On March 12th 2015, I was happily making cakes for the shop as normal. LW came up to me and asked if I had heard that Terry Pratchett had just died.
Initially, I thought it was a mistake and then, after I checked that it had happened, I cried. I was completely taken aback at my own reaction, but I am not too proud to admit that I cried for 5 minutes or so.
Quite honestly, Terry Pratchett is the only celebrity whose death has ever brought me to tears. This alone brought home the importance of his work to me, an importance that I hadn’t fully realised.
I have read every single piece of work that Sir TP ever wrote. Short stories, childrens books, Graphic Novelisations of stories I have already read. I have watched the TV shows and even the (quite bad) animated versions. If I run out of books to read, I will inevitably re-read one of his.
Where it all started? The very first Discworld book, The Colour of Magic, in 1983. I don’t recall how I came to have a copy….possibly a friend loaned it to me or recommended it or something…that’s not important. What is important is that, to a 10 year old Laughing Wolf, it spawned my desire to read in a way that had previously been left to the realms of Football Annuals and The Beano*. I am a voracious reader and couldn’t even begin to count the number of books I have read since that day in 1983. Too many. I have a very large collection of books at home, I have thousands of ebooks that I get to carry around with me on my phone. Whenever I have a spare couple of minutes, I read. However, never has any book meant as much to me as The Colour of Magic. Weirdly, it’s not my favourite Terry Pratchett book**, it’s not even my favourite Discworld book***…but it is the book that means the most to me.
I also remember that it hooked me in about the first 20 pages, which no other book had ever managed to do. Since then, I have read every book (many, many times over). A new Terry Pratchett book has been such a big deal for me over the years that I have either received multiple copies, or family members have argued over who is going to buy me the next one for Christmas, Birthdays etc. Apparently I am difficult to buy for, but a Terry Pratchett book is guaranteed to make me smile.
His Discworld books have a world that is as intricate and as complex as any World-Building Author that you could name and he manages to weave parodies of our own world into it with such ease that you can be forgiven for not noticing until later. Even the non-Discworld “Worlds” feel complete. The dialogue is amazing, characters are fleshed out and belong where they are. Nothing is forced and the books are easy to read (that doesn’t mean that they are simple, just that you don’t hit a section of the book that you struggle to get through until it gets good again). There is no condescension in his writing (a personal bugbear of mine) unless the story/joke calls for it. On top of that his jokes, and in particular his footnote explanations****, are hysterical. Finally, the stories themselves are great…yes he is a fantasy writer, but his stories cross all sorts of genres. A lot of authors that I read would be happy to get a couple of these things right, hitting all of them should be unattainable, but Pratchett managed it.
That isn’t to say his books are perfect…he had a few that were clearly not as good as the others, or were slower, but they were still good enough to sustain the series. Each story adds something else to the world and always adds something of value.
I have a bookshelf that is dedicated to Terry Pratchett, I have even started painting the Discworld miniatures from Micro Art Studio…although that is taking me much longer than anything else I have ever painted, as I am determined to have them be the best I can possibly make them. I like to do everything to the best of my ability, but with the TP miniatures, it means more to me and therefore I am taking far more time than I should. Maybe I will post some pics on here when I have a few done.
Why has it taken me over a year to write this post? Because I still get upset to think that he is gone and there will never be another book from him. That saddens me, probably more than it should, but it does. I realise that, in spite of his daughters protestations to the contrary, at some point there will be a collaborative effort to finish off more of his work, but there will never be another book from him that wasn’t touched by someone else.
That saddens me, so I will be re-reading Jingo to cheer myself up :)
* Damn right The Beano…Screw The Dandy and that Desperate Dan loser! Dennis the Menace RULES!!!, amiright?
** Good Omens with Neil Gaiman
**** Yup, these things, well a much better version of these things :p