There are authors you read. There are authors you like. And there are authors you truly love.
Sir Terry Pratchett was one of the latter; an author that millions of people around the world loved. An author who *meant* something to so many people. An author whose fans would pore over every word that dropped from his word processor – and those words were many and frequent in his all too shortened life.
On Thursday 12 March 2015, Sir Terry took the hand of his fictional character, Death, and left this world. Having fought the degenerative disease of PCA for eight years, he finally succumbed to it. Not without having battled, not without having done so much to raise awareness of both Alzheimer’s, as a wider condition, and the need for a change in the law regarding assisted suicide and the right to die with dignity.
The world is a much poorer place for his passing. And for me, I’ve lost an author that had amused, entertained, educated and inspired me for over 20 years.
My introduction to the Discworld
Sir Terry’s books are numerous, with a large number of them set in his fantasy Discworld, a flat world sat on the back of four giant elephants sat on the back of an enormous space turtle, swimming across the universe with grim determination.
I was introduced to Sir Terry’s world not through the books, at first, but through a computer game. Back in 1994, as a struggling musician, I applied for a job as a games music writer with a little company called Teeny Weeny Games. One of the games they were developing was called Discworld, and it was the first attempt to take Pratchett’s universe and take it off the page and onto a small screen. And I was asked to submit some musical idea for this project, as part of my application (I didn’t get the job, by the way).
I’d not heard of Sir Terry, or of the Discworld, so I thought it might be an idea to read one of his books before writing any music. So I bought myself a copy of ‘The Colour of Magic’ and starting reading…
And that was where it all started. I was hooked. I loved this book. It was fantasy, but with its tongue very firmly in its cheek – knowingly taking the mickey out of the ‘swords and sorcery’ genre, but also paying homage to it. And it was funny. I mean *really* funny. The kind of funny that makes people chuckle out loud inadvertently on silent commuter trains.
It was also clever. Not a knowing, condescending kind of clever, but the kind of clever that says ‘Hey, I’ve noticed this about people and I want to share it with you’.
Discworld: a mirror held up to humanity
In the Discworld, Sir Terry created a world where he could create his own continents, countries, cities, towns, villages and hamlets. A world he could populate with a myriad of characters, myths and stories. A world that was his invention and his to write about.
But when you read any of Sir Terry’s books – and *please* do read them, you will thank me for it, believe me – you can see that he’s not just writing about this fantasy Discworld. He’s writing about *our* world too. The Discworld holds a mirror up to humanity and shows it how it looks in the harsh light of the brightest stars in the universe. We see ourselves, pimples, warts and all, and see just how much we’re all the same, the world over. And more than anything, Sir Terry showed us just how *funny* we are as a species. His humour is not just a part of his writing; it’s so interlaced into his style and tone as to be part of the very fabric of what he writes. And it’s the humour, the wit and the satire which makes the Discworld such a great analogy for the Earth.
In essence, he helped us laugh at ourselves. And taking that step back to look in on ourselves is a great way to see what’s great, and what’s not so great, about the human race. And for this we owe him a massive debt.
So, goodbye Sir Terry. I hope that Death looks after you well and doesn’t try playing the violin too much.
A Just Giving page donating to the Research Institute to the Care of Older People (RICE) has been set up in his memory. Please donate what you can: