I can’t begin to describe the influence Terry Pratchett has had on my personality, largely because there is no way to describe such things.
I first encountered his name in an advert for Small Gods in Dragon magazine. He was billed as the fantasy version of Douglas Adams, which really doesn’t begin to do the man justice.
The first Discworld book I actually read was Soul Music. I don’t remember whether I was browsing a bookstore and it jumped out at me, or if someone gave it as a gift because obviously Sierra needs to read a book that has a female version of Death on the cover and has “Music” in the title. I was hooked.
I don’t remember what order I read them in, except that it was the “whatever the bookstore had available that I hadn’t read yet” order. This is not the approach I recommend in these days of eBooks and Amazon, but it’s what I could do at the time. Once I did discover Amazon, I began buying the new books in hardcover as they came out, and backfilling the older books that I’d missed, usually 3 at a time, in chronological order. When I ran out of back catalog, I had to wait for the next book like a hungry moose just like everyone else.
Yes, his books were funny, and set in a fascinating world. More than that, though, they were witty, and full of cutting social commentary. So many “I see what you did there” moments, and delightful puns1, and the sort of absurd footnote over-use that’s right up my alley. Characters that were flawed, believable, adaptable, and sympathetic. He put you in the shoes of the antagonist to see how things got that way, and highlighted that for most Bad Things That Happen, the true problem was human nature and the art of assumption and misunderstanding. The characters grew from book to book as the events and the world changed them.
When I first heard of Pratchett’s illness, I was shaken and disappointed. I knew one day he would be gone, long before the world was ready for him to be gone. I savored every book that came out afterward, even more than I had before. I could tell he still had a lot to say, only it was becoming harder for him to say it2. Reading the news of his death today was sad, but we all knew it had to come sooner or later.
Thank you, Sir Terry, for giving us a rich and beautiful world. Thank you for giving us characters so full of personality. Thank you for holding up the mirror to see our own world’s absurdity. Thank you for the turtle and the elephants. Thank you for your incredible insight. Thank you for your contribution in making me who I am.
Thank you for everything. You will be missed.
“…no-one is finally dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away… The span of someone’s life, they say, is only the core of their actual existence.”
― Terry Pratchett, Reaper Man
1 And puns are so rarely delightful…
2 This doesn’t mean that the books were declining in quality; they most certainly were not. It was just more difficult for him to write them.