In memoriam: Terry Pratchett, and a Discworld reading history

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:

Featured image credit: Lilacs, lighting and lens flare by MattysFlicks on Flickr, CC BY.

10 Replies to “In memoriam: Terry Pratchett, and a Discworld reading history”

  1. Thank you for writing this, Mary. I’m blubbing. A few more links –
    Abi Sutherland at Making Light: “IT’S TIME, TERRY.” “I know.”

    He saw the monstrosities of our world: economic inequality, racism, sexism, religious bigotry, the abuses of narrative and myth. And he made them irresistibly ludicrous, laying them relentlessly out until their inner absurdity smothered them, until the least bizzare and most reasonable thing in the story was that it took place on a disc resting on the backs of four elephants standing on the shell of a giant space turtle.
    He was both wise and kind. It showed in his books, and it shows in the stories people are swapping about him on Twitter.

    PTerry’s final tweets (presumably prearranged to be posted on his behalf by his best friend Rob):

    — Terry Pratchett (@terryandrob) March 12, 2015

    Terry took Death’s arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night.
    — Terry Pratchett (@terryandrob) March 12, 2015

    The End.
    — Terry Pratchett (@terryandrob) March 12, 2015

    A Just Giving page donating to the Research Institute to the Care of Older People (RICE) has been set up in his memory:

  2. Dammit Mim I’m crying in the cafe now! Give Mr 13 a hug from me (if he wants hugs) please.
    In other news I don’t want to leave most of Ms 8’s milkshake here but I’m not convinced lime is a milkshake flavour and I’m not sure she is either.

    1. Hey Meg, I became IRL friends with you because of afp, so I am feeling a lot of gratitude for pTerry’s impact on the world. My books are also stored in identical boxes whose labels are not visible, as we are living in my partner’s parents downstairs bedrooms with our 3 kids for a few months. So I took it as an excuse to buy one of the few I didn’t already have.

  3. Hogfather, which as I wrote in 2012 is not a bad introduction to Discworld
    Hogfather was one of my very favourites (together with Feet of Clay).
    I met him once, when he and Neil Gaiman were signing copies of Good Omens, but it was too brief to make a good story out of it.

  4. I met him too once, back in the last millennium, at a signing, and was too shy to do much more than squeak (and hand over my copy of Soul Music . Night Watch is probably my favourite too, and there’ll be a few tears the glorious 25th of May this year I think.I found it hard to read the more recent Disc World books because the voices had changed so much, but I don’t think I ever really thought they would ever stop.
    *sigh* It’s not been a good year for geeks so far…

  5. I enjoyed Charles Stross’s post, which, like Neil Gaiman’s Terry Pratchett isn’t jolly. He’s angry article from last September, talks a bit about what it cost to be Terry Pratchett. Stross though, is talking about when Pratchett was healthy, and about how he deliberately chose to turn down his snark streak as he became more famous so that no one would ever have their day/week/year ruined by a cutting line from Terry Pratchett, My Hero.

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