This post is not a story, nor will it discuss writing. Well, not very much. This post is about me, a topic that I am usually resistant to write about. That is probably due to my lack of expertise in the field.
I just finished watching the BBC’s great documentary on the late Terry Pratchett entitled “Back in Black”. I had to fight back the tears the whole time watching, indeed I am still fighting them. Even the jokes nearly broke me down.
To be honest, I have only been reading Pratchett for about five or six years. I know, I am quite late to the game. I found my way to the Discworld only after its creator had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. That’s sadly ironic, isn’t it?
Before falling into the Discworld, I probably only finished one or two books in a year. I had largely given up on literature and fiction, and had stopped writing my own stories. I read and wrote only that which was assigned to me in graduate school. After experiencing “The Colour of Magic,” I have burned through 35 Discworld books in about five years. I have also enjoyed several other works by Pratchett, and many other books from other writers, fiction and non-fiction. Something within me had been reignited, a eagerness and curiosity that I had not known for a long time.
As Pratchett wrote “Give a man a fire and he’s warm for a day, but set fire to him and he’s warm for the rest of his life.” Boy do I feel the heat!
There is a phrase they throw around in the documentary about how people are influenced by Pratchett. The phrase or suggestion is for fans to try to “Be More Terry.” For me, Be More Terry means to be curious and always looking for new experiences. Don’t let the craziness of the world get you down.
People who read my stories here might see a bit of Terry in them. This is particularly true with the Iric series, which is in part an active homage to who is now my biggest literary influence. There is just something to Pratchett’s books, their grand character, their understanding of humanity. No writer would be worse off in trying to take some of that with them.
I can see a lot of similarities between my youth and Pratchett’s. He was quiet, and a bit ostracized. Stephen King describes his own youth in similar terms. It seems that fantasy writers often come from similar roots–an early life spent more in our own worlds than in the real one. That is perhaps the context that sharpens an imagination to the cutting edge necessary to carve new pictures in old stone. Both Pratchett and King read a lot, an ungodly amount in fact. Pratchett worked at a library when he was young and suggests he read the entire collection of fantasy, then mythology, then history–all because they centered on men in shiny helmets bashing each other over the head with swords. Terry had great taste, even as a child. Needless to say, I need to get caught up on my reading.
I don’t think it is hyperbole to suggest that I might have never made my way back to writing if I had not read “The Colour of Magic.” Terry Pratchett’s books changed my relationship with literature and writing in ways that are beyond calculation. I only wish I had discovered it sooner. Maybe then I wouldn’t be here still struggling to catch up with where I want to be.
I don’t know how I am going to feel when I get to the last book. That event is drawing closer, and I will admit I am a bit scared of it. I hear “The Shepherd’s Crown” does a really good job dealing with death and bringing fans to the end softly. I only hope that proves to be true.
I will end this post with one more poignant quote from Pratchett’s books. For me at least, it is more true of Pratchett than perhaps most other figures in history. In a way, greats like Terry Pratchett will never be gone.
“No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away.” – Terry Pratchett