Sir Terry Pratchett (1948 – 2015)
We at Fantasy-Faction are heartbroken by the loss of such a great man as Sir Terry Pratchett. There is a hole in fantasy and science fiction that will not soon be filled and a pain in our hearts that will not soon be comforted. Below we have collected the thoughts of some of our contributors and readers on the passing of Sir Terry. Please feel free to share your thoughts and stories in the comments. Thank you and Rest in Peace Sir Terry. – Jennie Ivins
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A press officer for Nuclear Power stations. Surely, a job that no sane person would take on, yet Terry Pratchett did. If you can make Nuclear Power seem sexy, then you can do anything.
He began his writing career as a journalist for a local paper and learned his trade there. He spoke, during one famous lecture, of the appreciation he developed for the written language, its exactitudes and its vagaries. Terry spent some of his early journalistic career sat in coroner’s courts, hearing all the gruesome ways that people’s lives were ended. Listening to him interviewed, to him speak, it is clear that this was a man with a deep respect for life and deep desire to live it well.
Throughout the books he wrote and the world he created, the Discworld, Terry was able to draw upon his experiences create characters, settings, scenes and conflicts that rang with the truth of human experience. Never have so many sentences hung upon the curl of comma, only to fall and hit you with the cartoon anvil of veracity.
Of his great creations, beyond the Discworld itself, are the characters of Rincewind and Vimes. Polar opposites of one another, yet both carried and expressed a part of the author’s love for humanity, his belief that individuals could be greater than the sum of its parts.
Rincewind, the failed wizard, the coward, the man for whom a pair of running sandals were his most important possession. In his misadventures and fear, in his bumbling and fumbling, he did the right thing. Even when that thing scared him beyond imagining. A man who had intelligence, but whose head was full of the most useless thing in the galaxy – a spell he couldn’t use.
Vimes, the policeman, the reluctant noble, the seeker of justice. Here was a different hero. One that did not run from trouble, but straight into it. One who would not bow to the pressure of others, but battled onwards against innumerable odds. Vimes respected everyone, he may not have liked them, but he did respect them.
His writings themselves were always based upon the real world, but twisted and speared until the truth of existence, the truth of the truth, ran clear.
In 2007, Terry Pratchett was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and a rare variant at that. One that attacked his vision before everything else. Yet still he continued to write. He stepped outside of the Discworld, to write Nation – a book about a boy, his gods and the colonial power of England. He collaborated with Stephen Baxter on the Long Earth science fiction series, that examined the changes to society if more earths, more places to live, were found.
In 2010 he delivered the David Dimbleby lecture, “Shaking Hands with Death”. In this he spoke about assisted dying, his own trials and tribulations with his illness and the work he had done for the Alzheimer’s society. He spoke also of his father’s illness, the long battle with cancer that finally took his life, and of the choices that he was now facing. One of the many lines that stick with me from that lecture is this, “Before you can kill the monster, I always say, you must be prepared to say its name.” And he did say its name, and he did fight it with all the resources he had.
Everyone will have a favourite book, a favourite character. It may be one of the two I mentioned above, it may be another. It may be Guards! Guards! (my favourite) or it may be The Truth (written before the press scandals broke and surely demonstrating his prescient abilities). It might be Making Money, written and released just before the collapse of the bank system.
On the door to my classroom, for though I write, I also teach, is a picture of Terry and this quote: “You could say this advice is priceless: If you trust in yourself … and believe in your dreams … and follow your star … you’ll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren’t so lazy.”
Somewhere, sometime, someone is going to amalgamate the wisdom of Terry Pratchett. I do not think it will fit in one volume. The man has died, the beast has won this battle, but the war goes on and we left with a hole in our lives.
Yet, there are over 70 books full of Terry Pratchett’s voice, his thoughts, his wisdom and his humour.
“An idea is a greater monument that a cathedral,” and we have thousands of Terry’s ideas to enjoy again, and again, and again.
The Discworld is a place as real as our own. Somewhere out there, it is floating through space on the back of four elephants that stand on the shell of the Great A’Tuin, where this short conversation is taking place.
OH, IT IS YOU. I WONDERED WHEN YOU WOULD GET HERE.
“Yes, yes, now get on with it.”
– Geoff Matthews
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How do you even go about even starting an obituary for Terry Pratchett, a man whose publishing career stretched over five decades and more than fifty books?
It’s possible to give all sorts of facts and figures, but looking at my twitter stream less than a couple of hours after the announcement of his passing, that’s not what people are talking about. We’re discussing how his books touched us, how his words extended beyond the characters in Discworld and into our very lives. This isn’t sadness at the passing of an author we enjoyed, it’s grief, collective and personal, for a man who words spoke to us. A man who never pretended he was anything other than a genre author, no matter how great his publishing status. A man who leaves a vacuum in our lives with his passing.
The two things that strikes me as Twitter goes into meltdown, is the sheer number of Pratchett stories and quotes.
We’re talking about those times when we first discovered his books; when he caused us to first guffaw out loud to a book; how his books meant something to us, and shaped us either as readers or writers. We’re also sharing our favourite Pratchett quotes, so full of both wit and truth. The fact that even on the subject of his passing, people are tweeting various different quotes from different books, all equally as intelligent and poignant, just shows the depth and quality of the man’s work.
Some people preferred his City Watch books, or the Witches or Rincewind or the Death novels. Fans can rarely agree on what’s their favourite, other than that they love them all, a tapestry of stories. A bit like his fans who ranged from the young to the old. He somehow possessed that rarest of skills for an author – the ability to offer a little of something to everyone.
Pratchett was the shining example we’d hold up when people said that fantasy was all about dragons and elves. “No, it isn’t,” we’d say, giving the example of some Pratchett book or other. Discworld was about our world. Whether it be religion in Small Gods, or written communications in The Truth, Pratchett’s novels speak very much about our world and how we react to it. And because it was always encased in humour, he managed to say very serious things without us ever feeling like he was lecturing us. In doing so he would parody everything from Shakespeare to Aliens, mixing the classical to pop culture. Pratchett taught us that fantasy doesn’t have to be cheap, that it can fulfil all the known fantasy tropes and still mean something.
I see some people filled with sadness that there will be just one more Discworld novel. They don’t want to read it for fear that only then will it all be over. But here’s the thing. Pratchett’s books ring with universal truths, his books timeless.
Maybe it’s time to start at The Colour of Magic and appreciate them all again. – Adrian Faulkner
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The Discworld series was my escape through some tough times as a child. His writing made me smile when I didn’t feel like smiling. – Jonny Croft
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It was at New York Comic Con 2012. Terry Pratchett was having a signing/meet-and-greet after his panel and my friends and I wanted to go. I had injured my foot earlier that day so I ended up being the ‘line sitter’ for my group of friends. While everyone else was off enjoying the con I sat on the concrete floor for three hours. Thanks to my squatting we were around tenth in a line that went down the entire length of the Javits Center’s basement and back again. I was glad to have those three hours because, you see, I had a plan.
In my pocket was a small kitten I had knitted. It was purple and blue striped with a little teapot button sewn on. On my way in that morning I decided on a whim to give Terry Pratchett the kitten. He’s British. British people like tea. This had a teapot button. I was going to give Terry Pratchett something I had made with my own two hands. For the three hours I sat on that hard floor I went over the exact words I was going to say to Terry Pratchett when I gave him the kitten. A nice, short speech thanking him for writing such lovely books. By the time Terry Pratchett was seated at the signing table I had every word engraved within me. I could do this.
The handful of people in front of me went up one by one. They said their names, shook Terry Pratchett’s hand, and got their picture taken.
I could do this.
My cousin-in-law went next. He hadn’t read any of the books but his wife is a huge fan. Name, handshake, picture.
I could do this.
When my turn came I sat down next to Terry Pratchett like the ones before me. My hand was in my pocket, gripping my knitted kitten tight. Terry Pratchett smiled at me and asked for my name. I told him.
“Hello Amber,” He said. “It’s nice to meet you.”
At that point I burst into tears.
You see, in that moment, in that VERY SECOND I wasn’t me anymore. I was my preteen self in middle school again. A sad, lonely young girl that spent her days being bullied and harassed. One of the few good things in my life back then were my Discworld novels. They offered a wonderful world for me to escape in: Great writing, great characters, humor, adventures, everything! No matter how horrible things were I could always count on Terry Pratchett to make me smile again. And in that same moment I felt how much this sweet old man meant to me.
That same sweet old man was also very startled that I was now heavily sobbing in front of him. He asked me if he had done something wrong to make me cry, and he was very sorry if he did. Which of course only made me cry harder. Through the tears I was able to choke out that no, it was the opposite. I was crying because I was so happy to meet him. Then in an act of courage that still shocks me to this day I brought out the knitted kitten and gave it to him. His manner could best be described as ‘confused, but glad’. He told me he liked the kitten very much and, as a personal favor to him, could I please calm down and stop crying. And I did. I calmed down long enough to get a picture taken and leave. The woman handing out bookplates with Terry Pratchett’s signature actually gave me a hug. I have no idea who that was, but I’m glad she did.
My cousin Jennie who was behind me in line ushered me into a nearby bathroom so I could calm down and die of embarrassment in peace. I had made a complete fool of myself in front of my favorite author and the whole ‘give him a knitted kitten’ thing probably only made it worse. But as I look back I’m glad I did it. I got to meet someone who did so much for me with only the written word. Now I strive to do the same with my own writing. And if I ever end up sitting on the other side of the signing table I swear I’ll be understanding of any fangirls who burst out crying in front of me. I understand how it is. I understand completely. – A. A. Freeman
 This picture is online. I will murder the editor with my own hands if she posts/links to it.
 Aka, the editor I’m going to murder if she posts my picture.
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The fantasy genre is often criticised and dismissed because it doesn’t deal with the real – magic doesn’t exist. I beg to differ. Just read one of the works of the late Sir Terry Pratchett; take in his searing wit and deep profundity – and you will see a piece of real magic. Some people might respond, “But it’s just a book – it’s not really magic.”
However, in Sir Terry’s own words, “It’s still magic even if you know how it’s done.”
Thank you for making my childhood sparkle. – Declan Barnes
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The first Pratchett I read was Wyrd Sisters, which I discovered, fortuitously, at the same time as we were studying Macbeth at school. I’m not ashamed to say that a fair amount of Discworld humour sneaked into my Macbeth essay, which earned me 19/20 and a red-pen note warning me to take my essays more seriously in future. Unfortunately I was already well on the path to being a fantasy writer…
The older Discworld books I own are sun-faded and held together with sellotape. If fact, looking down that long shelf, you can see the progression of age along the spines, a visual display of a long and deep connection that had ended now, suddenly, peacefully, not unexpectedly but still far too soon after, for me, twenty-four years of reading Pratchett. At a time when I was very sad, in the depths of my depression, he made me laugh, and I’ll always be grateful for that. – Joanne Hall
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He was one of the few writers who understood that you could write about serious things in a silly way that nevertheless made them even more important for the characters and people reading them. He is my go-to author for an example of a man who realized that women characters can inhabit any role and have a variety of motivation. That even the smallest could be the strongest. And that grief has its place with everything else. Farewell Sir Terry. – Liz Ambrose
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I’m not sure any other author has shaped my imagination as much as Sir Terry Pratchett. I grew up with his stories – his were some of the first fantasy books I was ever read (bedtime readings from dad, he did all the voices) and some of the first that I ever read on my own too: Discworld, Bromeliad, Johnny, and the rest. His books weren’t just a gateway for me; they helped define my idea of what fantasy is and what it could be. He created worlds and characters that I feel such a deep connection to that sometimes I have to remind myself that parts of the Discworld don’t actually exist in our reality.
You know that feeling of comfort, when you are just at home in an author’s world? You know that amazing feeling when an author pushes the boundaries of that comfort and challenges you? It’s rare for me to find both those feelings in one book, but Sir Terry managed to capture that over and over. His stories have meant so much to me over the years, and they always will. Sending all my thoughts and deepest sympathies to his family. – Victoria Hooper
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Again, please feel free to share your thoughts and stories in the comments. Marc (@FantasyFaction / Overlord) has also started a hashtag on Twitter #PratchettParagraph where you can take a picture of your favorite section of Sir Terry’s work and share it with the Twitterverse.
Rest in Peace Sir Terry, you will never be forgotten.