“Through the fathomless deeps of space swims the star turtle Great A’Tuin, bearing on its back the four giant elephants who carry on their shoulders the mass of the Discworld. A tiny sun and moon spin around them, on a complicated orbit to induce seasons, so probably nowhere else in the multiverse is it necessary for an elephant to cock a leg to allow the sun to go past.” — Wyrd Sisters
Terry Pratchett was born in Buckinghamshire, England, in 1948. Whilst in his teens he had two short stories published — “The Hades Business,” in The Unfriendly Future (1965), edited by Tom Boardman Jr., and “Night Dweller,” in New Worlds magazine in November 1965. After school Pratchett moved into journalism “because it was indoor work with no heavy lifting” and later became Press Officer with the Central Electricity Generating board. His first novel, The Carpet People, about a group of small beings who live in a carpet and who must undertake a mammoth journey (across about three feet of carpet) when their own piece of carpet, was published in 1971.
He followed this with The Dark Side of the Sun (1976), a parody of the stories of Larry Niven and of space opera conventions, in which the heroine goes off in search of the Jokers, who were the creators of all sentient races in the universe; and with Strata (1981) where the heroine goes off in search of a mythical flat world created by the ancient race, the Spindle Kings.
But it was with the publication of The Colour of Magic in 1983 that Pratchett really captured the imagination of readers. It introduced us to Rincewind, a somewhat inept and cowardly wizard, and Twoflower, a tourist with a piece of luggage with a mind of its own. Their misadventures in this story and its sequel, The Light Fantastic (1986), took us on a guided tour of the bizarre and magical flat world of the Disc.
There are eight Discworld books to date: The Colour of Magic (1983), The Light Fantastic (1986), Equal Rites (1987), Mort (1987), Sourcery (1988), Wyrd Sisters (1988), Pyramids (1989), and Guards! Guards! (1989)
Equal Rites (1987), the third in the series, marked a change in the Discworld books, leaving behind Rincewind, Twoflower and the luggage to tell the story of a the seventh son of a seventh son who happens to be a daughter, but who sets off with the magic staff left to her by a dead wizard to go to the Unseen University to become the first female wizard in spite of the prejudices of all the wizards she encounters. The novel also introduces the witch, Granny Weatherwax, who returned in Wyrd Sisters. “The first two were gag books,” Pratchett says. “Equal Rites is where I found out that you can only go so far by running from gag situation to gag situation. From Equal Rites onwards I began to explore what I was doing. I think a lot of the readers that were attracted to the first two were a bit taken aback by Equal Rites. I think they liked it, but it wasn’t what they were expecting. It’s like when you slew drunkenly before you find your course. Equal Rites might be just too far off the centre-line, and Mort got back to it. I found out how you do it, I was beginning to learn. When I got to Mort, I think I got it just about right, I’d really hit my stride.”
Mort is perhaps the most popular of Pratchett’s books to date, but even Equal Rites has its fans:
“I had an interesting conversation with a guy who’s got several film deals floating around at the moment, and he said: I’d really like to do the special effect in Equal Rites where the staff comes the aid of Esk, near the start of the book, and beats up the wolves. And I said: Well, I’ve got news for you. There isn’t a special effect there. It’d be a very cheap special effect to do. And he said: But you see the staff do this… I said: No, you don’t see the staff do anything, that’s the whole point. What you see is the doors of the forge blown off, a cheap special effect; you hear the staff passing overhead — the swishing noise — and then you hear the wolves being beaten up. But the first time you see the staff, it is just standing there in the snow. That is what the special effect is, that it all takes place off stage. The guy said: Christ, yeah, that’d be cheap! And you would spoil it all if you could actually see the staff do anything.
“Equal Rites and Wyrd Sisters have quite a high feminine following, there’s almost a separate sort of fandom, perhaps because Equal Rites was on Woman’s Hour on BBC radio”
In Mort, Pratchett has a young boy, the Mort of the title, standing in the town square with the other boys, waiting to be picked by a craftsman to become his apprentice. But no one picks Mort, until Death turns up.
“I don’t know who could do it,” Pratchett says, “because it couldn’t be me, but you could rewrite Mort as a straight fantasy novel, without the gags. You’d have to change some of the background of the book, but you could do it. There is a story in Mort which stands up by itself, I think. A fantasy story apart from the humour. I liked the scene where Death first turns up: Mort has been so proud, and so humiliated, that he’s going to stand there until the stroke of midnight. I actually thought I must have read that, it was like a Bavarian folktale. It sounds right according to the traditions of story telling that it should happen like this. Probably it’s the Devil who turns up at midnight, but you know what I mean: it felt right.
“And the part where, gradually, a bit at a time, Mort becomes Death. I enjoyed doing that because I found it quite chilling. I think it was the bit where Albert is giving him a bit of backchat, and he turns round with the sword and for the first time actually speaks in hollow capitals.
“I enjoyed Mort because there were bits when I thought: Hey, wow! Even I was waiting for Mort to smash Death’s hour glass in the fight scene. And when nothing happened, I thought: Of course, that’s right, because there’s no sand — Death has no life, so he can’t be killed.
“Mort written simply because of the image of Mort seeing the last grain of sand of his life tumbling in slow motion, and I knew that Death would turn the hour glass over. And I thought, now I’ve got to write the book which makes it right to get to that bit, up to and including why Death should, for the first time, actually do something like that. And it’s because Mort is the only other person in the entire universe that can even begin to understand what it is like to be Death. And I suppose that even Death has got to be touched by a fact like that.”
Another author who used the character of Death in a series of fantasy stories was Piers Anthony in his Incarnations of Immortality series, which began with On a Pale Horse, a fact which was brought to Pratchett’s attention by his (then) UK editor: “After I’d written Mort, Malcolm Edwards at Gollancz said: You’d better read On a Pale Horse. So I read it, and he said what did I think, and I said: There isn’t a problem. It’s like Father Christmas. If anyone’s going to write a book about Father Christmas there are certain things which are common: you have to explain how he gets down all the chimneys, how the reindeers can fly… It’s the same with Death. Of course Death is the same, because I derive my humour by taking a fifteenth century view of death.
“But once you have said that, there is no similarity between taking an American and saying, basically, you are a human being and you have got to play the role of Death, and taking Death, who is Death.
“Much as I like some of Piers Anthony’s stuff, I don’t think On a Pale Horse worked. Because Death is not a man in a mask. Death is the ultimate end of things. Death really is a totally alien creature. Death is not funny, but he can appear to be funny. You can’t get away with gadgetry and things, Death is actually a force. Death is the second oldest character in the universe, and will be there at the end of it. From my point of view, you can’t mess with Death: for Death to be funny, there’s always got to be the uncomfortable knowledge that he’s Death for God’s sake! On a Pale Horse reminded me of the old Unlnown [magazine] stories of the forties and fifties — I don’t think it worked properly.
“I can trace the origins of my own version of Death to to images which helped me put my thoughts in order. One of them was the Prophet’s Song, by Queen which, if you listen to it, has one line: I dreamt of Death as a bone white haze / Taking the love to the unloved babe. And it stuck in my mind. The other one was the Blue Oyster Cult album Don’t Fear the Reaper, which has actually got a pretty good Death, on a horse, on the front of it. The actual song hasn’t got much in it for me, it’s all sex and hasn’t got anything to do with Death.” He grins.
And will the character of Death return to Discworld?
“Death never goes away!” He grins. “I thought it would be very difficult to think of another story where Death has a very big role, but a fan wrote to me, and without knowing it gave me another idea for a Death book. I will probably have to keep her address and send her a huge bouquet. I could suddenly see where Death fits in. In fact, it was a good week: I also worked out the name of the fifth Rider of the Apocalypse — it took me a long time, and I thought of the name before and it didn’t sound right, but now I’ve realised why it is the ideal name.”
Are there any other characters Pratchett would like to see return? Apparently the Luggage has been trying to make a return for some time now…
“This is a little known fact: I tried to put the Luggage in Equal Rites, and it wouldn’t go, because the staff was occupying what you might call the Luggage’s slot. The staff doesn’t do anything, it is menacing. There’s nothing very nice about the staff.
“Then I tried to put the Luggage in Mort. In fact, Mort owned the Luggage, because it seemed logical that when he’s going off his dad buys him this old case… and it wouldn’t work. Because in Mort, Mort had to be alone. Mort had to have certain things happen to him, and he couldn’t have the Luggage around, because the Luggage is sort of there to back you up. Mort had to be alone.”
“I wrote Sourcery because I was pissed off with this: the Luggage tried to get in the last two books and couldn’t. This time the Luggage was going to be there from page one!”
The Luggage is perhaps one of Pratchett’s most remarkable creations: a large brass-bound chest with hundreds of little legs which carry it about after its master, and the habit of eating people who try and open it without permission or who threaten its owner; where the Luggage’s victims go remains a mystery, since the next time it opens its lid it is filled only with clean underwear and biscuits wrapped in greaseproof paper. The wizard Rincewind also makes a reappearance in Sourcery, and is “the reluctant owner of the Luggage, which often goes off and does its own thing. The thing is that people know that the Luggage has got to win. There is a whole sequence in Sourcery where the Luggage is lost and drunk and is finding its way back across the desert, and in the desert there are various things like basilisks and such, and all you see is each one waiting to pounce on the Luggage, or swoop on it, or burn it — the basilisk actually tries to out-stare it — you never see what happens to them next, but the Luggage reappears later and has more and more fragments sticking to it and teeth stuck in it. You know the Luggage has got to win.
“That’s why I liked the fight in The Light Fantastic between Cohen the Barbarian and the luggage, where he’s trying to get the luggage open!”
Cohen the Barbarian? He’s an octogenarian hero who allows Pratchett to parody the fact that in some of the Conan stories “he is eighty and he’s still hacking people down with a sword.”
“There will be another Rincewind and Luggage book,” Pratchett says. “And possibly even, although he’s moved on a bit, another Twoflower book. The reason I’ve kept away from doing lots of Rincewind books, which commercially would be a success, is that for a book to work, not just as a gag book, the people at the end have got to be different people than they were at the start.
“You can’t do book after book about people running away and being frightened. But having learned a bit about Rincewind and having written these other books, I now know where he’s going to end up. So there will be another Rincewind book.
“There are other characters. I’d say this to groups that I went to talk to: ‘You want me to do another Rincewinf book?’ And they’d all say, ‘Yeah!’ And then I’d say, ‘But you liked Mort?’ ‘Yeah!’ So that’s it: if you let me do my stuff, there’s quite a good chance that I’ll come up with other characters, like You Bastard, the camel in Pyramids, who you like as much as Rincewind and Luggage.
“But I’ve got to admit, the Luggage was a bloody fantastic idea! I don’t know where the hell it came from, but…”
“I’m doing a series of children’s books at the moment,” Pratchett says. This is not an entirely new thing for him: his first book, The Carpet People, was a children’s book, which Pratchett illustrated himself: “I quite enjoyed doing the illustrations, because most of them showed the people as being very, very small, because the Carpet People are microscopic, so most of the things showed giant structures with little dots… It’s basically the story of their great trek across about three foot of carpet. Because their bit has got frayed. And it takes, in their time scale, months and months. It will be brought out by Corgi. But because it was more than twenty years ago that I wrote it, we’re bunging a copy through an optical character-recognition thing at a university, so that way they can give me it back as an ASCII file on disc and I can rewrite it. Because if I’d had the idea now, I’d have done it a lot better. So I’m going to put in a fortnight’s work on it. It won’t actually be a different book, but it will be a book I’m happier about producing. I think every author gets used to his juvenilia getting republished, it’s still fair game… but I shall go through it, and if there’s anything in it that makes me wince, then it’ll get changed. Word processors mean that words are more mutable than they used to be.
The more recent series, which began with Truckers, tells the story of a group of four inch-high Nomes who live under the floorboards of a large department store who have never set foot in the outside world, until the day they discover that the store is going to be demolished. The first step in their epic quest begins when they decide to hijack a truck.
“The series title in my notebooks is ‘The Bromeliad.’ The Bromeliad are giant flowers, and the most famous of the Bromeliads are the ones which grow very, very high up in trees in certain South American rainforests. When I was about eight or nine, I read that in certain rainforests, high up in the mountains, there are these trees three or four hundred feet high, and in the tops of these trees are flowers which don’t grow on the ground, just up in the branches of other plants. And in these giant flowers, the rain forms pools, and there is a type of frog which lays its eggs in the pools, in the flowers, and the tadpoles hatch, and they live their life in the flower, and that is their world. And I’ve always had a kind of fascination with worlds which are cupped within worlds.
“The reason I’ve called the children’s book series ‘The Bromeliad’ is because the characters in it think they’ve got out of their little enclosed world into a bigger world, and they find that even that, when they get away from it, is a little enclosed world.
“My first real sense of wonder was that there are these frogs whose world was a flower, and they obviously could not know there was anything else. And real science fiction, it would seem to me, would be how the frogs actually found their way to the next flower. That was a sort of image which struck with me, and that’s what made me try hard to quit the day job. Because I’d sit there, filling in vast expense sheets for things at work, and I thought: In the South America rain forests are these tadpoles… so why the **** am I sitting here doing this, for chrissakes? You suddenly realise that the world is much more exciting than you ever dreamed, and you’re spending all this time turning your mind to best cheddar.”
Pratchett has also collaborated with Neil Gaiman, writer of the graphic novels Violent Cases and Black Orchid, on a new fantasy / horror novel called Good Omens, which is about Armageddon. In it Crowley is a fallen angel and his best friend is Aziraphale, a member of the heavenly host, and the two of them are more inclined towards leisurely afternoon teas than to fire and brimstone, so when the Antichrist is born they meddle with the Grand Plan to keep him from causing too much trouble and upsetting their social life.
“The angel in charge of South-West England and the demon in charge of the same area are old friends: it’s a bit like Smiley’s People, where they get on with each other better than they get on with their superiors, and they meet for lunch,” Pratchett explains.
During the writing of the book it seems that Pratchett himself was subject to a little supernatural help.
“I often work with the television on, and on three occasions now something has come up on the box at exactly the right time, when something’s going through my mind. To an uncanny extent.
“I was doing a bit where a demon is trying to explain to his superiors in Hell that they might as well give up: human beings have made Earth much worse than Hell was ever capable of doing; that human beings are both capable of being much better than heaven could ever hope for them to be, and much worse than hell ever dreamt of, and that both sides may as well give up the whole tempting and blessing bit, because humans are better at it all.
“And The Tempest was on, and just as I got to that bit, someone on the box said: Hell is empty and all the devils are here.” Pratchett draws back with a stunned expression of mock horror, then shrugs. “Weird!… But I thought, this is working. God is sending me messages!”
Pratchett is happy with the way Good Omens turned out: “I’m very pleased with it because the spin-off from it will be very good for my other writing in that I’ve had to explore different types of idea, and I’ve demonstrated to myself that I can write outside of Discworld. I’ve been doing a few more short stories for the same reason. So I don’t have write about Discworld. In fact there are lots of areas I’d like to tackle which you cannot do within Discworld; for which even something as flexible as Discworld can’t be stretched to fit.”
But that does not mean that Pratchett is even considering leaving the Discworld behind.
“I will say that there is no real continuity in the Discworld books, the Disc is there as a kind of stamp to say: Hey, guys, here is a book with the same sort of approach and humour as other books you’ve read by the same author. It’s a series but not a serial. In Guards! Guards! the turtle doesn’t turn up until the end. I kept thinking: Aha! I bet they’re all wondering where the turtle’s got to. Because very few of the Discworld books actually rely on the fact that it is on that kind of astronomical world. It’s a kind of little rubber stamp that goes on the cover.”
Is Pratchett content to remain a writer of humorous novels?
“What people have seen is Terry Pratchett’s style, which is pretty much how Terry Pratchett goes through life. I don’t know whether it’s humour, but it’s a certain way of looking at the world. I think the kind of style that people have seen is my basic style; I don’t think I can write very well in any other way. I can bring in a certain amount of horror; I do find that I can write horrific things quite easily now, I’ve been experimenting with it…
“When I was doing the children’s books, I asked the children’s editor what major changes I should make to my style, and she said: It’s fine, just don’t put in any explicit sex. And I thought: That’s okay, because I’m no good at explicit sex anyway!”
Sex isn’t funny, anyway, is it?
“On the contrary, it’s hilarious… it’s the leading up to it that’s funny. In Mort, for example, I keep referring to the ‘sex scenes’, and somebody who was interviewing me said: But there aren’t any sex scenes in Mort. And I said: No, but that’s what’s funny! You see two young people who, are terribly embarrassed in each other’s presence, which was about 90% of sex when I was kid! That’s what it was all about: being horribly tongue-tied and embarrassed the whole time.”
On the subject of humour, Pratchett is keen to point out that he is not making fun of fantasy fiction, even though he does admit to attacking some of its conventions.
“I want to get away from the idea that I’m automatically sending fantasy up. What I’m concerned about now is sending up ideas, ways of looking at the world, people’s expectations. I’ve done this, for example, in Guards! Guards! We know — is built into our very understanding of the narrative universe — that if it is a million-to-one chance that might just work, it will work. Because no one’s ever heard of a million-to-one-chance that just might work not working. In other words, a million-to-one-chance is a certainty. It’s a cliché that we accept. We accept it from James Bond and from Bilbo Baggins.
“If you actually show someone a million-to-one-chance that doesn’t work and leaves the hero in a worse position, that is funny. Not because it is a joke, but because you’ve turned people’s expectations around.”
In Britain, many critics compared Pratchett’s style of humour to that of Douglas Adams, creator of The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, to such an extent that the comparison seemed to appear in every review, interview or article concerned with the Discworld stories. It is something which Pratchett has come to terms with.
“I do get mildly pissed off with the: What do you think of Douglas Adams? type of question,” he admits. “You think: God, have I written nothing for the last three years? Perhaps that accusation is true up to Light Fantastic, but it is only the style of humour that is similar, and the people who make that kind of accusation obviously aren’t aware that there’s a whole tradition of that kind of humour. That kind of humour has been around a hell of a long time. So I think it’s a silly thing to say. Certainly from Equal Rites onwards, I think I began to explore what I was doing, and I now feel a lot happier with the work. From <em>Mort</em> I had a full certainty that I knew what I was doing.
Theme and Variations
Pratchett has said that he is not in the business of telling stories with messages. If pushed, he will admit that there is something that he feels strongly about and that finds its way into his fiction.
“There is only one, that occasionally surfaces if you know where you’re looking. It’s a feeling I get periodically… Because I’m registered for VAT [a UK sales tax] I get little documents, and there was one about the VAT payments on different types of salt. There was a half a page about how dendritic salt is standard rated and sea salt, even without so-and-so, is… and it went on and on. And I thought: Someone wrote this. Someone believes it is important. I am looking into the mouth of Hell. When you actually see people referred to as ‘personnel’, rather than people, I can hear Satan’s tale dragged across the cobbles.
“That kind of thing is the mental equivalent of the iron maiden and the choke pear, it’s what’s actually used to turn the human brain into cheese. I am absolutely horrified by that kind of thinking, the kind of thinking that actually believes that that kind of thing is important. Not important in its circumstances, or important for certain reasons, but actually an important thing for its own sake. I spent eight years in an office environment, amongst some nice people, but there were certain elements in it that poisoned the soul.”
Elsewhere Pratchett described his feelings more simply: “Everything would be a whole lot better if everyone would just shut up and act sensibly for once.” An attitude which certainly makes itself known throughout the Discworld series.
Wyrd Sisters tells of three witches (including Granny Weatherwax from Equal Rites) who come to the aid of a child who is heir to the throne of Lancre following the murder of his father. They hide the child with a band of actors, until he is old enough to take the throne from the usurper. The story blends elements from Macbeth, Hamlet and classic fairy tales, and bends the rules to give a unique Discworld twist to the whole thing.
“I’d love to do another Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Og book, because that’s like writing for the Marx Brothers. You’ve only got to put them there, and youknow it’s going to be funny!”
Asked how long he plans the series to continue, Pratchett says: “I don’t know. I’ve said before that if I never have another idea, I can write four or five Discworld books, because I’ve got plenty of stuff accumulated. All I need is enough stuff, and I think: Right, now’s the time to write a Discworld book with it. And often, the book I end up writing isn’t the book I thought I was going to write. Discworld books don’t hold any problems for me: Show me the idea and… I know how to treat things.”
“Pyramids is about the workings of a proper Assassin’s Guild, and it is also a chance to look at a Discworld equivalent of an early Egyptian civilization, so there’s lots of mummy gags, pyramid gags, desert gags… One of the main characters dies very near the beginning of the proceedings, and still takes a very active role, because on the Discworld being dead doesn’t mean you’re taken out of the game. People who have read it say it has got its dark side, but I don’t actually see it myself… I enjoyed writing it as much as I have ever enjoyed writing a Discworld book.”
“Guards! Guards! is a Bogart-Bacall move set in Ankh-Morpork,” Pratchett says of his latest book. “It’s also a chance for me to show my sympathy for those poor sods who, whenever anyone in a film or book shouts ‘Guards! Guards!,’ rush on and get slaughtered! This is their story.
“The plot concerns a dragon. An invincible dragon that will burn your head off.” He grins, indicating that this is not one of those romantic dragons of Pern. “I’m not against nice dragons, I quite like the idea. But if we’re going to have nice dragons, we ought to remind ourselves occasionally that for most of the time in North-Western Europe, the belief in dragons has gone hand-in-hand with the belief that dragons are cunning bastards.
“And the story’s about how the citizens of Ankh-Morpork, unable to beat the dragon, and having other concerns of their own, actually come to believe that it’s a good thing. That it’s their idea that they should have a dragon ruling them. After all, you have to sacrifice a virgin to it every month, but that’s nothing compared to what you have to do for some rulers!
“It’s my belief that people can get themselves into a position — perfectly innocent, ordinary people — where they’ll be under the claw of a dragon, but will actively, without the dragon prompting them, endeavour to kill the hero who comes along to rid them of the dragon.”
Any similarity between this situation and the current situation in Britain is coincidental.
“It is true that one of the incipient opposition movements does have the slogan: The People United will Never be Ignited! But having said that, I wasn’t attempting to do a modern political parable. I came up with that slogan simply because I thought it was funny, and would strike a resonance with British readers. If I was thinking of political parables, it goes rather further back than Mrs. Thatcher’s Britain, and I think you will probably see echoes of 1920s and ’30s Germany.
“But what the heck? I wasn’t thinking like this, I was looking for the kind of plot which would enable me to do the kind of thing I like doing.”
Publishing in America (and Further Afield)
Pratchett’s children’s book, Truckers, will be published on both sides of the Atlantic, and writing it has highlighted some of the differences that writer’s must take into account.
“I got together with the American editor, I found there were so many gags that just wouldn’t work in the States, so I had to come up with a whole new load of gags that would work. So for the second book in the series, I’m actually doing two manuscripts: the British one and the American one. Let me give you an example: These are children’s books, remember… One of the gags in the British one is a sort of pun around the idea of ’roundabout’, meaning the big traffic island, and meaning the thing at the fair. Now, in America they don’t have roundabouts, and if they do they call them traffic rotaries; and the thing at the fair is a carousel. So you can’t do it. Over here the words ‘street’ and ‘road’ are, for a greater part of the time, interchangeable. In the States, a street is quite definitely an urban road; and a road is quite definitely out in the country. Over here even an eight-year-old child knows what a JCB is. Not in America. We had to sort out all the little things. You’d never go through and retype something, but it’s perfectly okay to go through it on a word processor armed with some hints and tips from your American editor.”
Use of language isn’t the only difference between the two markets:
“I recently analysed the sales of Discworld books in this country: by and large, Colour of Magic sells as well now as it did, say, three or four months after publication. All of my books have a peak sale right at the start, then they settle down. And every time a new book comes out, all the sales of the other ones will peak briefly, because that’s new fans catching up on ones they haven’t bought yet, and so it continues. And Corgi are very happy about that! This is great, and this works over here. Now in the States they don’t work like that. Stuff gets published, it goes on the book stalls for three minutes, and then it’s taken off and new ones come along.”
That pretty much hamstrings a series like Discworld, doesn’t it?
“It does, until they realise it is a series and make sure they’re all available. This is happening now with Mort. There is now a readership out there for the ones ahead of Mort.”
While the popularity of the Discworld books continues to grow on both sides of the Atlantic, and in Australia — “You have a smaller population in Australia, so you don’t have to sell anywhere like as many books. Selling fourteen or fifteen thousand books over there is like selling sixty thousand over here.” — Pratchett is also seeing the books take on a bizarre life of their own as they appear in other countries and other languages.
“I paid £500 Japanese income tax this year as well. And no bugger will tell me what obligations the Japanese government now has to me. If I become unemployed or retire, do I have a bag of rice crackers every week? I think I can get it back, but they stop ten percent of your payment.
“There’s a lady in Spain who’s translating them as well. But what she’s trying to do, she says, is work out what the Spanish equivalent of the gag would be. The guy who’s trying to translate them into Polish, according to a friend of mine who met him at a con, looked at the puns in Colour of Magic, went off for a while and came back and said: You know, I don’t even think you can think that in Polish!”
Despite the popularity of his books across the world, Pratchett understands that they’re not to everyone’s taste:
“One American writer said to me: Your books will never sell in America because you can’t hear the elves sing. Americans, he said, go in for fantasy books where you can hear the elves sing. I’d like that put on my gravestone, I think: At least you can say that in his books, the bloody elves never sung!”
Portions of this interview were published in Starlog and Starburst magazines.