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Of Small Gods and Great Men

I remember reading Pratchett for the first time, back in my early twenties. I went to Dreamhaven in Minneapolis, where they had the UK imports with the Kirby covers, and I would buy one every few weeks when I could afford them.

I enjoyed the first few--they were fun enough to keep reading--and then I got to Small Gods and I remember actually yelling at the book "Where were you when I was sixteen and needed you?"

Then I found the guards and Granny Weatherwax and...well, yeah.

Eventually I found people who also understood these things. I am not saying that you have to love Pratchett to be cool, but a great many cool people do love Pratchett. (I also remember the point where I completely wrote off a job when I tried to explain Hogfather to the boss and he told me that it sounded really stupid.)

Reviewers compare my writing to Pratchett's occasionally. It is enormously flattering and also a bit frightening. That is a terrifyingly high bar to set a book up to clear, and very few books can actually stick the landing. I suspect that by now the readers have learned to be a little skeptical of such reviews, because no one did it like he did.

It's easy to be funny. It's hard to be humane. To put both on the same page and not give the reader whiplash is a rare and extraordinary talent.

I'm glad he finished the Aching books before he left.

Of course, there's a difference between comparing your books to, say Hogfather or A Hat Full of Sky versus Strata or The Carpet People.

Sir PTerry never won no Hugo.

Actually, he turned down the nominations because he was sure to win and he said it wouldn't impact his career at all, but it would be huge for the people who did win. It was pretty damn classy.

I'll be happy if I get close. That's all I need.

Reviewers compare my writing to Pratchett's occasionally

I just did, in a reread of Digger: someone asked if I'd meant Diggers, I corrected, and commented, "Diggers is also worth rereading. Diggers + Wings are about as good as Digger."

Laughter, warmth, wisdom, and tears.

I nearly had the chance to meet him at a book signing when I was a teenager, but it was on a school day so I ended up not going. Always wished I'd told school I was sick or something and gone anyway, because I always felt meeting him would be more valuable. Regretted it ever since.

This is really starting to feel like a year full of deaths. Damn.

I'm really devastated by his death. I actually DID find him as a teen. I remember I was 13 and I grabbed Feet of Clay and My Life Changed.

I was raised in a fundamentalist hardcore conservative Christian household. I credit Pterry with well not saving me, but perhaps being the most important teacher I had during my teens, via his books. If I am anything resembling a good person Pterry played no small part in that.

Either All Days Are Holy, Or None Are

. .. yeah, that one had a fucking impact on me.

I had the same reaction. It used to be that I would read Pratchett's stuff, and then ask, "Why does everything think this is so brilliant? It's just good writing that isn't lazy." Pratchett used the power of genre fiction to reach out in new and introspective ways.

Oh, and the turning-down-the-awards thing? Yeah, that's a rare breed to be talented and classy. The world will miss him.

So! Who was the lucky assassin who killed him, to usurp his position? That's how it works, right?

Not an assassin. A wizard.

Dead man's pointy shoes...

I didn't know until just now. I burst into tears.

same. google led me to a time article containing his final three tweets and i've been crying for about ten minutes straight. hell, i still haven't stopped.

I did read Small Gods when I was seventeen. It was the Discworld book I picked up first, by random happenstance.

I told this story on Twitter already, but it is worth repeating: at a book signing in California about eight years ago, a man dressed as a wizard -- robes, hat, amulets, beard -- stood up and asked, in all seriousness, "You write about real magic so well, I was wondering if you were a practitioner yourself?"

The audience was laughing before the guy even spoke; this would have been an opportunity to score some cheap laughs by pointing out the ridiculousness of the this man and the situation, and possibly also of California. But Pratchett answered, equally seriously, that while he'd never experienced anything verifiably magical himself, he imagined that it would function as an extension of common sense, and provide no simplistic solutions; that he would never use "ta-da, magic" by itself to fix a narrative, but that plot resolutions had to come from characters. Or something like that.

It was elegantly done and it was a lesson I never forgot; that you can be clever, and funny, and even satirical, and still be kind. The wizard was satisfied with his answer, and no one else laughed.

Edited at 2015-03-12 06:15 pm (UTC)

This is a marvelous anecdote, thank you for sharing it! I miss Sir Terry Pratchett already.

He was one of the most consistently humane authors I've ever read.

Neil Gaiman has a piece on the rage behind the laughter that I appreciated very much: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/sep/24/terry-pratchett-angry-not-jolly-neil-gaiman

previous comment not spam, I pinky swear

Just had a link in it.

I have loved Pratchett since I read Small Gods - about age 14, and already an obnoxiously smug agnostic, having blown through rebellious and unstructured paganism at 13. His books taught me to be a kinder person, and a stronger one. Ever since he announced his diagnosis, I have cried at the end of a new release, without fail.

He will be so, so missed.

Yes indeed, funny and humane. I think REAPER MAN brought tears to my eyes with its ending. Something very few books have done. And yes, you do have an echo of his style, in his hardheaded practicality, no-nonsense characters, your women who might be young, inexperienced, but they aren't bloody stupid and can learn and move on.

Dorothy Sayers also has two great comments in GAUDY NIGHT, which particularly resonate, and you and Sir Terry both say, less obviously:

"I always hate being made to feel grateful. It makes me want to bite." Of a character who got terribly drunk, but fell to no lasting harm, due to trying to fight mummy's Plans for Her. The practical advice she is given is, "Well then, GET the degree your mum's pushing for, and get a great grade. It's excellent practice. Then spit in her eye and go study cooking and become the chef of your dreams; you're very good at it, and believe me, men will be throwing themselves at you if you can cook well."


"The first thing any first class Principal does is go out and kill someone." meaning the great -isms and belief systems. The great, broad brush ideas that are all about ideas and not about the nitty gritty details of actual grubby human beings.

I was introduced to Pratchett in middle school, by the manager of the local Waldenbooks where mom used to drop me off while she shopped. It was a good arrangement - I'd sit there and read quietly, and she'd buy me a book when she got back. Cheaper than a babysitter, and the manager was a brilliant man who introduced me to a lot of good books, Pratchett's works and Gaiman's works chiefly among them. I honestly think he was some sort of wizard in disguise, because those books were exactly what I needed right then. They were my light in a very dark place, and as I devoured them (either by saving pocket money or getting them from the library), the cornerstones of my personal morality were being built. He was one of the authors that formed the trellis that helped me grow into who I am today, and I am forever grateful for that. He really understood the essence of humanity, in all its goodness and badness, and distilled it into such poetry that the words echo around the world. He will be missed.

(Also the comparison to Pratchett is certainly apt - Digger's sensibility and attitude is something that would have made him smile, I think)

I'm so glad he was so prolific. I normally devour the books of my favorite authors, but with Prachett's books I am working my way very, very slowly, savoring them like a gourmet. Ultimately I want them all in audio format. :)

I've been a wreck all morning and I was hoping you might have maybe written something about this already, so I am relieved and very grateful that you have. Here is the group of people that I have been looking for that understand what we have lost.

I *did* get to have Discworld in my teens. I started reading Pratchett's work when a friend I made in summer camp loaned me her copy of "Equal Rites", very quickly followed by "Sourcery", "The Color of Magic", "Small Gods", and "Feet of Clay". I was 8 years old when I started and I have never looked back. I'll turn 30 this year. That means that the Disc was there for me during puberty, the onset of PMS, meeting and dating my first boyfriend (who is now my husband of 5 years), and all of the travails that unavoidably come from living and taking care of people you love.

I have to teach my biology students today. It's a college course and a lab section at that, so I have the time to do a moment of silence...but I know most of my students won't know who Terry Pratchett was. I'll wear my one geeky Disc shirt today and my husband has promised me I can get others (he is a very kind, understanding person). I still have to get a hold of my mother and warn her that there will be no more Rincewind. Can we just cancel today? I want to go hug my books.

Re: Ursula, thank you.

From one teacher to another, best of luck.

I was thanking gods large and Small earlier today that I found out *after* the last student had finished their exam and left. Meant I could weep without distracting, or distraction.

Sir Terry will be dearly missed.

I consider myself a priestess of Pterry. Although one of my friends calls me his pimp. She times how long it takes me from saying hello to quoting Pterry. I once went 24 hours without quoting him, but sometimes I start off a visit with a Pterry quote. So, I have excellent credentials as a Pratchett fan.

I compared you to him in my review of "Nine Goblins". It seemed a very Pratchettesque twist on traditional fantasy.

I don't really see Digger as Pratchettesque, except in being high quality humorous fantasy fiction. I see Digger as pure Ursulav. You have a distinct style that is not imitative of anyone else. I'm glad you are publishing adult fiction now so I can push something other than children's books on all my friends. You have a delightfully strange sense of humor and I'm glad to have it captured in book form.