Terry Pratchett Introduction

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(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Terry Pratchett 1948–2015

(Full name Terence David John Pratchett) English novelist and children's fiction writer.

The following entry presents an overview of Pratchett's career through 2004.

Pratchett's books have enjoyed enormous popularity in the United Kingdom over the past twenty years, and in that time frame he ranks second only to author J. K. Rowling in terms of commercial success. Responsible for 6.5٪ of all book sales in England during the 1990s, Pratchett's novels utilize fantastic themes and environments to offer humorous, often biting critical observations on popular trends and modern society. His “Discworld” universe—the primary setting of the majority of his novels—has been acclaimed for its engaging storylines, meticulously described fantasy worlds, and Pratchett's ever-expanding cast of recurring characters. Pratchett is often labelled as a humanist writer due to the detailed attention he ascribes to human foibles as well as his ability to imbue his unique characters with multi-dimensional personalities. His prose style carries an overt satirical bent, allowing him to discuss such important social issues as gender roles, religious fanaticism, war crimes, and violence without seeming to sermonize. This commentary style, combined with his trademark dry humor, has created a sensibility that resonates with his readers, giving him a devout following in England, and increasingly, worldwide.

Biographical Information

Pratchett was born April 28, 1948, in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, England. The son of an engineer and a secretary, Pratchett did not display an interest in books until the age of ten, but soon became a regular visitor to the Beaconsfield Public Library where he developed a penchant for fantasy and science fiction, especially such books as The Wind in the Willows, which he often cites as a strong influence. After completing elementary school in 1959, Pratchett chose to attend Wycombe Technical High School rather than the local grammar school, believing that woodshop would be of greater interest to him than Latin. He wrote his first short story, “The Hades Business,” at age thirteen for his school paper. Pratchett later submitted the story to Science Fantasy magazine, becoming a published writer at the age of fifteen. While working on pre-college-level courses in 1965, Pratchett left school to become a journalist at the local paper, the Bucks Free Press. Pratchett has commented that his experiences in journalism have informed his career as a novelist and helped form the basis of his Discworld universe. In 1968 Pratchett was assigned to review books released by independent publisher Colin Smythe. During the course of an interview with Smythe's co-director, Pratchett mentioned that he had written a book of comedic fantasy and asked if Smythe would be interested in publishing it. Released in 1971, The Carpet People received scant popular attention, though the few reviews it garnered were largely positive. Encouraged by Pratchett's first novel, Smythe published two additional novels by Pratchett, The Dark Side of the Sun (1976) and Strata (1981). Neither book was a best-seller, and Pratchett continued to work as a journalist, eventually moving to the Western Daily Press and the Bath Chronicle. In 1980 he quit journalism entirely to become a press officer for three nuclear plants under the direction of the Central Electricity Generating Board. The timing of Pratchett's career change, he has since observed, was made difficult by the near-disaster at Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island nuclear facility in 1979. During this period, Pratchett came to believe that the fantasy genre was overstuffed with clichéd heroics and boring, repetitive copies of such defining series as J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. As a satirical response to the bloated convention of stereotypical fantasy fiction, he created Discworld, a surreal universe of real-life contrivances and flawed characters, which he introduced in

(The entire section is 1,870 words.)