The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Terry Pratchett

Terence David John Pratchett OBE (known to some fans as Pterry) is an English fantasy author (born April 28, 1948, in Beaconsfield, Bucks), best known for his Discworld series.



Terry Pratchett was born in Beaconsfield to David and Eileen Pratchett, of Hay-on-Wye. He credits his education to High Wycombe Technical High School and Beaconsfield Public Library.

His first published work was the short story "The Hades Business", which appeared in his school magazine when he was 13, and was subsequently reprinted in Science Fantasy magazine in 1963, for which he was paid 14. His second published work was "Night Dweller", which appeared in New Worlds magazine, issue 156 in November 1965.

On leaving school in 1965, he gained employment as a local newspaper journalist on the Bucks Free Press ("I started work one morning and saw my first body three hours later, 'on-the-job training' meaning something in those days"). He subsequently moved on to a number of other regional newspapers in south-west England including the Western Daily Press and Bath Chronicle.

It was during his time as a journalist that he was sent to interview Peter Bander van Duren, a co-director of Colin Smythe Limited, a small publishing company in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, about a new book the company was publishing and Pratchett happened to mention that he had written a novel of his own, The Carpet People. It was eventually published in 1971, with a launch party held in the carpet department of Heal's department store on Tottenham Court Road, London.

In 1980, he became Press Officer for the Central Electricity Generating Board in an area which covered several nuclear power stations; he later joked that he had demonstrated impeccable timing by making this career change so soon after the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in Pennsylvania, USA. Pratchett gave up his work for the CEGB in 1987 when he realised he could make a living through writing; this accounts for a significant increase in his output, and since then has managed to publish two novels a year. It was once estimated that 1% of all fiction books sold in Britain were written by Pratchett, although this figure was calculated before the success of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter phenomenon.

In 1998 Terry Pratchett was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to literature. Typically, his own tongue-in-cheek comment was "I suspect the 'services to literature' consisted of refraining from trying to write any." He has been awarded honorary Doctorates of Letters, by the University of Warwick in 1999, and by the University of Bristol in 2004.

His daughter Rhianna Pratchett (born 1976) is a fantasy author and journalist.

Pratchett lists his recreations as "writing, walking, computers, life." He is also well known for his penchant for cowboy hats, as seen on the back covers of most of his books.


Now containing over 30 books, the Discworld series is a humorous fantasy work that parodies everything under the sun where the disc-shaped world rotates on the backs of four giant elephants supported by the enormous turtle Great A'Tuin swimming its way through space. Major topics of parody have included many science fiction and fantasy characters, ideas and tropes, Ingmar Bergman films, Australia, film making, newspaper publishing, rock and roll music, religion, philosophy (mainly Greek), Egyptian history, trade unions, monarchy, and on and on.

Pratchett's novel The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents won the 2001 Carnegie Medal for best children's novel (awarded in 2002).

See the Discworld article for a list of Discworld novels.

Related works

Together with Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, Pratchett has also written The Science of Discworld (1999) and The Science of Discworld II: The Globe (2002). Both of these have chapters that alternate between fiction and non-fiction, with the fictional chapters being set on the Discworld. A third book in this series, The Science of Discworld III: Darwin's Watch, is scheduled for release in May 2005.


The Discworld universe has also been used as a basis for a number of Discworld videogames on a range of formats, such as the Sega Saturn, the Sony Playstation, the Philips CD-i, and the 3DO Console as well as Windows PCs.

First editions of the early Discworld books in good condition are very valuable - the British first hardcover edition of The Colour of Magic is now worth over 2000 (4,500 copies were printed by St Martin's Press in the USA, of which 506 were sold in Britain under the Colin Smythe imprint, hence the scarcity!), while The Light Fantastic is worth 1000-1500.

It is even possible to get a character in one of the future Discworld books named after yourself. Usually people appear in the books by bidding for the privilege in charity auctions.

The covers of all of the Discworld novels sold in the United Kingdom until 2001 were created by Josh Kirby.

See also: Discworld, Discworld characters

Other non-discworld books by Pratchett

Other books containing contributions by Pratchett

Works about Pratchett

Pratchett's books have received a level of critical acclaim unusual for their genre. A collection of essays about his writings is compiled in the book, Terry Pratchett: Guilty of Literature?, eds. Andrew M. Butler , Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn , publish by Science Fiction Foundation in 2000.

Two trivia books have been published, both compiled by David Langford. They are named The Unseen University Challenge and The Wyrdest Link.


Pratchett was one of the first authors to use the Internet to communicate with fans and has been a contributor to the Usenet newsgroup for over a decade.


Terry Pratchett makes no secret of outside influences on his work; they are a major source of humour. He imports numerous characters from popular culture, but adds an unexpected aspect. These references are fairly consistent, and there are lists available on Terry Pratchett fansites which detail all the known references.


Pratchett's interest in orangutans is not confined to the Librarian, one of his most popular fictional characters. He has also done work for the Orang-Utan Foundation including visiting Borneo with a Channel 4 film crew to make an episode of "Jungle Quest", seeing orangutans in their natural habitat. Following Pratchett's lead, fan events such as the Discworld Conventions have adopted the Orang-Utan Foundation as their nominated charity.


Aside from his distinctive writing style, Pratchett is known for the use of footnotes in his books. Usually involving a comic departure from the narrative or commentary on the narrative, these footnotes are more numerous in his earlier work.


  1. The Dutch translation of Good Omens contains an ironic preface by the translator wherein he asserts that no extra footnotes were added to clarify matters that might be unclear to a modern audience—annotated with footnotes explaining omen and Crowley.

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