In Memoriam: Sir Terry Pratchett


Photo courtesy of Myrmi, under CC BY-SA 2.0

DEATH has come for the humorist.  Sir Terry Pratchett (b.1948) died on March 12 surrounded by his family. Pratchett had been suffering from Alzheimer’s for several years.

Pratchett’s first novel was The Carpet People published in 1971 and was followed by The Dark Side of the Sun in 1976 and Strata in 1981.  Moving the flat earth from the science fiction novel Strata to a fantasy setting, he published the first Discworld novel, The Colour of Magic in 1983. While the Discworld books were originally intended as a satirical look at the tropes of fantasy, Pratchett quickly used them to examine modern culture and technology, publishing scores of books in the series as well as books related to them.  Many of the books were turned into plays or television shows as well. The Discworld novels have also inspired their own conventions.

On occasion, Pratchett collaborated with other authors, including Neil Gaiman for Good Omens, Jack Cohen & Ian Stewart for the Science of Discworld books, Jacqueline Simpson for The Folklore of Discworld, and Stephen Baxter for the Long Earth trilogy. Pratchett’s recent works have been written with Pratchett dictating them to an assistant as Alzheimers impaired his ability to type.

In addition to being knighted as a Knight Bachelor by Queen Elizabeth, Pratchett has received the World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award, the Karl Edward Wagner Award for Special Achievement, the Forry Award, and the Skylark Award. His novel I Shall Wear Midnight won the Andre Norton Award and the Discworld novel Pyramids won the BSFA Award. Pratchett was a Guest of Honor at Noreason IV, the 2004 Worldcon.

SFWA President Steven Gould said, “While I have been at the same events, I never had the privilege of speaking with Sir Terry, but in another sense he’s been speaking to me for decades, through characters like Mistress Esmerelda Weatherwax, Tiffany Aching, and Susan Sto Helit. Having those voices available still is the only thing that consoles me today. My thoughts go out to his wife Lyn and daughter Rhianna and countless readers who are feeling what I feel now.”