A tribute to Sir Terry Pratchett
By Duncan Fingarson, Contributor
Sir Terry Pratchett, author of the immensely popular Discworld series and Officer of the Order of the British Empire, died on March 12 at the age of 66, of complications arising from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. In the week that followed, many people have paid tribute to Pratchett in a variety of media. The video game Elite: Dangerous now features a space station named in his honour; the webcomic XKCD dedicated comic 1,498 to him and his writing; and Failbetter Games’ Fallen London browser game had a particularly relevant quote by Sir Terry himself at the top of the page: “A man is not dead while his name is still spoken.”
This, then, is my tribute to Sir Terry, my way of continuing to speak his name. I first picked up a Discworld novel in high school, when a friend loaned me his copy of The Colour of Magic. I loved the characters, and I loved Pratchett’s knowing, witty, and eminently British style of writing. Unfortunately, being a penniless student, it wasn’t until much later that I started buying the books for myself. The first book I actually purchased was Thud!, which features Commander Sir Samuel Vimes of the Ankh Morpork City Watch, a recurring character of the Disc and one with whom I came to identify rapidly.
Discworld’s crowning achievement, in my opinion, is its ability to effortlessly and often scathingly hold up a mirror to our own, satirizing every aspect of human society in general and modern culture in particular. Vimes, with his respect for the law and cynical perspective on human nature, is still my favourite lens through which to view the Disc. A close second is Death.
The Death of the Disc takes the form of the classic Grim Reaper, a tall skeleton in a black cloak with a scythe, and has appeared in nearly every Discworld book to date. This Death is a likeable personality, who cares for the souls he shepherds. This Death is the reason that on the day of Pratchett’s death, the message “AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER,” in Death’s trademark all-caps, appeared on the Twitter account Sir Terry shared with his friend Rob Wilkins. The man who made Death a relatable character met him too soon.
Sir Terry isn’t really dead, though. Not yet. Not until nobody remembers his name, nobody reads his books, nobody thinks of him. He was a prolific author, and there are forty books in the Discworld series alone, with one more, Pratchett’s last, due to be published later this year. Sir Terry Pratchett is survived by his wife Lyn, his daughter Rhianna, and a legacy of writing that few could hope to match. May the day when his name is last spoken never come.