Remembering Sir Terry Pratchett

by SJ Griffin

“It is said that your life flashes before your eyes just before you die. That is true, it’s called Life.”

The Last Continent – Terry Pratchett

I have never felt even remotely tearful at the death of a person I haven’t ever met and only know becuase they are famous. I thought I was saving that for Madonna’s departure. Sir Terry Pratchett got me today though.

I’m not sure if Madonna and Terry Pratchett have ever been spoken of in the same sentence before but I think I would be a very different person if it weren’t for them. Maybe David Bowie too. But mostly Terry Pratchett because if I hadn’t been so blown away by the first Discworld book I read (Pyramids as it happens) I might not have thought about wanting to be a writer, or even that there was even such a thing. And I love writing.

I’ve posted here before about my reading the whole of the Discworld series from The Colour of Magic to Raising Steam and how great it was just to spend time with the stories, the characters, the writing – the sheer wondrous imagination of it all. It’s an incredible thing to leave in the world. As gifts go it’s like the ones Death hands out in The Hogfather – exactly what you’ve always wanted.

Ah, the jokes. That’s a great gag right there: Death masquerading as Father Christmas and not understanding that we never get just want we want for Christmas. Ponies emerge from his sack, inappropriate firearms, and then Corporal Nobby Nobbs turns up….

The road to Hell being paved with good intentions is, in my opinion, the best joke ever written in a novel. I think that’s in Eric.

The trainspotters in Raising Steam. That’s another great joke. They write down…oh, go and read it. YOU MUST. It’s brilliant.

I did spent a lot of time this afternoon laughing (on the Discworld MUD where I was playing when I heard) while remembering the books and it cheered me up. Maybe he would like that. I don’t know.

What I do know is that the books are more than funny. There are thoughts in those books that are critical and insightful, profound and wise. Important even.

I think though this passage below is my favourite (lengthy) quote. What are writers for, after all, if not to remind us this of single truth:

“…And that’s what your holy men discuss, is it?” [said Granny Weatherwax]
“Not usually. There is a very interesting debate raging at the moment on the nature of sin. for example.” [said Mightily
“And what do they think? Against it, are they?”
“It’s not as simple as that. It’s not a black and white issue. There are so many shades of gray.”
“Nope.” [said Granny]
“There’s no grays, only white that’s got grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people like things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.”
“It’s a lot more complicated than that–”
“No. It ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.”
“Oh, I’m sure there are worse crimes–”
“But they starts with thinking about people as things…”

from Carpe Jugulum, by Terry Pratchett.

Sometimes I wonder about the world we would live in if people were never things, and how much better it would be for everyone.

So, thank you, Sir Terry. For giving me the Discworld.