Terry Pratchett passed away yesterday. He was 66 years old. If fairness had had a say, Terry would be alive and gunning for three times that age.
We needed him.
Thankfully, there are others who adventure on the same playground and burn to tell the similar truths. But there was only one Terry.
I discovered Discworld at some point circa 1991. A friend gave me a copy and said ‘read’, which goes to show that invaluable advice can be concise as nothing else.
Terry’s stories made me return to Discworld some thirty times. What pulled me in was not the humor or the pace: I was hooked on the underlying dilemmas and discussions. That, and the temper I sensed farther below.
Because Terry’s tales and frenetic production seemed to me an indication of a seething, fuming irritation over all things unjust and wrong. His writing was both funny and serious and grim. This resonated with my own take on the world. And, unsurprisingly, I was not alone.
In the wake of Terry’s passing, I found this piece by Neil Gaiman. It’s great, and it points to what I have suspected for so long: Rincewind et al weren’t subjected to endless weird situations only for laughs.
They are guides in a landscape filled reality’s flaws, contradictions and dead ends, re-imagined as fantastic and often quirky monsters, locations, and scenarios.
And by making us smile, Terry’s protagonists reach around the barriers of disbelief and fatigue we erect to cope with an incessant onslaught of terrible news.
Weatherwax and Vimes poke our hearts. They make us lower our guards and listen. They stand out, linger, and leave angry notes behind on our mental kitchen tables.
And that is how you nudge the rudder of someone’s life. I am forever grateful for the pointers he gave me.