(I was sad – surprisingly sad – when I heard today that Sir Terry Pratchett had passed away. It wasn’t completely unexpected. I’d been preparing for this day ever since he announced that he had Alzheimer’s — and he made clear his intention to die with dignity.
Even with that preparation, however, it was sad news to hear. He’s been one of my favorite authors for many years (as seen from this photo of part of my Pratchett collection) and I’ve written about him and his work on this blog before. I still remember the short story he wrote that made me fall in love with him: it was a story about a group of chickens just trying to cross the road…but that road was a busy LA highway (and the story included the greatest throwaway line about Captain Kirk ever!).
So to lose him — an author that not only meant so much to me but was also one of the world’s most poignant, insightful, and wittiest observers — is tough. He took on everything from torture and religion (in Small Gods, the first Discworld novel I read), to removing a monetary system from the gold standard (in Making Money), to Death taking over for Santa Clause (in Hogfather). And, of course, he took on the apocalypse with Neil Gaiman in Good Omens. Along the way, he created witches who were special because they could see things as they actually were (Tiffany Aching), the funniest wizard ever (Rincewind), vampire lawyers, troll guards, and the best suitcase in the entire world (the Luggage). Not to mention turning death itself into a lovable character that we often rooted for (although not in this case). (Plus, he used footnotes — often and well. And footnotes are the way to this legal geek’s heart!)
And he did all of this in a world very similar to ours, except it was flat, carried on the back of four elephants, all of whom rode on the back of a giant turtle swimming through space. In addition to making me laugh and look forward to every page, Sir Terry also exemplified the idea that fantasy and science fiction are often the best tools authors have to hold up a mirror to the world — to show us who we really are.
Thank you, Sir Terry. You will be missed.