2015 is shaping up to be a heck of a year already. It’s been a while since I blogged here. Much has happened since the year started. I was originally going to post several updates in the one but I’ve decided against doing that. So I’ll be posting a couple of things one after t’other.
The Death of Sir Terry Pratchett
Sir Terry Pratchett passed away on the 12th of March, 2015. Most people who had heard of him (and arguably everyone who loved his books) knew he was unwell; Sir Terry suffered from early onset Alzheimers, ultimately the cause of his death.
I met Sir Terry once. I was a younger person than I am now, by far – I don’t recall the year – and he was visiting Australia on a tour. I sat there while he told us of his experiences in life, his enjoyment of writing and of reading, and I was struck by his voice. It was a surprisingly young voice, I felt, and not the Received Pronunciation accent that I had (for reasons I’m unclear of) expected. Sir Terry had a surprisingly light voice, an accessible tone that made him immediately likeable and no lack of amusing anecdotes to please the audience with.
When it came time for questions I stood up and asked him when we might see Eskarina Smith again, as she was my favourite character. I can’t recall my exact wording but I do know that I was too nervous to ask elegantly. He chuckled, perhaps recognising my nervousness, and said that she might turn up. Certainly, he added, there must be fans out there who could calculate her exact age in the Discworld universe, given how much time must have passed.
Eskarina Smith did turn up again, years later. I wonder if he remembered me asking that question. Probably not. I’ll never know, either way.
I got several books (including two maps, The Streets of Ankh-Morpork and The Discworld Mapp) signed. It was a good day.
Something strange happens when a person passes out of normalcy and becomes a living legend. It’s a subtle change, one that happens every day. Most people idolise their parents, typically without even noticing that they’re doing it. Fans ascribe incredible influence to their chosen stars.
One of the things that happens is the illusion of permanency. Most people, as I said, knew Sir Terry was unwell – but how many of us really understood that he was going to die? Intellectually the concept of mortality is easy to grasp: ‘People die.’ That’s it. Factual, clinical, accurate. Emotionally understanding that is an entirely different matter.
One day I went to bed. The creator of the Discworld was still alive. Then I woke up and he was gone forever.
Sir Terry Pratchett was a master storyteller. He was a master of satire. He was capable of taking something old and familiar, reshaping it just enough that it becomes new and fresh, then presenting it in a way that can never be forgotten. Much like someone sewing a jumper out of used socks. His use of language was exemplary and his vision as remarkable, to say the least.
He was also, as Neil Gaiman pointed out, a very angry man.
Sir Terry Pratchett passed away in a Wiltshire town called Broad Chalke, which is perhaps as Pratchetty a town name as one could hope for.