This article originally appeared on Hoyden About Town.
A fussy baby woke me at 5am and I found that the news of Terry Pratchett’s death came overnight.
Hoyden About Town has had several previous threads on Pratchett’s work: Belated Friday Hoydens: The Witches of Lancre, Gratuitous Pratchett Appreciation thread: Crivens!, Sunday Series: Discworld and it’s hard to work out what to say on top. Perhaps my own me-and-Pratchett-novels stories will need to do.
I was aware of Pratchett for as long as I can remember, because I was a teenager in the 1990s and he had a good amount of shelf space in my local mainstream book store, but the Josh Kirby cover era was always instinctively offputting to me as a teenager and into adulthood. I never got so far as consciously thinking “should I read Pratchett?” I thought it was clear from the covers that it was bawdy humour aimed to men, not one of my genres. So it took two pushes to read him: the first was a recommendation from a friend and the second was a recommendation from a friend that happened to take place on a camping trip in 2000 to which I hadn’t brought enough books. (I love me some ebook era, but I think transmission of Pratchett fandom would now be less likely in such circumstances.)
The book in question, because it happened to be there in someone’s bag, was Hogfather, which as I wrote in 2012 is not a bad introduction to Discworld in that it’s fairly self-contained and has a pretty comprehensive drill into the way magic and divinity work on the Disc. Its main failing was that it meant I hoped for a while that Susan Sto Helit was the main character in all the novels. (I didn’t end up really liking any of her other novels, eg the writer M is correct about Susan in Soul Music, although I think the portrayal of the immature rationality-supremacist geek girl was intentional!)
I then read many of the Discworld books in whatever order I came across them in my friends’ libraries (the ebook era would win here!), so I met the witches about halfway through in Lords and Ladies and was perpetually disappointed that it turned out to be about halfway through. I always wanted to know the end of Magrat’s story, when she finally, inevitably (in my opinion!) outgrows Granny and they both know it. (Apparently I always trust the designated irritating woman to grow up to win.) And what will Esmerelda the Younger become?
But, despite being a Hoyden, my heart ended up in Ankh-Morpork, in the Watch subseries which I happily read in more or less publication order. Honestly, partly this is because Vetinari is a ridiculous trope who just happens to be one of my very favourite ridiculous tropes in the entire world, but it’s also because Pratchett took his frustrating and increasingly sidelined comic sidekicks, went back in time, wrote a novel largely about men doing heroic man things with one of his favourite creations in the rescuer role, niggled at me politically a couple of times in a way he normally doesn’t, and made it the heart of the series for me anyway: Night Watch, the first Pratchett I believe I bought in hardback, and what a good choice that was.
It isn’t yet the glorious 25th of May, I’m in the wrong hemisphere, and there’s no lilac anywhere near me in any case. But it will always be the image that comes to mind when I remember the heart of Terry Pratchett’s work to me.
Here’s a few Pratchett links worth visiting today:
- Penknife’s Modern Love, my favourite fanfic, taking the ongoing thread of dwarf gender to somewhere I had wondered repeatedly if Pratchett was headed.
- Tansy Rayner Roberts’s Pratchett’s Women essay series, available in revised form as an e-book.
Featured image credit: Lilacs, lighting and lens flare by MattysFlicks on Flickr, CC BY.