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Thursday, March 12, 2015

AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER.


I was as saddened as any to hear of the passing of Sir Terry Pratchett today. I pondered how many writers would tackle Terry's own Death greeting him -- and discovered in the midst of planning this entry that it has, in fact, been done at the source. Now I find myself attempting to put this together while fighting off an unexpected bout of chest-crumpling sobs because, really, we've all known since we discovered his books that this was the only proper exit he could ever have. Still, with a cup of Darjeeling to my right and a guinea pig wondering why Mom's making weird noises to my left, I intend to finish.

That said, how the hell does one even write about someone like him? What does one begin to say about a knight with a whole universe in his mind and a sword forged from a falling star? I never met him (poor health -- mine -- robbed me of that chance a few years ago).

I have memories, certainly. But when I think of Pratchett and his work, I find I come up with a long list of unconnected, disjointed memories. I suppose that's not surprising, seeing as he wrote more than 70 books in his time and I've nearly caught up to them.

I remember discovering Good Omens back in the old times of Pythonline.com, when a few fellow 'Spouses' (an inner circle of enthusiastic forum-goers who joked that they loved the site so much that they'd married it and each other) told me that it was 'sort of Monty Python's Armageddon.'

I remember being gobsmacked by the airplane scene from The Colour of Magic while at the DMV, waiting to see if I'd passed my driving test on the second go 'round.

I remember buying a copy of Wintersmith from an airport bookstore during a long layover, knowing nothing of Tiffany Aching but suddenly wanting to know everything.

I remember prepping for my third surgery by borrowing every Discworld book my library had that I hadn't read, so I'd have reading material handy when I was recovering.

I remember every instance of my friend CJ reading Where's My Cow? to his now two-year-old daughter when I happen to be over.

It isn't often that I truly grieve over the death of someone I've never met, no matter how big a fan I am. I can count the instances on one especially clumsy woodworking teacher's hand. But this is a day when I find myself truly saddened. Which is understandable, but also a bit strange. Pratchett never stopped. He wrote dozens of books. 66 is too young, but he wasn't a promising author snuffed out tragically in his twenties with two short stories and an unfinished novel to his name. We're never going to wonder what would have happened if he'd just had a little more time.

... except I do. That's the thing. As I told a friend interested in the books, Discworld isn't so much a series as a sandbox, and that (plus the creator's creativity) kept it from becoming stale or overstaying its welcome. Even with all he did, I'm left with the feeling that there are so many amazing things we'll never see now. 

I feel like he could have written for a hundred years and still barely scratched the surface. I'm sure there are so many stories, so many characters, he took to his grave. But he left us countless others, to the point that fans like myself beginning a massive re-read aren't even sure where to start.

The one comfort I take in his death is, well, his Death. Discworld's Death was dry and darkly witty, but also compassionate, wise, and quite fond of his charges. He was a hero at times, a passerby at others... but he was the only character in the Discworld canon who appeared in every book.

I take comfort in the fact that, in Pratchett's world, Death was a friend, someone to be liked and respected and welcomed when the time came, someone who would wave you off with a long-suffering sigh when it wasn't quite your turn yet. He was constant, he was omnipresent, he occasionally was where he shouldn't be -- but he was never ever the enemy. And it eases my heart to know that he lived his life with this mindset, shared it with others, and (as we saw) carried it to the very end.

My thoughts are with him, his family, his friends, and everyone else whose life he ever touched. I think it'll be Good Omens for me tonight... same way I started.