Missing Terry Pratchett

Sir Terry Pratchett
Sir Terry Pratchett, creator of Discworld.

I was at work when I first learned that Sir Terry Pratchett had passed away.  He had been sick with a rare for of Alzheimer’s Disease, so his death wasn’t entirely unexpected.  But it caught me off guard; I thought we had a few more years.  Standing in our glorified cube farm, I announced out loud – though more to myself – that he had passed.  One of my co-workers knew him, but most did not.  I find that sad.  The news threw me and my one co-worker off kilter for the better part of that day.  I think I may still be suffering a little bit of mild depression as a result.

Terry Pratchett is my favorite author.  He’s been involved in a great number of books, including Good Omens, which he co-wrote with Neil Gaiman.  But he was possibly most known for a series of books he created based around a fictional world known as “Discworld”; a flat disc of a world balanced upon the back of four giant elephants which walk the disc in circles upon the back of the giant space turtle, Great A’Tuin.  His world is populated by many creatures characteristic of the fantasy genre, including gnomes, imps, vampires, werewolves, dwarves, golems, wizards and, of course, humans.  The stories are satirical, often borrowing lore from the works of classic fantasy writers and current events alike.  It is a world where Wizards are both the wisest and most misguided beings, werewolves are sargents on the police force and trolls are possibly the smartest of the populace, so long as their brains are frozen.  Pratchett’s stories sometimes mock real-world issues like prejudice, true justice or corruption in the governments.  His characters come in all types:  Like Commander Carrot, the true heir to the throne, except that he just wants to be a police officer.  Or Moist von Lipwig, a former con-artist who was given a second chance at life as the headmaster of the Post Office.  And we can’t forget Rincewind, a Wizard by title only as he is unable to learn any spells except for a sentient spell, one of the most dangerous in all the land, which scares off all the other spells from his mind.  Did I mention that Rincewind has a sapient-pearwood luggage with hundreds of legs that follows him around the world?

The imaginative mind behind Discworld is Terry Pratchett, who I still hold as one of the most brilliant world-creators ever to put pen to paper.  I rank him second only to J.R.R. Tolkein, but only because Pratchett was clearly influenced by Tolkein in the more serious aspects of his world.  Pratchett wrote 41 novels in the Discworld series, wrote another dozen books not based in Discworld and co-wrote several other books.  The man was a writing machine who has left quite a legacy.  His writing style is clean and simple, but it does not lack details.  His characters are well designed, often flawed and otherwise very real.  In the real world, he was known to be very humble, very honest and seemingly untouched by his fame; often described as approachable.  Yes, he was eccentric – usually wearing lots of black and almost always wearing a black fedora or top hat.  But he is memorable for more than just his writing.

I’m not a writer, but I still feel that a large portion of my personality was greatly influenced by Pratchett and his books.  I discovered his books in 1999 while living in Virigina far from most of my family and friends.  The Colour of Magic – Pratchett’s first Discworld Novel – was recommended to me one night in an IRC chat.  I remember going out to the bookstore early one Saturday grab it and I started reading immediately.  I was enthralled and I was pulled in.  It was in the single-digit hours of the very next morning when I finished.  I also remember getting just a few hours of sleep and then heading off the the bookstore again to grab the second book, The Light Fantastic.  I was in Virginia about 8 months.  During that time, I read fourteen or fifteen of the Discworld novels.  So Pratchett got me through a pretty lonely period.  But I continued to read his novels, and I’ve read almost all of his books to date.  Not a year goes by that I don’t read something by Pratchett.  And I’ve read a few of those books more than once.  There’s just something about his writing style and his imagination that pulls you in.  Parts of my personality have formed around pages of his books.  Splinters of my humor were first crystallized out of Pratchett’s writings.  I really do think that if I hadn’t discovered Pratchett back in the day, I would be a very different person today.

Sir Terence David John “Terry” Pratchett, OBE, passed away on March 12, 2015 due to complications from Alzheimer’s.  Millions of his fans around the world, myself included, collectively mourn this great loss.  He will be missed.