|Remembering literary fantasy master Terry Pratchett
||[Mar. 12th, 2015|06:30 pm]
“Hmm, yes? Oh, my goodness, it's you.”
“And that must mean that I'm …”
“Well, well. I must say, I never expected to actually meet you. Never believed in this sort of thing, you know.”
IF I MAY BE PERMITTED TO USE THE PHRASE, WE LIVE AND LEARN.
“Yes, I suppose we do. So what now, then?”
NOW, I TAKE YOU TO THE NEXT PART.
“Of course. And what, er, what is the next part, exactly?”
THAT WOULD BE TELLING. BUT DON'T WORRY, IT ISN'T ANYTHING TOO BAD, AND THE JOURNEY ISN'T LONG AT ALL.
“I guess we might as well go, then.”
YES, BUT BEFORE WE DO, MR. PRATCHETT …?
“Yes? Go on.”
WOULD YOU AUTOGRAPH MY SCYTHE?
“Goodness, really? Well, after all, why not?”
I wrote those words in a flash of inspiration back in the fall of 2012, hoping it would be a very long time before I had to break them out. Well, that time has sadly come, and I suppose it's only fitting that the master preempted me. I hope he won't begrudge me the indulgence.
Recent weeks have not been good for speculative fiction fans. First Leonard Nimoy in the the last days of February, now Pratchett.
I've mentioned Sir Terry a few times on this journal before, including one memorable meeting at the first North American Discworld Convention (the first fan convention I ever attended, out of a grand total of two so far). But I don't think I've ever really laid out what he, as an author, meant to me. I won't try to give a comprehensive picture here, as I don't intend to write an entire thesis, but I do want to hit some of the main points.
I first got into reading Terry Pratchett over a decade ago, and I proceeded to drag the rest of my family into his orbit. I cannot tell you how many hours we spent reading the Discworld books and Good Omens, or listening to them on audiobook on long car trips. We got Hogfather on DVD when it came out (I found it not some much good or bad as kind of wonky—I still enjoyed it, the rest of my family less so), and I even watched The Colour of Magic and Going Postal even though they were kind of bad (though I'll argue the latter had its good points). A couple of us even watched the animated Wyrd Sisters at one point (which also had its moments).
Terry Pratchett is, hands down, one of my favorite authors of all time. I can name only a handful of authors who could delight me and touch me as profoundly and consistently as Pratchett writing at his best. Heck, even most of his inferior works were well above standard reading fare. While I have hopes and many good wishes for his daughter Rhianna, the the Discworld heir, my literary world is greatly impoverished by his absence.
More over, Sir Terry was one of my guiding stars as a beginning writer. I doubt I will ever write a story which feels similar to his—I don't have his gift for humor; he was funny off the cuff, and where he averaged five great jokes per page, it usually takes me about ten pages to get even one—but his style has profoundly shaped my storytelling sensibilities. There's so much of what I think about how to write good fiction that I learned from reading Pratchett, and doubtless a great deal more I'll glean in the years to come.
Heck, I've immersed myself in his works to such an extent over the years that it's even influenced my speech patterns, (especially noticeable when it comes to my use of expletives).
And on top of all that, the sense I get from both from reading his stories and from what information I've picked up about him as a person is that he was, by and large, a very decent bloke. I believe he had some stances which I strongly disagree with, but I think he was at heart a good person, and to my knowledge he didn't promote any outlooks which are actively horrible—not something I can say about all my favorite authors, sadly. Such a loss.
Many people are using the master's own words to eulogize him, and why shouldn't they, when he leaves such a wealth of good ones behind? I'd like to see somebody compile a list of the best ones, but for now, I'll leave you with my own selection from Hogfather: (perhaps later I'll dig up something good from Night Watch, there must be something really fitting there, too):
Susan: All right, I'm not stupid. You're saying humans need … fantasies to make life bearable.
Death: REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN.
Thank you, Terry, for making me and so many others that little bit more human.