was essential for the decision to write the easy town story
Until September 2013 I dismissed Terry Pratchett as someone with unnaturally colourful book covers who couldn’t possibly hold anything interesting for me.
But since I kept coming across his name, I eventually decided to give him the benefit of the doubt, and looking at the list of Discworld novels, I thought: ‘If I go there, I’ll start with the first book.’
Five months and nearly forty books later, I finished Snuff, still smiling.
Reading Terry Pratchett was like shedding chains that had kept me from becoming myself. It was like finally meeting someone who told me I was all right. Whose stories told me that I can write everything I have been mulling over, and that I can do so with the playfulness and ease I enjoy. And that there is nothing wrong with using the full extent of my imagination.
In short, reading Terry Pratchett was liberating.
There is a good chance that Alice will refer to Terry Pratchett in book 4/1, building, when she has to go through a lot of discussions with politicians. At some point, she might say: ‘You had Terry Pratchett for decades, and you didn’t listen. Now you have me, and I’m not so kind as to transport all my critique to a different universe. Why? Because time is up.’ Or something like that.
The years that followed
At some point, I decided that I would contact Terry Pratchett to get him on board for the easy town projects. And I included him in some of my earlier easy town stories, adding dementia to the main research areas for Easy Town (which started out with a focus on the neurological patient). What kept me from contacting him was that I wanted the ideas to be more mature before putting them to the test with as excellent a mind as Terry Pratchett’s. Today, I wish I had contacted him straight away.
The night of the decision
I use stories to explore ideas, none of which are written down or intended for publication. And usually those stories are incomplete and wouldn’t work in a book anyway.
The easy town story you find in the easy town books is different. It’s a complete and complex story which I did over several weeks in 2016.
About a week after I emerged from the story, I sat in the armchair in my small room. It was getting dark, but I didn’t turn on the lights.
As I sat there, looking at the dusky sky, I missed the easy town story. And suddenly, a thought hit me: Why don’t you write the story down?
Several objections popped up.
Objection: The story was never intended to be shared.
Counter: So what? It doesn’t get more authentic than this. Besides the story has a natural dynamic which you can’t invent. There is no pretence or compliance and trying to make a point. It’s a story free of constraints. And so many aspects of earlier stories have fallen into place here. Plus it’s an ideal story to use as a playground for the town ideas. Think about all the discoveries you have already made and how many more you can make while writing it. Besides the story might earn enough money to put some of the ideas to a test.
O: But what about Alice? Do you really want to write a story with yourself as the main character?
C: Well … No. (After some thinking.) It’s not possible to replace Alice. My story and the easy town story are too narrowly intertwined. I would just mess up the story if I tried.
O: You have to take out Jack!
C: Hm. (After a lot of thinking). I tried to replace him. I went over every year of the story, over every key scene. And only in the last year, I gave up. Jack is essential. He has to stay. And everything about him plays a role, sooner or later. Besides, I might not like the romantic side he brings into the story but that side has a lot to offer when it comes to rethinking– well, everything.
O: It’s a blunt and fearless story. Should you really write it?
C: Terry Pratchett does. He might have wrapped his critique in his fantasy world, but he never shied away from being honest, from caring about people, from aiming critique were it’s overdue. If he can do that, then so can I.
Terry Pratchett in the easy town story
When the easy town story opened a door to mention Terry Pratchett, I didn’t hesitate to say my thanks this way.
Three of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels left traces in the Otaon chapter of book 2, travelling: The Thief of Time with the famous quote: Never forget Rule One. Jingo. This story, set in a fictional country with some references to the Middle East, is fittingly mentioned in Otaon, a fictional country in the Middle East. Guards! Guards! Making sure that no group should be powerful enough to overrule any of the other groups is mentioned.
And one of Terry Pratchett’s characters left her mark too: Granny Weatherwax. I’m speculating here, but I guess the little dialogue between Afsaneh and Alice about witches, and even the story about the snake and the witch, owe some thanks to this formidable character in the Discworld multiverse. I guess without Granny, I wouldn’t have given witches a single thought.
Granny Weatherwax appears in several Discworld novels, such as Equal Rites, Wyrd Sisters, Witches Abroad, Carpe Jugulum and others.
Differences of opinion
Unused snippet from book 2, travelling, Otaon:
‘I guess you don’t agree with all of Pratchett’s views,’ Prince Harun remarked.
‘No, I don’t. And I regret that I can’t challenge him. I would have enjoyed a nice argument. But I waited too long to get in touch with him. And now he’s gone.’
‘Yes, kind of.’
The official Terry Pratchett website: Terry Pratchett books
Still reading Terry Pratchett
I always knew that I would write the easy town story in English. It was done in English. Its characters speak English. But that meant, I needed to immerse myself in the language. So I quit reading German, I made a point of only watching movies in English, and I picked some of Terry Pratchett’s and Ian Rankin’s books for the sole purpose of reading them several times, focusing on grammar, spelling and vocabulary — though not all input from these books was helpful /:-)
One of the words I nicked from Terry Pratchett is thud. And one of the habits I adopted, is not to bother with how often I write: he or she said. Mostly characters simply say things. They don’t argue, remark, muse or mention. And even if they ask a question, they usually simply say the question. That’s one of the smaller chains that went bust and probably clang.
The top 8 of my favourite Terry Pratchett books
- Thief of Time
- Raising Steam
- Pyramids – in particular the camel
- The Truth
- The Fifth Elephant
- Night Watch
- Going Postal
Saying that, taking the journey from first to last Discworld novel in one go is worthwhile.