Death and Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett in one of his trademark hats <Guardian.com>

On 12 March 2015, Sir Terry Pratchett died.

The world has lost one of the best-selling authors of the UK and his works are some of the most-read in the world.

In my life, these books were some of the most influential of all, beginning with The Colour of Magic (1983) which I read towards the end of primary school. It was he that drew me to the realm of science fiction and fantasy; still my favourite genre in all forms of storytelling. The breadth of his scope ranged from the beginning and end of time down to the life cycle of the mayfly and the lives of fairly incompetent wizards, there is definitely something in his books for everyone.

Neil Gaiman posted this image from Chris Riddell about Death coming for Pratchett.

Pratchett introduced what is still my favourite character in the entire fantasy genre, that of Death, the personification of death that comes for all creatures when they die. The character, recognisable by his all-caps, non-quoted speech in every single one of the Discworld novels, was a leading character in Mort (1987) which I borrowed from my school library in 2000 and was further developed in several of Pratchett’s later novels. A character with a sense of (suitably dark) humour and fairness who gets satisfaction out of doing his job well. Indeed, he says in Hogfather (1997), were he to have a name, ‘duty’ would be the middle one. He believes he performs a public service removing the world from getting overcrowded and preventing souls doing odd things they shouldn’t were they to hang around longer than their allocated time.

Death is greatly angered when he is temporarily replaced by New Death in Reaper Man (1991), a proud and cruel replacement who, among other differences, wears a crown and appears in a flash of lightning solely ‘for dramatic effect’. Death manages to thwart New Death, disgusted at his lack of compassion for the dying and his mocking, superior nature.

Pratchett even said in The Art of Discworld (2004) that he has received a number of letters from terminally ill fans in which they hope that Death will resemble the Discworld incarnation (he also says that those particular letters usually cause him to spend some time staring at the wall).

It is entirely appropriate then that the last posts on Sir Terry’s Twitter account were written by his daughter Rhianna, a marvellous author in her own right.

Sir Terry Pratchett had a huge influence on how I think about writing and his works continue to bring such joy to me and, I am sure, to many others. There are plenty of his books I still haven’t managed to read yet and plenty I shall gladly read again. For his life, his dedication to his craft and his works, among his many other talents, I am utterly grateful.


Originally published on 12 March 2015 at www.dcxiii.com.

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