I never met Sir Terry Pratchett. He had been a familiar figure at cons and book events for years and was a friend or acquaintance to many in the SFF community. I wasn’t that lucky. But to me, Terry Pratchett will always be a well-worn part of my mental furniture as the author who created Discworld.
Terry Pratchett is by far my most read author. This is a stat I won’t attribute solely to his enormous output. The Discworld – first introduced in duology The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic, and unfolding in thirty-nine further novels, not counting short stories and tie-in miscellany – inhabits ‘a distant and second-hand set of dimensions, in an astral plane that was never meant to fly’ (The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett, 1983). It slowly turns, balanced on the backs of four gargantuan elephants, which are in turn standing on the shell of a titanic turtle called Great A’Tuin, who swims endlessly through space. The culture of the Disc was described by Pratchett himself as Tolkien’s Middle Earth a few hundred years on, when the trolls and dwarfs have become citizens and wars have been replaced by politics.
And it is funny. It is uproariously, snortingly, side-splittingly funny. But funny isn’t all it is, either: the Discworld stories are so often bitingly clever, profoundly philosophical, and compulsive page-turners. Pratchett never made fun of fantasy – he played with it but he played with all his heart in the game.
Borrowed, lent, swapped, bought or gifted – the little paperbacks with their loud Josh Kirby covers lined mine and my friends’ bookshelves. If we were talking about music, I would say that the Discworld books were the soundtrack of my youth. Often imitated but never equalled, his stories will remain a hefty cornerstone of my SFF psychoscape.
So thanks, Mr Pratchett, for all of it. Thanks for Rincewind and Susan, for Tiffany Aching, for Captain Carrot and Angua and Nobby Nobbs and Sam Vimes, for Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler, for Chrysoprase and Mr Shine, for the Luggage, the Librarian and the Unseen faculty. Thanks for Magrat and Nanny Ogg, and Granny Weatherwax. And thanks for Crowley and Aziraphale. For Death. Thanks for all those hours over all those years. Thanks for all the laughs, and for the moments where it felt like you’d laid my brain open on the page, and when you changed my mind.
Thank you for writing.
Read about dementia and donate to Alzheimer’s Research UK, the leading UK dementia research charity. You can also read about the campaign to legalise assisted dying in the UK, of which Sir Terry was a supporter.