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Terry Pratchett  (Photo courtesy Harper Collins Publishers)

If you're already addicted to reading Terry Pratchett's hilarious Discworld novels, you've probably skipped this introduction entirely in your haste to reach the master's words. We at Crescent Blues take a dim view of this callous disregard for our editorial brilliance and thus take pleasure in revealing to those loyal souls who continued reading (both of you) that during the balance of this introduction, we will reveal the Meaning of Life.  

And the secret is [insert trumpet fanfare here]: the new Terry Pratchett book, Carpe Jugulum, will arrive in bookstores this month. At least in the U.S. Over in England, where they manage these things better, the book appeared in November 1998. Come to think of it, those ingrates who skipped the introduction probably know this already. Well, never mind. Carpe Jugulum purports to be Pratchett's 23rd Discworld novel. We must take this statistic on faith, since the only staff member who might know for certain (he conducted the interview) promptly scampered off to England to be closer to The Source. To which we can only say he'd jolly well better be scaring up Pratchett No. 24 for his friends back here in the States if he ever wants to come back. 

Crescent Blues: Your work is enormously popular, not only with the general public but also with other writers, (and heaven knows they're an impossible lot to please). But do you ever have dark, paranoid thoughts that your audience might eventually die off? How good is the outlook for books, particularly books like yours that require a reasonably alert and well-educated reader to appreciate the witty wordplay and other good bits? 

Terry Pratchett: As far as I can tell from experience with mail and on signing tours, there is a fair proportion of younger people among my readership. In fact, I reckon that readers have always been a minority. It's just that until the last couple of decades the others haven't had such high profile hobbies, being confined in the old days to street football and torturing small domestic animals. Certainly the frontlist readership increases with every book, and my backlist sales in the U.K. are pretty big. So... no, I don't worry overmuch. In any case, I am 51, and the books have already made me a lot of money... 

Crescent Blues: Does this mean your children's books are having the intended addictive effect? With this in mind, how do you plan to top Johnny and the Dead and Johnny and the Bomb? 

Terry Pratchett: I don't know. I've never planned ahead. I hear an item on the news, or read something in an old history book -- and there's a story. 

Crescent Blues: What historical facts or news items have caught your eye and inspired you recently? Now that you're on the Internet yourself… 

Terry Pratchett: ... er... for last seven years... 

Crescent Blues: More than enough time to stray into technology issues. Do you see the echo of current technology issues, including Y2K, affecting Discworlders? 

Terry Pratchett: Sheesh, here we go. This is like the question they kept on asking on AFP: "When R we gonna C the Net on DW?" Computers and faxes and telephones are just things -- you use them to make life better and more interesting. You don't have to evangelize them. It's all just stuff. 

That being said, the beginning of Discworld's hesitant step in the information age starts in The Fifth Elephant

I'm not proposing to do a Y2K story -- I think we're going to be swamped with them. 

Crescent Blues: The Fifth Elephant? This is quite a drastic revision in Discworld cosmogony. Would you share a little with our readers as to what effects this might have on Discworld? 

Terry Pratchett: Nope. The title can mean all sorts of things. After all, the Discword has had four elephants all through the series. It's unlikely that a fifth has suddenly turned up. Legends, folk memories and ancient sayings, however, are a different matter. 

Crescent Blues: Perhaps you might expand on the topic of Discworld's legends, folk memories and ancient sayings. Which aspect of Discworld myths would you like to discuss? 

Terry Pratchett: None, really. I just put them in the books. Anyway, what kind of question is that? One of those short ones that hopes for a thousand-word answer, that's what. 

Crescent Blues: [Interviewer hangs his head in shame.] Shucks, guess I was really hoping you'd tell us more about The Fifth Elephant. 

Terry Pratchett: What's a book "about?" On one level I could say The Fifth Elephant is about a crime; it's about dwarfs; it's about international diplomacy; it's about how integrity makes poor body armor. It's mainly about what happens when cultures meet and screw one another up. 

Pre-order today from AmazonCrescent Blues: I know you've had lots of interest in people wanting to make movies about Discworld and such… 

Terry Pratchett: Yeah, but they never had any money. 

Crescent Blues: Is there a book which you personally feel is custom made for a movie script, one that when you wrote it you felt, "Yes this could be a movie!" 

Terry Pratchett: Mort. Simple plot, easy to grasp even by mall rats. 

Crescent Blues: You've obviously never met the mall rats over here. Given that you never plan ahead for your novels, are you surprised at how diverse and multi-booked the Discworld series has become?  

Terry Pratchett: Too right! But it seems a natural evolution. 

Crescent Blues: Do you have any vague notion or aim to where the Discworld series is heading?  

Terry Pratchett: Where some strands are going, yes. It's the difference between knowing the future of one person and the future of the planet. 

Crescent Blues: Would you like to write a straight non-humorous novel but feel "trapped" in your comedic style?  

Terry Pratchett: No. It's me. What you see is what you get. I vary it, though -- a lot of Carpe Jugulum and The Fifth Elephant are not funny and not meant to be. 

Crescent Blues: You've already had several Discworld games produced for the PC. Have you ever considered producing an online interactive game over the Internet? Or, as some fantasy writers do, producing a role playing board or card game? 

Terry Pratchett: I worked with Phil Masters of the Gurps: Discworld book.  Beyond that... look, where does it stop? I'm one guy. I want to spend my time writing. Some things won't happen because there is no time, and because I don't see the need for all this. Beyond a certain point, you're taking advantage of the fans. Sure, I've even been asked for Discworld wallpaper, but I don't let things happen until I'm sure there is a copper-bottomed demand -- and even then I have to like the idea as well. 

Crescent Blues: How do you know when an idea does have a copper-bottomed demand?  

Terry Pratchett: Gut feeling, really. I read the mail, listen to fans. I don't let things happen until I know its something the readers want (or at least feel sure that they'd want it if they knew about it. [Smiles.] 

Crescent Blues: Could you tell us about some of the most rancid ideas you've rejected? 

Terry Pratchett: None were particularly rancid. I'm not interested in Discworld trading cards or plastic figures, because they'd take the magic away. 

Crescent Blues: Do you have any novels/stories that you wrote before you were first published and would never dream of revealing to your fans because you feel they are dreadful?  

Terry Pratchett - Continued