Terry Prachett, beloved fantasy writer, has passed away today at the age of 66. Tom Ffiske pays his respects and shares his love for Prachett’s talent.
Unlike most readers, I was not introduced to Terry Pratchett through his Discworld series. I found him through Good Omens, which he co-authored with his long-time friend Neil Gaiman, in an overly expensive WHSmith bookshop at Bristol Airport. Twice a year I fly from Bristol to visit my relatives in Italy, and each time I make sure to pick up a new book or magazine for the journey and holiday. Good Omens was one of the books I picked up as the front cover looked quite pretty.
I didn’t quite expect what I found inside.
The unique synthesis of Pratchett’s pointed wit and Gaiman’s flair for the darkly morbid blend and bounce off each other to create something that reads like the best of both worlds and yet something original. In it, the Antichrist was brought up by a middle class family in Tadfield and is an imaginative boy living in a constant ray of sunshine (the hell dog is a cuddly mongrel). I will not spoil the major plot points here, but it is one of my favourite books from a young age. Good Omens is saturated in hilarious gags, frequently funny footnotes, eccentric characterisations, and brilliant satiric observations on the state of religion and humanity.
From there, I moved onto the Discworld series, and I grew to appreciate his social satire through the fantasy setting. Moving Pictures provides a commentary on Hollywood, the pursuit of popularity, and literal ‘movie magic’ which can manifest into plot-coincidental moments. Making Money studies how ‘value’ can be attributed to any object so long as a collective group agrees to a set standard. Thief of Time looks at the use of time, and what it actually means as we move from moment to moment. These are but a few of his many works, and each of us have different reasons for loving these stories. But in any case, we like them because they were smart, quick-witted, and deep – much like the man himself.
We should also remember that, early in his career, Pratchett’s series was not regarded highly. Many publishers rejected his books, and reviews disregarded the early Rincewind series as a childish, intellectually-inept work of fiction. However, driven by a deep-seated anger against the established publishing industry, Pratchett drove on with his vision. He had a story to tell, and he did not want to shame or mould it into a pre-established hole, and he had the fiery spirit to not falter. Many writers are surprised to hear about his angry side – Neil Gaiman wrote an excellent article about this – but in the end, it helped him push forward with the Discworld setting. Like many great authors, Pratchett did not let Discworld change to fit the industry – but to change the industry through his books.
We will all miss you, Terry Pratchett. You were an inspiration for many English students to take up their degree, and each of your seventy books brought something new to the table.
“DON’T THINK OF IT AS DYING, said Death. JUST THINK OF IT AS LEAVING EARLY TO AVOID THE RUSH.”
― Terry Pratchett, Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch.
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