In Memory of Sir Terry Pratchett

It took me a while to get to this, so long that I figured I might as well hold off uploading it until the Glorious 25th of May (“Truth, Freedom, Justice, Reasonably Priced Love, and A Hard Boiled Egg”). When I posted my initial reaction to Sir Terry’s death on March 12, I promised a follow up to say just a little about what he, as an author, meant to me. And here we are.

I first got into reading his stuff over a decade ago, and I proceeded to drag the rest of my family into his orbit. I can’t tell you how many hours we spent reading the Discworld books and Good Omens, or listening to them on audiobook on long car trips. We got Hogfather on DVD when it came out (I found it not so much good or bad as kind of wonky, though with a terrific Susan—I enjoyed it, the rest of my family less so), and I even watched The Colour of Magic and Going Postal even though they were kind of bad (though I’d argue the latter had its merits). A couple of us even watched the animated Wyrd Sisters at one point (which also had its moments). So much joy and family bonding came of reading those books.

Terry Pratchett is, hands down, one of my favorite authors of all time. I can name only a handful of writers who could delight me and touch me as profoundly and consistently as Pratchett writing at his best. Heck, even most of his inferior works were well above my standard reading fare. After his death, my mother and I started reading A Blink of the Screen, the recently published anthology of his short stories, some of which were written in his early- and mid-teens, and even they are cracking good stories by and large, showcasing a command of humor far superior than I’ve managed to develop as an adult (and not for lack of trying). My literary world is greatly impoverished by his absence.

Heck, I’ve immersed myself in his works to such an extent over the years that it’s even influenced my speech patterns, (especially noticeable when it comes to my use of expletives).

And on top of all that, the sense I got both from reading his stories and from what I’ve picked up about him as a person is that he was, by and large, a very decent bloke. I believe he had some stances which I strongly disagree with, but I think he was at heart a good person, and to my knowledge he didn’t promote any outlooks which are actively horrible—not something I can say about all my favorite authors, sadly. Such a loss.

Here’s just one snippet of his writing, one of my many favorite funny quotes of his, from one of my favorite of his books, Hogfather:

The late (or at least severely delayed) Bergholt Stuttley Johnson was generally recognized as the worst inventor in the world, yet in a very specialized sense. Merely bad inventors made things that failed to operate. He wasn’t among these small fry. Any fool could make something that did absolutely nothing when you pressed the button. He scorned these fumble-fingered amateurs. Everything he built worked. It just didn’t do what it said on the box. If you wanted a small ground-to-air missile, you asked Johnson to design an ornamental fountain. It amounted to pretty much the same thing. But this never discouraged him, or the morbid curiosity of his clients. Music, landscape gardening, architecture—there was no start to his talents.

Many people have used the master’s own words to eulogize him, and why shouldn’t they, when he left such a wealth of good ones behind to choose from? I’d like to see somebody compile a list of the best ones, but for now, here’s my pick, another quote from Hogfather:

Susan: All right, I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need … fantasies to make life bearable.

Death: REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN.

Thank you, Terry, for making me and so many others that little bit more human.

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Passing of a legend

TERRY PRATCHETT?
“Hmm, yes? Oh, my goodness, it’s you.”
YES.
“And that must mean that I’m …”
YES.
“Well, well. I must say, I never expected to actually meet you. Never believed in this sort of thing, you know.”
IF I MAY BE PERMITTED TO USE THE PHRASE, WE LIVE AND LEARN.
“Yes, I suppose we do. So what now, then?”
NOW, I TAKE YOU TO THE NEXT PART.
“Of course. And what, er, what is the next part, exactly?”
THAT WOULD BE TELLING. BUT DON’T WORRY, IT ISN’T ANYTHING TOO BAD, AND THE JOURNEY ISN’T LONG AT ALL.
“I guess we might as well go, then.”
YES, BUT BEFORE WE DO, MR. PRATCHETT …?
“Yes? Go on.”
WOULD YOU AUTOGRAPH MY SCYTHE?
“Goodness, really? Well, after all, why not?”

I wrote those words in the fall of 2012, when I was in London. I don’t know why they came to me then, but I wanted to have them ready for when this day came. I hoped it would be many more years … don’t we always?

I should have known he’d beat me to the punch; I’m sure it’s better this way.

I’ll expound more upon what Pratchett meant to me at a later time. For now, suffice it to say that I consider him probably one of the greatest writers I personally have ever read, and it seems like he was a largely decent human being on top of it. His death is a great loss, and he leaves a rich literary legacy behind him.