Daily Illuminator

March 13, 2015: Sir Terry Pratchett

Literature - NOT just "fantasy," but modern literature - has lost one of its greats. Sir Terry Pratchett is dead, of early-onset Alzheimer's, aged only 66.

See, this is why we need better medicine. Need better medicine NOW. Need better medicine YEARS ago. Not the stupid, piggish American insurance-profit-driving system, and not the earnest British "Get in line, it's cheap and you get what you pay for" system, and not the "Sorry, nothing can be done, lie down and die now" system that so much of the world suffers under, but actual medicine. Death is NOT a divine plan, or a natural plan, or any other plan. It's a bug in the system. Most deaths are tragedies, and when a great talent dies, it's a great tragedy. Yes, I digress. I'm a tiny bit angry right now.

I had the privilege of sponsoring some work in the Discworld, though the actual writing was by Phil Masters and by Sir Terry himself. I might have something else on the burner, but you don't know about it, and I'm not telling, and I'm typing more than I should right now because I really AM upset that Sir Terry won't see it and - perhaps - laugh and tell me how to make it funnier. And don't bother asking me tomorrow what I meant by this.

I have enjoyed the Discworld books since The Colour of Magic. But I didn't love them until much later. Let me say this: if you by some awful accident have never read any of the series, don't judge them by the first book. Read it, appreciate it, but be aware that the stories get much, much better. Sir Terry was still finding his way. The Colour of Magic is wonderful fun, but it has very little to do with the stories in their full flowering. Colour is a farce, a simple send-up of the fantasy genre. Once Sir Terry hit his stride, the Discworld became much, much more. It was stories about real people who didn't happen to actually exist. If you know why you like a Discworld character, you know something about what makes people the amazing things they are. Vimes, Vetinari, Granny Weatherwax - they all embody something important about humanity. Moist Lipwig, Nanny Ogg, Tiffany, even Death himself - same thing.

My personal interactions with Sir Terry were brief and pleasant. Here's an essay by someone who knew him much better. Sir Terry wasn't ready to go. He was gracious about it, but he was also really hacked off, and that's as it should be. Still, he left with a grin, and he Tweeted on the way out the door. Amazing man.

If you want to read more about Sir Terry, Google is your friend. If you want to read some really amazing stories, well, he wrote them, and there's one more, just one, on the way. That makes me angry, because we ought to do better by our geniuses, but I'm glad for what we got.

-- Steve Jackson

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