Archive for Terry Pratchett

Rest in Peace, Sir Terry Pratchett


Yesterday was tough, wasn’t it? If you’re anything like me and several million other fans of fun, geeky, glorious literature, you found out around mid-morning that Terry Pratchett, author best known for the Discworld series of novels, had died. And after that, you spent the rest of the day in a severe funk, if not going to hide somewhere so you could safely cry at work.

I don’t think I can reach any unusual heights of eloquence here. I can’t tell you any stories about him you haven’t heard. There are people who’ve actually met him and worked with him who can do that, and you should seek them out and read them, because they’re remarkably good and moving. I can’t tell you about how reading Pratchett’s novels changed my life, because I was already a sci-fi and fantasy-loving geek when I read my first Discworld novel — but there are a lot of people who had their lives transformed by his books, and you should seek them out, too, because they’re also good and even more moving.

I can tell you that I haven’t read all of Sir Terry’s books, but I’ve read a lot, and I’ve loved most of them. And though I know so very many people who love his books as much as I do, it’s also vastly frustrating how little known he seems to be outside of his fanbase. Even those who aren’t readers of horror know Stephen King; even those who aren’t readers of science fiction know Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury; even those who aren’t readers of fantasy know Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and J.K. Rowling. But Pratchett wasn’t just a funny fantasy writer — he was also one of the grandest wordsmiths on the planet — yet most of my officemates at work had never heard of him. That’s terrible, and I don’t know how to solve that.

I am, in fact, sorely tempted to go grab handfuls of my favorite Discworld books and force them on people — but my favorite books — “Small Gods,” “Reaper Man,” etc. — wouldn’t make the best introductions to the Discworld. But some of the earlier books are maybe a bit too chaotic and could turn off neophyte fans. I have no solution, and it frustrates me terribly.

Perhaps the best solution is just to keep evangelizing about how good his books are, and let those who are open to his style of humor and wonder and epic glory… discover for themselves.

I think I have to close with a line — one which has been strongly affecting me throughout the day — from one of Pratchett’s best and oddest characters: WHAT CAN THE HARVEST HOPE FOR, IF NOT FOR THE CARE OF THE REAPER MAN?

Comments off

Terry Pratchett planning future suicide?


As many of y’all are probably aware, Terry Pratchett, creator of the extremely popular “Discworld” series of humorous fantasy novels, has a very rare form of early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease. While he’s said he’s trying to keep an optimistic attitude and is trying to finish a few more books, he’s also not under any illusions about his chances. And so he’s planning on trying to take his way out early, and before he or his family suffers too greatly.

Pratchett isn’t a big fan of the term “assisted suicide” — but ultimately, that’s what he’s planning. Suicide, with the assistance of loved ones, or ideally, a doctor. This is a controversial issue in England, just as it is here in America. A recent poll in Britain showed that about 75% of people there approve of allowing the terminally ill to decide that they don’t want to go on any more, but Parliament also voted down a measure to allow assisted suicide. About a hundred Britons have traveled to clinics in Switzerland where they can legally end their lives, and England’s Director of Public Prosecutions may soon set down some guidelines that would exempt “those who do not have selfish motives” from prosecution for helping someone commit suicide.

The medical community is also split on the issue — the Hippocratic Oath instructs physicians to “do no harm,” which is something doctors take very seriously… but at the same time, other doctors feel that forcing patients to suffer under incurable, fatal, and untreatable illnesses is a form of harm all its own.

I gotta say, I agree with Pratchett on this. We’ll take our dogs and cats to the veterinarian when they’re ill and dying, and put them to sleep, so they don’t suffer any more. If we’re willing to extend that mercy to our pets, why shouldn’t we be willing to extend it to humans? When there’s no further hope for treatment or recovery, what do we gain by making the terminally ill suffer when they want to move on?

I’m gonna recommend y’all go read the full article — it’s quite long but very good. Besides the actual article, it also includes a lengthy statement by Pratchett laying out his case for assisted suicide. Much, much too long to reprint, but I’ll throw in an excerpt:

I have met Alzheimer’s sufferers who are hoping that another illness takes them away first. Little old ladies confide in me, saying: ‘I’ve been saving up my pills for the end, dear.’

What they are doing, in fact, is buying themselves a feeling of control. I have met retired nurses who have made their own provisions for the future with rather more knowledgeable deliberation.

From personal experience, I believe the recent poll reflects the views of the people in this country. They don’t dread death; it’s what happens beforehand that worries them.

Life is easy and cheap to make. But the things we add to it, such as pride, self-respect and human dignity, are worthy of preservation, too, and these can be lost in a fetish for life at any cost.

I believe that if the burden gets too great, those who wish to should be allowed to be shown the door.

In my case, in the fullness of time, I hope it will be the one to the garden under an English sky. Or, if wet, the library.

It’s really kind of a depressing article. Terry Pratchett and the Discworld novels have been a big part of my life — a big part of lots of peoples’ lives, geeks and non-geeks alike. I hate to think of him dying, but I also hate to think of him suffering. Heck, I hate to think about him having to contemplate suffering or dying as something other than an excuse to have Death show up in his novels, intone something grave but funny, and slip on a patch of ice. But it will happen to all of us eventually, one way or another, and that alone should awaken our sense of compassion.

But again, please go read the whole thing.

Comments off

Sir Terry of Pratchett


Terry Pratchett, author of the impossibly awesome “Discworld” comic fantasy novels, has had a rough year, what with being diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. But he ended the year on an up note, as he was made a knight a few days ago.

Terry Pratchett, the author of the Discworld series of novels that have sold more than 55 million copies worldwide, said he was “stunned, in a good way” after receiving a knighthood in the New Year’s Honours List.

The 60-year-old writer, below, whose first book was published in 1971, told The Independent last night: “I’m having difficulty fitting it into my head. I’m very pleased indeed. It cheers me up no end.” He added: “It will also impress some of my American friends, who started calling me ‘Sir’ after I received my MBE, which was a little embarrassing.”

Though he has written works of science fiction and horror, Pratchett’s greatest creation came with his first novel set in Discworld, a fantasy realm balanced on the backs of four elephants, which themselves stand atop a huge turtle.

“The Discworld series has been going on quietly but successfully for a long time now. I’ve gone all over the world with it,” he said.

“I’m glad a genre writer has got a knighthood, but stunned that it was me.”

Couldn’t happen to a nicer or cooler guy. And if you haven’t started reading Pratchett’s books yet, it’s long past time for you to get started…

Comments off

Discworld creator Pratchett diagnosed with Alzheimer’s

This isn’t exactly comics-related news, but I know for a fact that many comics fans are also big fans of Terry Pratchett and his “Discworld” series of epic fantasy-satire novels. For those of you who haven’t yet heard the news, Pratchett has just announced that he has early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

I would have liked to keep this one quiet for a little while, but because of upcoming conventions and of course the need to keep my publishers informed, it seems to me unfair to withhold the news. I have been diagnosed with a very rare form of early onset Alzheimer’s, which lay behind this year’s phantom “stroke”.

We are taking it fairly philosophically down here and possibly with a mild optimism. For now work is continuing on the completion of Nation and the basic notes are already being laid down for Unseen Academicals. All other things being equal, I expect to meet most current and, as far as possible, future commitments but will discuss things with the various organisers. Frankly, I would prefer it if people kept things cheerful, because I think there’s time for at least a few more books yet :o)

PS I would just like to draw attention to everyone reading the above that this should be interpreted as ‘I am not dead’. I will, of course, be dead at some future point, as will everybody else. For me, this maybe further off than you think – it’s too soon to tell. I know it’s a very human thing to say “Is there anything I can do”, but in this case I would only entertain offers from very high-end experts in brain chemistry.

I don’t know about y’all, but it looks like I’ll spend the next month or so re-reading “Mort,” “Small Gods,” “Maskerade,” “Good Omens,” and the rest…

Comments off