Sir Terry Pratchett: In Memorium
By Amy Devine
I did not get see my father very often when I was growing up.
It was not his fault. He was in the army and was often out of the state or country for long periods of time. I loved him dearly but it was hard to get to know someone who you only saw for half of the year.
One day, when I was 9 years old, my book-loving and pragmatic father put a book in my hands. “It’s about a girl around your age.” He said. “She wants to be a wizard.”
That book was Equal Rites by Sir Terry Pratchett, one of his early works about a girl who is accidentally given a wizard’s staff at her birth. Despite being denied access to the University of Magic, female wizards being unheard of at the time, she continuously decides that the rules do not apply to her and determines to learn anyway. It was, admittedly, a very heavy book for a child and I’m sure that I did not fully grasp every joke and concept woven into the rich narrative. But it was about a girl who wanted to learn and it tied me to my father and for that, I adored Pratchett for writing it.
I continued to devour book after book of the Discworld series for the next 11 years. The characters, narratives and sense of humour became as much a part of my growing up experience as any educational institute.
Sir Terry Pratchett, inspirational writer and creator of the immense Discworld universe, died aged 66 this Thursday. His 44 year long career produced over 70 books and inspired countless readers and writers. He had a vibrant and unique voice, satirising everything from high fantasy to Shakespeare; war to mythology; education to religion. He used his satirical language to frame narratives of injustice, creating an alternate world where the social wrongs of our own society could be highlighted and addressed. Fellow author Neil Gaiman – co-writer of 1990’s Good Omens – accurately stated that “fury was the engine that powered Discworld”.
In 2007, Sir Pratchett was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease which he often referred to as “the Embuggerance”. Pratchett spoke publically about the Embuggerance, aiming to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s research and campaigned for dementia awareness.
I had the privilege of seeing Terry Pratchett speak, just once, in 2011. This immense influence in my life and way of thinking walked onto the stage in the body of a small, cheery man with a madcap smile and black fedora. He threw fake teeth into the audience and every witty sentence had a sting hidden in it. It was everything I had hoped it would be.
He was an incredible mind, an unrivalled talent and a marvellous man. My thoughts are with Terry’s family and friends during this hard time.
I can think of no better closing statement than to quote Pratchett’s own book, Reaper Man:
“No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away . . .”