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breeden
ursulav

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.


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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.

What a lovely story about a lovely man.

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