Terence David John Pratchett (28 April 1948 — 12 March 2015) was a British Fantasy author and Archmage of Tropeomancy.1 A Knight Bachelor (i.e. Sir Terry Pratchett OBE), he was described as the most shoplifted author in Britain (belying an American critic who once claimed that he hadn't found his audience).
Pratchett was most famous for the Discworld series, but this was not his only work. Some of the other stuff he's written includes:
- The Carpet People (his first novel) and the Nomes Trilogy (aka The Bromeliad), three further books on a similar theme, aimed at children.
- The Dark Side of the Sun and Strata, his first two adult novels.
- The Johnny Maxwell Trilogy for children. Only You Can Save Mankind has been adapted for radio, the other two for TV.
- Good Omens, a collaboration with Neil Gaiman. A mini-series was released on May 31, 2019.
- Nation - a non-Discworld fantasy children's novel, released 11 September 2008.
- The Long Earth - A science fiction series co-written with Stephen Baxter. The first book was released 19 June 2012.
- Dodger, a Dickensian story featuring Charles Dickens himself, released 13 September 2012.
- The Unadulterated Cat: An allegedly nonfiction book about the wonders of Real Cats (1989)
Pratchett's trademark was his sense of humor — relying on wordplay, spoofing mythology and popular culture (though he usually didn't include current events in his work lest the books become dated), and publishing in genres ranging from fantasy to detective fiction to political thriller (often combining all three), rarely has there been found a phrase that he could not turn, and there are few subjects that Pterry (as his fans have affectionately dubbed him) wouldn't make at least a passing attempt to skewer on the end of a sharp metaphor.
Outside of fiction, Pratchett was well-known for his sharp wit and keen awareness of human nature (and the innumerable failings thereof); one of his more popular quotes claims that the fundamental problem of the human race is that we're trying to achieve world peace and understand the very structure of the universe "using a language which was designed to tell one another where the best fruit was."
He was a trustee of the Orangutan Foundation, by virtue of a liking for the animal and featuring it in the Discworld series as the Librarian.
Pratchett was also known to have been One of Us (the Luggage, for example, was originally created for a game of Dungeons & Dragons he played) and enjoyed a few computer games like Doom, Half-Life 2 and fan missions of Thief. His daughter Rhianna is a writer for video games, notably the Overlord series, Mirror's Edge, Heavenly Sword and the reboot of Tomb Raider - he has stated that he is happy for her to take over running Discworld, although she won't be writing new books. She once stated, "Theyre sacred, theyre Dads legacy and Im the protector of Discworld and that means protecting it from myself as well."
In 2007, Pratchett announced that he had been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's, which he typically referred to as an "embuggerance". He didn't let it get him down, though his condition advanced to the point where he couldn't write or type. (Not that that stopped him releasing a book or two a year through dictation.) Also in typical fashion, he said that while he appreciated the sentiment, he asked that only those fans of his with a background in the study of brain chemistry ask him questions like, "Is there anything I can do?"
Pratchett had said that the Discworld series would probably never end; what will end Discworld, he said, is sheer overcrowding — the City Watch books were already problematic in that regard, as it's hard to write a story set in Ankh-Morpork that doesn't somehow involve the Watch (at which point it becomes a Watch book, regardless of his original plot outline), which presumably explains the creation of protagonist Moist Von Lipwig, who by virtue of his past profession was able to be both a powerful and influential city figure while wishing to have nothing to do with the Watch.
Pratchett became Sir Terry, after being included in the 2008 Christmas Honours list, and was reportedly "flabbergasted". In celebration, he had a sword forged from Thunderbolt Iron. In 2010, he received his coat of arms. That same year, he became Professor at Trinity College, Dublin. In 2012, he ran Narrativia Productions, which is in charge of all future adaptations of his work, including the Good Omens TV series and Terry Pratchett's The Watch. (Narrativia is the Goddess of Narrative, who manifests whenever aspects of a story neatly fit together in a way the writer hadn't expected.)
The events leading up to Pratchett's passing would honestly not look out of place in one of his own books. At a con in 2009, he announced, "I will not die of Alzheimer's. I shall make other arrangements; I'm going to take the disease with me." Sure enough, in 2011, he began the process that would lead to his eventual assisted death.
In 2010, Pratchett became the first-ever novelist (with the assistance of his good friend Tony Robinson) to give a Richard Dimbleby Lecture on this subject titled Shaking Hands With Death. It can be seen here. In 2014, he withdrew from public appearances due to the development of his Alzheimer's, and ultimately succumbed to the disease on March 12, 2015. Though he had made all preparations for his death and had full intentions of carrying through with his earlier promise, Pratchett ultimately died of natural causes, passing away peacefully in his sleep while surrounded by his family and cat.
Shortly afterwards, Pratchett's assistant Rob Wilkins posted a series◊ of tweets that went on to become one of the most remembered (and tear-jerking) aspects of the mass grieving that followed the news.
The BBC broadcast a docudrama about his life, Back in Black, in 2017. Also in that year, his computer hard drive with all his unfinished work was destroyed by a steamroller per his request.
Tropes associated with Pratchett's work include:
- Author Appeal: A self-confessed humanist (albeit a bad one by his own admission), his work carries a strong theme of supernatural beings developing a love/fascination towards humans. Death came to develop compassion towards humans and it nearly cost him his role as the grim reaper, Aziraphale and Crowley grew attached to humanity due to spending thousands of years together with them, and Granny Weatherwax's personality affected the vampires.
- Contest Winner Cameo: Pratchett sometimes auctioned off naming rights to minor characters for charity.
- Cool Sword: Once he received his Knighthood, Sir Terry proceeded to commission a sword to go with his new rank. It, of course, was forged from Meteoric Iron.
- Creator Cameo: Has a cameo in each of the Discworld TV movies, and played a cop in one scene of the Good Omens radio show. Since Pratchett's death, Paul Kaye who portrayed him in Back in Black also does his cameos: Kaye is the nuclear power plant PR man in Good Omens (2019).
- Died During Production: Pratchett passed away on March 12, 2015. The last book he wrote (The Shepherd's Crown, the fifth Tiffany Aching book in the Discworld series) was published posthumously, and since his daughter Rhianna has stated that she will be the "caretaker" of Discworld but not write any books for it herself, this book marks the end of the series. Per his wishes, his in-progress works were all destroyed. With a steamroller.
- Face Death with Dignity: Pratchett was never afraid of dying and made his Latin motto "Noli Timere Messorem"? on his coat of arms.◊ His interpretation of the grim reaper is his most praised character.I think a wise man thinks of death as a friend. If that death comes later, rather than on the first day.
- Fourth Wall Shut-In Story: The short story "Final Reward" has a Barbarian Hero, following his death, arriving in the hall of his "creator"; that is, the fantasy writer who invented him. The writer has increasing trouble dealing with his houseguest, especially when the barbarian quickly adjusts to the real world, and is soon more successful and popular than the writer. At the end of the story, the writer escapes by creating a new series set on the same world and writing himself in as the central character. The barbarian discovers the author gone, and on finding the unfinished manuscript realises what has happened. He decides to continue the series and write a good life for his creator.
- He Also Did: He helped write dialogue for a The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion mod.
- Humanity Is Infectious: He was fond of using this trope in his works. His interpretation of supernatural beings (i.e Death and angels and demons), were commonly described as more human in virtue due to their interactions with humanity.
- Line to God: He was active on the Usenet group alt.fan.pratchett for a while in The '90s.
- Painting the Medium: He was extremely skilled at this. One character might have all their speech boldened to represent their inhumanly deep voice. Another might have it italicized to convey how seedy they sounded. Another Might Have The First Letter Of Each Word Capitalized To Convey A Slow And Robotic Tone. Another still might have their words printed in a different color to convey otherworldliness.
- Refugee from TV Land: The short story "Final Reward" has a Barbarian Hero, following his death, arriving in the hall of his "creator"; that is, the fantasy writer who invented him.
- Riddle for the Ages: As noted below, the hard drive containing the ten books he was still working on at the time of his death was destroyed in 2017. As such, the general public will never know their contents.
- Tuckerization: Some characters (particularly Hodgesaargh, the falconer of Lancre) are based on particularly memorable fans.
- What Could Have Been:
- We almost had a Warhammer novel written by him.
- After his death, it was revealed that he had ten books that were left unfinished. Instead of being finished by others (his daughter ruled herself out of continuing his Discworld series), the hard drive containing said works was crushed by a steamroller in August 2017 as according to his will, he didn't want anyone to either finish or publish them.
Terry took Deaths arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night.
The End. - three of the last Twitter messages on Pratchett's account.
1. and footnotes2
2. Not David Foster Wallace?