This time last week one of my heroes died. I was saddened to hear that Discworld-creator and Alzheimer’s advocate, author Sir Terry Pratchett OBE had sadly lost his battle against this unrelenting disease and I was left with the sense that our world had become just a little less colourful as a result. With typical Pratchett-esque humour, a series of tweets, written in his own incomparable style, announced his passing, taking a lead from one of my favourite of his characters, Death:
I first discovered the Discworld and its diverse cast of characters in the late 1980s and quickly found myself reading, and re-reading, his books as I waited, often impatiently, for the next one to be published. My Dad and I shared a love for the Discworld and my Mum often commented that she knew when either of us was reading one of Pratchett’s books as they caused us both to laugh out loud, something no other author had ever done. Our joint appreciation for Pratchett’s fantasy world is one of my fondest memories and even now, I find myself transported back 20 years, to times spent sharing our newest discoveries in his latest novel whenever I revisit these tales these days.
It’s difficult to explain what made Terry Pratchett’s books just so un-put-downable to me. His clever play on words frequently made me laugh out loud – who can forget Twoflowers’ explanation of an “Inn-sewer-ants-polly-sea” in “The Colour of Magic“? His unashamed use of characters or plots from other authors was delightfully skilled – and the 3 Witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth were not a patch on Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and naive Magrat Garlick in “Wyrd Sisters“. His sense of humour was evident in almost every word he wrote. I loved nothing more than waiting to see the plot twists and turns that each new storyline would take and spotting the sometimes obvious, sometimes more oblique references to popular culture. And in every step of my adult life; be it at university, in the work-place, waiting at the school gates or in our EGID world, he has oft become the common bond that starts a friendship or fills a gap in the conversation.
In the days following his death, Terry Pratchett’s fans have given him tribute by taking ideas from his books to create a fitting memorial. The first was a petition asking Death to “Reinstate Terry Pratchett” because Terry himself said that “There are times in life when people must know when not to let go. Balloons are designed to teach small children this” and already nearly 30,000 people have added their names to this request.
The second took an idea from his 33rd Discworld novel, “Going Postal”, which saw the advent of a communication system, somewhat comparable to the internet. When a key character dies, a message bearing his name is sent down the lines on an unending journey to ensure that it is kept alive indefinitely because “A man is not dead while his name is still spoken.” Keen Pratchett fans have developed code that is being embedded on websites to ensure that his name is similarly forever encoded on the internet.
In the past few days, I have started to revisit his books, many of which reside on my book-shelves, and have found myself to be once again amongst old, familiar friends. The humour never fades and with each reading, I discover a small nuance that I hadn’t noticed before. Rincewind, Granny Weatherwax, Captain Vimes and the Discworld have been a part of my life for nearly 30 years and I look forward to introducing both G and M to these adventures in the not-too-distant future.
“No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away…”
– Reaper Man