A Prayer For My Kind

Dear Author,

If you’re there, at the giant keyboard beyond reality, my colleague Terry Pratchett died, and I’d like to have a word with you, about his life, his work, his destination.

Yes, I know you’re not really an Author, but this is how my sadly limited human mind copes with it, so bear with me and allow me to address you as such.

This man Pratchett, you see, spent his life creating a reality, parallel to your own, but not un-akin and not a bad reflection of it, if I may say so. He used his gifts to see into the heart of men and women (and dwarves and trolls.) He brought moments of sudden understanding to hearts locked in grief or shame or fear (mine a few times.)

Sometimes his words, his thoughts, were the only thing that stretched between me and unbearable grief or physical pain. And they held, a bridge of silvery light between here and there.

But he did more. Even when fortune kissed his brow and his books were well known, and he was knighted and admired, he never assumed airs. He was the first to tell you about the hard years of rejections, the years of stumbling in the dark when his stuff just wasn’t selling. And he was the first to say if you weren’t selling, it didn’t mean you were bad. It was just luck, or how much push you got.

This man Pratchett would hug a total unknown at a con and tell her to cheer up.

This man Pratchett, he brought readers from laughter to tears in a moment and the rest of us followed, stumbling, trying to do the same, unable quite, but being shown how to reach.

I don’t precisely know what he believed. It doesn’t matter. We writers have problems with belief, caught between realities, suspended from our own dreams, spinning between light and dark and needing both to work with.  Sometimes it’s really hard to have simple faith. The thing is we rarely have faith that there’s nothing there, either.

If there’s nothing there, it doesn’t matter.

But if there is, would you please take into account he was a writer and a hard working one. An honest one, too, not running down humanity, not making a mockery of good and justice.  And that between word and word it is sometimes hard to remember to follow the strict dictates of any religion, or to attend services or to be very pious.

Take in account too that he died with his mind dissolving into dream and unknowing, the worst nightmare of those of us who work out there in the limnear dark.

Also weigh in that he was kind to cats and loved them, a peculiar infection you give to us writers to teach us (further) humility.

Consider, please, the elephants and the turtles, and the policemen and the witches who will be speaking of personal responsibility and care for others, of gentleness and justice and love even of those not perfect to young not yet born.

He was a man, take it all in all. We will not see his like as a writer again.

Take him into your eternal plot, oh, author, and write him a universe or two where he can play at world building, somewhere with books and ginger biscuits and a properly brewed cup of tea.

This I ask you, I who am a writer, and partake many of the same failings, and am not great on faith either, but hope to be treated kindly when my story is done.

If there is an afterlife, let him be there, where words are never scarce, where one is never tired, and where joy and love flow together.

Amen.

119 responses to “A Prayer For My Kind

  1. Amen.

  2. Eamon J. Cole

    Amen.

  3. So mote it be.

  4. Hopefully whichever pictsie tribe he’s reborn into gets the opportunity to enjoy his tales.

  5. In honor of Sir Pterry –

    What was the first book by Pratchett that you read? Books that he co-wrote count as well.

    For me, it would be Small Gods.

    “The turtle moves.”

    • Good Omens. After that, Moving Pictures.

      • I’m fairly certain Sarah hadn’t read “Good Omens” before the odd chance that acquainted me with the book, I had taken charge of the bookstore part of a New Age store, not having known there was any such thing, a friend of mine who is a professional psychic having recommended me there when I needed a job, and my horoscope fitted their needs perfectly (!) and I had to straighten up the $10k spite order the previous book manager had placed. I expanded the bookstore space, shelved any number of odd items I wish I had kept (The Goblin Universe), and picked up this book one of whose authors I had barely heard of. “Good Omens.” New to the store, not in a secure position, I just couldn’t do anything else but sit behind my register and read the amazing thing until I was finished. Then I gave that copy to Sarah. So, the first Pratchett I read.

    • Mort and then my husband told me I was reading out of order so I started from the beginning.

    • “Guards! Guards!”

      I’ve never looked at a chandelier without suspicion since.

    • Music With Rocks In

    • Haven’t read any yet. My TBR pile goes down a whole lot slower than a lot of other people around here.

      • RealityObserver

        Ah, I think we are in the same enviable position here, Wayne. I have not gotten around to him yet, either. (I don’t know why, really – I certainly enjoyed the two or three short stories I have among my magazines…)

    • For me, it was Going Postal. And then I tried to find everything of his… I have more than a shelf full and I think I’m missing some titles. Must rectify that.

    • The Colour of Magic

      • This was mine also. I didn’t finish it, because, alas, his brand of humor is one I can only take in small doses like those decadantly rich chocolate cakes that you can only have a quarter slice before you’re done. I need to dig it up again since I’m only having time to read in small bites anyway…

    • Guards! Guards! was my 1st. I have nearly all of his books now and they are all very worn. Just missing Truckers and Diggers. I’m going to miss reading something new from him.

      Thank you Ms Hoyt and Amen.

    • I made a couple of failed stabs at THE COLOUR OF MAGIC, and gave up until a kind friend advised me to try another thread. Then I picked up WYRD SISTERS, and never looked back. I’ve even managed the Rincewind books, though I don’t care for them as much. I like characters that DO things, and Rincewind is one that things happen to.

    • I think it was “Lords” and Ladies” and then I started wolfing them down in both directions as fast as I could. That Mustrum Ridcully and Ganny Weatherwax were the scandal of Lancre…

      and “Sometimes the small furry creature turns out to be a mongoose.”

    • The first three Rincewind books– I know it was out of order, but I don’t know which it was that I read first. Didn’t matter.

    • The Color of Magic … I wasn’t particularly into the genre – but his books and the Discworld were amazing. And I just kept coming back to them, again and again.

    • My first was Small Gods, a book i bought at a bookstore “Going Out Of Business” sale (the onset of Big & Nasty Bookstores Without Borders drove even fine small general interest shops out) and must have picked it up a half dozen times, got a few pages in, put it down and forgot where it was. Finally one day I persevered … can’t count how many more I’ve read since, although I know the number is less than all of them (I like to save some treats for savoring, y’know?)

      It would be a shame to hail him for only his Discworld, although that would be enough for many an author to claim pride of place. His Johnny Maxwell Trilogy is a superb achievement as well, and there be many another one could point at and laugh.

      Because he could make you laugh, an achievement many authors can’t manage, and that is even more important than his ability to make you think.

    • Good Omens, followed by The Color of Magic. Since them I’ve read them in series through Pyramids. And if you haven’t read it, The Carpet People, while not a Discworld book, is a treat.

    • The Light Fantastic. But didn’t really become a fan until Mort.

    • A bad Portuguese translation of Wyrd Sisters was my first Pratchett. Despite the less than stellar translation it was still a fun read, and it did made me want to read something else by that Pratchett fellow. This being Portugal it was hardly unexpected that none of his other works were available in Portuguese. That led to the decision of trying to read some of his books in English, and to my amazement I found that, despite my half decent English, I was able to read, understand and enjoy those books. That led to further reading in English, and the enjoyment of at least a few hundred books I otherwise wouldn’t have read.

      “Guards! Guards!” was the first book I really loved in English, and the first of many Pratchett’s favorites. Like many here I’m feeling more than a bit emotional over his passing.

      Regards,
      Rui Jorge

    • Need to back-track. My first introduction to Pratchett was a demo of the first Discworld videogame, which supposedly draws from Guards, Guards You could play it as a straight forward adventure game, or have much more fun and just keep clicking on the characters to hear what they had to say. A scene with Rincewind and a Unseen University cook had this gem:

      Cook: “I could have been a wizard, but they found out my parents were married.”

      That was sometime in the 1990s. Wouldn’t read Good Omens until around 2012.

    • Guards, Guards.

      A million to one shot works nine times put of ten…

    • Professor Badness

      Guards Guards!
      Just happened to pick it up at a :”Friends of the Library” sale. I almost busted a gut laughing, and I never looked back.
      I’m look forward to getting to the other side myself and reading the next 40 books in the series.
      (As well as the continued works of Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, etc.)

    • Equal Rites—when it was first published. The Wikipedia puts that at 1987, though I don’t know if that’s the US publication date. My mom handed it to me and said she thought I’d like it. I did, though as the series developed I liked later books much better (Small Gods being one of my favorites.)

    • I think it was Colour of Magic.

      But my favorite is Only You Can Save Mankind.

    • Men At Arms, in 1998. I had vaguely heard of the books, but I hadn’t really known what they were (Discworld? Like Niven’s Ringworld?).

    • Back when I was a kid, I came across “Sourcery” (I think I was in elementary school back then), and thought it was the funniest book ever. I know it’s considered by fans to be one of the early, rough, unpolished entries, but it has a special place in my heart.

    • “Guards! Guards!” Lent to me by a Marine friend in early 2002. It was the book that broke the “good SF/F drought” of the 90s for me. The following Christmas, my wife presented me with a box of all the Discworld paperbacks she could find. Favorites are “5th Elephant”, “Thud”, “Going Postal”, “Witches Abroad”, “Thief of Time”, “Hogfather”, the Tiffany Aching series, oh, heck, let’s be honest, most of them. I’ve even read Nanny’s Cookbook twice. Recently found a copy of “The Science of Discworld”, not quite through reading it.

      Alas for the stories never to be told. Only the Librarian can find them now, in the furthest recesses of the stacks.

    • I actually started with the first one, Colour of Magic. Mort and Wyrd Sisters were the first where I knew he was something above the ordinary. Small Gods was the first to blow me away, and my very favorite Pratchett quotes are from it: “Let there be ten thousand voices” and “Here and now, we are alive.”

      My brag – if anyone’s seen this year’s Pratchett calendar, I helped Stephen Player, the artist, by finding scenes in the books and then researching the ones he liked (for September, that is my name on the stickie note). If you look at the July entry, in the Drum, there’s a beer mat with Pratchett’s actual signature on the mug, to signal that he’s just stepped away for a bit. I’ve had that image in my head.

  6. We have not just lost a great author today. We have lost a whole world full of eccentric friends.

  7. Trying to think of characters that I couldn’t relate to at some level, from the lesser emotions like the insecurity of Magrat, the hard bitten cynicism of Sam Vimes and Granny, the fears of Rincewind, the drive and energy of Moist to the eternal hope and optimism of Brutha. he showed us how, and I quote, “to be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.”

  8. That was beautiful, Sarah.

    “If there is an afterlife, let him be there, where words are never scarce, where one is never tired, and where joy and love flow together.”

    So let it be written, so let it be done.

  9. He ate’nt dead, he’s off Borrowing.

  10. I’m sure that when Death dropped by, SPEAKING IN ALL CAPS, of course, he called him, “SIR.”

  11. Amen. Sniff. A while ago, I purposed to read his entire egg and started with Mort. That’s as far as I’ve gotten so far. I ween I have my work cut out for me, and look forward to it with gusto. Ye who’ve already discovered all that joy may envy me.

    M

  12. Beautiful post, Sarah.

    I can only quote something from another writer C.S. Lewis to sum up the thoughts I have at the passing of someone close to us.

    “Up till then he had been looking at the Lion’s great front feet and the huge claws on them; now, in his despair, he looked up at its face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion’s eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory’s own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself. “𝗠𝘆 𝘀𝗼𝗻, 𝗺𝘆 𝘀𝗼𝗻,” 𝘀𝗮𝗶𝗱 𝗔𝘀𝗹𝗮𝗻. “𝗜 𝗸𝗻𝗼𝘄. 𝗚𝗿𝗶𝗲𝗳 𝗶𝘀 𝗴𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘁. 𝗢𝗻𝗹𝘆 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗜 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝗹𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗸𝗻𝗼𝘄 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝘆𝗲𝘁. 𝗟𝗲𝘁 𝘂𝘀 𝗯𝗲 𝗴𝗼𝗼𝗱 𝘁𝗼 𝗼𝗻𝗲 𝗮𝗻𝗼𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿.”

  13. sabrinachase

    I will measure a dinner plate in his honor. And pat a potato. And drop off a thermos of hot chocolate at the local Black Ribboner meeting. And reminisce about baking my first loaf of battle bread. And remind myself to not stereotype the sedimental. And launch myself at the dessert trolley. And bring the Librarian a banana. And design a line of flea collars suitable for formal occasions. Because my chem is made of many words, and his are among them.

  14. Kitteh-Dragon

    Amen and amen.

  15. I met the man twice at conventions, and both times he was a great gentleman whom everybody enjoyed having around.

    Actually, “Auctor” is one of God’s most common titles in Christian Latin poetry. “Auctor beatae saeculi,” “Fulgentis auctor aetheris,” “Auctor salutis”…. 🙂

  16. BBC has a nice tribute – his final tweets are wonderous!

    http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-31858156

  17. CKilmer@aol.com

    I am sorry to hear that Terry Pratchett passed away. I will pray for him. Chuck (AKA Chuck-k)

  18. Amen and amen.

  19. You’re in good company in seeing the great creative power in writer’s terms. As a young man, Benjamin Franklin wrote an epitaph for himself that read:
    The Body of
    B. Franklin
    Printer;
    Like the Cover of an old Book,
    Its Contents torn out,
    And stript of its Lettering and Gilding,
    Lies here, Food for Worms.
    But the Work shall not be whlly lost:
    For it will, as he believ’d, appear once more,
    In a new & more perfect Edition,
    Corrected and Amended
    By the Author.

  20. Pingback: How the story ends… | Joel’s Musings

  21. Amen. He will be missed.

  22. Equal Rites. I was amazed.

  23. Christopher M. Chupik

    Damn it Sarah, you’re making me cry. 😦

  24. One of Pratchett’s most amazing thing was his ability to re-invent what he was doing, almost every work.
    His greatest question was “what does it mean to be me”
    and the quote I think of the most is Vimes asking. “Am I a bastard or just really good at thinking like one”

    • More than individual books, I love individual characters, Sam Vimes especially; but also Granny and Tiffany Aching. I love Small Gods and Feet of Clay, as original conceptions, but I also love Wyrd Sisters, Lords and Ladies and The Last Elephant as take-offs from others. As you say, he kept returning to people and places from different directions, so that one felt one was getting to know them better.

  25. Oh,. and I think Strata was his anti-ringworld novel, and Dark Side of the Sun was his anti-Dune.

  26. So mote it be. damn dust

  27. If you can find them, the audio cassette readings of his books by Tony “Baldrick” Robinson are a delight. I am sure others read the tale of Eric as well, but I doubt any can read it better. The only criticisms I of those readings I ever heard were two: The books had been abridged (I) and they were too dangerous to listen to in the car as drivers are apt to losing control of the vehicle while undergoing paroxysms of laughing.

  28. Can’t remember which one I started with…my brother gave me one of his and then I was hooked.

    Excellent post, Sarah.

  29. So sad. Not really a surprise, except that it’s a surprise even then.

  30. Amen. Dammit, I wish the dust would die down…

  31. the color of magic

    to never hear an OOK again, my tears flow freely

    • Professor Badness

      Okay, I was holding it together until your post.
      I will miss the OOK.
      *Leaves to find some tissues*

  32. When Earth’s last picture is painted and the tubes are twisted and dried,
    When the oldest colours have faded, and the youngest critic has died,
    We shall rest, and, faith, we shall need it — lie down for an aeon or two,
    Till the Master of All Good Workmen shall put us to work anew.
    And those that were good shall be happy; they shall sit in a golden chair;
    They shall splash at a ten-league canvas with brushes of comets’ hair.
    They shall find real saints to draw from — Magdalene, Peter, and Paul;
    They shall work for an age at a sitting and never be tired at all!

    And only The Master shall praise us, and only The Master shall blame;
    Andd no one shall work for money, and no one shall work for fame,
    But each for the joy of the working, and each, in his separate star,
    Shall draw the Thing as he sees It for the God of Things as They are!

    When Earth’s Last Picture Is Painted – Rudyard Kipling

  33. I was at work all, get off at 2am, had not heard of his death. reading of it in this blog, I felt as if I had been kicked in the gut. I have never met the man, and yet I sit here feeling that I have lost a good friend of over thirty years. I can not describe …. I can not put into words my feelings … I can no longer see the keyboard… goodbye old friend I hope to meet you when it is my turn for that last walk

    • I had met him. Of all my writing idols he was the only one I got to meet. (A kid heart issue kept me from meeting Poul Anderson.) It feels like I lost family, even though we only talked half a dozen times.

      • This is a reflection of the unusual intimacy with the reader that some authors attain. Listening to audio books by a certain author who reads ‘is own left me with the uncomfortable realization that, if ever we meet in flesh space, I will have the decided “advantage” of great familiarity with his turns of phrasing, his pauses between words, his sudden emphasis and many other characteristic patterns of speech while he won’t know me from Adam’s off ox.

        I find myself inclined to eschew any con he might attend for fear of feeling like a stalker.

        I expect it is doubly a good thing that Mr. Pratchett had others do his audios.

  34. Amen. Now please excuse me, I have to take care of these dumb allergies. *snif*

  35. Tony Robinson, who played Baldric in the various Blackadders, did recorded readings of Pratchett. I recall listening to one — was it Eric? I can’t quite recall which it was. Anyway, I was driving back home from Cherokee after a very long day in the North Carolina mountains with The Daughter. Let me advise you: Do not listen to Pratchett and drive; the uncontrollable spasms of laughter made it impossible.

    I am particularly attached to Eric, Moving Pictures, Witches Abroad and Small Gods.

    My favorite character is DEATH, but Granny Weatherwax and Greebo are not far behind. But wait! I forgot the Night Watch. Carrot Ironfoundersson, the world’s tallest dwarf. Sam Vimes. And, forbid one should overlook Havelock Vetinari. Oh, and then there is the Librarian. And the Camel in Pyramids. Oh heck, Pratchett created so many delicious characters. But my favorite is still DEATH.

  36. Started with The Colour of Magic. He had me right from the first page. And lots and lots and lots of them since.

  37. Today’s XKCD: http://xkcd.com/ is on Terry.

  38. That was beautiful

  39. Amen.
    Moving Pictures got me through one of the worst weekends of my entire life. I don’t know what my life would look like without Sir Terry.

  40. physicsgeeky

    I will admit to starting with The Colour of Magic. I got through Guards! Guards! and then I hit grad school, so I fell way behind and have yet to catch up. One of my favorite quotations from his works is this one:
    “Give a man a fire and he’s warm for the day. But set fire to him and he’s warm for the rest of his life.”

    What can I say? It appeals to my perverse sense of humor.

  41. On your comment about how nice he was to fans, I met him when I was all of sixteen. My mom snagged him as he walked by and asked if he would pose for a picture with me. He swung his arm around my shoulders, and said, “Why yes, of course I’d like to take a picture with my dear friend—what was your name again?”

    We took this picture later that same day—the “locals” to that con threw him a dinner, at which he changed his seat several times so as to speak to different people. At one point, I’d said I felt “zonked,” at which point he turned to me and asked, “Are you a Valley Girl?” My mom busted out laughing and explained, “Right state, wrong valley.”

  42. Professor Badness

    Amen.

  43. dagnabit, I’m not supposed to be crying at work. People will think I’m having a breakdown.