On March 12th, 2015, the world lost a true master of the written word with the death of Sir Terrence Pratchett, known simply as Terry Pratchett, at the age of 66 after his battle with Alzheimer’s. Britain’s best-selling author behind JK Rowling–and if Harry Potter is your only real competition, then you deserve all the fame you can get–Pratchett is best known for his Discworld series, a long-running series of comedic novels starring many different characters from beloved long-runners such as Commander Sam Vimes and the young witch Tiffany Aching, to one-off but no less well-written characters like the orc Mr. Nutt.
Pratchett was a risk taker, he wasted no time in utilizing computers for his writing as soon as they became available, and was one of the first authors to use the internet to actively communicate with his fans. And unlike many other fantasy novelists, he was not afraid to shake up the status quo, as evidenced by his last novel, Raising Steam, which introduced the steam engine and locomotive to his swords-and-sorcery fantasy realm.
In 2007, Pratchett was misdiagnosed as having had a stroke, and was later properly diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s, specifically posterior cortical atrophy, which causes areas in the back of the brain to shrink and shrivel. This “embuggerance” as he called it did nothing to reduce his zest for life and he kept writing and playing video games, proclaiming he had time for “at least a few books yet” and asking his fans not to offer help, though he joked that he would accept offers from “very high-end experts in brain chemistry.” In his final years, he dictated his words to his assistant, or to voice-recognition software, as he had found it too difficult to write himself. In 2008, after learning that Alzheimer’s research earns about 3% of the funding received by cancer research, he donated $1,000,000 to help find a cure, and his loyal fans launched “Match It for Pratchett,” raising another $1,000,000.
Pratchett received knighthood and was appointed an Officer of the British Empire for services to literature, was the British Book Award’s “Fantasy and Science Fiction Author of the Year” for 1994, won the British Science Fiction Award for his novel Pyramids and a Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel for Making Money. He received nine honorary doctorates for his contribution to Public Service, a Carnegie Award in 2001 for The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, Night Watch (currently being converted into a TV series by his daughter) received the Prometheus Award for best libertarian novel, three of the four Tiffany Aching books received the Locus Award for Best Young Adult Book. Going Postal was shortlisted for a Hugo, but Pratchett recused himself as the stress world mar his enjoyment of Worldcon. I Shall Wear Midnight, the fourth of the Tiffany Aching novels, won the 2010 Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy.
He was a pretty freaking good author is what I’m trying to say here!
Pratchett is survived by his wife Lyn Purves and daughter Rhianna Pratchett, herself an award-winning videogame writer. Rhianna is currently working hard at turning Night Watch into a television series and The Wee Free Men, the first of the Tiffany Aching novels, into a feature film. His novels, cunning social commentaries disguised as genre fiction, are timeless and taught many lessons, not least of which was to not fear Death, who appeared as a minor character in almost every novel Pratchett ever wrote. And so, let me quote again from the Pratchett Coat of Arms “Noli Timere Messorem,” or in English “Don’t Fear the Reaper.”
And from the official Terry Pratchett twitter account:
“AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER.
Terry took Death’s arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night.