creative legacy is in safe hands. Rob Wilkins, his friend and business manager, gives Jonathan Wright the lowdown on books, TV shows and films in the pipeline…
How his legacy goes on.
Three hats hang on a stand in what used to be Sir Terry Pratchett’s Wiltshire office. A bowler, a top hat and his signature fedora. A little over a year on from the writer’s death, the black hats he would don to show he was in professional author mode are still important. “If I get invited to a convention or any public event, one step ahead of me will always be Terry, and I personify that [by taking] Terry’s hat,” explains Rob Wilkins, Pratchett’s friend and business manager.
To judge by the number of Pratchett-related projects on the slate, the hats may be called into action often in the years ahead. Books, TV shows and movies are all in the pipeline – and those are just the projects Wilkins is prepared to talk about publicly, the ones announced at April’s glorious memorial at the Barbican.
Overseeing these projects is a huge responsibility and it’s not one Wilkins takes lightly. It was, he says, an “epiphany” to one day wake up and realise the most important thing Narrativia, the TV and film company that holds the rights to Pratchett’s books, can do is “to say ‘no’ and to say ‘no’ with conviction” when things aren’t right.
In a similar vein, there really won’t be any further Discworld books by other authors, although Wilkins has notes on 10 ideas for books that would have been written had Pratchett been granted more years – including Clang!, a tale of campanology and a city under siege.
Even that title is possibly more than Wilkins meant to reveal, so let’s stick with what definitely lies ahead. As Pratchett wrote in Going Postal, “Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?” There’s plenty to ensure his name continues to be spoken…
There’s a romance to this that is unavoidable, and it is going to be brilliant
TERRY PRATCHETT: THE BIOGRAPHY
In his final years, Pratchett began to write what he originally hoped would be an autobiography, but which will now be completed by Wilkins. Pratchett was able to work on the project despite the “embuggerance” of his Alzheimer’s because the condition affected his short-term memory far more badly than, for instance, his memories of childhood.
Wilkins’ voice will take over in “telling the story of the public Terry”, but he won’t commit to a date: “I don’t want to be constrained by ‘it’s going to be published this christmas’, or even for next Easter. It’s got to be right above anything else because it’s Terry’s story and the family have entrusted me to tell that story.”
TERRY PRATCHETT: THE DOCUMENTARY
In addition to the print biography, the BBc will also tell the story of Pratchett’s life. charlie Russell, who helmed the Pratchett-fronted films Living With Alzheimer’s, Choosing To Die and Facing Extinction is again directing. He filmed at the memorial event, he’s already interviewed Neil gaiman, and there will be footage of Pratchett talking about his life. For Wilkins, it’s key that he trusts Russell, and so did Pratchett: “If you do something that makes you look an idiot, well, you’ve got to live with it but he’s not out to film that, he’s out to film the story.”
It may be an unconventional film: “I’ve got an idea it’s going to be slightly crazier than what we’ve achieved before…” Expect transmission early next year.
GOOD OMENS: THE TV SERIES
The multi-part adaptation of Pratchett’s best-loved non-Discworld novel, an Omenesque comedy, is being written by – who else? – its co-author, Neil gaiman. Not that gaiman initially agreed to script the series. That’s essentially because both men always saw it as something they worked on together.
gaiman’s agreement followed one of his final trips to Wiltshire to see Pratchett. Driving gaiman back to the train station, Wilkins had a cheeky word: “Neil, Good Omens needs somebody who loves the book as much as you and Terry.” gaiman’s initial response was, “I couldn’t do it, couldn’t do it, couldn’t do it.” Exchanges of emails followed and “eventually Neil said, ‘Do you know what, I’ll do it. I’ll do it for Terry’”. It’s going well. Wilkins: “I’m saying this to you as fanboy Rob, it’s awesome!”
THE WATCH: THE TV SERIES
Several years back, Terry Pratchett came to the SFX offices to announce that a police procedural featuring commander Sam Vimes and the Ankh-morpork city Watch was in production. “He announced it because he wanted it to happen in his lifetime,” says Wilkins. “He wanted to have that red carpet moment or the big Saturday show.” Since then… nothing. Well, so it might seem.
In fact, says Wilkins, a series that mixes new material in with the story arc that begins with Guards! Guards! is still gradually taking shape. “The process is really slow, but then you talk to our lawyers and they say, ‘It’s TV, it takes fourto-eight years, relax, relax into this process.’”
THE WEE FREE MEN: THE MOVIE
There is going to be a big announcement about this project at San Diego comic con in July, but one thing we already know is that Pratchett’s daughter, Rhianna, has written the screenplay of a novel that tells of a young witch finding her place in the world.
“She gave the first treatment to Terry for what became his final father’s day present,” says Wilkins. “She wrapped it up in a ribbon and then read it to him cover-to-cover, humorous accents included, and then later she submitted the first draft of the script on what would have been his 68th birthday. There’s a romance to this that is unavoidable, and it is going to be brilliant, and to say that she wants to get it right is an understatement. She wants it to be more perfect than anybody else could’ve done it.”
MORT: THE MOVIE
Blame downing a Bloody mary, but when Wilkins met Mort scriptwriter Terry Rossio (Shrek, Pirates Of The Caribbean) at an Italian restaurant in Hollywood, he took it upon himself to offer the writer some advice: the first few pages of Mort, the story of Death’s apprentice, tell you everything you need to know about the character, they weren’t to be messed with.
Wilkins: “He says, ‘Okay, Rob, but how about this?’ and as long as I live I will never forget this. Over the next five minutes, he plays directly into my head, how the opening sequence of Mort should be.” Rossio, says Wilkins, has captured the essence of these pages, but done it cinematically. “It was so perfect, so perfect the spaghetti’s falling off my fork. And he got to the end of it and he said, ‘How about that?’ Brilliant! The man is a genius and I never use that word lightly.”
THE LONG COSMOS
The final novel in the five-book parallel Earth sequence that began with The Long Earth is out in late June (and reviewed on p108). It’s based on a story arc Pratchett worked out with his co-author, Stephen Baxter, in conversation aided by “a lot of glugging”. Wilkins: “The mechanical writing by the end is Steve, but the ideas are still shared between them.”
And we really shouldn’t underestimate Baxter’s creative contribution. He would “dig his heels in” if he thought something didn’t work. “He and Terry got on very, very well. They had their moments, but the best thing about arguing with Terry was you’re not arguing about, ‘This cup of tea’s gone cold,’ or something like that, it’s not the inane stuff, it’s arguing about specific plot points. The stuff that really matters.”
THE DISCWORLD COLOURING BOOK
No, we weren’t that excited, and then Wilkins showed us proofs of a book created by Paul kidby that recreates his illustrations. We were impressed. “The detail is phenomenal. Jonathan [SFX] is looking at [a line drawing of ] the grumpy librarian sitting at his desk with the Monster Fun Grimoire in front of him – 60 hours converting that from colour. From what I gather, people are pre-ordering at least two copies; one to colour and one to keep pristine.”
THE DISCWORLD ENCYCLOPEDIA
Expect several volumes, probably beginning with one devoted to Death/death: “It’s what Terry wanted at the end of Discworld, thinking he would have retired from the novels. He never would have retired from the novels. I always said to him, ‘What do you think you might do in your retirement?’ He said, ‘Oh, I don’t know, people always say that everybody’s got a novel in them, I might tinker.’”
Terry Pratchett with Stephen Baxter, and the first of their co-written novels.
Sir Terry celebrating City Watch plans with producer Rod Brown.