Friday, April 28, 2017

Birthday: “Stories of imagination tend to upset those without one.”

Terence David John Pratchett, OBE, KB (1948-2015)

Give a man a fire and he's warm for the day. But set fire to him and he's warm for the rest of his life.

Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time.

In ancient times, cats were worshiped as gods. They have not forgotten this.

The space between the young readers eyeballs and the printed page is a holy place and officialdom should trample all over it at their peril.

"Educational" refers to the process, not the object. Although, come to think of it, some of my teachers could easily have been replaced by a cheeseburger.

It is said that your life flashes before your eyes just before you die. That is true, it's called Life.

Only in our dreams are we free. The rest of the time we need wages.

The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.

The pen is mightier than the sword if the sword is very short, and the pen is very sharp.

Human beings make life so interesting. Do you know, that in a universe so full of wonders, they have managed to invent boredom.

Some humans would do anything to see if it was possible to do it. If you put a large switch in some cave somewhere, with a sign on it saying 'End-of-the-World Switch. PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH', the paint wouldn't even have time to dry.

Wisdom comes from experience. Experience is often a result of lack of wisdom
If there was anything that depressed him more than his own cynicism, it was that quite often it still wasn’t as cynical as real life.

Fantasy is an exercise bicycle for the mind. It might not take you anywhere, but it tones up the muscles that can.

The presence of those seeking the truth is infinitely to be preferred to the presence of those who think they’ve found it.

Not a terribly promising student, young Terry Pratchett. Not a terribly promising anything, come to that. He liked astronomy. Had a telescope. Bad at maths, though, so observatory-bound he was not. Credited the local library for his education. Liked scifi books. Dropped out at 17 to become a journalist.

He spent fifteen years knocking about newspaper work, then joined a governmental electricity board that ran four nuclear power plants. He was its press officer, just as Three Mile Island happened.

Along the way he wrote stories, and published a few here and there. He found a publisher for his first novel in 1976; it got good reviews, but not many. It took five years to get another one out. It did a bit better after being serialized on Women’s Hour, an afternoon BBC radio show.

He got an idea for a different world than this one. It was a flat disc- Discworld, get it?- that sat on the back of some elephants who stood on the shell of a giant cosmic turtle making its way through space. A city-state called Ankh-Morpork was the locus of action. It sprawled along a sludgy, odiferous river, and was ruled by The Patrician, Lord Vetinari.

Though people only traveled by boat or carriage, Pratchett’s Ankh-Morpork was a world of wonders. In what became 41 books after the first one appeared in 1983, the city developed journalism, a banking system, postage, and a police force. There were trolls and werewolves and zombies (mostly lawyers), witches and wizards (the latter ran the Unseen University, where the Librarian became an orangutan after an experiment went badly, and elected to stay one because being  one made getting about the stacks so much easier), golems (good for 24/7 repetitive tasks), dragons, and a stitched-together class of medical/administrative factotums called Igor (who all spoke with a Transylvanian accent and a lithp). Pratchett needled rock music (it was made with rocks), movie-making, the Gulf War, religion, ancient Greece and Egypt, unions, Ingmar Bergman, politics and bureaucracies on the course of his increasingly interlocked books, which stood on their own but featured the same vast array of characters to-ing and fro-ing.

And there was Death. A skeletal figure who could not speak, he communicated telepathically and ALL IN CAPS.Detached, conscientious, vaguely interested and puzzled by humans (he had a niece who was one, go figure):

“I meant," said Ipslore bitterly, "what is there in this world that truly makes living worthwhile?" 
Death thought about it.
CATS, he said eventually. CATS ARE NICE.”

Death got tired of his work one day and decamped to an adjoining desert land to join the foreign legion and forget, only to arrive at its garrison to find no one could remember who was in charge. Eventually persuaded to return, he kept on a few of the assistants to whom his work had been subcontracted, most notably the tiny, skeletal Death of Rats (The Grim Squeaker, he was called).

Discworld took off. Pratchett gave up flacking for nuclear power in 1987. By the 1990s, he was the most popular writer in Britain, turning out two or three books a year; a decade later he accounted for 3.5% of all hardcover fiction sales in the UK, trailing only J.K. Rowling.

He wrote popular young adult books, and co-authored a brilliant success with Neil Gaiman, Good Omens. With a long white beard and oversized black fedoras, he came to resemble one of his wizards, and when he was knighted he was so pleased (as a fantasy writer, he said, what could be better?) he had a sword made. He had an asteroid named for him, and prehistoric turtle. He was awarded ten honorary degrees.

At 59 he was diagnosed with an early-onset form of Alzheimer’s Disease, and turned his fame, money and remaining time to becoming a face for better treatment and more research. He called it “an embuggerance” and vowed to carry on, but it relentlessly diminished him. By 2008 he could no longer write, and finished his last few books by dictation. By 2010, when he gave the David Dimbleby Lecture, “Shaking Hands With Death,” he could no longer read for long periods. After some introductory remarks, he turned over the text to his friend the actor Tony Robinson (Baldrick of the Blackadder series), to give it for him. In 2014 he cancelled his appearance at the annual Discworld convention for the first time, and died shortly after. His publicist posted the news:


It was the twelfth of March, 2015.

Something like ten more books remain to be published. He still sells 2.5 million copies a year, adding to the 85 million, in 37 languages, he moved in his lifetime. Few contemporary writers are so missed. As his website explains,

In Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, the clacks are a series of semaphore towers loosely based on the concept of the telegraph. Invented by an artificer named Robert Dearheart, the towers could send messages "at the speed of light" using standardized codes. Three of these codes are of particular import:

G: send the message on
N: do not log the message
U: turn the message around at the end of the line and send it back again

No comments:

Post a Comment

We enjoy hearing from visitors! Please leave your questions, thoughts, wish lists, or whatever else is on your mind.