Thursday, March 12, 2015

Goodbye Sir Terry, We'll Miss You

io9 reports that Terry Pratchett has passed away at the age of 66.  They've included a statement from his publisher:

Terry passed away in his home, with his cat sleeping on his bed surrounded by his family on 12th March 2015. Diagnosed with PCA [Posterior cortical atrophy] in 2007, he battled the progressive disease with his trademark determination and creativity, and continued to write. He completed his last book, a new Discworld novel, in the summer of 2014, before succumbing to the final stages of the disease.

I started reading Terry Pratchett novels 20 years ago.  My first one was Wyrd Sisters and I hadn't even read MacBeth yet!  It was still fascinating and later adapted into a movie.  I read every single one of his novels that my school's library had, including the one that I believe was the genesis for the Discworld, Strata.

As far as I know, Strata was Pratchett's only foray into science fiction, and it was truly imaginative. Wikipedia now informs me that it was one of two pure science fiction novels that he wrote.  Three astronauts landed on a disc-shaped world to explore it--or maybe they crashed.  (Hey!  It's been 20 years, folks!)  I remember that one of them was human and another was of a race that was highly intelligent, but also highly prized eating humans when not given a particular dosage of some substance.  There was a race against time as the two tried to work together to figure out what was going on and to get her re-exposed to whatever it was that would stop her from eating our protagonist.  It really was a thrilling read.  There's also a lot of stuff there that underpins Pratchett's later fantasy work on the Discworld, and I recommend it to anyone whose interested in his works.

His witches of Lancre were like old friends to me.  My copies of Lords and Ladies, Witches Abroad, and the rest of their series have been read countless times.  I once even considered trying adapting Witches Abroad as a movie script.  I felt like I grew up as Magrat did, though the troubles in my life were rarely as weird as in hers.  As I've grown up, I often find I am that person who's outside of the action and thinking about the bigger picture instead of embroiled within it.  I suspect that I am not alone.  Maybe all readers are witches of Lancre at heart?

Sam Vimes, Captain Carrott, Rincewind, Archchancellor Ridcully, Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler, the Librarian, Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, Death, Susan Sto Helit, Alfred, the Death of Rats, Sargeant Angua, Sargeant Detritus, Sergeant Fred Colon, Corporal Nobby Nobbs.  These are just a smattering of the Discworld's inhabitants that touched me.

I've read every single one of them down every track.  In later years, a friend recommended Nation to me.  It's set on our world and isn't fantastical at all.  That said, it's an exploration of what it means to love another person, to love your country, and how you parse your duties to both.  I heartily recommend it to anyone that enjoys a good moral tale or stories set in the South Pacific.

Sir Terry, thank you for sharing your fantastical world with us.  I miss you already.

Finally, a lot of this was difficult to write because his and his publisher's websites appear to have crashed due to overwhelming traffic.  It's a weird tribute, but one I hope he's appreciating wherever he's gone.