When a prolific author dies, despite the billions of words on millions of pages left behind, there lies a void into which the words of the living fail in their insufficiency to address and fill the emptiness.
If I were to write it as news, I would say:
After a 44-year career, over 70 books translated into 37 languages, and a long battle with Alzheimer’s, the world lost one of its brightest literary minds, Sir Terry Pratchett. He died of natural causes at age 66, despite campaigning for assisted suicide after his diagnosis. The announcement was made through the author’s Twitter account through a series of four tweets by assistant Rob Wilkins, the first of which was in the voice of one of Pratchett’s most beloved characters, Death, and the last of which simply said “The End.”
I could try to analyze his works:
Pratchett’s Discworld was an amazing satirical creation that challenged traditional fantasy as well as the modern world, but presented a dissenting view in an accessible way. “There is nothing spiteful, nothing bitter or sarcastic in his humour,” said Phillip Pullman. And that is perhaps what made him so trusted by his readers He did not make the world gentle or kind, after all, “…Fate plays chess, and you don’t find out til too late that he’s been playing with two queens all along.” Pratchett certainly was not a jolly man, not some sprightly old fool waiting to take Death by the hand. He knew his demons; he fought with them and loathed the idea of “going gently,” but his embodiment of Death in his novels was also one of his best beloved characters.
Or I could try to begin with the roots of my own discovery of the author:
I fell in love with Discworld through the Tiffany Aching books and the Nac Mac Feegle (“They can tak’ oour lives but they canna tak’ oour troosers” and “Nac Mac Feegle! The Wee Free Men! Nae king! Nae quin! Nae laird! Nae master! We willna’ be fooled again!”)—the exchange between Tiffany and Miss Tick that results in the advice “If you trust in yourself…and believe in your dreams…and follow your star…you’ll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren’t so lazy” had me hooked. His writing was full of such simple, honest straightforward, common sense exchanges and somehow, that was more magical than the Elves of Middle Earth or Hogwarts, or Stormhold. The magic made sense, and magic “doesn’t stop being magic because you know how it works.”
But while all of these things are true, they are still insufficient. Because none touches on the fact that it is not just the loss of Pratchett we face, but the loss of Discworld, or any of his books. There will be no more. A world ends abruptly; we can only return to it as history. Somehow, Pratchett lived his satire. The world he created reflected ours so well, seemed as permanent as ours. But it is not. And the impermanence of Discworld reminds us how fragile and tenuous our own world is. No one, except maybe Death has the last laugh. And only Pratchett can ever have any claim of walking with Death as an old friend. No words can fill that gap, the loss of a future. Perhaps, the most we can do is pick up our favorites tomes of his, let his narrative build a world around us, and remember why his voice was so important to us, why it helped us love to read, and how it taught us to see the world around us. And for a moment, while we read, while we remember, let’s let silence hold ‘the bubble of the world in its grip.’