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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

“The Turtle Moves! Discworld’s Story Unauthorized” Guest Blog by Lawrence Watt-Evans


Why the Turtle Moves by Lawrence Watt-Evans:

I decided I wanted to be a writer when I was seven. I started reading heroic fantasy when I was eleven, and by the time I graduated from high school I knew that was what I wanted to write. So I read a lot of fantasy. After all, I was hoping to make it my career; best to be prepared, right? Not to mention it was fun.

There was this popular notion in the 1970s that the entire fantasy genre was just imitations of The Lord of the Rings, but I knew better. I read a lot of fantasy, and much of it was written before Tolkien's magnum opus saw print. The band-of-heroes-on-an-epic-quest stuff was a minority, and not the best of the genre, either, but it's what everyone noticed and remembered.

Me, I liked the quirkier, more eccentric stuff, especially the stories with wit and a sense of humor. I preferred the likes of Fritz Leiber, Jr. and L. Sprague de Camp to the bestsellers like Stephen Donaldson or Terry Brooks.

When I stumbled across The Colour of Magic in the early 1980s I loved it, in part because this guy Pratchett had obviously read some of the same fantasy I had—the book opens with the wizard Rincewind meeting characters who are obvious spoofs of Leiber's Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, and goes on to parody Conan of Cimmeria, the dragonriders of Pern, the Cthulhu mythos, and lots of other familiar material. Familiar to me, anyway. I made it a point to buy each new Discworld book as it appeared. I figured that sooner or later he'd run out of ideas and the series would wear thin and I'd get bored and drop it. That was certainly what happened to most of the fantasy series I liked—either that, or the author would stop writing them, usually because he died. Not that the creator's death would necessarily end the series, but generally when it didn't the subsequent authors wouldn't be as good and the series would wear thin and I'd get bored and drop it.

Those didn't happen. Terry Pratchett kept writing Discworld books, and I kept buying them, and I kept enjoying them. Every so often there'd be one where I'd think it was sub-par, that Pratchett was finally running out of steam, but then the next one would be brilliant—there were never two clunkers in a row.

I'm still buying them and reading them. In fact, awhile back I looked at what I was buying, and what I was reading, and realized that Pratchett was the only fantasy author I'd been reading enthusiastically for more than twenty years—that he was, by all the evidence, my favorite author. That the Discworld series was over thirty volumes and still, on average, excellent, a feat achieved by no other fantasy series in history.

Meanwhile, I did become a fantasy writer, and was fairly successful at it, to the point that people would sometimes approach me to write stuff for them, and if I found the idea amusing and they were paying enough to interest me, I'd sometimes agree and write the stuff they wanted. I've written book reviews and movie reviews and feature articles and weekly columns and monthly columns and fillers and comic books and various other things.

And a few years ago the fine folks at BenBella Books asked me to write an essay about Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I did, and they liked it enough that they asked me to write more essays, which I did, and they liked those enough that they said, “Say, would you be interested in writing a non-fiction book for us?”

“About what?” I asked.
“Whatever you want,” they said.

I quickly discovered they didn't mean that literally, though. They wanted me to write a book they thought they could sell. Talk about your unreasonable limitations...!

So I gave some thought to what I knew, what I liked, and what other readers might be interested in, and settled on Discworld as my subject.

That meant I had to re-read the entire series. Oh, how I suffer for my art!

Actually, even though the research was tons of fun, I discovered that turning it into a book was difficult. The deadline had to be extended a couple of times. Organizing the material was tough— non-fiction doesn't have a plot to provide structure. When I started, I didn't have a clear theme; in fact, I didn't really settle on one until I read the three “Science of Discworld” volumes. I knew I didn't want to write stuffy literary criticism; I don't like lit-crit much, and I don't think most readers do, either. I wanted to do something light and fun, with serious underpinnings – not totally unlike Discworld itself. I started off with the idea of pretending I was jealous of Pratchett's success, and that I was analyzing his work with the hope of using what I learned to turn my own fantasy novels into bestsellers, but that wasn't really enough to sustain an entire book all by itself.

Fortunately, I did find my theme eventually, that the Discworld stories are all about stories, and it all fell into place. I'm reasonably pleased with the result. I hope readers will be, too.

ABOUT LAWRENCE WATT-EVANS:

Lawrence Watt-Evans published his first novel, “The Lure of the Basilisk”, at 24 and has since written more than 30 novels, more than 100 short stories, more than 150 published articles and contributed to several of BenBella Books’ Smart Pop titles. He was a 1987 nominee for the Nebula Award and a 1988 winner of the Hugo Award for Best Short Story (Why I Left Harry's All-Night Hamburgers). Lawrence has been a full-time writer and editor for more than 25 years and has also worked as an instructor of Viable Paradise on Martha’s Vineyard and at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD. “The Turtle Moves! Discworld’s Story Unauthorized” is his first non-fiction book.

ABOUT THE TURTLE MOVES! DISCWORLD’S STORY UNAUTHORIZED:

From humble beginnings as a Sword & Sorcery parody to more than thirty volumes of wit, wisdom and whimsy, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series has become a phenomenon unlike any other. Now, in “The Turtle Moves!”, Lawrence Watt-Evans presents a story-by-story history of Discworld’s evolution as well as a look at How It All Works and What It All Means, all refreshingly free of literary jargon and littered with informative footnotes.

Part breezy reference guide, part droll commentary, “The Turtle Moves!” will enlighten and entertain every Pratchett reader, from the casual browser to the most devout of Discworld’s fans…

2 comments:

Dark Wolf said...

Robert, with a great pleasure I nominated you for I Love Your Blog Award (http://darkwolfsfantasyreviews.blogspot.com/2008/10/i-love-your-blog-award.html).
Please keep up the good work :)

Robert said...

Wow, thanks Mihai!!! I really appreciate it and I hope your blog gets many more nominations :D

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