In common with many of my friends, and I imagine, many people reading this, I spent a chunk of this afternoon, sitting at my desk, trying not to cry, before retreating to the toilets for a quiet moment or two.
I vividly recall the first Terry Pratchett book I read, Wyrd Sisters. I was 13. Dad had tried to get me to read Pratchett, starting with the Colour of Magic, a year or so previously, and it hadn’t worked. I was a bit too young, and honestly, I didn’t get the jokes in large sections of that book, because I hadn’t read most of the material he was parodying.
But then, one night, on a whim, I picked up Wyrd Sisters. We’d done MacBeth in school a couple of months before. This made sense. (And, let’s be honest, it was a better book.) And from “Well, I can do next Tuesday” I was laughing out loud and totally hooked. It was the first proper book for grown ups that I recall having that “literally can’t put it down” experience with. I started reading it about 8:30-ish on Friday night, and I remember pinning a note on my bedroom door for Mum and Dad saying something like “I stayed up reading until 3am, sorry, please don’t wake me in the morning.” I read it all in one sitting, and then, when I woke up the next morning, I started it again. Because it was so good – better than anything else I can recall having read before it.
I read all the others in the house in the fortnight. And one or two of them were better.
The first one I remember being released after this binge was Small Gods. Dad brought it on a family camping holiday to France – the new Pratchett book. I’m not sure he got to read it that holiday. I certainly read it three or four times.
I remember standing a long queue (with my Dad) to get Lords and Ladies signed. The first time I ever met an author.
When we got the internet in, the first usenet group I ever read, ever posted to, was alt.fan.pratchett. Once, he even replied to a post I’d made. (I forget what the post was. I remember the feeling of “Terry Pratchett replied to me! In tones that suggested he didn’t think I was a total idiot!”.)
I very literally grew up reading Terry Pratchett. Reading, and re-reading and re-reading. Of all the authors I read in my teens, he’s probably the only one who commands the same level of esteem from me now that he did then, and well, much more. I’ve come to understand the depth of warmth and insight and yes, just a bit of anger, that is in his work more and more as time has passed and I’ve grown up.
I’m not one hundred percent sure I know how to cope with a world where there’s only one more Terry Pratchett novel left to read for the first time.
“People think that stories are shaped by people. In fact, it’s the other way around.” – Terry Pratchett, Witches Abroad.
There are a lot of people that were (and will be) shaped by his stories. Into, I suspect, better people.
I can only hope that the outpouring of tributes is a comfort to his family.