I’m writing this because right now, there is literally nothing else I can think about. Terry Pratchett inspired me so deeply, for so long, that it feels genuinely saddening to hear of his passing. I never thanked him in person, but I still knew him through his words. It is incomprehensible to love another’s work without recognizing something about them.
The first thing I read of his was The Wee Free Men- I was seven years old, I liked the cover (a bunch of angry blue men in kilts), and I was allowed to borrow it from a small local library for a week. That was what kickstarted my interest in Terry Pratchett; a book about drunken Scottish pixies and a witch called Tiffany.
Like most of his work, it’s full of subtle references and in-jokes, many of them not quite what you’d expect from a children’s novel. The Shining gets a good look-in, for example. And the characters are entirely believable. If a horde of tiny men with names like Daft Wullie and Rob Anybody invaded real-life, I’d be mostly curious to know what they arrived wearing. I’d have no problem adjusting to a bunch of people who irrefutably believed that they were currently in the after-life.
Because of this book, I still instinctively use the word “ken” over “know” the majority of the time, because the Wee Free Men’s dialect is so brilliantly strung-out that I couldn’t help joining in. I use a lot of fictional lingo in everyday conversation because it was so funny experimenting with it the first time fifteen years ago.
Womble owes a lot to the character Rincewind, another gem in Pratchett’s assembly of characters you’d want to meet in real life; cowardly, sarky, and incredibly good at running into trouble. My undoubted favorite is His Grace Sir Samuel Vimes, however, and I’m still unsure how much I’d be using the word “damn” if I hadn’t read every Watchman novel I’ve been able to get my hands on.
As you must have noticed, we’ve already used the Librarian here- and I’d really like to think we pulled it off. I’m reluctant to even try writing a version of Sam Vimes, however. It’s no coincidence that Future W (spoiler!) smokes cigars, because for now that’s as close as I dare get.
The real beauty of Terry Pratchett’s writing is that he constantly surprised us. No other author has reinvented so many tropes as a matter of habit, or addressed such powerful issues as race and identity with such finesse and ease, channeling his unique sense of humor throughout in a way that is genuinely unsurpassed. Nothing else reads like a Terry Pratchett novel.
I have laughed and learnt from such works for a good third of my life. It saddens me that this has come to an end, yet I am grateful beyond words for everything that it has taught me.
Rest in peace Terry Pratchett, you brilliant old bastard.