Terry Pratchett has died.
Terry Pratchett has died, as we knew he would.
Well. I mean, we all know everyone is going to die, really. But since the “embuggerance” that was his early-onset Alzheimer’s, the imminence of Sir Terry Pratchett’s death has been clearer than most. It was expected. It cannot be a surprise.
Terry Pratchett has died, and I am in pieces.
As it happens, I am in the room in which I grew up, the room where I lived when I read so many of Terry Pratchett’s books – although not necessarily where I actually read most of the books, as I would read them, consume them, on the bus, at school, in cafes, on trains, on holiday.
Terry Pratchett died, and I looked towards the place in the room where the bookcase used to be, where all my Discworld books were kept, even though it has been gone for years.
I looked towards the small sink cabinets that are still in the corner of the room, even though the sink no longer is, on which rested the framed letter Terry Pratchett once sent me for my birthday thanks to a family connection, and for which I feel perpetually guilty for never replying to, because he always said he got such a vast number of letters, and I didn’t want to add to them. But I should have done.
That frame, that letter is gone, too, packed away, where I’m not sure.
Terry Pratchett has died, and a small but hugely significant part of my life has ended with his life. And I say with absolute certainty, the same is true of countless others around the world.
Reading a new Discworld book, or any Pratchett book, was one of the best experiences. From the first page the prose took you in and span you a world and introduced you to characters who would become your friends.
It was intelligent, it was subtle, it was rude, it was ribald, it was dramatic. And it was funny, so very funny.
But most important of all, it was warm, and human – even when the writing was about the scary, the cold, the inhuman. The writing cared.
(And because it cared, it was angry. Apparently, I learn for the first time as I am in the middle of writing this, it was anger that drove Terry Pratchett’s writing – according to Neil Gaiman, who should know. And that makes perfect sense.)
That part of Terry Pratchett, the part of him that is words on so, so many pages, can never die. Even as the innumerable millions of his books fall into decrepitude, as they famously did, even when the last physical copy to be printed decays away, even when the last digital copies of his books are deleted, he will still live on, in the influence he had, will continue to have on readers, on writers, on people around the world.
Sir Terry, of course, said it better. From Reaper Man:
It was later that [his story] really came to an end, if ‘story’ means all that he did and caused and set in motion. In the Ramtop village where they dance the real Morris dance, for example, they believe that no one is finally dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away—until the clock he wound up winds down, until the wine she made has finished its ferment, until the crop they planted is harvested. The span of someone’s life, they say, is only the core of their actual existence.
Terry Pratchett’s existence is over, but his story will never end, his ripples never die away.