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I guess I just like liking things

As you probably know, Sir Terry Pratchett died on the 12th of March. He was with his family, and his cat. His death was not unexpected since his announcement of a diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s disease. He campaigned for the legalisation of euthanasia, and for better understanding and care of dementia sufferers. He kept writing. He could easily have hung up his hat (so to speak, though a hat so marvelous could never be hung up) and sat down to watch the days pass, but that wasn’t going to happen.

In 1992, a friend handed me a copy of “Soul Music” and told me to read it. Which I didn’t, for months. I wasn’t really into Fantasy as a genre and it looked a bit like it might be fantasy. Eventually I picked it up and once I started I couldn’t stop. I never met him, and I didn’t know him. From the thousands of comments and memories online today, it’s easy to see he was a lovely man who gave all he could to his fans. No one has had a bad word to say about him, either his writing or his personality and that’s a big thing online these days.

Best of all, best of anything, he gave us the Discworld. It sounds impossible on paper or screen. A flat world transported endlessly through the blackness of space resting on the backs of four massive elephants, who stand on the shell of Great A’Tuin who is an even more massive turtle. A world where magic sloshes around and concentrates in certain places, where luggage has feet and the Wee Free Men roam the Chalk. A place where light is heavy and dawn travels slowly. Where witches rule the Ramtops and Wizards rule the city (so they say), and where an orangutan shelves books in the University Library.

It’s hard to explain, but although the Discworld is by turns outlandish and completely sane, it’s also the most solid fantasy world I’ve ever encountered (I read a lot more fantasy since 1992). The leaking of our world into the Discworld makes it feel like somewhere behind the curtain of our reality – if you could just find the gap – you’d find Ankh Morpork in all it’s stinking, noisy, riotous glory. Or perhaps you’d find the horse in the Chalk that Tiffany wore on a silver chain. With luck you’d find Nanny Ogg’s kitchen because you’d probably be able to get a cup of tea there and rest your feet. If you were to find yourself in front of CMOT Dibbler’s stall it’d be best to pass on whatever he’s selling.

I’d love to tell you about my favourite characters, but I don’t really have any. It depends who’s in whatever I’m reading really. They kept cluttering up in my mind when I tried to think. I adore the witches, from Granny Weatherwax to Nanny Ogg to Magrat Garlick and Tiffany Aching. The Nac Mac Feegle, the Burser and his dried frog pills, the hapless and helpless Rincewind who ends up flailing through life in a permanent panic, Gaspode the dog, Commander Vines and his cardboard shoes that can tell him where he is even in the dark. And, of course, Death. The Reaper who couldn’t manage a skeletal horse because it kept falling apart on him and who puzzled over the life of the people and creatures he visited and was very fond of cats. All of them, even now, very much alive in a way that a lot of writers can’t achieve. Terry Pratchett gave them life, so much life that they are larger still than any book that holds them.

I like to think that right now there’s a huge party in the Feegle Mound, with no waily waily. The Big Wee Hag was invited, and Nanny Ogg would have invited herself. She’s got a drink in each hand and is probably teaching the Feegles a few choice songs. The Wizards, of course, will feast in honour because any excuse is a good excuse. There might even be a moment of silence in the Mended Drum, though probably not a very long moment.

Vale, Terry Pratchett and thank you.


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