I want to tell you a story, dear Hypothetical Audience. As a much younger person, certainly pre teen, I was given a novel called Truckers. At the time I probably didn’t instantly appreciate it, but I read it anyway. What I found was a wonderful fantasy world about a species of six inch high Nomes living under the floor of a department store. It was incredibly funny, very insightful and, perhaps most importantly, for a book ostensibly aimed at younger readers it never talked down to them. It’s author was Terry Pratchett and it’s the first novel I have any recollection of reading, and the first that ever had a deep impact on me.
As I got older I progressed on to his critically acclaimed Discworld series and almost immediately fell in love with the universe that it contained. From it’s earliest days as an out and out parody of existing fantasy tropes through it slow maturation into a fully believable world almost, but not quite entirely unlike out own, I’ve been along for the ride. The city of Ankh-Morpork, a major setting for the novels, has, over time, become almst a real place, with a colourful population that I could easily visit through Pratchett’s words. Thanks to his meticulous research into things those of us in the real world would see as trivial, the Disc felt very much alive. And then there were the characters. Unlike the archetypes and paragons of virtue that populated other fantasy works, ever single character on the Disc seemed all together human. From the stony faced Sam Vimes, a lawman constantly battling between his own personal demons and the desire to do the right thing, and pathological coward and failed “Wizzard” Rincewind to the magficient bastard Lord Havelock Vetinari, tyrant of Ankh-Morpork, and quick witted former con-man Moist Von Lipwig, every single novel had amazing characters who we could relate to and could sympathise with on deeply personal levels. Then there was Death. Never has the personification of mortality been a more endearing character. As is appropriate he was a constant in the series, appearing in the majority of the novels, but unlike many Grim Reaper-esuque characters, Death was a compelling character who took pride in his job but was never a monster, and even on a few occasions the hero.
To say Terry Pratchett has had a huge influence on me is a vast understatement. Reading his works growing up helped form my sense of humour and my world view. Throughout almost my entire life his warm, witty, friendly and even optimistic writing has been there, through the good times and bad, and has never failed to raise a smile from me. My desire to be a writer has been fuelled by his influence. Even though I’ve never met the man, I would likely not be the same person if he hadn’t put pen to paper.
Sadly, on the day I’m writing this it was announced that Terry Pratchett had succumbed to the early-onset Alzheimers Disease that had blighted his later life. The news was, frankly, devastating and unexpected, and I can’t help but feel we’ve has been robbed of one of the true literary greats of our time. While his legacy remains, the world is a little less bright after his passing. But what a legacy he leaves behind. The Discworld series alone spans forty novels and has literally millions of fans, many of whom have similar stories to my own. Countless heartwawming tributes show that he was truly the rare human being who had a wholly positive impact upon the world, a very rare gift indeed. Pratchett has touched the lives of so many by making them laugh and making them think, ensuring his name will remain spoken for generations to come and the worlds he created will keep on turning. After all, in his own words, “Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?”
See you, Terry, thank you so much for all the good times. I can only hope Death was as amicable a gent to you as you wrote him.