On Thursday 12th March, Sir Terry Pratchett – writer of genius and creator of the Discworld – passed away. He was a mere 66 years old. He had been living with PCA, a rare form of Alzheimer’s, or “the embuggerance” as he called it, since it was first diagnosed back in 2007.
I am a huge fan of Terry Pratchett’s books, but though I have read most of the 40 Discworld novels and quite a few others besides, I must confess I only have a few of them on my shelves. I think the reason for that is because his books were so, so good, they were deliciously shareable. I first shared Terry with my best friend, Steph, when we were teenagers, because she had the good grace to discover him first and then go buy all the books and lend them to me. And then, because I really wanted to read them again, I bought the first two – The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic – as gifts for my little brother. And because he loved them too, he’d get a Discworld novel from me every time I wanted to get him a gift. I really didn’t think that one through, as we both ended up growing up and living in different houses, so of course he got to keep all the books because they were his – pfft. I think he may have raised an eyebrow when I queued for two hours in the Merry Hill centre to get a copy of Jingo, only to find that because I’d only bought one I’d got Terry to sign it “to Donna and James”, so he wasn’t even first billing. And then I went and bought another copy anyway!
Terry Pratchett was one of the first writers I found a proper fandom for. I loved the jokes. I loved the footnotes.* I loved the characters: Granny Weatherwax; Rincewind and Luggage; Mort. But I also loved Death – I collected the Clarecraft figurines of him, though my favourite was always Death of Rats. SQUEAK.
Incidentally, “squeak” is probably the only thing I ever managed to say to him. I would blush tremendously whenever I got to meet him, I was so much in awe. And talk about inspiration! When Terry Pratchett advocated that he became a writer “because it was indoor work with no heavy lifting”, that appealed to me very much. But you know what, I also loved that he took the time to give great encouragement to new writers, and that he set up The Terry Pratchett Prize Anywhere But Here, Anywhen But Now for this purpose.
As I listened to the BBC radio adaptation of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens last month, I was so glad that he was in it, along with Neil, playing a copper. It was sad to see him so frail at Fantasycon in 2013, so to hear him sounding hale and jovial was a joy. We all knew the road PCA was leading our heroic writer, but every extra joke, every book, every other bit of exciting news was another gift, and we all like the gifts to keep coming.
Since he passed away, fans have been busy posting art tributes (I like the one I saw depicting Terry Pratchett playing chess against Death) and stories. Quite a few people I know have signed a petition at Change.org asking Death to bring him back. I think he’d rather have liked this.
Enjoy your travels, Terry, and don’t forget to take Luggage with you.
- “Ook. Oook, oooook!”
Sorry, Librarian. I love you too!
Sir Terence David John “Terry” Pratchett, OBE (28 April 1948 – 12 March 2015)