A Human Wave writer should not have to write this many obituaries. I don’t like them, and they leave a bad feeling, like the lights are going out one by one leaving me alone, chilled in the dark.
Today I heard of Sir Terry Pratchett’s death.
He wasn’t Heinlein, and he didn’t occupy for me the position Heinlein occupied. He wasn’t conservative (for here) or even libertarian. You see, he was European and but for the grace of Heinlein and my (20 years late) arrival where I always belonged (in the US) I probably would have shared many of his opinions.
But he was the only author I met as an adult who rose to the pantheon besides Heinlein. And unlike Heinlein I had the pleasure of meeting him half a dozen times, and of attending a con in his honor and in honor of his creations.
I first met him I wanna say in ’99, but all I know is that it was before 2000.
I was a fairly new author with a book accepted but not coming out yet. It was world fantasy which in those days of the fat cows involved a little reception at the start of it, commonly referred to as “the swill and mill.”
We didn’t often get there in time for it, since conventions in those days involved a fine juggling of babysitting for kids under ten.
And at any rate I was advanced enough in the writing disease to be uncomfortable in a crowd and newly-minted enough as a professional to have the vague suspicion that if they figured out I’d snuck in, they’d throw me out.
But that year we got there in time and I had on my cocktail dress and all.
So I was walking around trying to be inconspicuous when I saw this bearded man, leaning on a column, looking around with an amused glint in his eye.
Being me, of course, I approached him. “I’m so pleased to meet you,” I said, after which my subconscious took over. “I have a shrine to you in my writing office.” And as his eyes widened, “But I don’t sacrifice goats to it.” Pause. “Can’t. Would kill the carpet.” At which point he laughed, and we talked a while, mainly about not just how hard it was to break in but how much difference a good agent and a publisher who believed in you could make.
Years later, I was to remember this and realize that the death spiral of my first series wasn’t (entirely) my fault.
Later that same con, we ran into each other while both of us waited for the friends we were with to use the bathroom. We sat at the same table, while waiting, and of course, faced with the possibility of asking Pratchett many, many craft questions, I asked him about cats. We talked quite pleasantly and I told him I’m cut off at four cats. He shared that while in the wilderness, selling around 5k copies a book in the US, his wife told him he could have a cat per bestseller. She never thought it would happen. So at our talk, he had twenty cats, and problems keeping them from getting run over until he got bloody expensive invisible fence – which is how we still refer to the contraption in this house. He suggested I extort the same promise from my husband, who, alas, has refused to make it.
We then saw him again when we went to a reading by him in Denver, which right now is a sad memory as we went with our friends the Lickisses, and Alan Lickiss is now also dead.
At that talk, Pratchett vanquished my fear of trusting my subconscious and just letting myself go. The richness of the Darkship books is due to my stopping the obsessive outlining and then pruning of anything not clearly advancing the plot.
And four? Five? Years ago I attended the first US discworld con, the first and only con I’ve attended as a fan, and where I got to hug Sir Terry Pratchett, which I’m glad I did, in retrospect. It will have to last a long time.
Terry wasn’t just a humorist. If you think that, you’re missing the breadth and depth of rich humanity, the vein of gentle understanding in his books, the startling moments when he held a mirror to life and reflected it in all its glory.
Terry wasn’t a conservative, not in American terms. But then he wasn’t American.
On the other hand, his books taught self reliance and responsibility for those weaker than you whom you can help. They taught the virtues of endurance, of patience, of hard work. They taught that evil acts come around to you again.
You could do worse and many have.
My sons grew up on his books. This morning I had to break the news of his passing to them. It’s one of the few times I’ve seen both of them cry. And since they’re 23 and 20 and fierce bearded men, those tears are some homage.
Of course we knew it was coming. And of course the manner of his passing was one of the most terrible a writer can imagine, as your mind dissolves into everything that might have been, and reality leaves you.
But we had hoped for the chance in a million, the miracle cure, the happy ending.
And perhaps we got it. Is a man wholly dead whose words will reach millions yet unborn and talk to them as a friend?
Somewhere Pratchett is walking with Shakespeare and saying “What was the thing with the dog, after all? I never got it. And weren’t your three witches entirely too serious?”
Fare thee well, Sir Terry Pratchett. May DEATH you wrote so well and so humanely be kind to you. May he meet you at the door between and treat you to a ginger biscuit as you pass through.
And may you rest in peace knowing that your words live and will live.
Death is balked of its triumph.
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It really helps if you don’t bother with HTML magic at all, because we just have to parse it apart to put it into the template. The ideal submission is like
TITLE My Book AUTHOR My name as it's on the book cover. AMAZON LINK http://www.amazon.com/My-Book-By-Me/dp/B00ABCDEFG/ BLURB no more than about 100 words.
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