A Blink of the Screen Collected Shorter Fiction
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.
THERE'S NO FOOL LIKE AN OLD FOOL FOUND IN AN ENGLISH QUEUE
Bath and West Evening Chronicle, 14 January 1978
This was one of those letting-off-steam things: you underwent what the late Patrick Campbell used to call rigours of life, and instead of taking it out on somebody, you wrote it down in a tea break and forgot about it, until it turned up here.
Text of the party political broadcast shortly to be given by the Rt Hon Maurice Dancer, the newly appointed Minister for Queues
Good evening. You will notice how crisply I said that good evening. I mean I didnt drag it out, I came right out with it. Good evening.
Many of you will be wondering why you need a Minister for Queues. Well, its obvious. This is, after all [Glances at board behind camera] 1978, the jet age. We must all, ha ha [Grins] get with it, although we must not of course freak up, I mean freak off. Off out. Lose our heads.
It has come to the notice of your vigilant Government that many people today, in this country of ours, are too slow in queues. We at the Equal Speeds Commission will be doing something about this, make no mistake about it.
Take Post Offices. When you and I go in all we want is a 1012 pee stamp, for which we are proffering the correct money. Of course we are. But in front of us there is always some nit who wants to send a parcel of live ants to Bolivia, and renew his lawnmower licence, and blow us if he doesnt start to fill in a great big form there and then!
Of course, everyone in the queue behind us nips off smartly to the three other vacant counters, and then the selfish clod pulls out a purse and starts to pay for it all in pennies! Meanwhile looking very self-satisfied! [Realizes he is standing up, coughs, adjusts tie, sits down, smooths hair back into place.]
Sorry about that, got a bit carried away there. Now, banks. You go to the Quick-Service Counter to cash as it might be a cheque for 10 and the lady in front of you, it turns out, wants to arrange a complicated transaction that needs phone calls and the taking down of large official books.
And then when you rush to the next counter the man queuing there suddenly opens his briefcase and takes out dozens of little bags of coins, which all have to be weighed and counted!
How many times have you got to the railway station in reasonable time for the train only to find some complacent person at the ticket counter opening negotiations for a return ticket to Vladivostok? And of course the clerk, instead of motioning him to the back of the queue, abets him, because its a change from the usual cheap day returns to London.
Ho yes! Ive got my eye on the likes of him! Hes the sort who whips into a garage forecourt a bumper ahead of me and then fills his car up very slowly from the one available pump. I mean, you know how you can make those self- service pumps shoot the petrol up at a gallon every ten seconds but not this chap, oh no, he fidgets with the trigger just in case it runs away with him, and then when youre waiting to pay he takes out a cheque book, verrrry slowly, asks the man what the date is, and then says By the way, sorry to be a nuisance, have you got a fanbelt for a 1954 Austin Trundler?
And then he has the brass-bound nerve to smile in a self- satisfied way. Oh yes, hes thinking, Im first in the queue I am, oh yes, I can take all day if I like, oh yes, any more tooth- grinding out of you matey and Ill buy five pints of oil, an anorak, one of these ghastly little air fresheners and a motor- ing map of Angola.
Ironmongers shops! This vermin breeds there like flies! Youre waiting there with your little packet of quite simple nails and he says to the man, Sorry to be a nuisance, I want a lock.
When theyve shown him all the locks in the shop he decides that hed better go home again and measure the door, but meanwhile could they show him some hinges?
In the past, if you were to seize a length of, as it might be, 22-millimetre copper piping from the counter and batter him with it, our antiquated legal system would have dealt severely with you. Not any more! From now on, unless they are a registered old age pensioner, you will be able to give these people what they richly deserve and theyd better not go and moan to anyone! Thatll teach them!
Whats the good of being in power unless you use it, thats what I say. God, I hate these people, the hours Ive spent standing behind women who open their shopping bags to open another bag to open their handbag to find their purse to find the money to pay [Voice off: Are you going to be all night? Ive got a simple news bulletin here and youve been going on for twenty minutes! ]
Thank you, good evening.
Crivens! It appears the audio excerpt from the book that we had to go here has been borrowed by a wee free man.