A year ago today my favourite author died.
A simple sentence which seems such an understatement compared to the depth of loss I feel.
I was lucky, I got to met him, just once and hopefully he got from my mix of stunned silence and stammering just how much his books meant to me. For a renowned atheist being known and respected as The Creator must have seemed a little strange.
The loss today feels like a weight in my chest, and I am painfully aware of my shortcomings as I writer as I try to express how much he meant to me. He has been part of my life for 25 – 30 years now.
I remember borrowing Strata from the library in my early teens more than once, but it was only when I was trying to complete my collection did I realise that.
Sometime around 1989 I got the first four Discworld books in paperback and that was it I was hooked, I had always liked Douglas Adams but these had the edge for me. I must have infuriated my parents sitting in a corning laughing as I read and wanting to read out “the best bits” – it didn’t take long before they were doing the same.
It got to be a tradition that Christmas & Birthday presents from my Nanna were Pratchett books, even after her death it felt like a way of still connecting with her.
His writing changed over time and he was occasionally “accused of literature.” People would dismiss his work as only fantasy, but he dealt with the big subjects war, bigotry, society, even football – the only book on the subject I’ve ever read. And his research is phenomenal, I have learnt so much reading his books, in fact there is often a new gem found during a re-read. These weird little facts that will stick with me forever – like how modern Seattle is built on top on an older version.
I wonder just how much of my world view is down to him. Did I love his work because it reflected how I saw life or the other way round? Or is it just a chicken & egg situation? (Not feather or chicken – that’s an entirely different.)
He described humans as the storytelling ape and I do get so much pleasure from his books. This last 12 months I was unable to revisit these old friends and feel less for it. I did manage the Shepherds Crown sobbing most of the way through it – they were practically offering counselling sessions at my local Waterstones they’d had so many burst in to tears at the till.
Tomorrow I will read Night Watch my favourite book – containing Sam Vimes my favourite character . Neil Gaimen’s description of Terry not being jolly, but angry confirmed in my mind that Sam was closest to him.
I am grateful that I i had the opportunity to stammer out my appreciation, I think it is important to tell people we love/appreciate them while they are with us not to bemoan the fact we didn’t after they are gone.
I was trying to find a suitable quote to finish this – it’s like asking for a list of dangerous animals in XXXX – there are just so many. So I will be self-indulgent and list a “few” of my favourites.
Ok, I’ve narrowed it down to one from each Discworld book.
“If complete and utter chaos was lightning, then he’d be the sort to stand on a hilltop in a thunderstorm wearing wet copper armour and shouting ‘All gods are bastards!” – The Colour of Magic
“Do you think there’s anything to eat in this forest?”
“Yes,” said the wizard bitterly, “us.” – The Light Fantastic
“She was already learning that if you ignore the rules people will, half the time, quietly rewrite them so that they don’t apply to you.” – Equal Rites
“It would seem that you have no useful skill or talent whatsoever,” he said. “Have you thought of going into teaching?” – Mort
“And what would humans be without love?”
RARE, said Death.” – Sourcery
“This is Art holding a Mirror up to Life. That’s why everything is exactly the wrong way around.” – Wryd Sisters
“The conversation of human beings seldom interested him, but it crossed his mind that the males and females always got along best when neither actually listened fully to what the other one was saying.” – Pyramids
“A good bookshop is just a genteel Black Hole that knows how to read.” – Guards! Guards!
“Just erotic. Nothing kinky. It’s the difference between using a feather and using a chicken.” – Eric
“…inside every old person is a young person wondering what happened.” – Moving Pictures
“Five exclamation marks, the sure sign of an insane mind.” – Reaper Man
“This is Greebo. Between you and me, he’s a fiend from hell.” “Well, he’s a cat,” said Mrs. Gogol, generously. “It’s only to be expected.” – Witches Abroad
“Time is a drug. Too much of it kills you.” – Small Gods
“Nanny Ogg looked under her bed in case there was a man there. Well, you never knew your luck.” – Lords and Ladies
“Cats will amusingly tolerate humans only until someone comes up with a tin opener that can be operated with a paw.” – Men at Arms
“In my experience, what every true artist wants, really wants, is to be paid.” – Soul Music
“with the expression of one who knows that the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train.” – Interesting Times
“Nanny Ogg could see the future in the froth on a beer mug. It invariably showed that she was going to enjoy a refreshing drink which she almost certainly was not going to pay for.” – Maskerade
“Just because someone’s a member of an ethnic minority doesn’t mean they’re not a nasty small-minded little jerk.” – Feet of Clay
“Getting an education was a bit like a communicable sexual disease. It made you unsuitable for a lot of jobs and then you had the urge to pass it on.” –
“Always be wary of any helpful item that weighs less than its operating manual.” – Jingo
“It is said that your life flashes before your eyes just before you die. That is true, it’s called Life.” – The Last Continent
“…they wore their hair long like a poet who hopes that romantically flowing locks will make up for a wretched inability to find a rhyme for “daffodil.” – Carpe Jugulum
“Well, he thought, so this is diplomacy. It’s lying, only for a better class of people.” – The Fifth Elephant
“Sometimes glass glitters more than diamonds because it has more to prove.” – The Truth
“Some humans would do anything to see if it was possible to do it. If you put a large switch in some cave somewhere, with a sign on it saying ‘End-of-the-World Switch. PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH’, the paint wouldn’t even have time to dry.” – Thief of Time
“Mission motto, sir,” said Carrot cheerfully. “Morituri Nolumus Mori. Rincewind suggested it.”
“I imagine he did,” said Lord Vetinari, observing the wizard coldly. “And would you care to give us a colloquial translation, Mr Rincewind?”
“Er…” Rincewind hesitated, but there really was no escape. “Er… roughly speaking, it means, ‘We who are about to die don’t want to’, sir.” – The Last Hero
“Here’s what I suggest,” he said. “You pretend that rats can think, and I’ll promise to pretend that humans can think, too.” – The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents
“You just put that sword away, sir, please,” said the voice of Lance-Constable Vimes.
“You will not shoot me, you young idiot. That would be murder,” said the captain calmly.
“Not where I’m aiming, sir.” – Night Watch
“I can see we’re going to get along like a house on fire,” said Miss Tick. “There may be no survivors.” – The Wee Free Men
“The presence of those seeking the truth is infinitely to be preferred to the presence of those who think they’ve found it.” –
“An’ writin’ even goes on sayin’ a man’s wurds after he’s deid! Ye cannae tell me that’s right!” – A Hat Full of Sky
“Steal five dollars and you’re a common thief. Steal thousands and you’re either the government or a hero.” – Going Postal
“Vimes had got around to a Clean Desk policy. It was a Clean Floor strategy
that eluded him at the moment.” – Thud!
“Ach, people are always telling us not to do things” said Rob Anybody, “that’s how we ken the most interesting things to do.” – Wintersmith
“It was sad, like those businessmen who came to work in serious clothes but wore colorful ties in a mad, desperate attempt to show there was a free spirit in there somewhere.” – Making Money
“It is considered in the Sto Plains that only scoundrels know the second verse of their national anthem, since anyone spending time memorizing that would be up to no good purpose.” – Unseen Academicals
“Evil begins when you begin to treat people as things.” – I Shall Wear Midnight
“He’d heard that writers spent all day in their dressing gowns drinking champagne. This is, of course, absolutely true.” – Snuff
“We can’t just drop everything, sir!”
“Mister Lipwig. Is there something in the word ‘tyrant’ you do not understand?” – Raising Steam
“For a witch stands on the very edge of everything, between the light and the dark, between life and death, making choices, making decisions so that others may pretend no decisions have even been needed.” – The Shepherd’s Crown