To launch his 39th Discworld novel “Snuff” Sir Terry Pratchett gave a lecture at The National Press Club in Washington D.C. and I was lucky enough to be there. Not only that, but I was lucky enough to be one of 100 guests who were invited to an exclusive “meet Sir Terry Pratchett” session after the main event! I could barely contain my excitement.
Click on to read more about the lecture below the fold!
The event started with Sir Terry and his assistant Rob Wilkins taking the stage, discussing Snuff, and Rob entertaining us with a short reading from the novel. They then started the interview by asking a couple of introductory questions. The first of which being “Where do you get your ideas?”
Sir Terry spoke of how the goddess of writers had always given him the right idea at just the right moment. For example when writing The Thief of Time he knew he would have the 5th horseman of the apocalypse be working as a milkman, and had already decided on the name Ronnie Soak, but he had not decided who the 5th horseman really was. When writing about Lobsang seeing Ronnie Soak reflected in an undertaker’s window he suddenly realised that Soak backwards became kaoS, and chaos was the start and end of time. The goddess had provided the answer in the character himself! This good luck was celebrated as many of the celebrations experienced by Terry and Rob were by dancing round the office.
Then he asked what were the Top 3moments this year? To which Terry quickly added a 4th!
- #4 – Going to what sounds to the audience like “Hump Tulips”, but is actually the location of Humptulips, because it has such a strange name, like Paris, Texas.
- #3 – Visiting the real Hobbiton in New Zealand. Sir Terry points out that Hobbits must be very unique creatures, as they had no indoor plumbing whatsoever and no outhouses either, leading to the question” how do they take a sh**?” He explained how one of the best things about being an international science fiction and fantasy legend is that you get “special” tours at places like this. His assistant Rob then explained in an embarrassed way how he’d been asked by the production crew to sign a $5million waiver ensuring none of his “holiday photos” would be shared anywhere as he’d been photographing everything that could be photographed!
- #2 – Visiting Matamata, again in New Zealand. Sir Terry makes the obvious joke “What does the name mean? Nobody knew, it doesn’t Mata!”. Terry and Rob then proceeded to explain how they had apparently fallen into this Twilight zone like town of perfect stereotypical 50s perfection, with a milk bar, a barbers (where Terry got his haircut) and even a scissor shop (for when Terry asked Rob to get him a pair of scissors).
- #1. The night prior to this lecture event they had been up in New York, and had “Occupied Wall Street” with the protestors. They had walked through the camp, and had visited the library within the camp which stocked several of Sir Terry’s novels, and where he was recognised and an impromptu reading took place.
The floor was then opened to questions from the audience, and I know I can’t remember all of them, but the highlights were:
- Do you watch Dr Who? Sir Terry explained that he’d watched the very first ever episode of Dr Who, and then went on to speak about how the BBC had had to air the first episode twice due to popular demand before showing the second episode. He spoke about how he had enjoyed recently the David Tennant interpretation of the Dr as Tennant was in Sir TErry’s opinion an excellent actor, and so when he portrayed the Dr feeling pain or anger you actually felt it. He then went on to state that he had not been impressed with the most recent incarnation of the Dr as he felt there were now too many regular characters making too many knots in the fabric of time. He also disliked how the sonic screw driver had become a magical solution to everything (“apart from silencing Karen Gillan” which raised a shocked “Oh!” from the audience) , whereas he explained how he never lets a problem be resolved by “magic” as it isn’t believable!
- Will there be another Tiffany Aching novel? Probably not, as the four so far had seen her grow into an adult, and so any subsequent book would not be a children’s book like the earlier ones. That being said Sir Terry explained he feels his books are written more or less for all audiences all of the time anyway.
- A woman dressed as Nanny Ogg delivered some home made treats in a basket, and a glass of something which Rob bravely tasted and said would put hairs on a variety of places!
- Where did he think up the name “Moist Von Lipwig“? Sir Terry spoke about how he’d wanted a conman, a lovable rogue, but had also wanted to give them a reason for being that way, and decided that as a man, to have to introduce yourself to everybody as “Hello I’m Moist” would definitely leave you with rapidly acquired and extensive social skills! He also thought that Moist was very well portrayed in the film made for television Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal [available on Blu-ray].
- Favourite character or book? All of them, they all contain things he enjoyed or had taken pleasure in their creation.
- Will you write another book with Neil Gaiman? Probably not, as they’re not sure what they’d write together. He then explained how Good Omens had come about with Neil sending him the first 20 pages of this titleless book, and Terry then saying he wasn’t sure what to call it, but knew what happened next. The manuscript then passing slowly between them (as this was before highspeed internets) untilit was done.
- How does he cope with self-deprecation? (An abridged version of the last asked question which came from an artistic woman sat in the front row who had been frantically rocking herself as it began to look like her question wouldn’t get asked) Sir Terry spoke about his childhood, and how he was the quintessential only child. He spoke of his time in school, and how he disliked it, how he’d taken a part time unpaid job in a library as a “Saturday boy” to feed his hunger for books, how he’d left highschool before completing it and gone to work as a journalist, and how “as a hack”he found himself rpeating the book writing experience after the success of the first book, and here he was.
There was also some hints that exciting new things are ahead:
- Both Sir Terry and Rob mentioned he was working on two books, one of which was an idea he’d had before writing The Colour of Magic, but had put on one side because of the first Discworld novels success.
- They had met recently with a director/producer in London, and contrary to the rumours online it had nothing to do with Dr Who, in fact it had been with Jeffrey Katzenberg the CEO of Dreamworks.
So there is lots to look forward to!
The Book Signing
Due to Sir Terry’s condition there was not an actual live signing at the event in the normal sense. However, for everyone who had ordered a copy of the novel from the event there was a book plate which had been signed earlier by Terry Pratchett, and a stap on the title page saying that the book was from the launch at The National Press Club.
Then the first 100 people to order tickets for the event were ushered out a different exit, into a line for a “book stamping” and opportunity to meet Terry Pratchett himself, one to one. The stamps are two unique images, specific to Sir Terry, which are used when he is not able to sign personally, but he stood throughout this, and posed for photographs and a few words with every one of the 100 guests! As you can see in the photograph at the start of this article, I was exceptionally honoured to get to share a few words and be photographed with one of my favourite authors. A truly inspirational night, and I am still grinning and in giddy fan shock this morning!
…and what did I say to them? Well Rob had spoken to the American in front of me with his best fake American accent, so I mentioned how no accents were needed as I understood English. We talked briefly about life in America, Stratford-upon-Avon, and I congratulated him on a wonderful evening and wished them all the best for the rest of the tour. To Sir Terry, I thanked him for entertaining me since The first novel in the early eighties, and told him how he’d always made me smile through his writing. He thanked me for coming, and for my kind words, and teased me that the flash on my camera hadn’t worked the first time, meaning we’d held up the line. I wished him the best for the future, and a safe journey home, and he thanked me, smiled, and moved on to the next guest.