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Secrets of the Wee Free Men and Discworld: The Myths and Legends of Terry Pratchett's Multiverseby Linda Washington
Novelist Patrick Rothfuss, when asked “Who do you read?”, replied, “Terry Pratchett. He doesn’t get enough credit for the superbly believable world he’s created. It’s internally consistent, well constructed, and his characters behave realistically.”2 Whether you agree with those words or wonder whether Pratchett would agree, one thing is for certain: The influence of Terry Pratchett in the literary world is obvious. If you don’t believe that, check out the science fiction/fantasy section at your local bookstore or library.
For a long time, Terry Pratchett was pretty lonely at the very top of the British literary food chain—at least until the arrival of a certain author by the name of J. K. Rowling. But with well over fifty million books sold (as of February 2007, according to Wikipedia, the site that seems to know all), Pratchett is still an international phenomenon and a consistent best seller. His brainchild, as if you didn’t know, is the Discworld series, thirty-six books (as of the writing of this book and excluding Where’s My Cow? and the Nanny Ogg Cookbook) strong, and still going like the Energizer bunny. Although this series began as parodies of other works such as Ringworld, Macbeth, and The Arabian Nights, it defies all pigeonholes. Is it science fiction? Fantasy? Mystery? Political intrigue? Romance? (Uh, no to the latter.) It is, to use a phrase often heard on Monty Python, something completely different.
If you’ve been tempted, like many others, to avoid or underestimate the Discworld series because of its parodies and humor, maybe after reading this, you’ll reconsider.
Readers of the Discworld Books
Okay, so one of the authors of this book (Carrie) is keenly aware that her parents were born the same year as Terry Pratchett was and that she was born the same year as Pratchett’s daughter, Rhianna, which in some way creates a connection with the author in a strange, paternal way. (The other author, Linda, has absolutely no comment to make about birthdays.) She is also aware that her parents would never open a Terry Pratchett book, especially not a Discworld book.
So who does read Terry Pratchett? His loyal followers range from nuns (unlike the satanic nuns in Good Omens) to the new generation digging into The Wee Free Men and Wintersmith. Pratchett’s audience is hard to fit into a box. Young, somewhat old, Trekkers, Lord of the Rings buffs, Harry Potter fans, our strange friend who loves The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie that made me (Carrie) fall asleep, hobbits, maybe a teacher or two, and fools. We were even lucky enough to find a Web site giving Christians advice on which Pratchett books were good and which were dangerous.3 Honestly, it is difficult to really pinpoint what makes a person willing to read Pratchett. Usually the result is to get hooked on the series. Then, of course, the individual tries to read the books quicker than Pratchett writes them (a quite difficult task)!
Discworld is so well received, or at least read, by so many people, because Pratchett is able to make us laugh about everything. He may offend us in one paragraph and then cause us to have a laughing fit in the next, which washes away the initial offense. It is typical for the laughing fit to delay one’s reading for many minutes and can be the cause of interesting looks from one’s spouse.4 If you’re anything like us, it will be almost impossible to explain to onlookers what was so funny that you fell off the couch and rolled around in hysterics. I have found it is best to not try and explain, especially if it was due to reading Nanny Ogg’s Cookbook. Oh, and certainly do not try to explain Unseen University’s orangutan Librarian.
Someone (perhaps you?) is obviously buying millions of copies of Pratchett’s books. If it is not you, we are not quite sure why you picked up this book unless you are Linda’s dad or my grandma.
Terry Pratchett in Brief
Terence David John Pratchett was born in 19485 and, according to himself, he is still alive.6 Therefore, if he were an American, he would be considered a baby boomer, which entitles him to our attention. He began his writing career at the age of thirteen, when his short story “The Hades Business” was published in the school magazine; it was sold to a commercially published magazine when he was fifteen. After leaving school in 1965, he became a journalist with the Bucks Free Press and later with the Western Daily Press and The Bath Chronicle.
While between stints at the Bucks Free Press, he published his first novel, The Carpet People (1971). He began writing it at the age of seventeen. This was followed by The Dark Side of the Sun (1976).
His novel Strata (1981) is considered to be the forerunner of Discworld. While he was working as a publicity officer for the Central Electricity Generating Board, he published his first Discworld book, The Color of Magic (1983).
We could tell you that he’s written well over fifty books, including young adult novels like The Bromeliad Trilogy (Truckers, Diggers, and Wings), the Johnny Maxwell books (Only You Can Save Mankind, Johnny and the Dead, and Johnny and the Bomb), and children’s books such as The Unadulterated Cat and Where’s My Cow? But you probably already knew that.
Why Write a Book on Discworld?
Call us crazy, but we really like Pratchett’s books and are dying to tell you why—hence this book. Collectively, we have read and studied all of Pratchett’s Discworld books—except for Making Money (October 2007). Our deadline didn’t coincide with that one. It is very difficult to read faster than Pratchett writes. By the time our book is published, the prolific writer will probably have at least two more books out. And by the time you find time to read this book, many more titles in the Discworld series will be lining the local bookstores and landing their way on Top Ten readers’ lists.
Does writing a book on Discworld make us experts on Pratchett? Hardly. We aren’t privy to deep, dark wisdom from Terry and his family, nor did we snoop through his garbage like crazed paparazzi (though we wanted to). Although this book doesn’t contain every person, every street, every place, or every event, it does explore some of the mythological, scientific, and pop culture building blocks that correlate with Discworld. If you know and love this series, we hope we inspire you to look at it in a fresh way. If you’ve never read any of the Discworld books, maybe you’ll take a chance. Go on. We dare you . . . right after you read this book.
Well, let’s get on with it, shall we?
Copyright © 2008 by Carrie Pyykkonen and Linda Washington. All rights reserved.
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