I never had the good fortune of meeting Sir Terry Pratchett. There was a small, remarkably delusional part of me who dreamed of one day meeting him, perhaps becoming good friends, and maybe even collaborating on a novel (the latter portion reads less like delusion now than actual, unbridled madness). All the same, the news of his passing today hurts like losing a long-time friend. Lindsey, a fellow Pratchett addict (and my preferred, extraordinary beta-reader), messaged me on the Facebook Messenger app with the news and I spent the better part of my workday trying to not get all weepy. Like I said: I never actually knew Sir Terry Pratchett the person, but I did get to know his books quite well, and so that is what I’d like to talk about.
My introduction to the Discworld happened years ago, as many things clouded in the slightly fuzzier parts of memory often do. My dad bought me a Sony Playstation, and had started my game collection for it with such treasures as Crash Bandicoot, MediEvil, and a few other odd titles. One that I fell in love with, thanks in part to the voice-over talents of Eric Idle, was Discworld. The point-and-click adventure wasn’t addictive for its gameplay (which, I discovered, was a bit buggy and prone to game-breaking failures at times). The characters and the world they lived in fascinated me. There was so much complexity and humor, both subtle and overt, that I played this game whenever possible. Sadly, I eventually forgot about this game as time marched on.
Fast-forward to awkward high school years. I had, at one point, gotten a copy of Good Omens and loved it thoroughly. Like all excellent novels, the last page left me wanting to read more, and so a trip to Barnes & Noble was planned (this was before I had my driver’s license, of course). Meandering among the bookshelves, looking for the perfect next book but not knowing exactly which one that would be, eventually brought me to Sir Terry’s books. The artwork looked familiar, like an old friend whose name had misplaced itself, and so I had to further investigate. “Hey,” I recall thinking. “These are the same Discworld from that game I used to play!” That day, with whatever responsibility-free money I had, I bought Interesting Times, Sourcery, Reaper Man, and The Fifth Elephant. These would, I later found out, become my escape of choice during all of the times I was made fun of for my weight, my shyness, and my love of learning new words. Whenever life became difficult, I would vacation in the Discworld. Pratchett’s characters all feel like real people; people who all mattered in their own way, from the fear-inspiring Lord Vetinari to Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler. Witches and wizards and guards and so many other characters from so many walks of life all played their own roles in the Discworld. I would later turn to the Discworld books in college, too, to get through difficult times. Hell, I’ve lost count of how many copies of Interesting Times I’ve gone through but I can say–between loaning them out to people who got a little too attached, losing copies in moves or major life transitions, and just having them fall apart from wear and tear–that number has broken double-digits. Without a doubt, it is my favorite Discworld novel of all (and, quite often, a go-to birthday present choice for other readers in my life who I hold in high regard).
For those of you who haven’t read any of the Discworld books (or any of Pratchett’s works, really, but especially the Discworld books) – it’s never too late to start. What may look, at a glance, like words on pages is actually complex, multi-layered magic. It’s magic in the form of delightful characters who step off of the pages and into a reader’s life like old friends and forgotten enemies. Magic in the form of sharp, pointed observations about the ugliness and darker sides of human nature, masked in tongue-in-cheek humor. Magic in the form of a world, floating atop four elephants on the back of a turtle, so real that turning that last page and shutting one book will most certainly leave want of another. And another. These are books that need to be read over and over, too, meaning there will be years spent in their company. The joy they bring is no less present during the thirtieth read than it was on a first enjoyed.
Sir Terry Pratchett was one of the authors who played a large role in shaping my desire to become a writer, and one who interwove humor with other subjects to create something more. I would use footnotes and silly asides relentlessly as I tried to imitate Pratchett’s style. His writing had made such a difference in my life, and I hoped I could do something similar for others. Naturally, this didn’t work out but it did put me on the right path towards discovering my own voice. I’m nowhere near where I wanted to be when I started writing, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It means my journey in writing isn’t over, and there’s nothing more exciting than that.
A good number of people–myself included–have said how the world is a bit dimmer now that Sir Terry Pratchett is gone; a bit gloomier, a bit less brilliant, a bit less wonderful, and the list goes on. The life Terry Pratchett lead–the words he wrote, the events he attended, the causes he championed, and so on and so on–live on, remaining a bright light even though he’s gone.
There’s no easy way to end this post, because in doing so is admitting that one of the greatest authors the world has ever known is actually gone. The realization that there will never again be a proper Discworld novel, and that somewhere there is a hat–much like a frequently-misplaced Wizzard hat–that is woefully lacking its wearer. Instead of those things, I want to say thank you to one of the greatest creative minds that ever existed. Thank you, Sir Terry. You showed us all the colour of magic. Cursed us to live in interesting times. Showed us that sometimes Death isn’t all that bad, really. Perhaps, somewhere on an Earth many steps away from this one–one where horrible, insidious diseases like Alzheimer’s have been eradicated–is a peaceful cottage, a new audience, and more worlds for Sir Terry to explore. Above all else, I hope he is at peace.