On Friday morning I awoke to the sad news that Sir Terry Pratchett had passed away. I was heartbroken to hear of the death of one of my all-time favourite authors. The world seems a little bit duller without the cheeky glint in Sir Terry’s eye.
Sir Terry’s work has been a part of my life for fifteen years. I was introduced to his books by a friend at the age of thirteen. My high school bestie loaned me a well-loved copy of Soul Music to take on holidays. I quickly fell in love with The Discworld and it’s inhabitants and was eager for more. I read every Discworld book in the library catalog. When the film adaptations of several Discworld books were made, I pounced on those and immediately adored seeing my favourite characters come to life on the screen. In college I discovered two cartoon series based on Soul Music and Wyrd Sisters. And then sometime later I found the fantastic board games based on the book series.
As someone who has always loved the offbeat and slightly cheeky, Sir Pratchett’s books were instantly appealing to me. I have often had to stifle a giggle while reading one of his books on the train and many sleepless nights have been had when I couldn’t put down his latest masterpiece. It makes me so sad to think that there will never be another new Discworld book to look forward to.
I do have a tiny personal connection to Terry Pratchett, as I was once lucky enough to meet him in person. I went along to a book signing in Melbourne when Wintersmith was released. I had purchased two copies of the book; one for my aunt and one for myself. While waiting in line, it occurred to me that I probably wouldn’t be able to get both books signed. I decided to opt to have Sir Terry sign my aunt’s copy, and I would be content with an unsigned copy if it meant I still got to meet the great man. When I got to the front of the line, Sir Terry beckoned me over to his table with a wave of a hand adorned with a silver signet ring. I was struck by how much he looked like a pirate, all in black with his big beard, a silver belt buckle and a cane. He was quite small too, barely taller than myself and his voice had a piping, nasal quality. Rather than being irritating, it snagged the ear and made every word out of his mouth sound slightly eccentric.
As I handed my aunt’s book to be signed, Sir Terry asked for my name. I told him it was Vanessa, but that I’d like him to sign the book to my aunt Jenny. I explained that the book was a Christmas gift for my aunt, and he wrote “Happy Hogswatch” inside the cover for her. Then he held out his hand for the other book I was holding and signed it with a flourish and a wide smile. I thanked him and wished him a good day and left. When I got outside the store, I peeked into the cover to see the words “Dear Vanessa, love and frost from Terry Pratchett”. I was elated. I’ve never forgotten how sweet he was to me, and how generous he was with his time. As I’d watched other people go up to his table before me, I was struck by the way that he spent a bit of time talking to each of his fans, offering a joke and a smile to all. He seemed truly pleased to be there, and genuinely happy to be sharing his work with the people who loved it. From this short encounter I have a memory of a man who truly loved the world he had created, and was overjoyed to share it with his fans. I remember a man with a cheeky smile, a unique spirit and a singular talent.
So although I’m sad that the world has lost such a fantastic person, I am heartened by that memory of our only meeting. I’m grateful for the many years of tireless work that churned out no less than 70 books for us fans to enjoy. I’m thankful for the Discworld, a place where misfits and oddballs are heroes. And I’m pleased to have spent countless hours enjoying Sir Terry’s craft.
So as much as I wish Sir Terry would pop up with a sign that reads “I Aten’t Dead” and tell us it was all a joke, I know that’s not going to happen. So I hope instead that this awesome man is able to rest peacefully, after a life filled with humour and sweetness. Vale, kind sir.