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Meet the Superfan of: Terry Pratchett

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Sir Terry Pratchett OBE first came to prominence when he wrote his first novel, the Carpet People, back in 1971. In 1983, he published the Colour of Magic, which was the start of his massively successful series of books, Discworld, with the latest book Snuff being the third highest selling book in 2011. Discworld has a worldwide fanbase, with conventions being held around the world four times a year.

One of the them is University of Leeds lecturer Dr. Pat Harkin, a man who loves the Discworld series so much he boasts about his extensive collection of Terry Pratchett memorabilia.

Harkin claimed he got a love for the series when he was visiting a friend in London, who had lent him his copy of the Colour of Magic.

“He said “Oh I’ve just read this. I think you will like this,”” Harkin explains, “and he passed me the book. So I went away with it and I really liked it and at that point I think six books had already been published. So I just started collecting them.”

His first item of collections were some figurines dedicated to Discworld created by the company Clarecraft.

“They brought out mainly figures of the characters which I never got into, but they made some rather nice bookends in pairs, and I got a couple of those.” he said. “Then I discovered that they were about to start making models of the buildings from the Discworld and they started off with a model of the Unseen University...which  was released over a period of two years in seven pieces, so each individual piece wasn’t too expensive.

In fact Harkin managed to get in contact with the man who made all these figurines, a man who now owns the Discworld Emporium in Somerset where Harkin and 300 of his fellow fans meet up twice every year to enjoy ‘Pratchettry.’

His favourite piece of memorabilia though is a pickle that was grown in Terry Pratchett’s garden.  

“Terry is a keen gardener and he grew some onions which he pickled and he gave a bottle of them to...the man behind Clarecraft and the guy who sculpted a lot of the pieces. We have the Discworld equivalent of Christmas which is called Hogswatch and at the Hogswatch charity auction in Wincanton, this man took the very last pickle from his jar and put in a little jar, sealed it and presented it for sale at relic of Pratchettry and put it into the auction and I bought it as a bit of fun.”

Harkin is a known face at the Discworld conventions not just in the UK, but all over the world as he travels to all the conventions including those in America, Germany and Poland. He has even been given the role of the charity auctioneer which involves putting Pratchett memorabilia, even his own, up for auction. All the money goes to charity.

“A typical national convention charity auction raises around £12,000,” Harkin says.

“They’re obviously much smaller meetings, because there would be 900 people at a national convention. There was a meeting last weekend at a festival and I dropped in to do some charity auctions and we raised the around £1,200. Usually it’s for charities that Terry approves such as the Orangutan Foundation and now we are doing a lot of work for Alzheimer’s charities.”

But despite this, Harkin cannot remember the first time he spoke to Terry Pratchett.

 

“It was either at a book signing or online. I managed to intercepted a plea for help from somebody who bought was what was cutting edge technology at the time, a CD Rom for the computer. This guy had bought a CD Rom he couldn’t get the interface card to work because his manual was a photocopy of a photocopy so he couldn’t read it. I had the same model and I sent him some technical information. Sometime later I eventually realised that the man I ended up helping was indeed, Terry Pratchett. But I can’t remember if this happened first, or the bookshop.

“Either way, I was delighted to have met him.”

Mr Harkin is such a regular at the conventions that he has managed overtime to become good friends with the man himself and is a regular at his house.

“He rings me up if he needs any medical piece of information, my background being in medicine,” says Harkin “Once he rung me up and said “How much force will it take to tear somebody’s head off?” which is not really something we cover at medical school, I had to go and do a bit of research on that one.”

“One Sunday morning I was out... the phone rang and he said “This is just between you and me. How much ear wax do you produce in a lifetime?” I mean, what do you want do you want to know that for? So I had to go to my throat surgery journal and find somebody who had measured the amount of ear wax somebody produces and span it over a lifetime.”

Harkin’s collection has not only been noticed by Terry, but by the press as well and has received mixed reviews. But Harkin claims the only comment he really takes to heart is from his son.

“He said ““Dad I love you, but when you die this is all going on eBay so fast the net will spin.””

With all this however people always ask him one question: why so much effort for Terry Pratchett?

Harkin says: “He is friendly to his fans and really open...He had no qualms about talking to people, would sit for hours in bookshops with enormous queues and he wouldn’t go until everybody had been up to have their book signed. He’s probably one of the most approachable people I have ever met. He really is.”

Image (1) by bargainmoose on Flickr (2) by Jutta on Flickr.




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