I heard the news from an unexpected place, Fly the Nest, the political forum. I was between chores, back from the launderette, still to go out to the Post Office, and I was catching my breath, catching up, and there was the stark statement: Bad news. Terry Pratchett has died. In the faint hope of mistake, I checked a news-site, but it was true. It wasn’t unexpected, but it was still a shock. It’s not supposed to be like this, not now. Not so soon.
My heart goes out to his family, his wife and daughter, his relations, those close enough to be called friends. They are the truly hurt, for they have lost Terry the man: the husband, the father, the friend. I and all my many fellow readers have only lost Terry the writer. But to read so much of a man’s writing is to know a man’s mind: what he thinks, how he thinks, what he believes, what moves and activates and angers and excites him.
I can still remember buying The Colour of Magic, in Corgi paperback, thirty-two years ago, when all Terry seemed to be was the fantasy-Douglas Adams. Thirty-two years of the fortune of being there for every new book, thiry-two years and not the faintest of hopes of ever counting the hours of my life that I have spent in Discworld. Terry Pratchett has been part of my life all that time, over half of my years. There is one more Discworld book completed, to be published this year, but after that there is nothing.
Am I being a selfish bastard? Of course I’m being a selfish bastard. When you discover someone who writes like Terry Pratchett you become as selfish as you can get. You always want more. One more book. One more story. One more line that takes a piece of the world and turns it round for you to see it from an angle you’ve never before imagined but now you’ll never be unable to see again. Not so soon.
Because I haven’t just lost Terry Pratchett. I’ve lost Rincewind and the Luggage and Ridcully and Ponder Stibbons. I’ve lost Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg and Tiffany Aching and the Feegles. I’ve lost Death and Susan, Moist van Lipwig and Adora Belle Dearheart. And most of all I’ve lost Commander Vimes and Sybil and Young Sam, Carrot and Angua and Fred Colon and Nobby and Detritus and all the other members of the City Watch, all the Sammies there to see that the right thing is done and that the rich and greedy don’t get away with it. And above all, and beneath all, and on every side of all, I’ve lost Lord Vetinari.
And that’s leaving out so many people, a whole worldful of people, silly, stupid, petty, inglorious, vain, wise, noble, triumphant. I’m mourning a world here, a world that Terry Pratchett let me into, and a world that will open up one last time before closing forever.
Of course the Discworld may continue. Rihanna Pratchett might take over: she has her father’s blessing to do so. Even with an official succession like that, I hope it won’t happen. I don’t believe in handing off authors’ work to other people. Have the decency to let characters die with their creators, because the thing about creation is that it is entirely individual. If Rihanna Pratchett has the talent and the urge to amuse and entertain and enlighten and enthrall us, let her create her own world to which she can take us, instead of trying to be her father. I mean no disrespect to her but it can’t be done. There’s no disgrace in not being Terry Pratchett: he was the only one who was truly good enough for the job.
Officially, it’s now a shitty day, and things planned will not get done because the heart’s gone out of me now. The guy I relied on for thirty years to inspire and amuse and challenge me ain’t coming round any more and I am full of sorrow. I owe you more than I can say, let alone repay. The Turtle Moves, but it moves on without its most important light.