Mar 13, 2015

Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett
Terry Pratchett
The news of Terry Pratchett’s passing hit me hard, probably harder than any author death has so far. There isn’t anyone whose work means more to me. There’s a small handful of others I value just as much, but this is it: the absolute top of my scale of literary affections.

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.

Me meeting Terry Pratchett in 2007
Terrible phone photo, but I think you can see how happy I look.

I’ll leave you with a few things:

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.

28 comments:

  1. When I first saw the news, I felt as if I'd been stabbed. As very sad as I was over losing him from this world though, the pain I've been feeling is largely for you. Because I know (well, as much as I can know, which is of course, a very incomplete knowing) how enormous a loss this is for you, how enormous and special a part of your life he has been for so long. It is because of you that I read my first Terry Pratchett book, and because of you that Rich read his first Terry Pratchett book. It is because of you that we even first heard of Terry Pratchett and were introduced to his worlds. It is because of you that our shelves contain so many of his books. I just wish I knew what to say, I'm just so very sorry for the loss you're feeling, for the loss his family must be feeling, for the loss of all the stories he never had time to tell. *hugs and more hugs* *and then many more hugs*

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    1. Debi, that's more comforting than I can say - just being reminded that I've passed on my love for his books to such lovely people as you and Rich. The world was richer with him in it, but he'll be read for a long time to come.

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  2. Thank you for this moving tribute. I wrote about my first Pratchett in this post. I hope to read many more stories about this amazing writer and human being.

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    1. I still haven't read the Johnny Maxwell books or the short stories - I think I'll have to save them for a while, because I can't bear the thought of running out.

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  3. I hope he enjoyed meeting Death and Binky!

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    1. Even that is making me tear up again D:

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  4. Oh, I know exactly how you feel, Ana. I almost starting tearing up again when I saw your comment on my Facebook post. I wrote my own tribute to him this morning, and it's very similar to yours. I don't think I've ever felt the loss of an artist so deeply.

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    1. There's no one quite like him. Like I just said in the comment I left you, I don't know how I'll get over this :(

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  5. I was also incredibly sad when I found out yesterday. Although I've known he was ill, I just didn't realise it would be so soon. I went to my first signing with Terry Pratchett at Murder One, my favourite crime, sf and fantasy bookshop on Charing Cross Rd which has sadly closed, almost 20 years ago with my best friend who wanted a signed book for her sister. I think I randomly picked Pyramids and got it signed. But my love affair with Pratchett's Discworld began then and I always turn to them when I need to be reminded of what it is to be humane. His books are so layered and deceptively simple and so full of sly humour, I know I will keep on re-reading them. I've picked out The Fifth Elephant, my favourite book, and The Truth to re-read.

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    1. Yes, exactly - I thought he'd have more time :( Thank you for sharing your memories of your first signing. That was lovely to read.

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  6. I am devastated by this loss - far too soon and so very unfair.

    I was first introduced to his work 25 (!) years ago and distinctly recall having a copy of The Colour of Magic tucked inside my text book during History class. I had never read something so hilariously inventive, and thought provoking, but it was when I read Wyrd Sisters that I really fell in love. Over the years I bought every book as they were released and you can tell from looking at my bookshelves when I started working as I could afford the hardback and not have to wait for paperback.

    I spent several years playing, and creating, the Discworld MUD game and he was kind enough to turn a blind eye to the dreadful copyright infringement hinting that we should not approach for official permission as he would have to say no. Two of my most cherished possessions are his signed books but I never got to meet him in person - they were got for me by my Mum and then my Uncle who both knew how much he meant to me.

    His Twitter account's farewell was just so very perfect and made me weep. I am away from home at the moment but will probably choose Wyrd Sisters as my farewell re-read when I get back.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your memories. My first was Wyrd Sisters and I never looked back. And what you said about the MUD game is one more story about his kindness - I've seen a lot of them in the past few days, which is a testament to what kind of person he was. And yes, the final tweets were absolutely perfect. Neil Gaiman confirms here that he wrote them himself, which was my suspicion.

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  7. You've been in my thoughts ever since I heard the news. Your enthusiasm for Pratchett's work has put him firmly on my list of Authors I Must Read, and I can't hear tell of him without thinking of you. *hugs*

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    1. PS: You gave Cuckoo Song 4 stars on LT! This makes me happy.

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  8. I came across this wonderful post on my tumblr dash without having heard anything: http://knopperbrister.tumblr.com/post/113496161575/sundayswiththeilluminati-sir-terry-pratchett
    I'm very glad that was how I found out.

    I got my first Pratchett book as a birthday gift, but didn't read it for a really long time. When I finally did it was partly because of you. I read my second Pratchett book because it was reccomended to me by my partner. After that Discworld has become immensely important to me. Tiffany Aching has especially become incredibly important to me.

    I have a post it-note on my computer at work that just says "The most terrifying creature in this forest". The witches in Discworld give me advice and wisdom and courage to do the things I want and need to do. I don't think I would spend this year the way I am if it wasn't for "But the lambs are dying under the dreadful snow!" and "Turn selfishness into a weapon" and "Evil begins when you treat people like things" and "Every step is a first step if it's a step in the right direction."

    Pratchett is the only thing I consistently want to read even when I don't want to read anything. His work has helped me through a lot and it will help me through even more and I am so very very happy this world had him.

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    1. Aw, I'm happy to hear I helped encourage you to read him. Your Tiffany Aching "best practice" posts are often just what I need to read. I'm still incredibly sad even after a few days, but yes, so grateful that we had him at all.

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  9. When I heard the news I immediately thought about how it would affect people like you. I know how much you loved Pratchett! I haven't read nearly enough by him. I need to make him more of a priority!

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  10. Its just such sad news.

    I can't remember the first TP book I ever read, and I haven't read the Tiffany Aching ones yet, so I'll have some new stories ahead of me, but, its just such a loss. :(

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    1. You have some incredible reading ahead of you. But of course that doesn't make it any less sad :(

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  11. He is an author that it is actually shocking I haven't read yet - outside of his Gaiman collaboration, Good Omens. I keep meaning to read him as I know I will love him, but there are just sooooo many books that it's overwhelming.

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    1. Read The Wee Free Men, Trisha! I'll be absolutely shocked if you don't adore it.

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  12. This brought fresh tears to my eyes! One of my coworkers is a huge fan and we'd always talk about his books and it was so lovely, these exchanges. The afternoon of hearing the news I found her in her office and asked her if she was so very sad. She asked why. She had not heard! I had to tell her and she burst into tears which made me burst into tears too. So we cried a little bit together which was nice to be able to do.

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    1. Aww - that's sad and lovely and DID I MENTION SAD? But it does help a little bit to reach out to people we've shared his books with.

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  13. This is a beautiful tribute. I'm still new to Pratchett, having only read The Colour of Magic and Dodger so far, but I've been very moved by all the amazing reminiscences people have shared.

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    1. Thank you. And you are in for some excellent, excellent reading! Enjoy discovering the rest of his work :)

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  14. This is a very late comment but I find I'm only now able to start reading people's thoughts and tributes about Terry. He really brought something unique to the world that will be sorely missed. I crossed over into his work through Good Omens and I am slowly working my way through Discworld, trying to keep as many new books ahead of me as possible. Eventually I will run out but I hope to be an old lady by then -- with just enough time left for rereads.

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  15. There's something hard to explain about the grief you feel when you lose an author whose work you love. You feel connected to them, because you've read something that touched you deeply. I felt the same.

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Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.