In a world occupied by Tolkien, Rowling, Martin, Rothfuss, Gaiman and Jordan, it is all too easy to overlook Pratchett. What a pity that is. A great, awful, silly mistake that too many people commit. I admit it, I am one of these pitiful people.
For the longest time, I called myself a fan of books””with fantasy being a pet genre””yet I avoided Pratchett. He is popular in certain circles especially in the UK but he didn’t seem to have such a following where I looked.
To me, he seemed too whimsical, too flippant, too “random” and, frankly, unsexy. I don’t mean physically but his books never had a huge Tumblr following or a hit HBO show or Orlando Bloom in cosplay. I only started reading Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels in the last year. It’s a shame I lived 21 years without reading a Discword””which is what I call words in the Discworld novels.
Terry Pratchett announced in 2007 that he was suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Illnesses of every kind are awful but there is something about Alzheimer’s that personally haunts me. The essence of who I am””my thoughts and my memories””deteriorating before my body is scary to me and to whatever future loved ones I may have. Pratchett described his diagnosis as an “embuggerance” in an interview but continued to write books and be involved with the world by fighting for Alzheimer’s disease research.
The great Terry Pratchett passed away last week, leaving behind family, friends and a huge body of work. Pratchett’s main body of work existed in the Discworld universe. Not counting short stories, adaptations or any other form, there have been 40 full-length Discworld novels published. They range from uniquely profound to scathingly biting to average Joe (or whatever the UK version is). Not every book in the series is the best ever but each one is beautiful, nonetheless. The books are funny, absurd, intelligent and profound.
Neil Gaiman wrote a few words about his dear friend in The Guardian a year ago. He talked about an anger in Pratchett that fueled his writing and his life. One line in particular struck me as something I can relate to: “anger at pompous critics, and at those who think serious is the opposite of funny.”
I am deadly serious about life. Life is crazy and random. Humor empowers us and gives some sense to our existence. People take silliness to mean someone doesn’t care or is immature.
Pratchett wrote fantasy books about wizards and a universe that exists on a flat circle on top of four elephants on top of a giant, flying turtle in space but he always said something meaningful coated in sugar.
Nothing was safe from Pratchett’s wit. He wrote about death, religion and God, business, politics, critical thinking, humanist ideologies and anything else he thought of.
I want to shamefully rip off an entire section of Gaiman’s tribute to Pratchett because he has a way with words that I could only dream of. “He will rage, as he leaves, against so many things: stupidity, injustice, human foolishness and shortsightedness, not just the dying of the light. And, hand-in-hand with the anger, like an angel and a demon walking into the sunset, there is love: for human beings, in all our fallibility; for treasured objects; for stories; and ultimately and in all things, love for human dignity.”
We never really think about all of our mortality until someone we know makes it to the news or someone close to us forces us to face our inevitable endings. Some choose not to think about our mortality, some embrace the promise of an afterlife but to me, life is like a stone dropped in a lake. No matter what you do, the stone will be dropped so you might as well make the most of it knowing that the only thing that matters is what we do with the time we have.
Pratchett may be gone but I will remember him. I will keep reading his words and his thoughts. Though I will hate some of his characters, I will also love all of them. I will laugh at his jokes then realize that it was a joke to show how absurd life is. I will keep exploring his (Disc)world and his legacy. I end with words from the man himself. “No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world fade away.”