Goodbye PTerry

I noted his death, but somehow that doesn’t seem quite enough. I have probably read more words by Terry Pratchett than by anyone else. I can barely remember when the ever growing collection of Pratchett novels (mostly with wonderful Josh Kirby covers) didn’t fill a part of my world.

I first became aware of Sir Terry’s work through my mother (who is the reason I read so much at all). It sat there through formative teenage years, that humour and, less noticed at first, those insights into a world less flat than the one on the page. A tradition formed which simplified present choices for mother’s day or mam’s birthday, or christmas. She would get the latest Pratchett (and later, at Christmas, the Discworld calendars) and, a couple days later (for it could never take too long to rush through a Pratchett), I would borrow and read it. When I went to university I spent quite a bit of time lurking around alt.fan.pratchett on Usenet (way back in the day before social media, or to some extent forums, were around—sometimes my beard is more long and grey than I care to think). Later I came to realise that a lot of my views and beliefs had been helped to form by those tales of a disk on the back of four elephants, standing on a turtle. I wanted to be as good a man as Sam Vimes, as wise as Granny Weatherwax (and mischievous as Nanny Ogg), but knew that it was okay if sometimes I was Rincewind, running from the demons. And I also came to want to be like the man whose characters they were. Full of humour and kindness, compassion and sense, and, as became evident, unafraid to face difficulties openly, all the while looking to help others. Full of humanity.

I was going to say that ironically I don’t own any Pratchett books, they were always my mother’s. A quick glance at the bookcase next to me shows the lie of that though. There is Good Omens, his collaboration with (possibly my favourite author) Neil Gaiman. There’s The Colour of Magic which started the Discworld universe, Witches Abroad and a couple more, all plucked from my mother’s collection. There is one Discworld book sat there that reminds me of what I think is part of the reason I am so saddened. That link remains to my mother (and so close to mother’s day we are). When I learned of Terry’s death my first fleeting thought was to tell her, in that moment before I realised she had already met that capital speaking character (and had a ride on Binky knowing her). When she had the cancer which was to claim her she had printed a t-shirt reading “I Ain’t Dead” in an Esme Weatherwax reference. At the end, she very specifically decided the book up there on my shelf would be the last she would read (before characteristically reading it far too quickly and having to move onto something else). After her death Reaper Man was the first book I read.

So I will miss Terry for his sense of fun, and the laughter, and the warmth he brought to this world. Also for his ability to hold me to another. It is like a little part of this world is now wrong. I hope the two of them are having fun somewhere, and maybe I’ll reach up to that shelf again.

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