In Person

Terry Pratchett at BookPeople, Monday, Oct. 13

In Person
Photo By Frank Arnold

There's something infinitely comforting in knowing, finally, that British fantasist Terry Pratchett is just as big a geek in person as he is on the printed page. More so, actually: Monday night's booksigning at BookPeople attracted a flood tide of both hardcore sci-fi and fantasy fans (we spotted more than one "Ferengi Rules of Acquisition" T-shirt in the crowd, which is two more than we've ever spotted before) as well as more sedate readers who showed up to see if the author would engage in the sort of verbal swordplay his characters so often excel at. He did, of course, showing up in his semitrademark black cowboy hat and immediately launching into a foreshortened version of His Life Thus Far, including but not limited to his childhood spent working for free in the local library and his stint handling PR for a nuclear energy facility. That's all well and good, but for longtime fans of Pratchett, it's only ever been the Discworld novels that count, and that's what everybody seemed to be clutching (one woman managed to bring a Whole Foods shopping bag loaded to the brim, a sight guaranteed to put any author off his feed). A brief primer, for those out of the loop or still stuck in Middle-earth: Pratchett's 31 fantasy novels set on the fictional Discworld combine Douglas Adams' comic wordplay with Neil Gaiman's penchant for historical and mythological tableaus, and hose it all down with a Monty Python-esque surreality, resulting in, as Pratchett's U.S. publisher, HarperCollins, likes to note, some 30 million books sold worldwide. Pratchett's popularity has as much to do with his ability to take real-world issues (for instance, his new novel Monstrous Regiment is a serio-comic take on life during wartime that has more than a few reflections of our current situation in the Middle East) as with the verbal acrobatics his characters so often employ. And then there are the puns, which were, sadly, in short supply at his appearance. Lack of sufficient sleep may have had something to do with it, but that didn't stop Pratchett from commenting on his favorite, self-coined T-shirt slogan ("Everything I Need to Know I Learned in a Library -- School Taught Me How to Spit") and finally straightening everyone out on the proper pronunciation of his character Lord Vetinari, Patrician of Ankh-Morpork (it's Vet-in-ahry). Obviously, in Pratchett's realm, it's the little things that matter the most, and we're not just talking Dwarves here.

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Terry Pratchett, Monstrous Regiment

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