A conversation with Terry Pratchett, author of The Carpet People

Carpet People dof34Deep among the Carpet fronds, where the wild snargs prowl, the Munrung tribe has known peace for decades. But now the old order is unraveling, and a new story is in the making. A story of Fray, sweeping a trail of destruction; of villainous mouls, hungry for power; and of two noble brothers on the adventure of a lifetime.

It’s a story that will come to a terrible end—if someone doesn’t do something about it. If everyone doesn’t do something about it . . .

This special edition of Sir Terry Pratchett’s hilarious and wise first novel The Carpet People features his own illustrations, including never-before- published art, and revised text. Also included is an exclusive short story written by Terry at age seventeen, before he went on to create the phenomenally popular Discworld series and become one of the world’s most beloved storytellers.

Cory Doctorow and the famed author discuss building worlds, the legitimacy of authority, and the future:

Cory: You took a bunch of runs at building a world where a million stories could unfold—The Carpet People, Truckers, and, finally, Discworld. Is Discworld’s near-total untethering from our world the secret of its staying power?

Terry: It isn’t our world, but on the other hand it is very much like our world. Discworld takes something from this world all the time, shows you bits of the familiar world in new light by putting them into Discworld. Is that staying power? You tell me.


Cory: What’s the secret to Discworld’s unplumbable depths, and is there something a big world lacks when compared to one that’s smaller (in more than one way), like the Carpet?

Terry: We know about Earth; we know an awful lot about the solar system. When you do Discworld, you, the writer, can more or less change anything if you want to, if you can make it fit. It means you’re god, and that’s a great responsibility. As a writer, you can take bits of the universe and put it in your own new universe. Working in Discworld, you use the word sandwich, and you think: Can I do this? Now I’ve got to have a reason why a sandwich is a sandwich—in our world, it was named after the man associated with its invention, the Earl of Sandwich. Can you have your own universe and still have sandwiches? You have to do it all yourself and decide if you need to open the door into our reality at the same time.

Once Discworld started moving, as it were, it started moving almost of its own volition, because I would write a Discworld novel, and that novel required that such and such should be available, or whatever, and that means that the next time, that’s real in Discworld and the thing grows. And I must say it grows to be rather bigger than a carpet—but with care, it can have just about anything in it.

I’m finishing up Raising Steam, in which the railroad comes to Ankh-Morpork, and an awful lot of things have to be made and discovered until you get to the top of that pyramid. You can’t have Vaseline until someone’s invented something else. You have to create and understand a lot of things before you can move on. And so, since I work on Discworld almost all the time, it grows because I need it to.

Cory: Do you think that there’s any way you could have kept us in the Carpet for anything like the number of books that we’ve gotten from Discworld?

Terry: I was about to say “No,” but right now I wonder. . . . If the idea had taken, I don’t know. I really don’t. But how would it be? It would be almost a kind of . . . People in the Carpet are more or less tribal. What would happen if I . . . You’ve got me thinking!


Cory: So much of your work is about the legitimacy of authority. You write a lot of feudal scenarios, but you also seem like a fellow with a lot of sympathy for (and suspicion of!) majority rule. The witches gain authority through cunning and compassion (Nanny Ogg), through knowledge and force of will (Granny Weatherwax). Kings rule by divine right and compassion for the land; Vetenari, out of the practical fact of his ability to control the city’s factions. The Carpet People is shot through with themes of who should rule and why. Where does legitimate authority spring from?

Terry: The people! The only trouble is the people can be a bit stupid—I know that; I’m one of the people, and I’m quite stupid.

Lord Vetinari is that wonderful thing: a sensible ruler—that’s why he’s so popular. Everyone grumbles about him, but no one wants to chance what it would be like if he wasn’t there. I like Vetinari. I don’t mind authority, but not authoritarian authority. After all, the bus driver is allowed to be the boss of the bus. But if he’s bad at driving, he’s not going to be a bus driver anymore. Now, an interesting sideline on this is the question of the writer’s position is vis-à-vis authority.

A journalist looks at authority as a target as a matter of course. You don’t actually have to fire, but you see it as a target. Since I am tainted as a journalist, I can’t separate that out from being a novelist, and my personal view is that you look askance (at the least) at authority. Authority must be challenged at every step. You challenge authority all the time to keep it on its toes. Vetinari works because there aren’t enough people who think he’s doing a bad job; they’re all factions, in any case. So he balances the world. It’s not everyone being happy, but rather not too many of them being unhappy.

Read the entire interview here.

The Carpet People is now available wherever books are sold. Read an excerpt and learn more here.