Friday, 13 March 2015

RIP Sir Terry Pratchett

There are 42 Terry Pratchett novels and two maps on our bookshelves. I read my first book of his, The Carpet People, so long ago I forget what year it was - maybe 1989. Pyramids, my first Discworld, followed sometime after. For more than two decades I have read at least one new book of his a year. My Christmas Pratchett is now a tradition.

Today I heard he had died. I knew it was coming of course. Alzheimer's is one of the worst things that can happen to you - the knowledge that your mind is going to slowly, inevitably, disintegrate. Even if he had never written a word, how he handled the diagnosis, using it as an opportunity to campaign for more investment in Alzheimer's research (including in a BBC documentary that was both funny and heartbreaking) and for the right to die, would have made him an extraordinary man.

I wrote Sir Terry a letter when I was in high school and was delighted to get a thorough, thoughtful response. Given this is someone who must have received hundreds of fan letters a year, that says a lot.

I met him once too, on 14 November 2002, at a book signing in Hamilton. I was a librarian and we talked about that. He was not a fan of the computerisation of libraries - no doubt he loved those long, dim corridors of slumbering knowledge that led into L Space. I did too.

As a writer, he was truly brilliant, prolific but relentlessly excellent - at least until the last few books, when the plots (probably for obvious reasons) lost some of their tightness. He was hilarious, but much more than a comedian. He was exciting, but more than a thrill-merchant. His books are filled with a learned, clever, liberalism. He hated snobbery and bigotry, and loved the underdog. Like all great novels his best books give us insights into that strange, messy thing called humanity.

And how can you not love a man, after death, tweeted this?

RIP Terry Pratchett. You made me smile. You made me cry.

Terry Pratchett

Some links of note:
Press release announcing death.
Wonderful tribute on The Guardian.
Daily Telegraph rolling summary.
Neil Gaiman.
Selected quotes.
Last tweets.

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