When I was 14, I nicked my Dad’s copy of Soul Music, and in the 24 hour period that followed I was irrevocably, indelibly changed forever as a human being. From the moment the first line:
“This is a story about memory. And this much can be remembered…”
filtered into my adolescent brain I became forever someone who knows precisely what Mustrum Ridcully keeps in the top of his hat, the one animal that can never be buggered at all and what is on the end of a Wizards Staff. Moreover, I was whisked into a world where everyone knows the gods exist, but you’d be foolish to start believing in them, where Headology is key and where it was totally sensible to throw a party fuelled by moonshine whenever you needed a problem solved.
Terry Pratchett’s Discworld changed my life and is the reason I grew up to be a geek. Because of Terry, I read Douglas Adams and Neil Gaiman, I listened to Soul Music and I wasn’t ever afraid to march to the beat of my own drum.
To a young girl who’d grown up in a highly abusive home – one which I’d been removed from by Social Services about 3 months before I read Soul Music, women like Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Agnes Perdita X were heroes. Agnes was a fat girl who couldn’t put her eyeliner on straight and longed to waft around on the moors in flowing dresses looking all waif like but was just too damn sensible, and so named her inner thin girl Perdita X. Perdita was of course, waif like and wafting with impeccable eyeliner to put Siouxsie Sioux to shame. To me, at the time deep in the grips of an eating disorder, Agnes was a godsend. I’m not sure that’s what Sir Terry had meant when he created her, but that’s not the point. He is also the only writer ever to manage to make a Susan a COOL PERSON. She may have been a Governess, but Susan Sto Helit was a badass and her command of THE VOICE was inspiring. Surrounded as I was by namesakes who were either utter fucking drips or had instantly changed their names to a more attractive diminutive, it was refreshing to see a badass Susan, instead of a sad ass one.
This isn’t a very good obituary. I’m sure what I’m supposed to be writing is a long and serious post detailing Terry’s career – he worked for the Bucks Free Press after leaving school while writing short stories, and for a good few years he was a Press Officer for the Central Electricity Generating Board, a job he jacked in when it became clear that Discworld, despite being flat and carried on the back of a giant turtle had legs and was Going Places. He was married to a wife Lyn and they a daughter Rhianna who is a writer herself. He was a friend to Neil Gaiman and they wrote a few books together. He was a passionate advocate for the right to die and championed orang utans in Borneo after creating the character of The Librarian. He attended conventions – normally in a witty t-shirt, he was known for being both friendly and kind, occasionally gruff and for responding to fan mail with grace and humour that many a celebrity could learn from. Even the Queen liked him enough to grant him an OBE and then a year later knight him – meaning we all got to officially call him Sir. But above all of these things – which surely are only details and don’t carry significance for many of us, he was a gloriously talented wordsmith and commentator on the human condition whose work had a profound effect.
It is no surprise that my greatest (and most thwarted) ambition in life is to become a good enough writer that some silly bugger will pay me to do it full time. Sadly, I’m just not as funny as he was, nor as good at making deeply felt observations which appear trite until you properly think about it.
His books were not just fantasy set in an imaginary world. They were satirical, often political and deeply poignant. Reading the Discworld novels in particular, though they are by no means the sum of his works, prepared you for life with a somewhat cynical, but not unfeeling approach. I am not ashamed to say that I judge most people on whether they like Discworld or not. So far, with few notable exceptions, the ones that don’t have proven to be unworthy in the long run.
Sir Terry Pratchett’s death leaves a hole in the world. The space time thingummy wotsit is somewhat rent and I’m pretty sure deep in the bowels of the Unseen University, Hex is emitting “++?????++ Out of Cheese Error. Redo From Start.” But for the greatest and brightest of us all there can be no re-do. Sir Terry has gone on to walk with Death and I would love to be a fly on the wall for THAT conversation. For now all I can do is offer my heartfelt thanks, my not-nearly-good-enough tribute and one last quote:
‘No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away…’ – Reaper Man
May we never let his ripples fade.