I had only met Sir Terry Pratchett once.
It was 2003 & the release of his 31st Discworld novel –The Monstrous Regiment. A friend & I had gone to a book signing in Canberra -each of us with a few more books than we should’ve brought. As the queue wound its way around the store, I said to my friend it was a shame that the cover artist for the Discworld novels had died just after the release of his art book -without realising that I was now standing in front of Sir Terry. He said “He’s not dead but if he’s late with the next cover he will be”. I was so dreadfully embarrassed at such a mistake but Sir Terry just smiled, took my books from me & asked my name (I also said that the other book was for my mother). With a flourish, he signed my books and said “thank you” to me. Naturally, I could say little being so in awe of the man but I thanked him & told him how much I loved his books.
That embarrassment still haunts me to this day but it is overruled by the kindness & humanity that Sir Terry showed to this awkward & noisy fan.
So I was genuinely heart broken to hear -1st thing upon awakening- that he had died from complications related to his Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease -which he had been dealing with since 2007.
Even as I write this I find it hard to hold back my tears -a rarity for a creature such as I.
The reason for this because Sir Terry & his book -especially the Discworld series- has been part of my life since 1993.
Like all 13 year olds, I had been trying to construct my own social identity & everything within the mainstream (being white homeboy or whitetrash) I found abhorrent. It was then that my highschool friends recommended to me the Discworld novels. I had seen them in bookstores with their fantastical & enticing covers by Josh Kirby (the one whom I had confused with Paul Kidby in the above anecdote) but never had cause to read. Since there were more than a few to choose from (13 at the time), I started with Small Gods & from that point I was hooked.
It was the simple yet incredibly clever writing that got me hooked, as well as the deep, multilayered sense of humour embedded within the text. It was also that without over describing them, Sir Terry really made the characters stand out. They had a life of their own, you knew their personalities, likes/dislikes & their background as well as you knew any of those of your own friends. Through the simpliest phrases he could conjure entire cities, countries & worlds but the works were never simple. Woven with perfect satire on contemporary issues, pop culture, history & classic literature.
The Discworld series -plus Good Omens which he wrote with Neil Gaiman (with whom he shared a deep friendship until his final days)- are the only books that I will constantly re-read for the sheer joy of doing so.
In fact, I am in the middle of re-reading them all again on my e-reader (since my physical copies are over 2,000 kilometres away from me) & am in the middle of The Amazing Maurice & His Educated Rodents as I write this. They will be the books that I read until my own dying days because they -& their creator Sir Terry Pratchett- have been such a part of my life for the past 22 years.
I never shaped my identity around him & his works, I was never the super-fan who dressed as their favourite character or learnt all the (fan-invented) words to Nanny Ogg‘s favourite song but his works helped to shape how I look at the world. In my youth I tried & failed to copy his near-perfect prose & humour for my own teenage writing but when I realised that I never could, I realised that I didn’t need to. It was pointless trying to be someone else if I couldn’t even be myself & that was a lesson that Sir Terry often wrote into his works.
As a fan I am disappointed that I won’t be able to pick up a new book when it arrives on the shelves & I am also disappointed that he didn’t end with a book about Rincewind -so things would have a lovely symmetry to them (even I did adore his last published Discworld novel, as seen here). Yet I am still happy with all the books & wisdom & general civility that Sir Terry Pratchett has left us. & even though we all knew that this day was coming, I still can’t help but have a lump within my chest as I write all this -for he was such a part of so many lives yet he was also respectful to & adoring of his vast fandom.
Even though I say words cannot express what I feel right now, I hope I’ve been able to sum it up well enough with these garbled, grieving sentences.
Which leaves me just to say: Thank you.
Thank you, Sir Terry Pratchett, for your kindness & patience with your fans. Thank you for all of your wonderful words, worlds & characters. & thank you for being such a huge part of my life.
Thank you & all the best as you cross through that black sand desert under the endless night with your oldest friend & companion.