I want to write something that truly explains what Terry Pratchett’s books have meant to me over the years.
I was first introduced to the Discworld waaaaay back in the 90’s, when I was a young wee slightly confused teenager, by my first ever boyfriend convincing me I needed to read Terry Pratchett. I was highly sceptical, mainly because Pratchett was described as … dun dun dun DUUUN.. Fantasy. Ew. Fantasy. I did not read fantasy. I was 16 and literary and a keen young feminist and read worthy authors like Margaret Atwood (who, it must be said, is still eminently worthy). Fantasy was all swords and sandals and lots of Bebuldeebum meeting with Aberaldee and travelling to the magical world of Hoovierpoo on a dragon.
You get my point.
No, said the boyfriend. Pratchett’s not like that. He’s… smart. And he bought me my first Pratchett books, namely Eric and Truckers. I liked Truckers. But more than that I liked Eric. It WAS smart. And it was fantasy but it was also making fun of fantasy and it was also real and making fun of real.
Later on I borrowed Wyrd Sisters, Colour of Magic and Sourcery from him. After some compressed teenage angsty goings-on boyfriend and I were no more.
I kept the Pratchett. (Dear M, sorry. If it’s any consolation I’ve still got them.)
And that’s how it all started. From there I used to buy a new Pratchett almost every six months, until I had all the backlist. Then I had to be patient and buy every new book when it came out. Later my last ever boyfriend bought me every new book when it came out (which for some reason always happened around my birthday, this is really going to dent his present plans). The great thing was the Discworld books really hold up to re-reading. During some of the hardest times of my life I’ve gone back and re-read my favourites, and I still do.
What is it that makes Pratchett so (re)readable?
1. The writing is so appealing. It’s not basic but it’s not obtuse. Language is delighted in but never used to prove the author is so much cleverer than his reader. It’s enjoyable to read. It’s never wrought or tortured.
2. The characters are wonderful. Vimes. Granny Weatherwax. Vetinari. Nanny Ogg. Tiffany Aching. Carrot. So individual. So full of life and never, ever one dimensional.
3. The storylines are so crazy but so true. As Pratchett went on with Discworld he started to move beyond the fantasy tropes and use his alternative multiverse to explore humanity. The craziness of the entertainment industry in Moving Pictures. Racism, terrorism and xenophobia in Jingo. Sexism and “difference” in Monstrous Regiment. The nature of work and slavery in Feet of Clay. Religion and philosophy in Small Gods. Why is Australia trying to kill us in The Last Continent.
4. As many people have said, above all, his books are so very funny. It’s not easy to be truly funny. You have to be smart. You have to be a bit (or even a lot) sad. You have to understand how fleeting the moment is which means you have to understand loss. You need deep insight into the human condition and a love for the ridiculous.
Thank you, Mr Terry Pratchett. Thank you for hours and hours of fun. Thank you for the laughing and the thinking. Thank you for the difference you made to my life. Thank you for your stories. (And M: you were right.)