Sir Terry Pratchett is one of the best-loved fantasy authors ever and in his career he wrote a staggering amount of books. With 41 books in his brilliant Discworld series alone, and releasing an average of 2 books a year, he was once an unstoppable force in novel-writing. Sadly, Sir Terry died from Alzheimer's disease in March 2015 but he and his books are still just as loved as they ever were and we're thrilled to be celebrating his legacy in this blog post.
Sir Terry grew up in Buckinghamshire and, after getting a short story published at just 13, left school at 17 to pursue a career in journalism. Whilst writing for the local newspaper, Sir Terry had a column where he wrote children's stories, some of which have been collected and published. It was during this time that, at just 23, Sir Terry wrote his first novel, The Carpet People, a fantasy that he rewrote in 1992 after his success drove more readers to his early work.
In 1983 The Colour of Magic, the first in his incredibly popular fantasy and satire Discworld series, was published. Over the next few years as new Discworld books were published Sir Terry had earnt himself a loyal following. In 1996 he was declared the UK's bestselling author and was given an OBE just two years later. 2009 saw his highest honour though as he was knighted by the Queen for his services to literature.
Unfortunately, in 2007, Sir Terry was diagnosed with a rare form of Alzheimer's disease and rather than keep this a secret from the world, he went public with his condition to raise awareness. Despite his ill health he continued to write during this time and the final Discworld book was published posthumously.
In his career he wrote a range of highly successful books. His diverse canon of literature includes fantasies, science fictions and comedies and as well as books for multiple audiences, including adults, children and teenagers. To really show how important and well-loved Sir Terry and his books are, we wanted to hear from those who appreciated his writing most: his fans.
We had a lovely tribute from self-confessed Terry Pratchett super-fan, Karen:
"I wish I could say that my love for Sir Terry Pratchett started in 1983/84 when my sister handed me her copy of The Colour of Magic and said, "read this, it's funny". It didn't. My 9-year-old self thought, "urgh". I just couldn't get into it. Both being avid readers and my sister being 5 years older I think I just wasn't old enough to get his humour. My sister was a fan from the start. It wasn't until I was in my early teens and she handed me Mort and again said "read this, it's funny", that I found the joy of his work.
You can understand that I was dubious about reading another of his novels, but I did. And, I was hooked!
I then read Equal Rites where the eighth son of an eighth son is about to be born, he's destined to be a wizard... only he's a girl. Throughout his Discworld books the females are given the roles of strong leaders. That's not to say this is at the expense of the men, take, for example, Sam Vimes, a reluctant hero.
He mirrors the real world in his stories as well, tackling things like the privatisation of the Royal Mail in Going Postal or the banking crisis in Making Money. He tackles the subject of drugs, with Trolls being addicted to slab or slavery with the forced labour of the golems and Miss Dearheart trying to free them.
When I first began my journey there were a lot of things I didn't get, this did not spoil my enjoyment though, only enhanced it when I was older and re-reading the earlier books when I started to make connections to real life or other books. You do not, however, feel like you are missing something, you just realised you did later on, it's like a pantomime, the kids don't get some of the jokes aimed at the parents but that doesn't mean they enjoy them any less. I wish the young adult books had been available when I received that first book, reading them as an adult I do still enjoy them though.
There are the Tiffany Aching books, telling the story of how a young girl becomes a witch, or the gnomes trilogy where they have to leave their home and end up stealing a truck (and more besides). Sir Terry has something for everyone, the Witches books if you like witches, the City Watch books if you like a mystery, if you're not into sci-fi then you can try Nation or Good Omens, the latter is a gentle nod to Nostradamus and the Omen. They are currently making a TV adaption of Good Omens, and I can't wait to see it.
Every Sir Terry Pratchett fan has a favourite character and book, and everyone will tell you to start with a different book depending on their favourites. My only advice would be not to start at the beginning, read the blurb and see which one appeals to you. I could go on about each novel in detail, telling you the good points. For me, the greatest gift he gave me was making Death a friendly figure and throughout the novels explaining that death is whatever the person dying is expecting. If you're expecting that white light, it's there for you, but equally if you're expecting the Valkyrie then they'll come for you, it helped me deal with a lot of grief in my life.
Looking back, I realise that reading his books helped shape a lot of my ideas, the equality of everyone, no matter what their background, age, gender or religion etc. I've never been one for being a fan, I never did the whole pop star thing, but I was actually dumbstruck when my husband tapped me on the shoulder and said, "there's someone I'd like you to meet". I had already met Sir Terry earlier that day for the book signing, but he didn't just leave, he hung about to meet his fans properly. He appreciated his fans; he knew if it wasn't for them he wouldn't be doing the job he loved. He remembered when he was a fan himself, he would stay until every last book was signed no matter how long it took.
When he died, globally we all paid tribute in our own way. This included the GNU movement, in the Discworld books they have the clacks system, which is like the old telegraph in real world. GNU was a way of sending a message on the clacks forever, the idea being that if a person's name is always spoken he or she will never be forgotten. Lots of people embedded code into websites with GNU STP. I'm not good with computers, but designed and knit a cushion with the clacks and GNU STP on.
I don't think he ever got the credit he deserved, a lot of critics dismissed him as fan literature, he was so much more than that, he was ahead of his time. My dad always said, if it gets you reading, no book is a bad book. I like to think Terry would have agreed with him.
Clearly, Sir Terry's work meant a great deal to his fans and continues to do so even now. His imagination, humour and brilliant writing will always be remembered by his fans, old and new. And, with some excellent children's books and an enduring legacy, he's certain to have many more fans in years to come.