Steamrollered: So Much for Pratchett’s Unpublished Work


Long time readers of this blog know that WC is an unabashed fan of the late Sir Terry Pratchett. Sir Terry, who died March 12, 2015, was WC’s favorite author, a wonderful person as well as a terrific writer.

Sir Terry did not write linearly. He would typically have as many as three books under way at a time. There are – or were – unpublished, incomplete novels by Sir Terry. Arguably, the last published novel, A Shepherd’s Crown, was itself incomplete, as Rob Wilkins noted in the afterword to that posthumously published novel.

Wilkins was Sir Terry’s assistant and friend the last few years of his life, helping Pratchett deal with the disease that killed him. Wilkins also serves as Sir Terry’s literary executor. Pratchett, as reported by Wilkins and Pratchett’s buddy and co-author, Neil Gaiman, left explicit directions: Pratchett wanted “whatever he was working on at the time of his death to be taken out along with his computers, to be put in the middle of a road and for a steamroller to steamroll over them all.” Gaiman said he hoped that didn’t happen. But Wilkins’ sense of duty and friendship prevailed.

On August 25, 2017, Wilkins carried out Sir Terry’s direction:

Rob Wilkins, with Sir Terry's hard drive, approaches a genuine steam roller

Rob Wilkins, with Sir Terry’s hard drive, approaches a genuine steam roller

The deed was done by a vintage John Fowler & Co steamroller named Lord Jericho at the Great Dorset Steam Fair.

The deed is done.

The deed is done.

The scraps of the hard drive will be on display at an exhibit on the author’s life and work, “Terry Pratchett: HisWorld,” which opens Sept. 16 at the Salisbury Museum in England. WC thinks it might have been a lot more interesting to study the unpublished drafts for insights into that brilliant mind, as opposed to gazing at steamrollered fragments of a hard drive. But WC, with Rob Wilkins, reluctantly respects Sir Terry’s wishes. Ah, but what might have been.

WC’s appreciation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s work is richer for having read Christopher Tolkien’s painfully thorough assembly and ordering of drafts. You can see Middle Earth evolving. We won’t have that pleasure with Sir Terry’s work.

The ordinarily mild Sir Terry had a somewhat harsh attitude toward literary criticism. In the DiscWorld, “Critters” were creatures that infested libraries, devouring volumes of literature and excreting thin volumes of literary criticism. Critters are briefly encountered by the Librarian in Guards! Guards!, as he traveled through L-Space. It’s parlous to attempt literary criticism of a satirist.

Ah well. WC will drown his sorrows by re-reading a DiscWorld novel. Likely The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, where the educated rats in question lug around a book titled, Mr. Bunnsy’s Big Adventure, which bears a striking resemblance to the late Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, a Pratchett favorite. The rats treat it as a kind of guide to humans, and Sir Terry, in the course of the novel, teaches us the perils of seeing any novel a guidebook. There’s probably a lesson there for WC and any other literary critics.

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