Sir Terry Pratchett: 10 Fascinating Facts About the Late 'Discworld' Author's Remarkable Life and Career
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BBC America’s new fantasy police procedural The Watch is inspired by the characters created by the late, great Sir Terry Pratchett in his iconic Discworld series of novels.
The series continues Sundays at 8pm EST, and you can catch up with previous episodes here. In the meantime, why not whet your appetite by finding out more about the beloved author whose brilliant mind devised this irresistibly fantastical world.
1. His Discworld novels were published over a period of more than 30 years.
The first novel in the series, The Colour of Magic, was published in 1983. The 41st and final installment, The Shepherd’s Crown, was published in 2015, around five months after Pratchett’s death.
2. He was the U.K.’s best-selling author of the ‘90s.
In 2003, he was responsible for 3.4% of hardback fiction sales in the U.K. – second only to J.K. Rowling. According to The Independent, he was also considered "Britain's most shoplifted author," something he took as a compliment!
3. He had a humble upbringing out in the country.
"I was born in a nursing home, but was taken to a little village in Buckinghamshire," he told Science Fiction Weekly. "I'm a quintessential example of an only child. The house I grew up in—cue Monty Python—didn't even have water. My father had to run a hosepipe every day or so to the house next door and fill up a little cistern that my mother would use in the scullery. It was kind of deep country. We had gaslights, and every week or two my mother used to come home with a huge 90-volt dry battery that ran the radio. But we didn't think we were poor. Everyone we knew was in the same situation, so we just thought that was the way things were."
4. Before he became a celebrated author, he worked as a Press Officer for the Central Electricity Generating Board, which operated four nuclear power stations in England and Wales.
Pratchett gave up the post in 1987 shortly after completing the fourth Discworld novel, Mort, to focus on writing full-time. According to The Internet Writing Journal, he said he would write a book about his experiences at the Central Electricity Generating Board if he thought anyone would believe what actually happened there. We'd certainly love to know...
5. NASA named an asteroid in his honor.
It's called the 127005 Pratchett and you can check on its progress here.
6. In 2008, he donated $1 million for research into Alzheimer's disease.
The previous year, Pratchett revealed that he had been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease. He later became a patron of Alzheimer's Research U.K. and made a BAFTA-winning two-part documentary for the BBC, called Terry Pratchett: Living With Alzheimer's. He also raised awareness of the disease during many other TV appearances over the years.
7. By 2013, the disease had robbed him of his ability to read, so he wrote his last few novels using computer dictation software.
"The style comes from the computer, in a sense. I give it the words, I watch them come down, and if they seem to me to be the right words there, I think I'm on a winner," he told NPR. "It really isn't a problem. I'm a bit of a techy anyway, so talking to the computer is no big deal. Sooner or later, everybody talks to their computers — they say, 'You bastard!'"
8. In 2017, all of Pratchett's unfinished books were crushed by a steamroller.
This was carried out in direct accordance with his wishes. Pratchett's Good Omens collaborator Neil Gaiman told The Times that the late author had said he wanted "whatever he was working on at the time of his death to be taken out along with his computers, to be put in the middle of a road and for a steamroller to steamroll over them all."
9. When he received a Knighthood for services to literature in 2009, he celebrated by forging his own sword.
According to The Independent, he collected deposits of iron from a field near his home in Wiltshire, southwest England, then smelted the sword himself. In a very on-brand move for a fantasy author, he also incorporated "several pieces of meteorites" into the sword, describing them as "highly magical."
He said matter-of-factly: "You've got to chuck that stuff in whether you believe in it or not."
10. He also served as a trustee of the Orangutan Foundation.
In 2015, he traveled to Borneo to make a BBC documentary about the battle to safeguard their future, called Terry Pratchett: Facing Extinction.
How many Sir Terry Pratchett books have you read?