A few days ago this happened:
We feel the loss of our cultural icons. They are touchstones that influence who we are. We may never meet them. But they shape us. They give us ourselves. I see myself in many of Terry Pratchett's characters. (Sometimes I don't like what I see.) Pratchett's books, particularly the Discworld books, influence the way I think about the world.
I am who I am, in part, thanks to Terry Pratchett.
And I never met the man.
I like Terry Pratchett's writing more than I like Neil Gaiman's writing. I like Pratchett more than Douglas Adams. That's saying something. If I had to choose a favorite author, I would choose Terry Pratchett. Other authors are More Serious. They enjoy greater accolades. They possess greater literary cred. But when I want humor mixed with philosophy mixed with keen observations on the world as it is (observations that prompt thoughts on how the world should be), I read Terry Pratchett.
There is no “I need to be in the mood” when it comes to Terry Pratchett.
When I return to Pratchett, I never feel let down by the way the world is presented. As I've grown and my worldview has changed, and as I've met more people, the Wheel of Time (even though I still identify with some characters) and the Pendragon Cycle seem diminished. Unrealistic. Incompatible with me.
That never happens with Terry Pratchett's books. At least not yet. Perhaps in another 20 years I will feel about Pratchett's books the way I feel about certain other fantasy books. But I doubt it.
As Neil Gaiman wrote in a column last September, Pratchett was angry, and part of that anger comes through in his stinging satire. It encourages me to reflect, even as I laugh (sometimes out loud). That sort of connection sticks because it becomes part of you.
Goodbye Terry Pratchett. And thank you.