Patrick E. McLean : Just what it says on the tin.

An Open Letter to Terry Pratchett (11 reasons to allow Americans into your contest.)

So, Sir Terry Pratchett is having a contest for unpublished novels, but you can’t enter if you live in the U.S. This sucks. Especially for me. Because How to Succeed in Evil is an unpublished satire/parody that uses the superhero genre in a similar way that Sir Terry uses the genre of fantasy. He doesn’t really write “fantasy” novels. He writes very funny, yet very serious books that deal with things in our world, but take the edge off by setting them in Discworld. His book Thud! is a very good example that deals with fundamentalist Islam but does it with dwarfs and humor, instead of say, fear and bombs.

So the fact that Terry Pratchett exists at all (and is the #2 selling author in the UK) gave me hope. But when I realized I couldn’t enter his contest because of the accident of my birth, my hopes were dashed.

So to protest I entered anyway and sent the following letter. I am an American, there’s really not much I can do about that. But that means that not following English rules (or understanding Cricket) is in my blood.

Dear Sir Terry Pratchett,

I was overjoyed to hear of the Pratchett Prize, but, upon examining the rules of your contest, my hopes were dashed, for you have excluded the United States and with it 36% of the world’s English-speaking population.

I implore you to make an exception. If possible, a general exception to include all former colonies, but I will settle for a personal exception for any or all of the reasons given below.

  1. Turtles — You and I both know it’s turtles all the way down. Which makes national boundaries seem even more foolish and arbitrary than they already are.
  2. Literary Asylum — I have written a nuanced satire involving the tropes of the superhero genre. And, in the United States, both nuance and satire have a rough time of it. I send my book to you in the hopes it might find a better life in a foreign land.
  3. Historic Precedent — I submit this work from land which was originally conveyed to the 1st Earl of Shaftsbury by King Charles II. It was known as the Province of Carolina. So, while not meeting the exact letter of your contest’s rules, I do meet the spirit. (far more so than if I was submitting from say, the vapid, overpopulated desert of the Los Angeles Basin.)
  4. Technological — If it is true that you have excluded the United States from your contest because our harsh Americanized spelling of words like color and flavor are too jarring to your English sensibilities, I am happy to run my manuscript through Google Translate.
  5. Lend-Lease — While it is true that in 2006 your then Economic Secretary of the Treasury (and still unfortunately named) Edward Balls, made the final $83.3 million payment on the WWII lend-lease funds, it does not seem too much ask to allow the United States into your contest in exchange for the favorable credit terms which we extended you.
  6. Ex Post Facto Residency — If I win the contest, I’ll move to London for at least two weeks. Maybe three.
  7. Dignity — While there was the unpleasant business of the revolution (and the more recent debacles and embarrassments of American foreign policy) it is not in keeping with the high honor of a Commander of the Order of the British Empire to hold a grudge. How would one illustrate a grudge on your Coat of Arms? Besides retained grudges can become infected in a way no poultice or pill may cure.
  8. Kafkaesque — Havent’ we all had our fill of senselessly applied procedures and rules? It is your contest, Sir Terry. You can change it.
  9. For the Empire — You can make the admission of my book, “How to Succeed in Evil” a powerful message that you are reclaiming all former British colonies in the New World. Yes, it’s a long shot, but if it works you will most certainly be advanced to a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire. Then you will get to wear that purple dressing gown thingee. Mantle is it? Which I hear is lined with grey silk and provides great relief during the drafty winter months.
  10. Rhetorical — If you do not grant me admission to your contest it can only mean that words have no power to move the hardest of hearts. If this is so, how can any good cause hope to sway those in power to the side of right? Chivalry will have been dealt the final blow by your hand. Sir Terry, how could you?
  11. Civility — I asked nicely. Hopefully humorously and eloquently, but I most certainly asked nicely. That has to count for something.


Patrick E. McLean

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