Sir Terry Pratchett, author of the Discworld series, died this week after struggling with Alzheimer’s for eight years. He was 66 years old, which seems so unfairly young, particularly for someone who still had so much passion for his work.
In the mid-90s, before I ever picked up a Discworld novel, I played something called Discworld MUD (Multi-User Dungeon), which is a massively multiplayer online text-based computer game. The sort where you literally type ‘backstab Mike’ to stab Mike in the back with something pointy. They had built the world up from his books, filling it with his hilarious descriptions and ridiculous characters, and my friend and I were in love with it all. This was in the days of dial-up, before we were on instant messaging, and even when we weren’t actively playing the game we’d often tie up the phone lines to log in and chat while doing homework. It was a pretty major part of our lives for a few years. I used to dream in green text some nights.
I discovered that the game was based on a series of books from a conversation with my dad. He loved summarizing books to me, and I realized part way through his explanation of the Discworld that this was something I knew – there can’t be two fictional worlds that take place on the back of four giant elephants, who in turn are standing on the back of a massive turtle, travelling through space. I picked up the first book I found in the house, which was Pyramids, and loved it. I didn’t make much of an effort to read the books my dad loved while he was still alive, something I really regret, but Terry Pratchett was one of the few we got to share.
I then started going through them in publication order from the beginning, and in the next few years I nearly caught up with the series. I haven’t read too many in the last decade and a half, only two since starting this weblog four years ago, so I’ve actually only read twenty-three of his books so far. I’m lucky in that I have about fifty books of his left to read still. He’s written so many books I actually wasn’t able to find a proper count of them online without having to do my own counting, something I refuse to do.
After his diagnosis, his passion seemed to double. He put a lot of time and money into Alzheimer’s research, trying to also raise awareness and lessen the stigma of the disease in interviews and articles, while also campaigning for the UK to make assisted suicide legal. While doing all of this, and facing his terminal illness, he kept publishing one or two books a year, even when needing to dictate the writing to his assistant after losing the ability to type it himself.
It’s a truly sad loss. During the last few days, a lot of his quotes have been shared all over social media. This one from Reaper Man stood out as perfect:
[…] they believe that no-one is finally dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away – until the clock he wound up winds down, until the wine she made has finished its ferment, until the crop they planted is harvested. The span of someone’s life, they say, is only the core of their actual existence.
May you live forever, Terry Pratchett.