Terry Pratchett, author and human being, died last week. Many people posted their thoughts and feelings on his passing, but I’m only just getting around to expressing myself here and now. This is because it can be very hard to react to the death of someone you have never met, never even spoken to, and yet who has also been a fixture of your life for many years. I suppose now I will never meet or speak to him now, which pains me a little. I’d think that we would have gotten along quite well.
I have already experienced the loss of a close family member this year, which has left me all too familiar with the grief that can be felt afterwards. Those closest to Terry Pratchett, his friends and family, must know that same pain. The grasping nostalgia for days past. Regrets of words never spoken, conversations that cannot ever be. Death is cruel, but to dwell upon death means never taking the time to celebrate the life that happened, or what is happening now.
I did not start reading Terry Pratchett with his Discworld series. I genuinely cannot remember which was the first book of his I ever picked up, but I have fond memories of Truckers, Strata, The Dark Side of the Sun, Only You Can Save Mankind, and The Carpet People. A lot of his earlier works, often clumsier and less refined, yet still hold a special place in my heart even now. Perhaps because I see their reflections in my current work, the first pieces of what may eventually become something more.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t hope to ever be as successful as Terry Pratchett, but that doesn’t mean I would like to copy him. Reading his writing helped to form my own particular style, but I am not him. I have my own way of using words. Still, I admire his work, his craftsmanship of certain turns of phrase, and his insightful character writing. I’ve been reading him since I still had baby teeth, and now that he’s gone, I’m going to be quite wistful of all the books that could have been but never will be.
But I won’t be sad. Every life is a story, and to dwell on just the ending of that story simply won’t do. Tens of thousands of people across the world have read his books, and tens of thousands more will continue to do so. As he himself wrote, a man’s not dead while his name’s still spoken, and I intend to keep speaking it as long as I live. He was a distant and vicarious mentor to me, I analysed and broke apart his stories to help me find my own voice, and I want to honour him in the best way I can think of: by continuing to write.
In many of his books, he portrayed death, the finality of life, as beginning with a vast, pitch-black desert under a starless sky that you had to cross. I’d like to think that, poetically, he’s crossing it right now. But not alone. Every one of us who ever read one of his books is right there alongside him. Even if all we have to say to him is, “Goodbye.”