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Author Study: Terry Pratchett Curated by Ryuichi Yanagi '18

Background

 

Terry Pratchett's family is from Hay-on-Wye in Wales, now a prominent book town. The rich culture and history of Hay-on-Wye may have influenced Pratchett's family to introduce him to reading and the importance of books as a child. Pratchett cites his interest in books, particularly science fiction, as his inspiration to learn and write. He once stated in an interview that he spent the majority of his childhood learning through books instead of school - he greatly valued reading over what he had experienced in formal education. As he grew up, he went to high school but not university, leaving schooling when he was 17.

Pratchett grew up in a very post-World War 2 era, where the village he grew up in was quite run down, with water considered a commodity. The political climate in which he grew up was unstable, with the internal issue between the two major government sides of labour vs conservative, especially with the postwar initiatives and the external issue of the global superpowers battling it out through the cold war. As such, his books reflect the politcical and cultural dichotomy of his time, oft with separate powers segregating or differences in culture between people.

This period could also be characterized as a highly developmental stage, with many new technologies such as computers, interplanetary rockets, and nuclear energy. Pratchett was quite familiar with these technologies, being one of the first writers to start utilizing a computer for his typing, as well as initially being on the board of electronics for a nuclear power plant. Additionally, he cites his interest in astronomy as the backbone of his idea to write Discworld, a universe where the world is a flat disc resting on the back of four elephants which is in turn on a giant turtle swipping through space.

 

"Curiously enough, the science fiction came from astronomy. I wasn't really an astronomer, because astronomers have to take it seriously and do mathematics. I just thought it was really cool 'cause you could stay up all night.

I've got a kind of tourist's mentality. I take an interest in things. I learn a lot about them, but I'm never going to get that hooked. So I was into short-wave radio. I built myself a receiver and listened in, and that was fun, and then moved onto something else."