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Fantasy author Terry Pratchett, who is most famous for writing the Discworld series of humourous fantasy books, talked to about 150 fans and signed copies of his books at the Great Hall in Brisbane Grammar School, Spring Hill (click here to see the exact location) last Wednesday, February 14th.

DISCLAIMER – some of the links and ads in this article (including this next one) take you to Amazon.com, where you can buy copies of Terry Pratchett’s books.. If you do, I will make a commission which I will share with the publisher of Brisbane Is Home.

If you are in Brisbane, you should consider instead buying your Terry Pratchett books from Riverbend Books, who sponsored the speech. They are at 193 Oxford St, Bulimba, (click here to see a map of the exact location) and you can call them on 07 3899 8555 (+617 3899 8555). You can buy online or visit their store.

All these pictures from the speech are stored at flickr, the photosharing website. Click here to see the photos – you can see larger sizes, watch a slideshow, see the photos on a map, and download the photos for your own use.

Continue reading to see more than 50 photos, plus my report of Pratchett’s speech.

Front entrance to Brisbane Grammar School, from Gregory Terrace.

Path to Great Hall. A round chapel (centre), a modern set of classrooms (left), and the end of the Great Hall building) in between the two) can be seen.

The Great Hall is number 6.

Rear of the round chapel and the end of the Great Hall building.

Field gun outside the entrance to the Great Hall.

Entrance to the Great Hall.

Some of Terry Pratchett’s books for sale.

A copy of Wyrd Sisters. (click here for Wikipedia entry)

Riverbend Books, organiser of the speech.

Here he is! Terry Pratchett arrived at about 3.15pm for a 3.30 start.

MC introduces Terry Pratchett.

Pratchett started by talking about his OBE (Order of the British Empire).

He said he was in his garden, where a new orchid had flowered, when he got a letter from 10 Downing Street sounding him out about the honour. The letter was saying that they weren’t actually offering him anything, but if by some chance they did, did Pratchett think he would say “Yes”?

Pratchett said that he wondered about his ‘services to literature’. In fact, he said that the only service to literature he has ever performed is to deny that he is writing it…but he decided to say ‘yes’, for two reasons:

1) It would help to get Science Fiction and Fantasy authors out of the small niche they tend to get stuck in, and get lots of people hearing about it.

2) It would make his mum proud.

So he went to Buckingham Palace, where he put Prince Charles at his ease:

I understand you’re the Prince of Wales? How long have you been doing that?

and he got his medal, which he keeps in his bedroom drawer.

Pratchett also talked about his Carnegie Medal in [Children's] Literature. He had to keep silent for two whole months about that one, after being told he was almost certainly the winner.

He pulled a pretty good stunt at the award ceremony – the medal looks almost exactly like a child’s chocolate coin covered in gold foil, so when he got the medal, he had palmed a chocolate coin. He swapped the two, said ‘Thank You’ for the medal, and ate the chocolate coin in front of the media. Quite a lot of people were really not sure what to think.

Plaque on Wall of Great Hall - Author Terry Pratchett speaks at Brisbane Grammar School, Spring Hill, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia 070214

Pratchett also discussed meeting J.K. Rowling (author of the Harry Potter books). Pratchett and Rowling came to an interesting conclusion about an important point of literary theory:

“Isn’t it nice to fall backwards into a a pile of money the size of St Pauls Cathedral?”

Pratchett mentioned the ‘despair’ he feels when he finishes writing a book, which he can only stave off by starting a new one.

In fact, he called writing an ‘anti-drug’:

  • It’s free.
  • It’s harmless.
  • People encourage you to give it to schoolchildren.
  • You can be your own supplier.
  • You don’t have to hang around shady characters (well, OK, publishers).
    Pratchett has written half a million words just since he has been on his Australian tour, and he has at least 6 future books that he is at least starting to plan.

Pratchett is working on a fourth ‘The Science of Discworld’ book (click here, here and here to buy the first three at Amazon).

The Science of Discworld series looks at what would happen if the Discworld were actually a real place. For instance, how would the DNA of werewolves work?

Pratchett said that it’s good to have scientists who are also fans of his work, because when you ask them

what would happen if you grafted a female arm onto a male body, and how long would it take to become a male arm?

they don’t nervously say “Oh, I wouldn’t do that“.

A few weeks, give or take, is apparently the answer.

Pratchett about talked about flying across the Pacific Ocean for his first visit to Australia in 1990. While looking out the window at clouds that rose up like Marge Simpson’s hair, he wondered “What did I do to deserve this?”

Thank Heaven

for injustice, he thought.

He said he sometimes wonders when the “Great Tax Collector In The Sky” will step up and say “You didn’t think you were going to get away with it, did you?”

Which was a good chance to talk about the angioplasty operation he had while listening to ‘Bat Out Of Hell’.

Something had gone wrong in the operation, he found out, as the surgeon told him afterwards. Pratchett remembers, while he was on the table, seeing a furtive figure in the corner of the room, and a large nose.

Pratchett was apparently saying, of the furtive figure “He’s got sandwiches“. The nose was the surgeon saying “There are no sandwiches”.

Pratchett said that if you have such a near-sandwich experience, you just shouldn’t walk towards the sandwiches.

I can see how that could be bad.

This is the man who seemed to be organising the tour – looks like a busy time for him.

After speaking, Pratchett took questions from the audience. One person asked if he had been writing all his life, or if he had side jobs.

Pratchett said he had always written for a living in one way or another…he’s been a journalist, and he’s worked as a PR man for nuclear power stations.

But then the ‘rising tide of money’ lifted him off of ‘real work’, and he realised:

If I played my

cards right,

I’d never have to do

an honest day’s work again.

Someone else asked if Pratchett had ever had a fall-out with anyone and thought “Just wait till my next book”?

To which he said that he did not enjoy secondary school at all. Certain wizards at Unseen University, who are based on old teachers, do show up in the books just before they come to a bad end.

When Pratchett went to the Speech Night at his school, he found that he was the most famous ex-pupil. Except for the axe-murderer.

He was told then that a Mr Cartwright was the only teacher left alive who had taught him…Mr Cartwright had been wondering just what was in store…

Although Pratchett had to get through most of the book-signings pretty quickly, he spent a few extra minutes talking to this boy about writing, and even called him back for a quick final word.

Another question was “What author would you most like to co-author a book with?”

“I wouldn’t like to co-author”

was the rather decisive answer.

Although he wrote Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (you can click here for the Wikipedia entry) with Neil Gaiman, that was at the start of both their careers.

They’ve agreed that they will write Good Omens II if a good idea comes along, but they won’t just ‘pound one out’.

Some of Pratchett’s other books have had co-authors, but they have been working for him, not so much with him.

Terry Pratchett’s authoring hat. How would we be able to tell he is a famous author, if he doesn’t wear his authoring hat?

Someone asked if we were going to hear more about the land of FourEcks (the Discworld’s version of Australia, seen in ‘The Last Continent‘ (the Wikipedia entry is here), named after Queensland’s XXXX beer).

Pratchett replied that he had done a tour of New Zealand just before coming to Australia to promote ‘The Last Continent’. Kiwis had told him that he would be ‘lynched’, but Pratchett found that Aussies loved it.

(We don’t mind being gently mocked, as long as we are actually getting noticed).

Pratchett said that he liked Bill Bryson’s book (Wikipedia: click here), although Bryson had clearly never met a wowser, nor had he tried to fly inside Australia via QANTAS.

He said that he put everything he knew into ‘The Last Continent’, although he does keep up with what happens in Australia, so perhaps there will be a second FourEcks book someday.

And there you have it. After signing books for another hour or so, it was time for Pratchett to head off. Remember that if you want to buy Terry Pratchett’s books, you can visit Amazon.com and I’ll get a commission and you can also shop online at Riverbend Books, who organised the tour.

And remember that all these pictures from the speech are stored at flickr, the photosharing website. Click here to see the photos – you can see larger sizes, watch a slideshow, see the photos on a map, and download the photos for your own use.

What’s your favourite Terry Pratchett book? Or if you are weird and don’t like him (why did you read this far?), who do you like to read? Leave a comment and let me know.

11 Comments 1,610 words, 65 images

This article has been published on
February 19th, 2007

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Half a million words? I somehow don’t think so – what with the average Discworld novel being about 120,000 words.

Terry said repeatedly at the Australian Discworld Convention in Melbourne that he’d written *5000* words in Australia, so either he misspoke at the speech, or you’ve upfactored it by 100 times.

Then again, if you count all the signatures he’s done in Australia in this past week, we could be bordering on half a million “T. Pratchett”s :)

Hmmm…my notes from the speech definitely say 500 000 words (I checked them when I saw your comment)…I could have heard wrong but that is definitely what I wrote down…

Thanks for the heads-up :)

half a million words is nothing.
5000 words is about as long as a uni report.

Let’s say he’s done 40 books. Each on average 120000 words. That would be about 4800000 words.

February 19th, 2007 at 11:48 am

Stephen Thorne Says:

It was half a million.

My favourite story of his was actually about eating the Carnagie Medal he was given.

That was a nice review. Thanks. I enjoyed the ‘putting Prince Charles at his ease’ story. That one was new to me.

PS – my favourite book at present is ‘Thud.’

I wasn’t there… but it seems from the report that he specified what he had written since arriving for the tour, which sounds like 5,000 words, unless he was joking. or maybe it was “500 to a thousand”.

Thanks for the writeup!
I have no “most favorite” book, but I have a few “less favorite” ones.
Favorites include Carpe Jugulum and The Truth.

Thank you so much for this review. I was unaware that Terry was going to be in Brisbane – otherwise I would have been there! Now I am going to go and drown myself for missing out.
Thanks again.

Heaven, I hope I’m not responsible for your watery death!

Glad you liked the article, and thanks =Tamar for your comment as well…and Hi to everyone who is coming here from Discworld Monthly.

Favourite Pratchett book? All of ‘em – including kidstuff – depending on the mood I’m in. I don’t think any of it’s LLiterature – not yet anyway – but his wordsmithing is second to none.
Many thanks to all you Brisb(r)aniers for your report, and for the link to “wowser” – a difficult word to look up on paper here, but one I shall have many uses for hereafter.
Keep taking the tablets – Bri, Yorkshire, UK.

Great review.
Every time you hear him speak new little nuggets of gold emerge.
I missed the Auscon. money and hols ran out.

I think his best written books are Tiffany and Nightwatch. My classic fave is Soul Music if only for the runnin Kirsty MacColl joke!
And I think his books are literature and a lot better than very many that get given the title.

Next stop World con in Denver hoping to promote the first Discworld con in US on Labour Day weekend 2009 and then the UK Discworld convention in Birmingham this year! happy discworlding everyone!

omg i cant believe that terry pratchet was here. you guys may not believe this but i go to BGS (the school it was held in). im so ashamed haha.

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