PRATCHETT IN AMERICA: A Survey

Written for the First North American Discworld Convention's Program Book,
2009, where it appeared without the footnotes.

 

On February 18, 2009, Terry Pratchett knelt before Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in Buckingham Palace and was invested a knight of the realm, a Knight Bachelor – Sir Terry Pratchett. His appointment – ‘for services to literature’ – was announced in the 2009 New Year’s Honours List.  Earlier that month, on February 4 and 11, BBC2 transmitted the two-program documentary ‘Living with Alzheimer’s’, which had taken up much more of his time than expected the previous summer. Another event, of considerable importance for Sir Terry in a different way, occurred in Washington DC  that week: Discworld® was registered as an American Trademark. It had taken nearly twenty years from our first attempt to register it and it’s a great relief that we finally succeeded. But let me backtrack forty years, to 1969, and give some extracts from hitherto unpublished letters Terry wrote to me 1969-75.[1]

A young reporter from the Bucks Free Press by name Terry Pratchett had first come across this small Gerrards Cross publisher in May 1968 when he came to interview my colleague Peter Bander van Duren about Looking Forward to the Seventies, a collection of essays on the future of education in Britain that he’d edited and we were publishing. It was on this occasion or a day soon after, that he came to visit carrying the first draft of The Carpet People, which he’d written a couple of years earlier, when he was seventeen. Of course we agreed to publish it – it was far too good and original for us not to recognise that Terry would have a successful writing career (but just how successful we could not guess) – and Colin Smythe Ltd’s contract with him for the book is dated January 7, 1969. By September we were thinking of using Terry’s drawing talents to illustrate the book. Terry wrote

Re Carpet People ‘a la Asterix’ – a good idea. But I do not think I should illustrate this story; I could dream up another. I think the Carpet People could adapt to strip form.

Knowing the quality of his illustrations we nevertheless asked him to produce a number for the book, and these were drawn over the next couple of years, into 1971, and the book was sent off to the printers, Garden City Press, for typesetting, printing and binding. When the finished books arrived we discovered to our horror that the illustration of the hymetors on page 34 had been printed upside down – even though correct in the proofs – so the books had to be returned to the printers and a corrected page printed and tipped in. A new method of protecting the surface of dust-jackets – Duraseal – was enjoying some popularity at the time, and I decided to try it out on this book. We published The Carpet People on November 15, 1971 at £1.90, with a launch party at Heal’s, one of London’s leading furniture department stores, and there was even a special cocktail created for the event called Essence of Underlay. Unfortunately, the recipe is now lost, though I remember it certainly contained cherry brandy and gin. Later, Terry agreed to hand-colour the illustrations in a very few copies – I don’t think more than six – reproductions of which can be found at http://www.ie.lspace.org/art/carpet-people/

            We sold German rights at the Frankfurt Book Fair to Verlag Sauerländer, who used their own artist, Jörg Müller, to illustrate it. The Dutch publisher A.W. Sijthoffs signed a contract, but their edition never appeared. While we had other publishers interested, none actually bought translation rights; we had a nibble from Disney, but nothing came of it. At that time we were distributing the books of a Canadian firm, Palm Publishers, of Montreal, and they distributed some of our titles, including The Carpet People, to which they added their own label. I do not think they bought more than 100 copies, at most.

Terry and I discussed the possibility of a second Carpet People book, and we even signed a contract for a sequel, but in one undated letter, he wrote to me:

Over the weekend I have been working on the outline for a second Carpet book. The problem is this: it has been suggested to me, by a friend who was in at the genesis of the Carpet People, that one book is enough.

He puts his case thus,

a, a second book would probably be as intrinsically good as the first. b, it would, however, look as though the convenient background was being exploited. c, a second book would somehow take away the mystery of the Carpet.

The plan for the second book includes no characters from the first.

What do you think? My friend sums up his argument by saying that a writer should not exploit a landscape and universe invented for one book in another, unless the second book is deeply bound up with the first. That escape clause excuses Garner, Lewis and certainly Tolkien.

Having considered all this I’m still planning to go ahead, but I would be interested to hear your view on sequels. And whether a second Carpet book would be a good idea.

I do not remember how I replied, but Terry evidently decided against the idea, and started to write The Dark Side of the Sun, the first novel also to get published in the US. By mid 1973, Terry was well into the third draft – as he wrote on August 31,

Well now, the third draft has been heavily re-written – remember all those loose ends I blithely said I’d tie up in the last draft? – and the plot has been subject to tinkering. At my present rate, since I’m on holiday, I’m turning over 3,000 words of finished copy a day. I estimated last night that I had another 15,000-20,000 words to go. Allowing for the fact that I’ll be working next week and will anyway have to go through the wretched thing to correct.

When it was finished I took it with me to the 1974 Frankfurt Book Fair and held readings of extracts for a number of publishers,[2] and on the basis of this I got the interest of Leslie Pockell, an editor at St Martin’s Press, and it was published on May 15, 1976 in the UK and some months later in the US, St Martin’s taking 1,525 copies of our edition with their imprint. Both editions had Terry’s design on the jacket.

            In November Terry reported that

Work on the second draft of the book proceeds apace, but by the look of the MS you’d better wait until I’ve done a neat final draft before seeing it! 

This book was Strata, the first novel to show Terry’s fascination with flat worlds in space – the action of The Carpet People certainly took place on a flat, self-contained world, but it was firmly placed on solid ground – and this was published on June 15, 1981, with St Martin’s Press taking 2,000 copies of our printing with their imprint. They subsequently reprinted it, and it was also issued as a (Doubleday) Science Fiction Book Club edition, and was the first of Terry’s books to be published in paperback, in March 1983 by Signet, an imprint of New American Library. As a cost-saver, I’d arranged with Terry’s UK paperback publisher, New English Library, to commission a Tim White illustration early so it could be used on both the hardcover and paperback editions, and this appeared on the St Martin’s Press edition as well.

Terry had discussed with me whether a collection of four interlinked short stories would be acceptable for his next book, as received wisdom in the publishing industry at that time was that short stories were only acceptable when written by famous authors, not by those who were little known, but I felt it was not going to make any difference to sales. By that time Terry had enthusiastic followers, and so the contract for ‘four short stories’ was duly signed. This consideration initially worried Leslie Pockell, as he did not believe that it would be as highly praised as Strata, but after some delay – perhaps he was getting others to read it – he agreed to accept it, in spite of the ‘faults’ due to the gaps in the narrative caused by the short story format, and he proposed that it should be printed in the US, as there were limitations on the number of copies that could be imported without endangering the author’s copyright – at that time, if I remember correctly, one could not import more than 2,000 copies of a book written by a non-American citizen into the US, which J.R.R. Tolkien’s publishers had discovered to their initial cost (though ultimate benefit) a decade before. This was agreed. I had the text of The Colour of Magic typeset in Britain and prepared the artwork for the jacket (with an illustration by a talented art student, Alan Smith). St Martin’s printed both editions, theirs (about 4,000 copies) and ours (506 copies), in the US. St Martin’s reprinted their edition and it was reset (reducing to 184 pages from 206) and published by the SFBC as its Main Selection in March 1984, and then published in paperback in May 1985 by Signet with an unsigned illustration by Vicente Segrelles.[3] With their fifth printing (1987) they changed the cover illustration to the Josh Kirby one used on the British paperback, and with their sixth, the imprint changed to Roc.

            At this time I had become frustrated by St Martin’s methods of selling books at such terms that reduced the royalties we reasonably expected, which effectively halved the money I felt we should have been receiving on sales, and I demanded that we should receive a larger than half-share of subsidiary rights royalties in the next contract. This was refused outright by St Martins, and I decided not to have a commercial hardback publisher at all, but license the SFBC and Signet directly, which ensured a much larger income from US sales: we would receive one hundred per cent instead of only half, which vastly outweighed the value of the royalties we’d been receiving from St Martin’s on the sales of the hardcover edition. I continued this system for some years so that until HarperCollins took on Terry’s books, the Science Fiction Book Club’s was the only hardcover edition published in the States. Thus The Light Fantastic published by the SFBC as their August 1987 selection had the Smythe imprint information, and many mistake it for the Smythe edition as it uses the Josh Kirby jacket illustration and has our imprint on title, verso, binding and jacket. However, the book club had the text reset so it took up fewer pages – 190 as against the UK edition’s  214 pages. The SFBC’s editions from Equal Rites to Lords and Ladies (except Small Gods) had cover designs by Tom Kidd, Jill Bauman, Doug Andersons, Peter Scanlan, ‘Jael’ and Lissanne Lake. Thereafter they used designs from the HarperCollins hardcovers, none of which looked in any way like the old styles used.  (It can be said to be a general rule in publishing that the first printing of any book is the most lavish, while later printings suffer from a tighter budget, for some reason, and this is particularly true of Doubleday’s SFBC editions – a quarter cloth binding may next appear bound in paper-covered boards, and gold blocking gives way to coloured foil.)[4]

            Equal Rites and Mort sported Josh Kirby’s illustrations, but then NAL/Signet changed artist to Darrell Sweet, as their market research indicated that readers thought those with Kirby covers were for young rather than adult readers. In early 1990, NAL dropped the Signet imprint, which became Roc thereafter.

            While Terry’s book club and paperback sales were reasonable, the lack of a hardcover publisher hampered him getting the press coverage he deserved, and this did not help sales. While his editor at NAL, John Silbersack, was extremely enthusiastic about Terry’s writing, it seemed he was fated always to have people higher in the chain of command at NAL – both before and after it was bought by Penguin – who believed that Terry would never be a front-runner, and therefore never supported his books with an adequate publicity budget, so their poor expectations became self-fulfilling prophecies. I think this put back Terry’s sales and popularity in the States by a decade. John then moved to Warner Books, so Terry lost his principal advocate at NAL, and in 1991 when Terry was attending the West Coast Convention Westercon in Vancouver he discussed with agent Ralph Vicinanza, whom he had met at previous Cons and who had a stable of extremely well-known authors,[5] the possibility of Ralph becoming Terry’s US agent. It was agreed.

During 1992 Ralph offered the next four Discworld novels to a number of publishers, and the highest bidder was HarperCollins,[6] who beat Del Rey Books for the contract. At about this time John Silbersack moved from Warner to HarperCollins and Terry was not a little surprised to find himself working yet again with his advocate of earlier years. In 1995 John Douglas joined Harper to replace Chris Schelling (now on the staff of Ralph Vicinanza Ltd) who had dealt with the publishing nuts-and-bolts ( as John described it) of the business dealings and the routine author contact, hand-holding, schedule planning and so on, remaining with the company until 1999. HC published Small Gods as a hardcover in January 1994, (eighteen months after British publication), and Lords and Ladies (published in Britain in 1992) as a trade paperback for some reason, and without a preceding hardcover edition, in August 1995. This was a format that was not repeated. From then on, HarperCollins issued both hardcovers and paperbacks (under their HarperPrism imprint) mostly with jacket designs by Michael Sabanosh, until 1998, then one each by Douglas Paul Designs and Carl D. Galian. These HC cover designs also appeared on all the SFBC’s editions.

As part of their campaign, HarperCollins contracted to reissue the first Discworld novels in paperback, and John Douglas started working on these, but he’d left the company by the time the first three appeared in February 2000 under the HaperPaperbacks imprint, with completely new cover designs by Ben Perrini, and an extra section at the end of the book entitled ‘The World of Terry Pratchett’. This had also appeared in the advance reading copies of The Fifth Elephant and contained information on the Discworld, its principal characters, Ankh-Morpork, a non-map, a jigsaw, review quotes and details of other Discworld titles published by HarperCollins. This extra section was also printed in the next three paperback titles, published in February 2001 under the HarperTorch imprint, although it was not in those titles that appeared later in the year. Reaper Man and Witches Abroad, published in August 2002, both contained an extract from Night Watch (to be published that November) at the end.

The publication dates had been very erratic in the 1990s: John Douglas remembers being very frustrated that the new titles were not being simultaneously published in both countries, and being very vocal about it, but without visible results, and there is no evidence of any consistent policy over the order in which they appeared when compared with that in which they had been written – and published in the UK. Men at Arms was published in the UK in November 1993, but not in the US until January 1996, Soul Music came out in May 1994 in the UK, but six months later in the US; Interesting Times appeared in the UK in November 1994, and in the US in February 1997. The UK edition of Maskerade appeared in 1995, but came out nearly two years later in the States. Feet of Clay received almost simultaneous publication in both countries in 1996, but there was then a two-year gap – September 1996/1998 – for Hogfather, followed by a six-month gap for Jingo and The Last Continent, and nine months for Carpe Jugulum. With The Fifth Elephant the gap was narrowed to four months, and simultaneous publication was finally achieved with The Truth in November 2000, and thereafter there has been close collaboration between Transworld and HarperCollins over publication dates to ensure as close to simultaneous publication dates as possible.

In 1995 Jane Yolen gathered together a collection of short stories on the Arthurian theme entitled Camelot (Philomel Books, NY), and to this Terry contributed ‘Once and Future’, a story that he has not yet allowed to be published in the UK. Soon after, Terry was asked by Robert Silverberg to contribute a short story to his collection Legends, Masters of Fantasy that was to be published by Tor in 1998, and this resulted in his writing ‘The Sea and Little Fishes’. Apart from the general trade edition there was a special, full leather bound edition of 250 copies signed by all the contributors – which became, I suspect, the most collectible book in that genre of the 1990s. Those for sale were numbered, while the authors’ copies were lettered, and Terry’s copy – lettered P – went missing in the mail. He was sent a replacement, but if anyone has copy P, be aware that it should be on Terry’s shelf.

            On John Silbersack’s and John Douglas’s departure, Jennifer Brehl, who had been working for Avon at the time it was sold News Corporation to become part of HarperCollins, took over as Terry’s editor. Ralph Vicinanza described the next significant development:        

In 1999 Cathy Hemming (the Associate Publisher of HarperCollins) pushed to get Harper to put a major advertising campaign behind The Fifth Elephant. Hemming had been at Penguin in the international sales division and she was familiar with how well Terry did in the UK, Australia and Canada. She was convinced that, with the right push, Terry could do well here too. At the same time, we got Chip Kidd to design Terry's new look for the US. I had also pushed for simultaneous publication in the US and the UK which, I believed, would account for increased sales here. It all seemed to jell and the US readership started catching up with Terry's readership aboard. 

           In 2000, Terry suggested to Jennifer that Harper might be interested in his new YA novel, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, and she passed the book on to a colleague who worked in Harper Children’s division for her consideration. She was talking about it to another editor when Anne Hoppe walked by and overheard the name Terry Pratchett. She was already a big fan, a deal was done and in May 2001 she became Terry’s editor in the Children’s division of Harper, and she continues to work closely with him in that role. The Amazing Maurice[7] (with jacket design by Chris Gall) was published in 2001, and was followed by a paperback edition in 2003 which contained a teaser for Wee Free Men, the hardcover edition of which also appeared in 2003, with a Gall jacket design. The first paperback printing (2004), has a sliver of the opening of A Hat Full of Sky – also published in 2004, with a Gall cover. The paperback (2005) contains a number of extras not in the hardcover edition – a note ‘To the Reader,’ an ‘Author Bio’, ‘Talking with Terry Pratchett’, ‘Welcome to Discworld’, and ‘Terry Pratchett’s Other Books for Young Readers’, much of which was written by Terry, together with addresses of websites where more can be found about him. In 2006 both Tiffany Aching paperbacks were repackaged with new artwork by Bill Mayer, but the extras section of A Hat Full of Sky was updated to include a teaser to Wintersmith (which had a Mayer jacket design when published in September 2006)[8] in place of the last two sections in the earlier printing. In 2008 The Amazing Maurice was issued with a Mayer design, and the Johnny Maxwell titles are also now available in his livery.

        In 2007, Harper published Making Money, the thirty-sixth Discworld novel, and winner of the 2008 Locus Best Fantasy Novel Award, but in December, having written the major part of Nation, Terry discovered he had been suffering for some years from the Posterior Cortical Atrophy variant of early onset Alzheimer’s disease.[9] He had previously thought the symptoms were due to a minor stroke and he had described them as such when speaking in New York, and in Washington DC at the 2007 National Book Festival.[10]

It made headlines when he ‘came out’ and told the world he had the disease, and there was an even greater impact when in March 2008 he announced he was giving a million dollar donation to the Alzheimer’s Research Trust. By this time he had completed Nation, and it was published in September 2008 (and won the 2009 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature),[11] to be followed the next month by The Illustrated Wee Free Men, with illustrations by Stephen Player (no stranger to Discworld in Britain, having painted The Streets of Ankh-Morpork (1993) and The Discworld Mapp (1995), as well as the cover designs of a number of stage adaptations by Stephen Briggs and one by Irana Brown),[12] and most recently an illustrated omnibus edition of The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic, published by Gollancz last Christmas.

            Harper published The Bromeliad Trilogy (which had been a Guild America Books Alternate Selection, Collector’s Issue # 1, ten years earlier) in 2003, in hardcover, and then separately in paperback the following year under their Trophy imprint, all with cover designs by Susan Saelig Gallagher. In 2005, Only You Can Save Mankind appeared, with an extra introduction by Terry, followed at yearly intervals by Johnny and the Dead and Johnny and the Bomb. These had been published in January 1998 as the SFBC Selection, Collector’s Issue # 1 (with a jacket illustration by Jim Burns). It was issued with a poster of Burns’s cover illustration. Unfortunately the first printing of said poster lacked the first T in Pratchett. This was supposed to have been corrected in the next printing, but as the SFBC never indicate reprints in any of their titles, and I’ve not seen any with the correct poster, this may be a means of establishing a copy from the first printing. The SFBC also issued two collections: in 1999, Rincewind the Wizzard, containing The Colour of Magic, The Light Fantastic, Sourcery and Eric, and then in 2000, Tales of Discworld (both with jacket illustrations by Tom Kidd), containing Pyramids, Moving Pictures and Small Gods.

            In 2004 Terry was one of Noreascon 4 – Worldcon’s – Guests of Honor and as by tradition a special book is published of work by the authors thus honored, Terry agreed to a collection of his short stories. This was Once More* *with footnotes, intended primarily for the attendees of Worldcon, but of course there were many fans who also wanted copies, and they were somewhat upset that the licence permitted the printing of only 10,000 copies. They should take some comfort in the fact that the book has not yet been published in Britain – nor has anything similar – thanks entirely to the excessive financial enthusiasm of the two major bidders for the collection. Terry refused to consider the offers being made, which he felt had been fuelled by an excess of publishing testosterone, and withdrew the book (though he later permitted roughly similar collections to be published in Germany and the Czech Republic). A British collection remains in limbo.

            HarperCollins has taken up few of the peripheral Discworld publications – none of the diaries, calendars, playtexts, Companions, or the Science of Discworld titles, for example, were considered sufficiently popular for the US market – but they did take up the two works illustrated by Paul Kidby, The Last Hero (2001) and The Art of Discworld (2004), as well as Where’s My Cow? (to accompany Thud! in 2005, and illustrated by Melvyn Grant), and Stephen Briggs’s compilation The Wit & Wisdom of Discworld (2007). I’m hoping that Terry’s collaboration with the English folklore authority Jacqueline Simpson, The Folklore of Discworld will also be accepted by Harper, but there’s been no decision on this at the time of writing.

I’ve yet to mention Terry’s most famous collaboration – with Neil Gaiman – Good Omens. In 2007 the Costa Book Awards carried out a survey of the most re-read books in Britain, and Good Omens came fifteenth, ahead of The Bible and The Hitchhiker’s Guide. The history of the text of Good Omens needs recording. By mutual agreement, the ordering of the authors’ names differed according to the place of publication, Neil Gaiman’s first in North America, and Terry’s in the UK and elsewhere, to take account of their relative popularity in the relevant territories. There are two main versions of the text: the Gollancz and the American/Corgi. After the Gollancz edition was set, revisions were made to the text for the Workman edition to make some of the references and humour comprehensible to the American reader and, in Terry’s words, ‘here and there we just sharpened things up a little’. Workman issued two different sets of proofs, the first with the original text (324 pages, 8¼” ×  5¾”, in red paper covers) and then one with the revised text, which was that published  (354 pages, 9” ×  6”, in red card covers, with a specially printed dustjacket). Originally published in 1990 by Workman, Berkley published it as a trade paperback the following year, with Ace publishing it as a mass-market paperback in 1996, and in a trade edition in 2001. In January 2006 Morrow published it in hardcover with two different jackets, each complementing the other,[13] a new Foreword, and at the end ‘Good Omens, the Facts’, and two essays, one by each author about the other. It was also issued, with the additions, as the thirtieth volume in the SFBC’s 50th Anniversary Collection in March, and HarperTorch subsequently published it in similar double-version covers in November that year, and as a B-format paperback in 2007.

            As to audio, the US has lagged considerably behind the UK, where abbreviated versions started being issued by Corgi, read by Tony Robinson, in 1993, with Isis bringing out unabridged versions two years later. Initially all (except for two by Celia Imrie) were performed by Nigel Planer, but as he found it more and more difficult to fit the recording sessions into his increasingly busy schedule, in 2000 Stephen Briggs (who lives close to the Isis studio) took over, starting with Interesting Times. However, until HarperAudio started regularly recording them in 2005 and releasing them almost simultaneously with the published book, there had only been three audio offerings available in the US, ‘The Sea and Little Fishes’ (performed by Kathryn Walker) released as part of the Legends collection in 1999, Thief of Time (2001) and Night Watch (2003), issued on cassette by Fantastic Audio.[14] 

Harper’s recordings have been very popular and Stephen won an Audie for Monstrous Regiment,[15] and Nation was one of the ALA/YALSA’s five 2009 Odyssey Honor Books for Excellence in Audiobook Production. As there are no American recordings of Terry’s earlier Discworld novels, the Isis recordings are presently licensed to audible.com. Before 2009, because of the licenses to Fantastic, recordings of Night Watch and Thief of Time were not available in the US, but now that license has expired, the Isis recordings of both these are at last available through Audible.

            In 1999 Acorn Media released Cosgrove Hall’s animated production of Wyrd Sisters on video-cassette, and the following year it appeared on DVD, followed soon after by Soul Music, on cassette and DVD. The Mob Films productions of Hogfather and The Color of Magic were released on DVDin the US on March 4, 2008 and July 14, 2009 respectively, with Color also available on Blu-ray. They’d been shown by ION Television on November 25, 2007 and March 22, 2009.

            In 2000 the UK’s Science Fiction Foundation published a collection of essays about Terry and all his works, Terry Pratchett: Guilty of Literature, edited by Andrew M. Butler, Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn, and this was subsequently enlarged and published in 2004 by Old Earth Books (Baltimore MD). In 2007 Andrew Butler edited The Unofficial Companion to the Novels of Terry Pratchett, published by Greenwood (Westport CT). It’s a weighty, useful tome of more than 450 pages.

In 2008 Lawrence Watt-Evans’ enjoyable The Turtle Moves! Discworld’s Story Unauthorised was published by BenBella Books (Dallas TX), while St Martin’s Griffin (NYC) published Secrets of The Wee Free Men and Discworld – The Myths and Legends of Terry Pratchett’s Multiverse, by Carrie Pykkonen and Linda Washington. I wrote to both companies requesting that I might have a sight of the texts to correct any errors of fact: BenBella and Lawrence were courtesy embodied and entirely cooperative, while St Martin’s were the opposite – for what reason I know not, even refusing to let me see one of the proofs that had been sent out for publicity purposes, and all communications had to go through their legal department. Pity: some silly mistakes in the latter could have been avoided.

In 2007 Terry was invited to take part in the National Book Festival, held in Washington DC at the end of September, and I’m glad to see that the Library of Congress website still has links to an interview and the talk he gave.[16] As mentioned earlier, the signing queues caused some envy among the occupants of neighbouring booths, but as far as Terry has been concerned, large queues at British and European signings have been par for the course for a good number of years.

This survey about publishing activity in the US is about as complete as I can make it. There’s nothing here about any separate Canadian publishing as the market comes under the Transworld license, and while on rare occasions there have been Canadian printings of some titles, they differ from the UK printings only in their printer’s imprint on the copyright page, the design being the same. The American SFBC editions do cross the border, however, as they are sold in Canada by agreement with Transworld.

To add to the facts, here are some of Terry’s memories of his signing tours, which he views as a form of after-sales service. He always enjoys meeting the fans,[17] but due to publishers’ lack of expectations the early visits weren’t happy experiences: they were gruelling, and took place when not enough of his recent books had yet been published in America, and there were in some cases gaps of up to two years between British and US publication. He remembers being at a Worldcon where a glum John Silbersack, who was with him, had to look on as a huge queue brought mostly copies of the imported British editions for him to sign. In 1996 he had his first real tour, but on it he experienced the worst things that happen to authors, as he was often travelling backwards from airport hub to hub, no time to eat a proper meal, being put in a very wide variety of hotels, often lacking room service or any facility to get his clothes cleaned. On one occasion ‘uberfan’ Rocky Frisco shared his own slice of cold pizza with Terry as there was no food available when he arrived after midnight. (Even now there can still be problems. On a recent visit, the hotel room looked tidy and clean until he came to get into bed – only to find it contained a quantity of broken peanut brittle.) It’s a good night on tour when he gets as much as five hours’ sleep: all too often that’s impossible because of noisy air-conditioning systems.

Sometimes the places where he had to sign were so small that Terry said they’d be crowded if he’d come in wearing a large overcoat. Exceptions to the frustrations of the early years were his visits to the University of Seattle, which he’s always enjoyed, and he insists that there is always time included in his schedule there to visit a restaurant in Pike Place Market which he considers has the best chowder in the world. It was in the Market in 1996 that he came across his Death’s Head ring, that was the inspiration for one designed a couple of years later and sold by Bernard Pearson, first at Clarecraft and then at the Cunning Artificer. Some time before a return visit to Seattle in 2000 he mislaid the ring and spent hours hunting for it without success, so he went back to the shop to buy a replacement, put his hand into his breast pocket to get out his wallet, and his finger slipped into the ring which had up to that time defied discovery. He still bought another, to be on the safe side.

When this 2000 tour was mooted he’d sought advice, from John Douglas (who had left Harper by then) and others, and dared to voice his requirements: to alert those at his next signing in case of problems such as delayed or cancelled flights, for example, he needed a mobile phone that worked in America (phones that worked in both Britain and the US were almost non-existent then); he wanted a half-day break for every two days of signing; decent hotels that had 24-hour room service and facilities that would clean his clothing fast enough so he’d get it back before he left the city, and a minder to accompany him on his travels – the simple things that help to make tours survivable. To his surprise, his requests were approved by HarperCollins, and Andy Heidl organised the tour (and later taught him to mosey during the visit to Seattle).

I think Terry had resigned himself to the tour being a failure, but it was a sea change in his experiences. It was fantastic – the smallest shop he now signed at was, he felt, bigger than the largest he’d previously visited (with the honourable exception of Seattle, which always did him proud). He was getting to be recognised; his books could be seen on shop shelves and if he went into one he was liable to be grabbed by staff and asked to sign their stock. Andy was succeeded by Jack Womack who organised his publicity and visits until recently, when he left HC. On one visit Terry was accompanied by Jennifer Brehl, and they much enjoyed a relaxing train trip from Portland to Seattle. On another, Terry did what he called a ‘Carry On Only’ trip, taking only his computer, socks, underwear and medicines in a carrier that had a clear top, but he found that as he carried a British passport, had a beard, wore a leather jacket and only had a one-way ticket, he was considered a potential enemy alien and always directed to the serious search channel. But as he had so little luggage he always passed through quickly, avoiding the queues in which everyone else was stuck. On a recent occasion, when he reached Immigration he was stopped by the official who was heard to mutter into a phone ‘He’s here’. Terry was held until a fan on the staff had arrived and gotten his book signed – but after the grateful fan left that didn’t stop Terry from then being asked for proof of identity by the large officer who had originally recognised and stopped him.

Having experienced over two decades of signing trips and tours, Terry says that touring is for young men: even with a permanent minder it is still exhausting and will kill one faster than drink or women, although he says he’s hoping to have the chance to test this theory out.

I’m most grateful to Jennifer Brehl, John Douglas, Anne Hoppe, Chris Schelling and Ralph Vicinanza, who have all helped me by filling in gaps in this account. (John Silbersack could not think of anything he felt should be added.) Lastly, my thanks to Sir Terry for not only being the cause of all these events, but also for regaling me with tales of his signing experiences in the New World, which I pray to the gods I’ve recorded correctly.

23 July 2009

Colin Smythe

 

For those interested in my more detailed reports written for the British Discworld Convention programmes of 1998, 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008, as well as my short biography of Terry, these can be found in the Terry Pratchett section at www.colinsmythe.co.uk

 

NOTES ON DOUBLEDAY SF BOOK CLUB EDITIONS OF EARLY DISCWORLD NOVELS IN MY POSSESSION 

These are, I believe, the correct order of appearance, but there may have been other binding variations I’ve not come across. I’m hoping/assuming that the copies I get sent are from the first printing, but I have no proof of that. A number I have had to buy secondhand so I have no idea how early these appeared.

 The boards of the quarter-bound volumes are about 2mm higher and are slightly thicker than those bound in full paper, presumably due to the requirements of the machine making the casings.

* indicates the words ‘Book Club edition’ are printed on the inside front flap of the dustjacket.

The Colour of Magic:

     1. Quarter green cloth-patterned paper, with black cloth-patterned paper-covered boards, gold blocking on spine

     2. *Deep bluish-green paper-covered boards, spine with printed lettering in blue-green

The Light Fantastic:

     1. *Quarter black cloth-patterned paper and bright blue paper-covered boards, gold blocking on spine.

     2. *Prussian blue paper-covered boards, spine blocked yellow

Equal Rites:

     *Quarter sepia cloth-patterned paper and grey-buff paper-covered boards, spine blocked blue-green

Mort:

     1. Quarter deep blue leatherette, with pale grey cloth-patterned paper-covered boards, gold blocking on spine

     2. Black paper-covered boards, spine blocked in gold

    3. *Bright blue paper-covered boards spine blocked dark blue, using slightly smaller lettering

Sourcery:

     Buff paper-covered boards, spine blocked red

Wyrd Sisters:

     Quarter black cloth-patterned paper and very dark grey paper-covered boards, spine blocked gold

Pyramids:

     Black cloth-patterned paper-covered boards, spine blocked gold.

Guards! Guards!:

     Black paper-covered boards, spine blocked gold.

Moving Pictures:

     Quarter pale grey paper and buff paper-covered boards, spine blocked gold

Reaper Man:

     Quarter black cloth-patterned paper and grey-black paper-covered boards, spine blocked gold. Some – presumably the first printing – copies have the SFBC binding and jacket (i.e. with the NAL device on the spine of the binding, and with the special bookclub jacket design and reference number), but a Gollancz title and verso, and may have been printed in Britain. Copies with the NAL/ROC imprint were printed in Canada.

Witches Abroad:

     Quarter carmine red cloth-patterned paper and scarlet paper-covered boards, spine blocked gold

Small Gods:

     Quarter very dark blue leatherette with ultramarine paper-covered boards, spine blocked gold

Lords and Ladies:

     Quarter black paper and blacker paper-covered boards, spine blocked gold

Men at Arms:

     Black paper-covered boards, spine blocked gold

Soul Music:

     Quarter scarlet paper and black paper-covered boards, spine blocked gold

Interesting Times:

     Scarlet paper-covered boards, spine blocked gold

Maskerade:

     Deep blue paper-covered boards, spine blocked gold

Feet of Clay:

     Dark slate blue paper-covered boards, spine blocked gold

Hogfather:

     Black paper-covered boards, spine blocked gold

Jingo:

     Black paper-covered boards, spine blocked gold

The Last Continent:

     Black paper-covered boards, spine blocked gold

The Fifth Elephant:

     Black paper-covered boards, spine blocked gold

All the copies of later titles I have seen have this simple type of binding.

© 2009 Colin Smythe


[1] The originals are now in the Colin Smythe Limited Archive in Mills Memorial Library, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario. My thanks to Terry for letting me quote them.

[2] One passage I remember reading out was Isaac’s defeat of the Class Three robots when rescuing Dom from the clutches of his grandmother.

[3] My thanks to Jon Lemerond for giving me this information at the Convention in Tempe -
 

[4] See the end of this article for what information I can supply on the book club bindings.

[5] Including Stephen King, Peter Straub, Whitley Strieber, Jack Vance, Robert Silverberg, David Brin, Gregory Benford, Joe Haldeman, Robin Hobb, George R.R. Martin, David Eddings and the estates of Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Theodore Sturgeon, among others.

[6] The company’s name is HarperCollins, but I’ve often used Harper or HC for brevity. I know it’s inconsistent, but it avoids my saying HarperCollins ad nauseam.

    It was founded by two brothers in 1817 as J. & J. Harper (James and John). Two more brothers (Joseph and Fletcher) joined the company in the 1820s, and in 1833 it was renamed Harper and Brothers, a name that remained unchanged until it became Harper & Row in 1962 when it merged with Row, Peterson & Company. It was bought by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation in 1987 and finally became HarperCollins on their merger in 1990 with the British company William Collins, Sons & Co. Ltd., which had been formed as a company of this name in 1868, and acquired by News Corporation in 1989. In 1999 News Corporation purchased the Hearst Book Group, consisting of William Morrow & Company and Avon Books, and incorporated them into HarperCollins.

[7] This, and every other hardcover Young Adult HarperCollins publication is published in two binding styles, a standard trade and a superior library version.

[8] An interesting piece of ephemera, by the way, is a promotional first chapter excerpt booklet of Wintersmith that was inserted in the June 5, 2006 issue of Publishers Weekly.

[9] Called Benson’s syndrome in North America.

[10]  Terry had a typical dilemma there. He says he ‘had a queue of fans stretching round the block; the poets weren't so lucky. The organisers were absolutely desperate for my signing queue to finish – “You mustn't have it sticking out of the tent because it upsets the poets.” Terry replied “We all made our decisions, they chose poetry. I can't help it. There's another 600 people in the queue, what do you think would happen if I put my pen down?”’ ‘One of Britain’s most prolific and bestselling authors, Terry Pratchett, talks to Alison Flood’ in The Bookseller, April 18, 2008, pp. 26-27.

[11] It also won the LA Times’ Book Prize for Young Adult Literature, and was the recipient of a 2009 Michael L. Printz Honor Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature from the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), a division of the American Library Association.

[12] Briggs' adaptation of Going Postal will be published by Samuel French in 2010, while Mark Ravenhill's adaptation of Nation for the Royal National Theatre will be published by Corgi in November 2009.

[13] One was black on white (with Crowley on the front cover), and the other white on black (with Aziraphale on the front cover). The images appear in reverse order on the end-papers.

[14] Thief of Time was performed by Christopher Cazenove, Gabrielle de Cuir, Karesa McElheny, John Rubinstein and Stefan Rudnicki, with a guest appearance by Harlan Ellison, while Night Watch was recorded by Rudnicki, de Cuir and Ellison

[15] Two others performed by Stephen, Going Postal and Nation, appeared on later Audie shortlists. Audies are sponsored by the Audio Publishers Association.

[16] See http://www.loc.gov/podcasts/bookfest/podcast_pratchett.html for the podcast of September 13,

and  http://www.loc.gov/today/cyberlc/feature_wdesc.php?rec=4185 for the recording of his talk on September 29. The talk Terry gave at Barnes & Noble in New York appears to be no longer available on their website.

[17] Though he remembers one lady in California who followed him from bookstore to bookstore getting him to sign a pile of books on each occasion. He thinks he must have signed over a hundred for her. At the time he cursed eBay, on which he felt all were going to appear.