This is a collection of essays that Terry Pratchett wrote throughout his career. Topics include his writing process, technology, book tour diaries, advice to graduates, how women are portrayed in fantasy, favourite words, and much more – it spans over a quarter of a decade, so it covers a lot. The last third of the book mainly deals with Alzheimer’s and assisted suicide.
I bought this a few days after Terry Pratchett passed away due to Alzheimer’s. I was, without a doubt, going to read this at some point, but I figured that was as apt a time to begin it as any, especially since I was already spending countless hours watching his interviews on YouTube. In the 90’s, I would have given my left ear for a collection like this. I’d read every interview he linked to from his website, and I used to scour the Internet looking for more.
I didn’t want to speed through this, knowing that a second volume wasn’t coming (although I supposed that’s still possible), so I decided to pace out my reading. I binged through about half of it to begin with, and then I limited myself to just a few articles between every other book I read. And even though I kept this going for months, I felt like I went through it too quickly. He had such brilliant insights into everyday things, so every article left me with something to ponder. Anyone who’s read his novels will know how sharp he was, but these articles are his opinions unobstructed by story.
Sorceress? Just a better class of witch. Enchantress? Just a witch with good legs. The fantasy world, in fact, is overdue for a visit from the Equal Opportunities people because, in the fantasy world, magic done by women is usually of poor quality, third-rate, negative stuff, while the wizards are usually cerebral, clever, powerful, and wise.
Pratchett was a fantasy author in a time when fantasy had a terrible reputation. It was on the same level as bodice rippers, mindless flights of fancy with no substance and no place on a serious reader’s bookshelf. And his books were humourous as well, which is a whole new taint. You’re left with the feeling that he spent a lot of time in interviews trying to explain to people that fantasy doesn’t mean a lack of depth. I’ve seen him paraphrase often from G. K. that serious is not the opposite of funny. Not funny is the opposite of funny.
Almost all writers are fantasy writers, but some of us are more honest about it than others.
Pratchett also spent a lot of energy in his last few years campaigning to make assisted dying legal in the UK, something I completely agree with him on, and the last third of the book contains quite a few of his articles on the subject. It’s barbaric to deny someone the right to die in dignity, to force them to live in fear and pain because the idea of death makes us feel a bit icky. It’s no way to treat someone at the end of their life. He’d be happy to know that Canada passed a federal law this year that will make assisted dying legal in 2016. Unfortunately, no such law has been passed in the UK yet.
I can see myself returning to this periodically. In fact, I’ve already re-read a couple articles as I was writing this. I was keeping track of quotes on a bookmark, and have apparently misplaced that, so if nothing else I need to go through this again and keep better track of my favourites. This was such a pleasure to read through. I’d recommend it to everyone, even those not that familiar with his Discworld series.