A tribute to Terry Pratchett

Stop all the clacks.

An entire world ended last Friday: warring countries; vibrant, huge, dirty cities; small villages settled by people with busy work-filled lives all gone. Individuals perished too: a sharp-as-nails old woman and her wicked friend; a straight-as-an-arrow cop and his big-hearted wife and son; a sixteen-year-old girl who had just discovered what love can mean. A world full of people with hopes and dreams, and love and hate, simply ceased to exist.

At least that what it felt like when I heard Terry Pratchett passed away. There are much more eloquent people out there who will write far better tributes to the man and you should read them all, after you read his books of course. I can only say some of what he did for me.

Pratchett was my first introduction to feminism. After finishing The Light Fantastic, he reportedly looked into the fantasy genre where he noticed the difference between the ‘clever and powerful’ magic done by wizards (men) and the ‘third-rate and negative’ magic by witches (women). (Even today the word ‘witch’ is often negative, while ‘wizard’ is positive.) Terry Pratchett couldn’t let that slide and so he wrote Equal Rites, about a young girl Esk, who was accidentally given a wizard’s staff at birth. She was apprenticed to the witch Granny Weatherwax to make up for it but despite Granny’s attempts to dissuade Esk from taking up egocentric magic, Esk was determined to go to the wizard’s Unseen University. Granny eventually caves and heads to the city to show a group of old men who are terrified of women (unless they’re carrying laundry or dinner of course) a thing or two. I wont tell you the outcome but I think that one book did more to shape my mind than anything else I’ve ever read.

Every October I would pick up my copy of the latest Terry Pratchett novel, secretly hug it to myself, and force myself to wait until Friday night when I would surround myself with snacks and disappear into Discworld until the last page was turned. Then, more often than not, I would push aside the uneaten snacks and just stare at a wall fighting off reality, not wanting the magic of Discworld to completely fade away, not yet.

Sometimes, I would be furious because Terry had created a creature that whispered poison into the ears of unthinking people, filling them with prejudice, anger and fear; making me aware that the same thing is happening here too, in our own reality. Except newspapers and politics are much harder to fight than a bitter burnt up ghost. That’s what Terry did. He held a mirror up to our world and showed us everything, including the bad bits – he just changed names (and sometimes species) of the players to make it easier to for us swallow.

Sometimes, though, I would finish the book and simply laugh from the joy of what I’d just been allowed to read. Terry is the only person I’ve read with pitch-perfect comic timing. He mocked word play as often as he used it. He could be as dry as a bone (through Lord Vetinari) or as filthy as a barman’s rag (through Nanny Ogg). He could write physical comedy with as much beauty and grace as a pineapple cream pie to the face. More than once he had me crying from laughter at the Nac Mac Feegle (hilarious little blue Scottish pictsies).

But they’re gone now and every moment since Terry’s passing I find a new old friend to grieve for: Sybil Ramkin, Tiffany Aching, Daft Wullie, No'-As-Big-As-Medium-Sized-Jock-But-Bigger-Than-Wee-Jock Jock … even Nobby Nobbs.

There will always be the books, of course. And the beauty of Terry’s books is that they are so packed full of references, laughs and wisdom that you will find something new in every re-read. But right now, this is a bittersweet comfort to me. Right now I mourn for a man I met only once. A man who since I was 18 has snuck big ideas and new thoughts into my mind and helped shape who I am today. And for all the people who lived in the worlds he created whose stories have suddenly stopped.

Granny Weatherwax, my personal hero, you can put aside your I Aten’t Dead card now. You won’t need it anymore.

Sam Vimes, your wife, the Patrician and not even your young son could stop you walking your beat and fighting with fury for those who had no voice, but your creator has succeeded where they failed. It’s 12 O’Clock and all is not well. Ring your bell one last time and walk no more.

Rincewind, you are finally safe.

Sir Terry Pratchett, from the bottom of my aching heart, thank you.

Dani Solomon works in the Children’s & YA section at Carlton.

Equal Rites: (Discworld Novel 3)

Equal Rites: (Discworld Novel 3)

Terry Pratchett

$19.99Buy now

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