I sit down on a bright sunny Saturday to write, and the Internet tells me that Terry Pratchett has died.
So I’m sad, sort of.
TP’s books have been a constant companion to me since I first bought Mort back in the distant past. While I read many other authors – I usually get library or second hand books, but I bought to own every Discworld book as they came out in paperback, and then later in life the latest hardback would be my Christmas present from my family. They sit there now on the shelf in our lounge. Every year a new book sometimes two. Each one taking no more than a weekend to read – a weekend of solitary self indulgence. And then the book would be passed onto the family – eldest first and so on down. For two boys who were not much into books at the start. The Discworld gave them a series they could be completely immersed in. You know when someone is reading one of the books – chuckles spill out, genuine laugh out louds. Sometimes you can even guess where they are in the story.
I loved these books because they see the world I do. with the same humour and footnotes.
I met TP once at a book signing back in the 80’s in Banbury. I was happy to inform him that the town had a ancient alley called ‘the shades’ just around the corner. My copy of Reaper Man is signed Terry, Read it and Reap.
I have all the books of course. I read many of them out aloud to my new wife and revelled in the voices.
I had all three discworld computer games. From the very first moment where Rincewind has to find a broom to wake up the luggage to my favourite Discworld Noir. Tell me these are available on an emulator somewhere.
I had all the young readers books, Jonny and the …, The Bromeliad Trilogy, and The Carpet People. Which my son can still quote the first chapter of verbatim – learned at age 5. I have the maps, the joy of snacks and somewhere a pre-publication copy of the first play adaption of Weird Sisters. I once drank mead and watched Lords and Ladies performed on a moonlit night in an ancient stone circle complete with an S&M Morris Dance.
My big ambition is now (I realise) to play Death (or anyone) in a Pratchett Play.
I watched all the tv shows made – from the stop motion Truckers, through the cartoon animations like Soul Music and the BBC Christmas specials with good effects and terrible casting. (David Jason as Rincewind – Really ?). Listened to audio versions too.
I joined in the chats on CiX where PTerry used to hang out online. I contributed to the original Annotated Pratchett file. I remember him telling us of a visit to meet Hollywood producers to talk about Mort being filmed. They were concerned about the character Death – didn’t think it would work, could we do the story without it. – I left.
I didn’t make it to a convention though.
Here are some of my favourite moments.
In Guards Guards the watch are perched on the bell tower aiming an arrow at the dragons vulnerables – trying various means to ensure that the odds of hitting it are exactly a million to one, as million to one chances come up nine times out of ten.
In Reaper Man Death competes with the combine harvester. The picture in my head can never be realised in a movie.
I have a real scythe. It has a 6 ft long curved handle and a two foot blade as sharp as a razor. I use it to cut the lawn.
In Small Gods. – Everything. This book put into words my whole feelings about religion.
One day I will be a bald old man with a broom.
The row of giant prayer wheels in the Thief of Time reminded me of the cave in the forbidden planet – and the associated Star Trek reference.
Vimes, teaching his younger self how to fight in Night Watch.
Reg Shoe – the Zombie – who totally just turned up in ‘Things we do in the shadows’.
The grassy gnoll, Rincewind’s twisted hour glass, Death joining the French Foreign Legion – to forget. Vetinari’s cell in the palace with the locks on the inside, Leonard’s inability to name things.
And references- references to old movies, tv tropes, novels, memes, so much stuff. Theres this thing – a retrospective laugh that you get when sometimes the first time you encounter an idea is in the TP Novel, and then eventually you find the original thing referenced and finally get the joke. This leads to curious behaviour like laughing out loud while reading Little Dorrit.
So I’m sad – but happy too, Terry is one of the people in my life who always made me feel better about everything. I believe that when we die there is no afterlife, we just switch off like a light. The only thing left of our mind and personality is that part we leave behind in other people’s heads. If this is the case then PTerry will be around for a long time yet.
Tonight I will murder a curry in his honour.
PS. I’ve decided to take on a life long ambition and put on a discworld play. To do so here in Auckland I’ve formed a meet up group. http://www.meetup.com/Auckland-Discworld-Live/
Please tell people about this – It can’t happen unless enough folk get involved.