He Left Early to Avoid the Rush

Sir Terry Pratchett
April 28, 1948 – March 12, 2015
“It is often said that before you die your life passes before your eyes. It is in fact true. It’s called living.”

The Colour of Magic” is one of my favourite fantasy novels, because it’s different. (Though it’s not my favourite Pratchett-only novel – that honor goes to “Small Gods“.) It’s about as far from Tolkien as you can get from a genre standpoint. The writing styles are worlds apart. Pratchett’s facility for satire is one of his talents that I am insanely jealous of. His collaboration with Neil Gaiman “Good Omens” is one of my personal top 10 works of fiction.

I’ve never been good at obituaries. It takes me a lot of time and self-flagellation to churn out a remembrance. I also hate goodbyes. Besides, when Gaiman has written on it, in anticipation of this mournful event, I must yield.

Neil Gaiman writing on Sir Terry Pratchett, from The Guardian on 24th September 2014 (excerpt from Neil’s introduction to “A Slip of the Keyboard: Collected Non-fiction by Terry Pratchett“).

“Terry’s authorial voice is always Terry’s: genial, informed, sensible, drily amused. I suppose that, if you look quickly and are not paying attention, you might, perhaps, mistake it for jolly. But beneath any jollity there is a foundation of fury. Terry Pratchett is not one to go gentle into any night, good or otherwise.

He will rage, as he leaves, against so many things: stupidity, injustice, human foolishness and shortsightedness, not just the dying of the light. And, hand in hand with the anger, like an angel and a demon walking into the sunset, there is love: for human beings, in all our fallibility; for treasured objects; for stories; and ultimately and in all things, love for human dignity.

Or to put it another way, anger is the engine that drives him, but it is the greatness of spirit that deploys that anger on the side of the angels, or better yet for all of us, the orangutans.

Terry Pratchett is not a jolly old elf at all. Not even close. He’s so much more than that. As Terry walks into the darkness much too soon, I find myself raging too: at the injustice that deprives us of – what? Another 20 or 30 books? Another shelf-full of ideas and glorious phrases and old friends and new, of stories in which people do what they really do best, which is use their heads to get themselves out of the trouble they got into by not thinking? Another book or two of journalism and agitprop? But truly, the loss of these things does not anger me as it should. It saddens me, but I, who have seen some of them being built close-up, understand that any Terry Pratchett book is a small miracle, and we already have more than might be reasonable, and it does not behoove any of us to be greedy.

I rage at the imminent loss of my friend. And I think, “What would Terry do with this anger?” Then I pick up my pen, and I start to write.”

In memory, I will spend a few hours today writing.


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