Fantasy author Terry Pratchett has carved out a career as a best-selling author with tales of wizards and sorcerers. Now he has been made a real-life knight, honored alongside Olympic athletes and rock singer Robert Plant in Queen Elizabeth II's New Year honors list.
The British writer, who is known for his "Discworld" series of novels and has sold more than 55 million books worldwide, given a knighthood Wednesday. Pratchett, who won a lesser honor in 1998, announced last year that he has early onset Alzheimer's, a rare form of the disease.
"There are times when phrases such as 'totally astonished' just don't do the job," said Pratchett, 60. "I am of course delighted and honored and — needless to say — flabbergasted."
Plant, a Grammy-winning singer and the frontman of heavy metal pioneers Led Zeppelin, was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, or CBE, in the annual list.
Scottish cyclist Chris Hoy, who became in 2008 the first Briton in more than 100 years to claim three gold medals in a single Olympics, was knighted. He was one of many athletes on this year's list, reflecting Britain's strong performance in Beijing.
Hoy's mother, Carol Hoy, a nurse who specializes in treating patients with sleep deprivation and respiratory problems, has been made a Member of the Order of the British Empire, or MBE.
She was one of hundreds of ordinary Britons nominated by their local communities for honors. Britain's Cabinet Office said it was the fist time a mother and son have been honored in the same list.
Lewis Hamilton, the youngest Formula One champion ever, was awarded an MBE.
And Eleanor Simmonds, a 14-year-old swimmer who won two gold medals at the 2008 Paralympic Games, was also given an MBE, becoming the youngest recipient of a British honor in history. No one under 18 has ever won one before, the Cabinet Office said.
Historian David Cannadine, known for his 1996 book "The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy," was honored with a knighthood. Cannadine, formerly the director of Britain's Institute of Historical Research, is also known for "Mellon: An American Life," his biography of the U.S. Treasury secretary Andrew W. Mellon.
The British Treasury's most senior civil servant, Nick Macpherson, has been knighted in recognition of his "extraordinary work in response to the crisis in the financial services industry," the Cabinet Office said in a statement.
Others honored included actor Michael Sheen, who portrayed Prime Minister Tony Blair in the film "The Queen" and journalist David Frost in both the stage and film versions of "Frost/Nixon," a dramatization of Frost's televised interviews with former U.S. President Richard Nixon in 1977.
New York-born art critic Marina Vaizey was made an MBE, as was handbag designer Anya Hindmarch — noted for creating a purse emblazoned with the words "I'm Not a Plastic Bag."
Nigel Lightfoot, the chief adviser to Britain's Health Protection Agency, was honored with a CBE for coordinating protection of the public after former Russia security agent Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned with polonium-210, a radioactive isotope, in London in 2006.
Lightfoot's team found traces of polonium-210 at more than 25 sites in London and estimated that as many as 1,500 people may have been put in danger.
Honors range in descending order from knighthoods, to the CBE, OBE and MBE. Though the honors are bestowed by the queen, the recipients are selected by committees of civil servants from nominations made by the government and the public. Knights are addressed as "sir" or "dame." Recipients of CBEs and OBEs have no title but can put the letters after their names.