Terry Pratchett has died.
He was a brave man, facing his early-onset Alzheimer’s with courage and a fierce anger that actually increased his creative output while hew as still abel to write. I haven’t read what the cause of his death was yet, but although he was an outspoken advocate of assisted suicide and fully intended to sort things out himself when the time came, apparently in the end it wasn’t necessary, and Death came to him instead. (I like to think Death came in the form of a seven-foot-tall skeleton in a robe infinite blackness, WHO ALWAYS TALKS LIKE THIS, and who cares about the souls he reaps.)
He was only sixty-six, and the world has lost a brilliant writer and very insightful, witty human being whose worse I think will live a very long time past his death.
I can’t for the life of me remember which book this came from, and so I will have to settle for paraphrasing. But it is one of the most insightful and hopeful things I’ve ever heard on the topic of death. You see, in the kingdom of Lancre on the Discworld, the people believe that the amount of time a person lives is only the very kernel of their actual life. A person isn’t dead until everything they have started in their life has ended — until the echoes of their voice have died down, until the candles they lit have burned out, until the last clock they wound has run down. And a person like Terry Pratchett set an awful lot of things in motion. As many authors have pointed out, we are immortal if our words live beyond us, our voices echoing into the future. In addition to works which he left in the publication stream, which will be coming out posthumously, he leaves behind:
40 Discworld novels (11 of which were adapted into graphic novels)
1 original Discworld graphic novel
4 “Science of Discworld” essay anthologies
an assortment of Discworld spin-offs, including two picture books and four video games
the four-book “Long Earth” series with Stephen Baxter
“Good Omens” with Neil Gaiman
the Bromeliad trilogy
the Johnny Maxwell trilogy
six standalone novels
an assortment of short stories and essays and other wisdom, including his tireless campaigns for Alzheimer’s research and the right to die with dignity
Numerous plays and television adaptations of Discworld books
This man’s voice will echo for a very long time — if we keep repeating his words. So go out, read his books, and then give them to other people so they can read them to. 😉
And we haven’t heard the last of him yet! The fourth book of the Long Earth series is due out in a few months: “The Long Utopia”. And there are reportedly more Discworld books that haven’t yet been published, possibly being polished by his enormously talented daughter, who might even carry on the series (if we’re lucky). He didn’t leave us empty-handed. 😉 A man who gave generously in his life, and who is still giving now.
I’ll just wrap up with one of my favorite clips from “Hogfather”: