science fiction or fantasy?
Matthew Peterson: Itís a fantasy, with science fiction elements.
Terry Pratchett: I think it really works like thisóall fiction must, in some way, be fantasy. Science fiction, in my consideration, is that when you go passed the reasonably possible and predictable, then youíre probably in the field of fantasy and youíve left the field of science fiction behind. I must confess. Dr. Who and Star Trek worry me a little bit because there are too many things that you can do by using the modern equivalent of reversing the polarity. You can jargon your way out of problems.
Matthew Peterson: Just by reversing the polarity.
Terry Pratchett: Well, thatís what it used to be. Itís got a little bit more complex, but itís all good fun and itís all decent entertainment.
Matthew Peterson: And thatís why I like it.
Terry Pratchett: Yeah
Matthew Peterson: I mean thatís why so many people like it. I mean weíve got enough of normal life. [Laughs]
Terry Pratchett: Well, I mean, you consider a normal life, let me tell you young man, is a fantasy. Let me tell you why. Two miles down there youíll burn alive, two miles up there, youíll choke to death. You are living on a ball of rock, traveling through space at an imaginatively high speed. And you are protected by the effects of this by a tiny, tiny, tiny, little amount of effectively natural radiation shielding, which is in peril now, in any case. The sun is warming up a bit. We live in a world where, you know, with these things, and these things, and we go to the movies, and out there is a real universe and itís a very strange universe. We live in a science fiction universe now. We have done for a long time. Recently on a show in England, a celebrity said, "I hate all this space travel. What goodís space traveling ever done?" Well, think about your mobile phone. Think about the fact that now, no longer does any one need to be lost on this planet.
Matthew Peterson: GPS.
Terry Pratchett: Yeah. Think about the way we take for granted the news from another country on the other side of the world and we expect it to be delivered to us at the speed of light, and it is. We live in a science fiction universe. So you bloody well better get used to it.
Matthew Peterson: Thank you.
Read or Listen to the extra questions that didn't make it onto the live show.
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