I found out he’d died in the worst possible way: I was just coming out of a difficult meeting at work on what was already proving a challenging day when I happened to glance up at a big screen TV in my library’s café and see the news on BBC. I only had about twenty minutes until I was due back on counter duties, which wasn’t nearly enough time to get myself together and dry my eyes. One thing really helped, though: I have a lovely new friend I’ve bonded with over our mutual love for Terry Pratchett (among other things) and we’d made a contingency plan for if this happened while we were at work. So we were able to hide in the staff only stairs and be tearful together for a few minutes.
Also, as soon as I had the chance I e-mailed the friend who lent me my first Terry Pratchett book a very long time ago. It was nice to be able to share this moment and commiserate even though we hadn’t talked in a while. Then I came home and went on Twitter, and my timeline was, as I said last night, like a wake in the most comforting sense — full of people coping with the way a loss like this diminishes our world by sharing stories and memories and love; by affirming the importance of the life that has now come to an end and pausing to consider the many ways in which it has touched us all.
This is a very roundabout way to get to why Terry Pratchett is so important to me, but it kind of makes sense in my head. His were some of the first novels I got to share with others and through which I formed connections, and human connections are central in his work. There are many, many things I value and admire about his novels and the sensibility behind them, but I think the main one is how they’re filled with empathy and no-frills kindness. They’re insightful, humane, politically engaged, and they repeatedly remind us not to treat people like they don’t matter.
I was lucky enough to meet him briefly in 2007, at a signing at Forbidden Planet in London. It was, as I’m sure you can imagine, extremely busy, and the signing queue moved very fast. But I did get to say “thank you for the stories”, and he looked up and smiled at me with such kindness and warmth. Then two years ago, the day after I moved to my current location, I got to see him speak at an event to mark the publication of Dodger. There was no signing this time around and it was very different from that earlier experience, but both are memories I’ll treasure forever.
We have The Shepherd’s Crown, one final Tiffany Aching novel, to look forward to later this year. I’m not sure how I’m going to cope with reading it.
Terrible phone photo, but I think you can see how happy I look.
I’ll leave you with a few things:
- My guest post for The Estella Society about where to start reading Terry Pratchett;
- My thoughts on Nation, which remains my favourite of his books;
- This absolutely perfect xkcd tribute (I love The Bromeliad so much);
- A Just Giving tribute page donating to the Research Institute to the Care of Older People;
- This lovely piece of fan art, which made me cry again last night.
And the last one is a request: I know many of you are fellow Terry Pratchett fans, so in the spirit of finding comfort in shared memories, tell me your stories. Anything from how you first discovered him, to fan or author events, to how the news hit you to, to your favourite Terry Pratchett book — all will be appreciated. Huddling together and sharing words of love is the only way I can think of to deal with a loss like this.