Such sad news today about the death of writer Terry Pratchett, creator and chronicler of the Discworld.
His books are remarkable blends of fantasy, humour and stark reality, often exposing and examining the worst aspects of our world and our prejudices, our mean dishonesties and fears in the light of wry, dry humour. His diverse characters (humans, trolls, elves, gnomes, dwarves,dragons…) also celebrate the noble, surprising and striving aspects of human nature, the small, vital kindnesses people show to each other. The books are stuffed full, like a rich fruitcake, with references to popular culture, history, and science. There are dragons and there is magic, but neither is approached like you might think, and the various peoples and lands of Discworld (which is carried by four elephants, on the back of a turtle, swimming through space) are beautifully observed, their roots very much in the people of our world.
Discworld, and its premier city Anhk-Morpork (I always like seeing the name – a Morepork or Ruru is a small NZ native owl, that makes a call that sounds like it is saying “More Pork”), seem to exist in some oddly similar, utterly dissimilar, almost-English 15th or 16th century – but it works. I heard him explain once that he was most interested in the mechanics of making a city work, how the streets were paved, the waste dealt with, how to contain the wilder behaviours of an amorphous, disparate population, how changes in technology have ripple effects beyond their primary use, and what changes occur in a society as time pass.
I met him several times over the years, at events for various bookshops here and in the UK, he was always polite and friendly and the voice he spoke with was very much the voice he wrote in. He was kind and patient with the lines of fans, queuing with their books (they’d bring them all – his 40th in the series was published last year) for him to sign.
In 1995, scientists at the University of Otago discovered a new species of fossil turtle, and named it Psephophorus terrypratchetti, (see page 373, under Etymology)and when Terry Pratchett was on a book tour here several years ago, he went and visited it over at the Geology Museum.