Monday, 16 March 2015

Farewell Terry Pratchett (1948-2015)

Terry Pratchett

Guest post by Julian Pistorius

I was saddened to hear of writer Terry Pratchett’s passing, because as a child and teenager I devoured the Discworld series he created. I reread the old ones while waiting for the new one to hit the shelves. Fortunately Terry Pratchett scoffed at the idea of writer's block, so new books came out often. I spent hours reading on the toilet - my favourite reading spot. My family knew I was reading Pratchett because of the intermittent peals of laughter coming from behind the toilet door. (Fortunately we had two bathrooms.)

I discovered Terry Pratchett at the age when I started questioning everything. His no-bullshit writing, his clear stance on right and wrong, his irreverent poking of fun at authority, his scoffing at mysticism and religious dogma, all of these resonated with me at a time when I was trying to make sense of the world.

For me Terry Pratchett's fantasy world was a lens into the way the real world works. He used fantasy settings as a way to strip an issue down to its essentials. His writing was relentlessly reality-focused and clear, never 'preachy' or mushy, but with a benevolence and generosity that pervaded every page. Oh and his wry and wicked sense of humour! His books were a refreshing breeze of joy, rationality and individualism.

His stories reinforced for me that you should judge people as individuals, regardless of their race, gender, orientation or species - and yes, even the undead. His protagonists were often reluctant anti-heroes - cranky, grumpy, recalcitrant, quirky individuals who just want to be left alone to get on with their own lives. He had a soft-spot for the lovable, fallible rogue, as opposed to the goody-two-shoes white knight. He never made fun of people who didn't deserve it. We always laughed with the protagonists, not at them. He skewered people who put on airs and graces and he made fun of those who think they know how everybody else should live - even when they claimed to have the best of intentions. He had no patience for wilful stupidity, superstition and cruelty.

From his books I learnt to distrust anybody who claims to have special knowledge which will make all my problems go away if only I suspended my own judgment. I learnt that life can be tough, but I have to figure it out myself, and that it's better to be clever and resourceful than strong (though in a pinch being strong is pretty useful); that one should face up to evil, and stand up for innocent victims. I learnt that people make mistakes, that the real world is messy (not unlike Ankh-Morpork and Discworld), and that it's OK - in fact that's part of its charm.

Terry Pratchett is gone, but his books, and the lessons they taught me, live on.

NB: Some excellent Pratchett quotes here, including:

    “Wisdom comes from experience. Experience is often a result of lack of wisdom.”
    Terry Pratchett

    “It's not worth doing something unless someone, somewhere, would much rather you weren't doing it.”
    Terry Pratchett

    “If you have enough book space, I don't want to talk to you.”
    Terry Pratchett

    “There is a rumour going around that I have found God. I think this is unlikely because I have enough difficulty finding my keys, and there is empirical evidence that they exist.”
    Terry Pratchett

    “Just erotic. Nothing kinky. It's the difference between using a feather and using a chicken.”
    Terry Pratchett, Eric

    “The whole of life is just like watching a film. Only it's as though you always get in ten minutes after the big picture has started, and no-one will tell you the plot, so you have to work it out all yourself from the clues.”
    Terry Pratchett, Moving Pictures

Julian Pistorius

Julian Pistorius turn ideas into reality through the medium of software. He holds to the philosophy of individualism and promotes individual rights. And bacon.

[Pratchett Pic by Dave M. Bennett, Getty Images]

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