December 31st, 1997: My father tells me “Alexander, for your crimes against humanity, you shall not be permitted to play Nintendo for a week.” No Nintendo, thought I. That means no GoldenEye. Searching for something else to keep my twelve year old self otherwise entertained, I located a book entitled Soul Music and somehow managed to devour it in the space of a day – no small feat for twelve year old boy who had struggled with Lord of the Rings for about eight months.
I managed to read all of the Discworld books in whatever order I could find them over the course of my first year of high school, a feat that was rendered easier by the fact that I almost never showed up at school. When The Last Continent was released, so too was Terry into Australia. I went and met him, had my book signed “Nullus Anxietas Sanguinae”, and went forth and read. I own each book released since then in hardcover, and have had four of them signed. The other two times (my mother got one book signed, you see, as she is a fan as well), Terry spoke out and was highly entertaining, but I was sadly towards the back of the signing lines, by which time he was understandably irritable. For some reason, he never insists on signing only one book, so some people feel free to bring a bag. When you’ve published in excess of thirty works, it’s not unreasonable to place a limit on the abuse of your hand.
In 2004, I began full time employment. For whatever reason, I chose this juncture to begin reading the Discworld series again, this time in order. About eight books in, I realised that maybe it’s not the greatest idea to exclusively read the books of one author, so I moderated myself: for every Pratchett book I read, I would read a book by someone who wasn’t Pratchett. It took me roughly a year.
When I reread The Bromeliad in 2006, there were tears in my eyes at the end. Terry Pratchett and Amy Tan, among others, taught me the importance of profundity in a conclusion. Last week I saw The Wit and Wisdom of Discworld on the shelves of Borders and thought “Maybe it’s time to start again”. Certainly I haven’t been the biggest fan of the Wee Free Men or the likes of Thud!, where nothing seemed to happen until the last few pages, but I like to see things as an adventure. This has been in the back of my mind, particularly as I chose to reread The Ninja, which is incredibly worse than I remembered it.
So I am not very happy to discover that Terry Pratchett has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers. I am, in fact, incredibly displeased. I had thought I had somehow missed it until today, but it was in fact only announced today.
Going back through the archives of the news indexes for the year on the Paul Kidby site, it’s warming to see Terry posing with Brian May and mentioning his great admiration for him. Pratchett and Queen are inextricably linked in my mind as I spent a great deal of my Reading Summer of ’98 listening to A Night At The Opera (the rest of it was spent listening to Roxette, but their work isn’t quite so in tune with Discworld for me), and “’39” in particular has always struck me. I’m glad that my link wasn’t as tenuous as I thought.
In the days when my brother and I did not get along so well, and soon after Douglas Adams died, he claimed that no one would care if Terry Pratchett were to die (I’m pretty sure that Philip, in his mellowed older age, no longer believes this to be the case). Well, Terry’s not yet dead – I’m predicting thirty more years of peak mental performance, which will not see his work degenerate into increasingly depraved sex scenes (I’m looking at you, the remainder of the fantasy writing world) – so I say keep on rocking, and I will embark on that rereading jaunt after all, if only between books.