In Memory of Sir Terry
Posted by Stephanie Whelan
I’m at the 300th post mark today. I was plotting to do something labor intensive and interesting to sort of “celebrate” the milestone. But today I received word that my favorite author and one of my favorite human beings in general has passed away. So for my 300th post today, I’m devoting it to Sir Terry Pratchett.
I came to discover Terry Pratchett a little late in the game, at least compared with British fans. I was in my senior year and studying abroad at Oxford. I’d heard the name Terry Pratchett before, of course but I’d never read any of them. I continued to be ignorant of his writing until my Spring vacation brought me to Europe. Traveling on my own around Italy, I wearily made it to Florence only to discover the place mobbed with French students. Being an introvert and also being fairly tired from several days of sleeping on trains, I decided to nix the touristing plans and find a bookstore, then hang out in the train station. I found a small selection of English language SFF, among them was Terry Pratchett’s Lords and Ladies. I figured ‘oh, what the heck’ bought the book and went off to read it. Finished reading it, read it again. Got back to Oxford and madly started buying and reading every Discworld book I could lay my hands on. (I had quite a bit of catching up to do).
I fell in love–hard and fast–with those books. It was a heady and wonderful time of discovery and absolute pure joy of reading. Since that time, I’ve remained a staunch fan, not only of books, but of Sir Terry Pratchett himself. I had the pleasure of meeting him twice and I’m so thankful I had that opportunity. I would routinely try and convince my friends to read his work.
Those who haven’t read his work may look at the titles and descriptions and think of his stuff as “silly fantasy” the kind of thing that is usually full of tasteless jokes, bad puns and ridiculous situations. Anyone who knows me, knows I wouldn’t fall head-over-heels for that kind of writing. Sir Terry wrote satirical fantasy. Stuff that used all the tropes and traditions of fantasy books but overturned most of them. Stuff that saw–almost too baldly–the human condition and would make you laugh and cry about it in the same story. That was the main thing with Sir Terry’s books–you’d laugh, you’d chuckle, you’d love them–and then they would make your heart break, they would have burning moments of human truth that would sweep you up and hold you tightly before setting you back down. And you’d see the world from a slightly different perspective. Sir Terry’s works were full of fierce anger, and even fiercer heart. Neil Gaiman nails this in the tribute to his friend. I certainly cannot write it better than Neil.
His books were also full of unforgettable characters, both male and female. In fact, I’d have to say that Sir Terry is one of the few authors I found fairly balanced in his treatment of the sexes. Granny Weatherwax, Commander Vimes, Susan StoHelit, Tiffany Aching, Vetinari, The Librarian, The Death of Rats and, of course, DEATH. Characters who could not be reduced to mere stereotypes and quick jokes. Characters you knew and loved and cared about.
Sir Terry was brilliant, soul-stirring, heart-full man. He will be missed.
I’m going to be listing some of my favorite quotes below, both in honor of Sir Terry, and in recognition of my 300th blog post. Enjoy them. If you’ve your own favorites that aren’t listed, feel free to continue and share them in the comments!
Quotations from Sir Terry Pratchett
(This one is sooooo true.)
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.
—Thief of Time
(The Wee Free Men series really covered the essence of growing up and coming in to one’s own–this quote captures part of that)
Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving. —A Hat Full of Sky
(I loved Vimes from the start, but his commitment to reading aloud to his son–well that warms this librarian’s heart)
It had all been too … good. In a few short years, he, Sam Vimes, had gone up in the world like a balloon. He was a Duke, he commanded the Watch, he was powerful, he was married to a woman whose compassion, love, and understanding he knew a man such as he did not deserve, and he was as rich as Creosote. Fortune had rained its gravy, and he’d been the man with the big bowl. And it had all happened so fast.
And then Young Sam had come along. At first it had been fine. The baby was, well, a baby, all lolling head and burping and unfocused eyes, entirely the preserve of his mother. And then, one evening, his son had turned and looked directly at Vimes, with eyes that for his father outshone the lamps of the world, and fear had poured into Sam Vimes’ life in a terrible wave. All this good fortune, all this fierce joy … it was wrong. Surely the universe could not allow this amount of happiness in one man, not without presenting a bill. Somewhere a big wave was cresting, and when it broke over his head it would wash everything away. Some days, he was sure he could hear its distant roar … —Thud!
(Perhaps the best bit from Hogfather. )
All right,” said Susan. “I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need… fantasies to make life bearable.”
REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.
“Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—”
YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.
“So we can believe the big ones?”
YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.
“They’re not the same at all!”
YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET—Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME…SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.
“Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—”
MY POINT EXACTLY.” –Hogfather
(Although the pithier quotes are good too.)
IT’S THE EXPRESSION ON THEIR LITTLE FACES I LIKE, said the Hogfather.
“You mean sort of fear and awe and not knowing whether to laugh or cry or wet their pants?”
YES. NOW THAT IS WHAT I CALL BELIEF.”–Hogfather
STARS EXPLODE, WORLDS COLLIDE, THERE’S HARDLY ANYWHERE IN THE UNIVERSE WHERE HUMANS CAN LIVE WITHOUT BEING FROZEN OR FRIED, AND YET YOU BELIEVE THAT A… A BED IS A NORMAL THING. IT IS THE MOST AMAZING TALENT. —Hogfather
(Beautiful description of Granny here)
Granny Weatherwax was often angry. She considered it one of her strong points. Genuine anger was one of the world’s greatest creative forces. But you had to learn how to control it. That didn’t mean you let it trickle away. it meant you dammed it, carefully, let it develop a working head, let it drown whole valleys of the mind and then, just when the whole structure was about to collapse, opened a tiny pipeline at the base and let the iron-hard stream of wrath power the turbines of revenge.–Wyrd Sisters
(When I think of Witches Abroad, this is the scene that pops up. And I don’t really like Red Riding Hood anymore)
“Hah,” said Granny. “Yes. Of course. There’s always got to be”–she spat the words–“a happy ending.“
A paw gripped her ankle.
Granny Weatherwax looked down into the wolf’s face.
“Preeees,” it growled. “Annn enndinggg? Noaaow?”
The woodcutter never understood why the wolf laid its head on the stump so readily.
Or why the old woman, the one in whom anger roiled like pearl barley in a bubbling stew, insisted afterward that it be buried properly instead of skinned and thrown in the bushes. She had been very insistent about that.
And that was the end of the Big Bad Wolf.–Witches Abroad
(On the human condition)
It is said that whomsoever the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad. In fact, whomsoever the gods wish to destroy, they first hand the equivalent of a stick with a fizzing fuse and Acme Dynamite Company written on the side. It’s more interesting, and doesn’t take so long.–Soul Music
There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who, when presented with a glass that is exactly half-full, say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half-empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What’s up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don’tthink so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!-–The Truth
It’s an old soldiers’ song,’ he said.
Really, sarge? But it’s about angels.’
Yes, thought Vimes, and it’s amazing what bits those angels cause to rise up as the song progresses. It’s a real soldiers’ song: sentimental, with dirty bits.
As I recall, they used to sing it after battles,’ he said. ‘I’ve seen old men cry when they sing it,’ he added.
Why? It sounds cheerful.’
They were remembering who they were not singing it with, thought Vimes. You’ll learn. I know you will.” —Night Watch
As soon as you saw people as things to be measured, they didn’t measure up. What would run through the streets soon enough wouldn’t be a revolution or a riot. It’d be people who were frightened and panicking. It was what happened when the machinery of city life faltered, the wheels stopped turning and all the little rules broke down. And when that happened, humans were worse than sheep. Sheep just ran; they didn’t try to bite the sheep next to them.–Night Watch
THERE IS NO HOPE BUT US. THERE IS NO MERCY BUT US. THERE IS NO JUSTICE. THERE IS JUST US.
ALL THINGS THAT ARE, ARE OURS. BUT WE MUST CARE. FOR IF WE DO NOT CARE, WE DO NOT EXIST. IF WE DO NOT EXIST, THEN THERE IS NOTHING BUT BLIND OBLIVION.
AND EVEN OBLIVION MUST END ONE DAY. LORD, WILL YOU GRANT ME JUST A LITTLE TIME? FOR THE PROPER BALANCE OF THINGS. TO RETURN WHAT WAS GIVEN. FOR THE SAKE OF PRISONERS AND THE FLIGHT OF BIRDS.
LORD, WHAT CAN THE HARVEST HOPE FOR, IF NOT THE CARE OF THE REAPER MAN? —Reaper Man
No-one is finally dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away… The span of someone’s life, they say, is only the core of their actual existence.–Reaper Man
May the ripples continue to the ends of the universe and into the next. We’ll miss you Sir Terry.