Preface to v7

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[Note: This section was written for APF v7a.0, and has not yet been updated for APF v7a.5.]
Please allow me the indulgence of a short section on my favourite subject: trivial statistics. The APF v7a.0 boasts a total of no less than 370 new or non-trivially expanded annotations. With these results, we get the following APF Growth Chart data points:

APF v1.4 had 14 entries, 160 lines and was 5 Kb large.

APF v2.0 had 78 entries, 631 lines, and was 28 Kb large.

APF v3.0 had 133 entries, 1071 lines, and was 49 Kb large.

APF v4.0 had 198 entries, 1702 lines, and was 79 Kb large.

APF v5.0 had 336 entries, 3340 lines, and was 148 Kb large.

APF v6.0 had 622 entries, 6611 lines, and was 296 Kb large.

APF v7.0 had 974 entries, 10165 lines, and was 450 Kb large.

APF v7a.0 has 1300 entries, 13680 lines, and is 615 Kb large.

Keep it up folks, keep it up...

To Annotate Or Not To Annotate

[Note: This section was written for APF v7a.0, and has not yet been updated for APF v7a.5.]

In the early versions of the APF nearly every annotation that I received was quickly incorporated into the next version of the file. For the later versions, however, I was forced to reject literally dozens of annotations, most of which are not so very different from ones that did make it into the APF, and I am a bit apprehensive that people might take offence at this (particularly since I suspect they will not see the method to my madness) and will stop making an effort to supply me with annotations.

Now for one thing, quite a few annotations didn’t make it into this version of the APF because I simply couldn’t place them. People send me annotations that are keyed to the page numbers in their books, which more often than not are not the same editions I use. As a result, I sometimes have to spend a lot of time searching for a particular sentence or scene, and in many cases I just can’t place it at all.

Another reason why annotations may be rejected is because I couldn’t confirm the reference. Mind you, sometimes I’ll include references that are simply so cool, or so authoritative-sounding, that even though I don’t know anything about the subject myself, I feel they will enhance the file. Often however, I receive annotations that are rather vague and non-specific, and which I do not wish to include without some further confirmation. This confirmation can for instance consist of someone else mailing me the same annotation, or of me delving into encyclopedias or dictionaries and checking things myself.

And a final batch of entries are of course rejected because I thought they were either too implausible or too “obvious”. Now please note, that as soon as I start getting the same annotation from two or more sources, then I will (in nearly all cases) accept it for the APF, regardless of what I may think about it myself.

However. As long I have received a particular annotation from one source only, I’m going to have to make what is basically a very subjective judgement call—that is what I’m editor for. If an annotation strikes me as implausible or just not very interesting, then it’s out. If I think it’s valid, or if I just like it, then it’s in. If a trivial annotation is in the same category as many others already in the file, then it will usually be in (I am a stickler for consistency), unless I’m bored, in which case I simply want to get on with the fun stuff, and I leave it out. Sic Biscuitas Desintegrat, as they say.

The important point I want to get across here is that none of these annotations are rejected ‘forever’, and that everything is filed away for future reference. They may very well be used in later versions of the APF.

So what do I base my judgement calls on, you may rightfully ask? The answer is of course that I don’t really consciously know, and that it usually just depends on my mood anyway. One important rule of thumb that I try to follow as much as possible is the following:

I do not like explaining English puns or words. As soon as another language is involved (“with milk?”) -- fine. As soon as some weird old British saying is parodied (“good fences”) -- cool. As soon as it is obvious that many readers are simply not getting it (“echognomics”) -- no problem. But as a basic heuristic I am assuming that everybody who is able to read Terry Pratchett’s books in the original language has enough command of the English language to understand puns; and enough sense to use a dictionary if she encounters an unfamiliar word. I don’t want to have to explain why Witches Abroad or Equal Rites are funny titles.

The Apf In Other Formats

[Note: This section was written for APF v7a.0, and has not yet been updated for APF v7a.5.]
[Note: Different formats of the APF can be downloaded from the Pratchett FTP Archives at <>]
The APF v5.0 marked the first appearance of the typeset (PostScript) version of the APF, which turned out to be a huge success, especially after the v6.0 version saw big improvements in formatting and layout. If you have access to a laser printer I definitely suggest that you give it a try.

This PostScript version is the output that results from compiling a LaTeX version of the file, which in turn is generated automatically from the plain text by using a number of software filters I’ve written especially for this purpose. A key property of these filters is that they are largely independent of the target language, which means that it is possible for me to generate typeset commands for a number of different formats, not just for LaTeX.

Starting with v7a.0, for instance, I now also automatically generate an HTML version of the APF, suitable for viewing on the World Wide Web, or for using as a local hypertext version of the file.

In the past, the APF has also been adapted by enterprising individuals to various other formats (AmigaGuide, Windows Help), and as my set of filters becomes more stable and powerful, I intend to generate those formats as well, and thus incorporate these secondary versions into the ‘official’ release.

If you know of a particular format that you’d like me to support, feel free to send me e-mail about it.


[Note: This section was written for APF v7a.0, and has not yet been updated for APF v7a.5.]
People who write articles to or who e-mail me on the subject of annotations have by now learned to live with one thing: for the APF I will freely quote (i.e: steal) from everybody, without explicit permission or credit.

It’s not only that I think long lists of contributors’ names would be a bother to maintain (we’re literally talking about hundreds of names here), would make the APF even larger than it already is, and would be completely uninteresting to anybody except the contributors themselves; but doing it my way also allows me to edit, change, and mutilate the texts as I see fit without worrying about folks going “but that’s not what I said!”.

(The only exception to this rule, by the way, is the material I quote from Terry Pratchett himself: I do not edit or change any of that, apart from choosing a selection in the first place, fixing typos or obvious mistakes, and adapting punctuation to conform to the rest of the APF. In other words:

What You See Is What He Said.) Another rule that applies throughout the APF is that whenever you see the pronoun ‘I’ in an annotation, then it will always be me, the editor, speaking (unless explicitly noted otherwise, e.g. in Terry’s and other people’s quotes).

Apart from all the folks who contributed annotations, there are heaps of people who have gone out of their way to help me get the APF into its current form, and thanking them is certainly something that I don’t mind spending a few paragraphs on. So here is the APF Hall Of Fame:

Nathan Torkington, for the original afp Frequently Asked Questions list.

The idea for the APF can be traced back directly to his FAQ.

Sander Plomp, for the logs of early newsgroup traffic, and for coming up with the idea of making a LaTeX version of the APF.

Robert Collier, for all his help with designing and creating the HTML version of the APF.

Paulius Stepanas, for his help with the double page numbers—the “conversion function” will be a part of APF v9.0, I promise.

Trent Fisher and David Jones, for helping me out with Perl and LaTeX programming, respectively.

Andy “&.” Holyer, for his help with the Summary, for finding me a copy of Brewer’s, and for being an utter fountain of inspiration.

My faithful group of proofreaders, who have been with me since APF v6.0 and still show no signs of getting fed up: Ingo Brandauer, Andy Holyer, Debbie Pickett, Paulius Stepanas and Nathan Torkington.

And last, but not least, Terry Pratchett, for giving us something to annotate in the first place; for giving me permission to use quotes from his articles in the APF; and for having to put up with increasing numbers of fans who, perhaps because of the APF, have begun to think he is incapable of writing anything truly original. They should know better.

Distributing The Apf

[Note: This section was written for APF v7a.0, and has not yet been updated for APF v7a.5.]
It’s really very simple: I have by now spent very considerable amounts of time trying to make this document a useful resource for fans of Terry Pratchett’s work, and I would be delighted to see the APF reach as many of those fans as possible, period.

So feel free to distribute the APF among your friends, to mail copies to your colleagues, or to put it up on bulletin boards, archive sites or whatever other advanced means of communication you have available to you.

All I ask is that you (a) only distribute the APF for free, and in its entirety (for obvious reasons, I should hope), and (b) let me know if you put it up for permanent retrieval somewhere, e.g. a bulletin board or archive site, so that I can keep you personally informed of new versions as they get released. Don’t you just hate those archive sites that store outdated versions of files?

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