Over the weekend, Rob Wilkins, the longtime assistant to the fantasy novelist Terry Pratchett fulfilled one of the author's final requests when he placed a hard drive in front of a vintage steam roller called Lord Jericho at the Great Dorset Steam Fair, reports the BBC. The roughly seven-ton machine rolled over the hardware several times, fulfilling Pratchett's wish that his unfinished works be destroyed after his death. Pratchett died in his home, “with his cat sleeping on his bed, surrounded by his family” at the age of 66 in 2015, eight years after being diagnosed with a rare form of early-onset Alzheimer's.
It’s believed that the hard drive contained up to 10 unfinished novels by Pratchett, who published more than 70 books over his long career, including his popular, sprawling Discworld series.
“The steamroller totally annihilated the stone blocks underneath but the hard drive survived better than expected,” Richard Henry, curator of the Salisbury Museum, who will put the hard drive on display, tells the BBC, “so we put it in a stone crusher afterwards which I think probably finally did it in.”
Sophie Haigney at The New York Times reports that before he died Pratchett told friend and fellow fabulist Neil Gaiman that he wanted “whatever he was working on at the time of his death to be taken out along with his computers, to be put in the middle of a road and for a steamroller to steamroll over them all.”
While Gaiman said at the time that wouldn’t actually happen, Wilkins, manager of the author’s estate, took the bequest literally. He tweeted out an image of the hard drive and the steamroller writing, “About to fulfill my obligation to Terry” before sending out an image of the mangled drive writing, “There goes the browsing history.”
The steam rolling stunt captured Pratchett’s sense of humor and satirical bent, and Stephanie Convery at The Guardian reports that fans reacted to the news with melancholy and wit.
As Haigney reports ,Pratchett isn’t the only well-known author to request unfinished works be destroyed, but these requests are not always honored. Most famously, Franz Kafka wanted his diaries and stories burned after his death in 1924, but his executor, Max Brod did not comply, and instead published many of his most-famous works posthumously.
Convery reports the hard drive will be on display as part of an exhibit at the Salisbury Museum called "Terry Pratchett: His World," which opens September 16.