A Blink of the Screen Collected Shorter Fiction
Formats: Audio. eBook. Hardback.
In the four decades since his first book appeared in print, Terry Pratchett has become one of the world’s best-selling and best-loved authors. Here for the first time are his short stories and other short form fiction collected into one volume. A Blink of the Screen charts the course of Pratchett’s long writing career: from his schooldays through to his first writing job on the Bucks Free Press, to the origins of his debut novel, The Carpet People; and on again to the dizzy mastery of the phenomenally successful Discworld series.Here are characters both familiar and yet to be discovered; abandoned worlds and others still expanding; adventure, chickens, death, disco and, actually, some quite disturbing ideas about Christmas,all of it shot through with his inimitable brand of humour.
With an introduction by Booker Prize-winning author A.S. Byatt, illustrations by the late Josh Kirby and drawings by the author himself, this is a book to treasure.
THE HADES BUSINESS Science Fantasy magazine, ed. John Carnell, no. 60, vol. 20, August 1963. An earlier version was published in the Technical Cygnet, the High Wycombe Technical High School magazine Argh, argh, argh . . . if I put my fingers in my ears and go ‘lalalala’ loudly I won’t hear you read this story. It’s juvenile. Mind you, so was I, being thirteen at the time. It’s the first thing I ever wrote that got published. In fact it’s the first thing I ever wrote with the feeling that I was writing a real story. It began as a piece of homework. The English teacher gave me twenty marks out of twenty for it, and put it in the school magazine. The kids liked it. I was a writer. And this was a big deal, because I hadn’t really been anything up until then. I was good at English. At everything else I was middling, one of those kids that don’t catch the teacher’s eye and are very glad of it. I was even bad at sports, except for the one wonderful term when they let us play hockey, when I was bad and very dangerous. But the other kids had liked it. I’d sniffed blood. There were three, yes, three professional sf and fantasy magazines published in the UK in those days. Unbelievable, but true. I persuaded my aunt, who had a typewriter, to type it out for me, and I sent it to John Carnell, who edited all three. The nerve of the kid. He accepted it. Oh boy. The £14 he paid was enough to buy a second-hand Imperial 58 typewriter from my typing teacher (my mother had decided that I ought to be able to do my own typing, what with being a writer and everything) and, as I write, it seems to me that it was a very good machine for fourteen quid and I just wonder if Mum and Dad didn’t make up the difference on the quiet. Fortunately, before I could do too much damage with the thing, study and exams swept me up and threw me out into a job on the local paper, where I learned to write properly or, at least, journalistically. I’ve re-read the story and my fingers have itched to strip it down, give it some pacing, scramble those clichés, and, in short, rewrite it from the bottom up. But that would be silly, so I’m going to grit my teeth instead. Go ahead, read. I can’t hear you! Lalalalalalala! Crucible opened his front door and stood rooted to the doormat. Imagine the interior of a storm cloud. Sprinkle liberally with ash and garnish with sulphur to taste. You now have a rough idea as to what Crucible’s front hall resembled. The smoke was coming from under the study door. Dimly remembering a film he had once seen, Crucible clapped a hand-kerchief to his nose and staggered to the kitchen. One bucket of water later, he returned. The door would not budge. The phone was in the study, so as to be handy in an emergency. Putting down the pail, Crucible applied his shoulder to the door, which remained closed. He retreated to the opposite wall of the hall, his eyes streaming. Gritting his teeth, he charged. The door opened of its own accord. Crucible described a graceful arc across the room, ending in the fireplace, then everything went black, literally and figuratively, and he knew no more. A herd of elephants were doing the square dance, in clogs, on Crucible’s head. He could see a hazy figure kneeling over him. ‘Here, drink this.’ Ah, health-giving joy-juice! Ah, invigorating stagger-soup! Those elephants, having changed into slippers, were now dancing a sedate waltz: the whisky was having the desired effect. Crucible opened his eyes again and regarded the visitor. ‘Who the devil are you?’ ‘That’s right!’ Crucible’s head hit the grate with a hollow ‘clang!’ The Devil picked him up and sat him in an armchair. Crucible opened one eye. The Devil was wearing a sober black suit, with a red carnation in the buttonhole. His thin waxed moustachios, combined with the minute beard, gave him a dignified air. A cloak and collapsible top hat were on the table. Crucible had known it would happen. After ten years of prising cash from the unsuspecting businessman, one was bound to be caught by Nemesis. He rose to his feet, brushing the soot from his clothes. ‘Shall we be going?’ he asked mournfully. ‘Going? Where to?’ ‘The Other Place, I suppose.’
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