“DON’T THINK OF IT AS DYING… JUST THINK OF IT AS LEAVING EARLY TO AVOID THE RUSH.”
One of the saddest facts of life is that everyone eventually leaves – even the most amazing and well-loved – and on the 12th of March 2015, the world lost yet another great.
Author of over 70 books and creator of the beloved Discworld series, Terry Pratchett was more than just an author, even though he was awarded an OBE for ‘services to literature’ in 1998, and his books were once the most shoplifted in Britain.
He referenced other worlds, with wizards complaining of Sauron’s “damn enormous fiery eye”, and created absurd and wonderful characters, like a walking suitcase that acted a bit like a faithful hound.
Though they featured bumbling wizards and trolls working as bouncers, his work was often driven by anger at human stupidity, and even when he was knighted in 2009, he took the opportunity to say that “multimillion-pound banker bonuses should be spent helping to treat dementia patients.”
He started the Discworld series with The Colour of Magic in 1983. It began as a well-humoured swipe at the sword-and-sorcery fantasy genre, but swiftly turned into a critique of contemporary society.
It’s been said that there was no subject too big that he would tackle, as long as he “found a way to make it ridiculous” and that, though they were extremely humorous, they focused on bigger issues. Through fantastical literary constructs and characters, you end up loving against your better judgement; he makes us reconsider our stances on racism, dictatorship and capitalism, the newspaper industry and religious intolerance. He entertained the world, and very subtly, forced his readers to look at the world differently.
Throughout all of this, his books maintained enough warmth and reality to let readers feel at home, and even through the whimsy, created a series that literally transcends genres, drawing in readers that avoided the fantasy scene, just on principle.
His books were a river of bad puns, transsexual dwarves and theories on why you should never buy food from a man with a tray in the street. His favourite character was Death, who rode a white horse named Binky and spoke in CAPS. Despite selling over 80 million copies, his books still feel like a cult.
Terry Pratchett was more than just an author.
He fought for the right to die and donated £500,000 to the Alzheimer’s Research Trust just a few months after his diagnosis in December 2007. He collaborated in the creation of game adaptation for his books, did his part for the future of civilisation by installing five kilowatts of photovoltaic cells for solar energy at his house near Salisbury, and throughout the end, urged people to ‘keep things cheerful’.
Though the world will miss him, and will be that much less magical for his passing, it is comforting to know that he died like he lived, and when he eventually left this world, he was surrounded by his family and his beloved cat.
Reddit users have ensured that he will never really be gone though, with a piece of code called XClacksOverhead – which will set their header to read “GNU Terry Pratchett” – mirroring the GNU John Dearheart code in “the clacks” – a code that repeats his name infinitely through the system.
Because as Terry Pratchett said: "Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?”