WOSSNAME -- DECEMBER 2005 -- PART 2 OF 4 (continued)
- WOSSNAME -- DECEMBER 2005 -- PART 2 OF 4 (continued)
4) A BELATED WORLDCON INTERVIEW
WITH TERRY PRATCHETT
by Alternative Nation
Somehow amidst all the chaos of Worldcon, a reporter
from Alternative Nation was able to track down renowned
fantasy author Terry Pratchett and arrange to interview
him in a dank, shady warehouse. Here's what Terry has to
say about conventions, collectables, and carnivorous plants.
Alternative Nation: You've attended a fair few WorldCons
in your time. How did Interaction measure up, aside from
the name not being very good?
Terry Pratchett: I think it was probably the best I've attended
—not the biggest, by a long way, and not the fanciest, but
certainly the best to hang out at. This may have had
something to do with the Real Ale bar. I think I met just
about everyone I know in fandom there.
Oh, and the food was much better. Instead of going to the
Hugos a bunch of us went to a Japanese restaurant and
had a great meal—nothing deep-fried at all.
AN: It did have a wonderfully relaxing atmosphere. We
drank the local microbrewery dry, I'm told. How did it
compare to other Glasgow cons you've attended?
Chasing Iain Banks around the rooftop of the Central
Hotel must be hard to beat.
TP: Did I do that? Mythology is a powerful force.
It beats 'em all, anyway.
AN: Were there any events (or participants) that
you particularly enjoyed?
TP: I moderated an international panel of translators and
wished it could have gone on for longer, because lots of
interesting stuff was revealed. The two different French
translations of Lord of the Rings, for a start, and the strange
reason why so many Brits get translated into Swedish.
AN: I had meant to catch that one, but got distracted
by shiny sword fighting demonstrations. Why do so many
Brits get translated into Swedish?
TP: In summary: 'because Swedish writers want to write
literature that is reviewed in the serious papers, so to meet
the demand for popular reading we have to import you guys'.
AN: Heh. Are there many countries that take things the
other way and just don't publish fantasy? I've heard that
Spain, for example, is rather hit-and-miss about it.
TP: That's true. They publish, but feel guilty about it.
Certainly, across Europe, it's much harder to sell 'out of
genre' than it is here, But odd attitudes still crop up even
here. I remember very kindly being put in my place by a
bookshop manager some years back. I'd wondered why
my latest book wasn't on the shop's Best Sellers shelf,
having been number one for three weeks; he said "well,
you see, you're not exactly Best Seller list material."
You've got to laugh, eh?
AN: You've got to wonder what he does consider "Best
Seller list material". It's back to the idea of SF&F vs 'proper'
books. Do you think there's much that can be done for
the public perception of the genre?
TP: The public perception? What is that? I know that only
a small minority of my readers are classic fans—when the
first DW con was held, about ninety percent of the people
who came along knew nothing about mainstream fandom
and conventions. I think there are lots of people who read
F/SF who don't think of themselves as 'fans'. In short, 'the
public' reads lots of the books and watches the movies and
TV shows. They're quite happy about it, as far as I can tell.
But they do get uneasy, maybe, in the presence of costumers.
Odd, really. Puking your guts out and pushing your arm through
a shop window on a Friday night is 'normal', but wearing a hall
costume at what is in effect a huge private party is 'weird'. Strange...
Some myths float around. On tour last year some shops brought
in security guards. They'd picked up the idea that my queues
would be difficult in some way. What they got was three hundred
people being quite cheerful and patient; one manager came up
afterwards and said, in amazement: "they were so...nice!" as
if this was a revelation.
AN: I guess your average man on the street might have a
better grasp of things than journalists do. Media coverage,
for the most part, isn't exactly well researched. Recently,
you wrote to the Sunday Times about a Time article, written
by Lev Grossman, in which he describes Fantasy (before
the advent of Harry Potter) as "a deeply conservative genre"
that "looks backwards to an idealized, romanticized,
pseudofeudal world, where knights and ladies morris-dance
to Greensleeves". Leaving aside for a second the fact that
your letter was widely touted, quite mistakenly, as an attack
on JK Rowling, do you think that there are many people
who subscribe to Grossman's view? Does this notion that
Harry Potter has completely reinvented an ailing genre exist
outside of the skulls of poorly-read journalists?
TP: What happened, I think, was this: when the HP wagon
began to roll, a lot of journalists who knew little or nothing
about children's books took a look at them and said :
"Great stuff! A school for wizards! Hey! Pet dragons! Magic
streets! Fantastic!" Which was rather strange, because
none of this was exactly new.
Now, let's assume that, as a good journalist, you will at this point
interject: "So, are you accusing JK Rowling of plagiarism?" And I'll
sigh deeply and say: "No. Don't be silly, that's how genres work."
Writers have always put a new spin on old ideas. I can think of a
dozen pre-Hogwarts 'Magic schools'. Some of them are pre-Unseen
University, too. It doesn't matter. No one is stealing from anyone.
It's a shared heritage.
Grossman's remark was a silly throwaway line which insulted
a lot of good authors. Those familiar with the genre know this;
those who move from HP onto other authors will find out.
AN: Do you still get accused of plagiarism for using (and, quite
often, poking fun at) ideas which are, manifestly, genre property?
TP: Not really. The problem, such as it was, used to lie with kids
who genuinely thought that plagiarise actually meant the same
thing as 'refers to.'
I suppose the weirdest one lately was the "attack" on Harry Potter
in The Wee Free Men. You may have missed it. Tiffany daydreams
of a wonderful magical school and Granny Weatherwax punctures this
when she says you can't learn witching in a school. Now, Discworld
indeed has its own magical schools, and Granny Weatherwax has
gone on about exactly this sort of thing since Equal Rites - but
several people have called this an 'attack'. I believe someone said
that even though the incident fits in with DW history, it is nevertheless
still an 'attack.' That makes me rather nervous.
AN: H you been catching much flak due to all the 'Pratchett
Rowling' spinoff reports, from people other than posters
on Harry Potter message boards? Many of whom still think you're
female, despite the beard.
TP: Damn, I knew I should have bought a bigger beard.
No, away from the close world of fandom there's been none at all.
AN: It's kind of frightening that people would distort things like that,
just so that they can go on the defensive about something they like.
Your latest book, Thud!, centres around dwarfs, trolls, and the
City Watch. Is there much wizardly involvement, or is this one
relatively safe from accusations of veiled attacks?
TP: It would be nice to think so. There is hardly any wizarding in the book.
AN: Thud! actually existed as a board game before the book
of the same name was released. Are there plans for any other
non-videogame-related Discworld spin-offs?
TP: Well, spin-offs tend to... spin off, without any long-term
planning. Like the DW stamps, for example; they began as
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