"Death isn't cruel, merely terribly, terribly good at his job."
- Terry Pratchett
On March 12th, Terry Pratchett passed away, finally succumbing to a long fight with illness. I had never met Pratchett personally. The one time I tried to, at the National Book Festival in Washington DC, I stood in a long line for over an hour to meet him and get his autograph, only to have my section of the line turned away, because he had another commitment, and the festival was ending. I never got the chance to shake his hand, or tell him how much he inspired me. If the gods are good, Pratchett's chasing adventures somewhere on an enormous disc, hurtling through space on top of four elephants, who in turn ride an enormous turtle.
When I was six years old, my parents bought me a set of five hardback novels, which happened to be the first five Discworld novels. I think they bought them because I enjoyed superhero cartoons, and perhaps I'd like to try reading fantasy books. The covers showed fanciful images of space turtles, bumbling wizards, clever witches, and amazing magic. The Colour of Magic was the first fantasy novel I'd ever read. While I'd spent hours dreaming of far-off adventures, these books opened my eyes to a world of imagination I'd never contemplated. I devoured those novels, and later other Pratchett books. The Unseen University introduced me to a school where wizards learn magic, fifteen years before Rowling published her first novel set in Hogwarts. Pratchett introduced me to English wit, instilling a love for British humor, one I carry to this day. And the novel Mort, which I read as a kid, featured Death training an apprentice. The idea of someone training to reap souls is an idea that never left my mind.
I think Pratchett influenced me most in that he truly brought books to life, and helped me develop a lifelong love of reading. I devoured the first few Discworld books, and moved on to other books, novels, and eventually even began writing books. My first taste of fantasy novels eventually led to my creation of my own fantasy worlds. He and I even share a birthday, April 28th.
Pratchett's unique voice and inspiring worlds will be with us always, even as his many fans now mourn his loss.