Yesterday the Terry Pratchett Memorial Event was held at the Barbican in London. I wasn’t able to attend but did spend some of the evening thinking about how Sir Terry had affected my life. This is the result.
I don’t remember exactly how old I was when I read my first Discworld novel (thirteen seems to be a good estimate so we’ll go with that) but I can remember pretty much everything else about that momentous moment. I was in my bedroom, curled up on my bed and I can see, as clearly as if it was happening now, the cover of Equal Rites gleaming in the afternoon sun as I pulled it from my shelf. I read it in four hours – four gloriously mind-expanding hours – and then went bounding downstairs to ask if we could go to the library on Monday so I could get another one.
I became evident pretty quickly that these weren’t just books to read and move on from; re-reading was most definitely required and therefore owning them was essential. So my pocket money was repurposed for one use and one use only, my windowsill soon becoming a growing shrine to the wonder that Terry Pratchett’s wordsmithery instilled in my heart.
I wanted to be Granny Weatherwax, adored Rincewind and Luggage, and hero-worshipped Sam Vimes. I kept saving, kept buying, and I kept reading. Once I’d managed to get my hands on all the Discworld stories available at the time (Interesting Times had just come out at that point) and had read them all more times than was perhaps healthy in the space of a few months, I started trying to find out what the truth was in the many little inspirations and sly, sideways mentions of various events in the books.
My understandings of myths, folklore and legend expanded exponentially, as did my understanding of medieval Italian politics (to name but one of the many fascinating topics the Discworld touches upon). I also went looking for other things Terry had written and had Good Omens almost shoved into my hands by an extremely enthusiastic librarian (I’m sure Terry would have approved of her fervour). I’m now on my third copy of this most brilliant of novels and will be forever grateful to the librarian as it brought Neil Gaiman’s writing into my life as well.
I have gained so much from reading Terry’s work over the years and I’m still finding gifts in each and every page. I’ve discovered elements of history, invention, science, religion and ways of thinking that might otherwise have passed me by. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve boiled with anger and experienced pretty much every other emotion human possible. The Discworld has been a place of discovery and wonder, of comfort and safety, of acceptance, understanding and hope. It’s been there when I needed to escape the world, when I wanted one thing to be a bright spot in an otherwise awful day. It’s also been there when I wanted to make a good day even better. I cannot innumerate all that Terry and his works have taught me over the years but the most important thing – thanks to Granny Weatherwax and Sam Vimes – was that I learnt what sort of person I wanted to be.
I owe a huge debt to Pterry and I will never be able to repay that. But I can do this. I can #speakhisname and, along with all his other fans, ensure that his work and his legacy is not forgotten.
GNU Terry Pratchett – until next year!