It’s been a weird few days.
Not, perhaps, in terms of my actual, personal existence – I mean, I still got up every morning, and went to visit friends, and spent time with my beloved people, and I even laughed, like everything was normal.
But, never far from my thoughts, there was a sparkly-eyed man beneath a big black hat, and the ache of knowing that he’s gone.
I read my copy of Lords and Ladies (which is the fourteenth Discworld novel, and – when I pressed myself to make a choice – the one I decided was my favourite) over the weekend, which meant most of my laughter was at scenes like the Lancre Morris Men doing the long-forbidden Stick and Bucket Dance, or the exploits of Casanunda the dwarf, the Disc’s second-greatest lover (his motto: ‘I try harder’); I think it was an appropriate way to begin my send-off of Sir Terry Pratchett. The only thing is, I might begin this process, but I don’t think it’ll ever come to an end. I’ll be saying goodbye to him for the rest of my life.
I’ve been following the grieving process of other fans (over the past few days, I think the Discworld community has grown extremely close, despite us only knowing one another ‘in the ether’), and it has made me feel proud to be part of a fandom like this one. There has been no horrible ‘trolling’ (at least, none of which I’m aware), and – by and large – the family and associates of Terry Pratchett have been treated with kindness and respect, if some thoughtless but well-meaning attempts at consolation, by fans on social media. Money has been raised for Alzheimer’s awareness and research, and will continue to be, with any luck (here’s a link to a fundraising page, if you want to check it out), and Sir TP’s books have been selling in huge numbers – which is, of course, the best way to honour his memory. I’m glad I have an entire bookshelf full of his novels to read at my leisure, collected over the span of my lifetime so far, but if I had the money I would buy second and third copies of all of them and gift them to people who’ve never read them, or simply leave them tucked into nooks and crannies to be found by passersby as my offering to the universe. All humanity (and more – I’m not speciesist!) is to be found within their pages.
If you know someone, or you are someone, who has never read a Pratchett book, then now is the time. Now is the time to find one, and open the covers. Step onto the Disc, and stay with it a while, and you may never want to leave. If you want a Neil Gaiman-y introduction to the flavour and humour of Terry Pratchett, then try Good Omens; if you’re in the humour for affecting, meaningful, written-in-the-bone storytelling about family, bravery and the facing down of monsters while armed with nothing more than a frying pan, then start with the Tiffany Aching books, a series-within-a-series. If you’re interested in setting off on an adventure with Rincewind the wizard and getting to know the Discworld, then begin at the beginning, with The Colour of Magic.
Whatever you do, just start somewhere. Keep the ripples of Sir Pterry’s life going. Keep the flame of his memory lit. Keep laughing at his jokes, and keep being amazed by the worlds of knowledge packed into his stories, and keep being moved by the emotion at the heart of his characters. Maybe, that way, the horrible changed reality we’re living in, the one where he’s gone, can be forced back up the Trousers of Time, and we can go down another leg instead – one where he’s still with us, and in good health, and where he has time to write down all the tales he wants to tell us.
And if not, at least we have the stories he did manage to write, which are good enough for a lifetime’s reading and re-reading. I’m just so sad that there won’t be any more.