It has been five years since Sir Terry Pratchett left us. He died in his home on March 12, 2015 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. He left behind not only the rich legacy of the Discworld novels and the TV series and movies that sprang from them, but a deep and abiding friendship with fellow fantasy writer Neil Gaiman, an avid fan following that shows no signs whatever of slowing up, and a way of thinking about the world that continues to inspire new readers and authors alike.
It is often said that before you die your life passes before your eyes. It is in fact true. It’s called living.Terry Pratchett
Born Terence David John Pratchett on 28 April 1948, he was an English humorist, satirist, and author of fantasy novels, especially comical works. He is best known for his Discworld series of 41 novels.
In 1962, aged thirteen, Terry published his first story, Business Rivals, in school magazine The Technical Cygnet. It was published commercially as The Hades Business the following year. Terry used the fee of £14 to buy his first typewriter.
I became a journalist at 17. A few hours later, I saw my first dead body, which was somewhat… colourful. That’s when I learned you can go on throwing up after you run out of things to throw up.Terry Pratchett
In 1971, The Carpet People, his first novel was published, marked by a launch party in the carpet department of Heal’s on Tottenham Court Road. Terry was still only 23.
In 1983, Terry’s first Discworld novel, The Colour of Magic, was published by Colin Smythe – the start of what would become a phenomenally successful series, 41 books strong and translated all over the world.
I’m glad a genre writer has got a knighthood, but stunned that it was me.Terry Pratchett
In 1990, Good Omens was published, a collaboration with his friend Neil Gaiman. It would be made into a vastly popular television series, though Pratchett would not live to see its completion.
In 1998, Terry was appointed OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. Despite initially suspecting it was an elaborate hoax, he did turn up to accept the award.
In 2002, Terry won the Carnegie Medal for his children’s book The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents. Despite the many other awards, honorary degrees and knighthood that followed, he always said that this was the award he was most proud of.
In 2007, Terry was diagnosed with a rare form of Alzheimer’s, Posterior Cortical Atrophy. He decided to tell the world, and began his campaign to raise awareness of the disease, donating a million dollars to Alzheimer’s research the following year.
It seems that when you have cancer you are a brave battler against the disease, but when you have Alzheimer’s you are an old fart. That’s how people see you. It makes you feel quite alone.Terry Pratchett
In 2009, Terry was knighted by the Queen for services to literature, although he maintained that his greatest service to literature was to avoid writing any.
In 2011, Terry delivered the annual Dimbleby Lecture on BBC1, with the help of his friend Tony Robinson, who read his speech for him. In a piece entitled Shaking Hands With Death, Terry was candid about his struggle with Alzheimer’s and his campaign to reform the law on assisted dying. The lecture attracted a record TV audience, the highest there had ever been for a Dimbleby Lecture.
Terry presented a documentary on assisted dying, Terry Pratchett: Choosing to Die, in which he travelled to Switzerland to witness the death of terminally ill motor neurone sufferer Peter Smedley at the Dignitas clinic. The documentary won both a BAFTA and an Emmy.
In 2013, despite the progress of his disease, Terry remained busy. In 2013 he published several books: 40th Discworld novel Raising Steam, science fiction novel The Long War in collaboration with Stephen Baxter, The Science of Discworld IV with Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, and Dodger’s London.
Discworld is taking something that you know is ridiculous and treating it as if it is serious, to see if something interesting happens when you do so.Terry Pratchett
Five years later, here we are today still admiring the man and his work, his legacy, and his soaring spirit and zest for life.
His daughter Rhianna Pratchett, an accomplished game designer, went to Twitter this morning to remember her famous father:
The Discworld Legacy
Pratchett began writing the Discworld series in 1983 to “have fun with some of the cliches” and it is a humorous and often satirical sequence of stories set in the colourful fantasy Discworld universe. The series contains various story arcs (or sub-series), and a number of free-standing stories. All are set in an abundance of locations in the same detailed and unified world, such as the Unseen University and ‘The Drum/Broken Drum/Mended Drum’ public house in the twin city Ankh-Morpork, or places in the various continents, regions and countries on the Disc. Characters and locations reappear throughout the series, variously taking major and minor roles.
The Discworld itself is described as a large disc resting on the backs of four giant elephants, all supported by the giant turtle Great A’Tuin as it swims its way through space. The books are essentially in chronological order, and advancements can be seen in the development of the Discworld civilizations, such as the creation of paper money in Ankh-Morpork.
Many of the novels in Pratchett’s Discworld series parody real-world subjects such as film making, newspaper publishing, rock and roll music, religion, philosophy, Ancient Greece, Egyptian history, the Gulf War, Australia, university politics, trade unions, and the financial world. Pratchett also included further parody as a feature within the stories, including such subjects as Ingmar Bergman films, numerous fiction, science fiction, and fantasy characters, and various bureaucratic and ruling systems.
Build a man a fire, and he’ll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he’ll be warm for the rest of his life.Terry Pratchett
His legacy lives on, but there is no more eloquent and fitting a eulogy for the man than the words of the famous librarian of Ankh-Moorpork’s Unseen University:
Signal this to all towers, not logged.
He’d never have wanted to go home. He was a real linesman. His name is in the code, in the wind in the rigging and the shutters. Haven’t you ever heard the saying “A man’s not dead while his name is still spoken?”— Sir Terry Prachett’s Disworld novel, “Going Postal”
SCIFI.radio’s web site carries a message in its page headers. The message is this:
<meta http-equiv=”X-Clacks-Overhead” content=”GNU Terry Pratchett” />
Every time you visit SCIFI.radio, his name is sent out over the clacks, travelling invisibly from destination to destination. His name is in the code.
Sir Terry Pratchett passed away on this day in 2015 from complications of Alzheimer’s Disease, which Sir Terry named “The Embuggerance”.
Sir Terry was the author of more than 40 books in the Discworld series. Much beloved by the fans, he created an entire universe that we could live in and play in when life gets too crazy not to just give in and enjoy the crazy for a while.
So long as we remember Sir Terry Pratchett, Death can’t have him.
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