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Terry Pratchett, 1948-2015

March 13, 2015

Ever since I could read, I’ve read fantasy. Many different kinds of it, though I’ve always opted for the funny stuff and the self-aware stuff and the stuff that asks deep, important questions about morality while pretending not to. Quite often the fantasy was also British, because Brits seem to share the same cynical outlook as I do.*

So it’s no surprise that I am a huge fan of Terry Pratchett. I love Granny Weatherwax and Sir Samuel Vimes and Susan Sto Helit and Mudstrum Ridcully and the Librarian and Lord Vetinari and the Nac Mac Feegle and Bloody Stupid Johnson. I love the send-ups and pastiches and running jokes. I love playing spot-the-reference and seeing characters I thought were one-offs turn up again.

And it’s not just the Discworld books, either. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read Good Omens, and I’ve found the Bromeliad and Johnny Maxwell trilogies surprisingly enjoyable too. The Science of Discworld series is some of the most accessible science writing going.


I learned a lot from Pratchett, and not just about the nature of gods and humanity, ethics and goodness, and the importance of stories, though that’s certainly part of it. (Small Gods and Hogfather are windows into my brain, I swear.) I’ve also learned what a well-structured story looks like. I’ve learned that a story can be hard-hitting and hilarious at the same time, and probably more hard-hitting for the humour. I’ve learned about dropping hints, lampshading, and red herrings which turn out to be not quite as fishy as presented.

There’s this thing he did with dialogue, where three different conversations happen at once, with no dialogue tags, and yet it’s all perfectly understandable. He could convey a whole slapstick routine or byplay with a pithy sentence. He knew when and how to play with archetypes and tropes. He could go from hysterical to heartbreaking to poignant in three sentences. Sometimes less. He did brilliant things with footnotes.**

He was a master and someday I hope to be even a tenth as good. He was also a fabulous human being, and again, someday I hope to be even a tenth as good.

On this day of his passing, I’m reminded that I haven’t read (or bought) everything he wrote yet, and that there are books of his I’ve been meaning to reread. I’ve got get on that.

I’m really going to miss talking about him in present tense. The world isn’t going to be the same.


*Possibly I’m cynical because I read Brits during my formative years. Hard to say, really.

**Like this one.***

***And yes, I stole my footnote habit from him. Thanks, Pterry. I hope you don’t mind.

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