Farewell Sir Pratchett, Welcome to Discworld
There is no way to accurately describe the impact Terry Pratchett and his works have made on the world. It is difficult enough to explain what they meant to me. I read my first Discworld book two years ago (Going Postal). Pretty late in the game considering, the first Discworld book, The Color of Magic, was written in 1983. As of this March, I have read 29 out the 40 books in the series and they have become an integral part of me.
Trying to explain Discworld to someone is incredibly difficult. You try to start out with the basics. You say, “It’s a fantasy series.” Most of the time, that is enough for whoever you’re talking to start looking disinterested. You notice this and quickly push forward, “It takes place on this flat world that is held up by four elephants that are standing on the back of a giant turtle, flying through space! And the people who inhabit it are living in Victorian-esque era with wizards and trolls and dwarves in it!" By this point, your listener inevitably raises their eyebrows and starts walking away.
But wait! That’s not really what Discworld is! Yes, it’s a wildly outlandish fantasy world but it is the reality within the fantasy that makes it so approachable and addicting. It is not only the way that Pratchett uses the Discworld universe to discuss real world issues like prejudice (Equal Rites, Monstrous Regiment, Snuff), the influence of new technology (The Truth, Moving Pictures, Raising Steam) or religious belief (Small Gods, Pyramids, The Fifth Elephant) but the honesty and thought he conveys when talking about life itself. Pratchett’s book may take place in a world of magic, but life is still just as difficult and unfair. I know that doesn’t sound like a bunch of laughs but truth is the essential burning core of any good joke and truth is often unpleasant. This is how I know Terry Pratchett is a master humorist. He can take the solemn, the serious, the truth and make me chuckle about it.
Here are just a few gems:
"The presence of those seeking the truth is infinitely to be preferred to the presence of those who think they've found it." —from Monstrous Regiment
"The problem with an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it" —from Diggers
"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." —from Thief of Time
"If you trust in yourself and believe in your dreams and follow your star, you’ll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren’t so lazy." —from The Wee Free Men
"It is said that your life flashes before your eyes just before you die. That is true, it's called Life." —from The Last Continent
Pratchett even made Death a funny and relatable character. Death appears as an “anthropomorphic personification” in 38 of the 40 (soon to be 41) Discworld novels, his constant presence reminding us that everything ends. When Terry Pratchett’s passing was announced last Thursday, Death, was there to lead him away “across the black desert” and to bring his life story to an end. But as Pratchett himself, said, "No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away." So, I encourage everyone to make some ripples. Pratchett fans keep splashing around! Curious new readers dip your toes in! I know I will continue doing the same.