I’m neck deep in rewrites right now, and haven’t had the time to blog much. But I’ll lift my head up for this.
The instant I saw this – clearly tweeted from the perspective of Death, perhaps Pratchett’s most famous creation – I knew exactly what it meant.
I read my first Pratchett book in the summer of 2003. I was a freshman in college, coming off of a bad year, and living alone. I’d just read a book called AMERICAN GODS (because I had been told it had a whole lot of great sex scenes in it – that person was clearly thinking of a different book), so I picked up another book by this Gaiman guy called GOOD OMENS.
It was hilarious. It was heartfelt. It was true. I gave it to my mom immediately and she stayed up all night laughing.
I wondered why Gaiman didn’t always right in this blindingly witty manner, and then I realized it might have something to do with his co-writer, a British gentleman I’d never heard of before called Pratchett. So I went to the library and picked out a book called THIEF OF TIME.
THIEF OF TIME bears a great, great deal of similarities to GOOD OMENS, among them the Four Horsemen and DEATH, that most tragic and most beloved of all of Sir Terry’s creations. It’s one of my favorite books of his, but not my most favorite.
That honor goes to FEET OF CLAY, wherein I think Pratchett captures a lot about his grander worldview: his atheism, his awe of the beauty and complexity of the universe, his devout belief in the freedom of people to make their own choices free of oversight and structures of command. And even after all of these years, when I think of the golem Dorfl – an artificial man who, by religious law, cannot be sentient or free, because to be such a thing would defy God – lying broken and dying in the warehouse, all of the commands that were written in his head burning away, and writing in the floor, “WORDS IN THE HEART CANNOT BE TAKEN”…
Well… it gives me chills to this day.
People talk about how funny Pratchett was, and how he made so many great jokes and parodies of the fantasy realm. But to me, these aspects of his writing are almost completely forgettable. They are forgettable in the shadow of his human insight, his compassion, and his melancholy and wistful joy as he recognized the difficult but beautiful natures of death and life and love and human behavior.
He was an extremely human human – an odd thing to say, but a true one – and I always thought there was a bit of a Zen philosopher to him, a person who had seen life and was now contented to watch it go by from his porch, smiling and shaking his head. I consider him a great influence, and it pains me a little to see how few people ever really think of him when considering my work. Perhaps they forget that, behind his jokes and puns and pulpy plots, he was a terrific writer, and a brilliant, compassionate mind. Or perhaps I simply don’t measure up. But how could I ever?
I never met him, but I will miss him. He wrote many words on my heart.