Friday, March 13, 2015

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015)

Sir Terry Pratchett died yesterday after a battle with early-onset Alzheimers. People far more eloquent than I have eulogized him elsewhere, and the hundreds of obituaries provide far more detail and understanding of the man and his life than I could hope to compete with. So I will just stick to what I know.

I didn't enjoy Pratchett's books. This disappointed me greatly. I remember getting The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic via the Science Fiction Book Club not all that long after they became available in the U.S. and being distressingly unmoved by them. I'm not sure I laughed even once. It's not that I couldn't see what he was doing or the tropes he gleefully lampooned--that should've been catnip for me, and indeed, was what caused me to seek them out in the first place--but the prose lay lifeless upon the page for me. Over the years, as I grew more widely read and Pratchett's Discworld satires grew progressively more sophisticated and cast an ever-expanding net, I revisited his work. Strata, Interesting Times, a handful of others I can't quite recall (Mort? The Fifth Elephant?) remained stubbornly closed to me. I could see the jokes. I could see the biting commentary. I understood what he was accomplishing, and saddened by the fact I could not participate no matter how many of his books I read.

I have exactly one Terry Pratchett story.

Back in 2000, at Aggiecon 31, Pratchett was guest of honor and I was a regional guest. I hadn't been able to get close to him because of the swarms of fans that followed him everywhere, but we had one panel together. Fate conspired to seat me right next to the man. As we introduced ourselves, I said, "I'm Jayme Lynn Blaschke, and I write short fiction because I don't have the discipline to write novels."

Without blinking an eye, Pratchett said, "I'm Terry Pratchett, and I write novels because I don't have the discipline to write short fiction."

He was a witty, friendly and effortlessly funny man in person. I could not help but like him immediately, and count myself fortunate I had the opportunity--however brief--to make his acquaintance.

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