I grew up with Terry Pratchett.
Not in the personal sense — I only ever met the man twice, both times briefly at signings in my teens — but I started reading his books when I was in primary school. When I read Sourcery for the first time, I don’t think I’d ever laughed at anything that much in my life. I assumed, actually, that Pratchett must be a pseudonym for Douglas Adams, my favourite author as a ten year old, because I didn’t know of anyone else alive who could be *that funny* (I knew about Wodehouse and Beachcomber, both of whom were clearly big influences on both men, but they were dead, so it couldn’t be *them*…)
But while Adams gave up writing novels shortly after that, Pratchett put out two books a year, every year, until last year — the first year in more than thirty that he didn’t release a new novel. And those novels matured at about the rate I did. I was just the right age for the genre parodies and puns of his early novels as a bright ten year old. As a teenager, books like Soul Music (the first Pratchett I bought in hardcover, as I’ve bought all of them for about twenty years now, because I couldn’t cope with waiting for the paperbacks) allowed me to feel clever for spotting all the references — and even correcting them in my head (the “felonious monk” pun is still one of my favourite ever, but Pterry didn’t know enough about jazz to know that Monk was a pianist, not a horn player).
And then as I entered my twenties came books like Thief of Time and Night Watch — more thoughtful, deeper, books, mature in the truest sense.
Not every book he wrote was great, of course, but at least ten of his novels really were *great* books, not just good ones, and even the books that did least for me, the ones I read once or twice and let gather dust, like Monstrous Regiment or Carpe Jugulum, were extremely readable.
Pratchett’s books also brought me at least some of my current friends — I know I met Debi, one of my favourite people, through the Discworld community on LiveJournal, and through her I got to know many of my other friends.
In short, I’d be a different person if it were not for the books of Terry Pratchett. And, I think, a much worse one.
Terry Pratchett died today, aged 66. It’s not a shock by any means — he announced seven years ago that he had Alzheimer’s, and it was clear last year that his condition was deteriorating. He didn’t release a solo novel last year, for the first time in decades, and had to miss a convention for the first time ever.
But it’s still surprising, because his mind seemed, if not quite as sharp as ever, remarkably well considering his illness. His last few books were not up to his normal standard, but they were still pretty good by anyone else’s, and the downturn in quality seemed to be more because he was dictating rather than typing them, and so the writing had a more conversational tone. I’d hoped he had at least a few more good years in him before the embuggerance took him away.
As well as writing, he spent the last few years of his life campaigning for the right to end it with dignity at a time of his choosing. I have no idea what the actual circumstances of his death were, but I fervently *hope* that they were something like his often-expressed wish to be in a chair on his lawn, at a time of his own choosing, still in command of his own faculties, and with a glass of brandy in his hand and Thomas Tallis on the iPod. And if he did manage to go out that way, I hope to hell that the officialdom and petty bureaucrats he railed against most of his life manage to show a little fucking compassion for once and not make this any worse for his loved ones.
RIP Pterry. Thanks for everything.
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