Life has been a chaotic swirl of late, but I stopped still earlier at the devastating news that one of my (if not the) most loved and revered authors has passed away.
I was introduced to Terry Pratchett books at 16, and since then have read and reread much of his collection as I can (I must admit to shameful gaps with his more recent works, with life taking over and slowing down my reading rate).
He is one of the authors most prevalent in my day to day consciousness, with turns of phrase and images popping up repeatedly. I only need to walk past a cabbage in the shop to think of the Sto Plains and their wonderous brassica output.
Only a few days ago I referenced him in a comment about character development. If I need cheering up with something funny and light I’ll turn to one of his novels. If I want something darker, or clever to make me think, it’s there too. Fantasy, characters, science, puns, folklore…it’s there. Reading his work leaves my in awe (and at times a touch jelous), although I try to look at his progression from his earliest novels as promise that the rest of might grow similarly, albeit from a lesser starting point.
Watching the Neil Gaiman talk on Douglas Adams last week, I had already been thinking about him. Gaiman calls Adam a genius, for his insight and explanation of the world as is, and as will be. I think Sir Terry showed the same understanding; of words, of our world. But whilst Douglas Adams saw and solved the ultimate questions of the wider universe, Terry Pratchett understood our souls. From the painstaking letters of the conscientious Captain Carrot, to Nanny Oggs gleeful obscenities, these characters are the people around us. They are real, and everyone has their own favourites. My mum adores the witches; my husband, the eternal pessimism of Commander Vimes. I have a soft spot for the Granny Weatherwax and the wizards. I know of no one else who could make Death a loveable grandfather and owner of a horse named Binky, doing the conga whilst maintaining his sinister purpose.
His worlds are unique and immersive. His wordplay shamelessly brilliant.
We knew it was coming; the news off his illness has been around long enough that it seemed to fade into myth. He was still writing, still around, the world was still right, still a safe place. But now, suddenly, there’s a little hole in it, the shape of a turtle of unknown gender, carried on the back of four elephants. The man is gone, but the legend will remain. With eyes like Gimlet’s (the one that owns the dwarf delicatessen), I say let’s raise our glasses, don our Wizzard hats and jump on the table to sing the Hedgehog song at full volume.