Today is the Glorious 25th of May. For those of you who have read Nightwatch by Sir Terry Pratchett, you know what this means – for those of you who haven’t, suffice to say it’s now an anniversary to remember that writer’s works.
In brief, the 25th of May is a crucial date in the novel, in which a few brave men did the job they didn’t have to do, and died in the attempt. I highly suggest you read it. It’s the single darkest Discworld book, but it has some wonderfully awful puns in there too, and it’ll make you think.
Actually I suggest you read all of the Discworld books. (Don’t start with The Color of Magic, though. Start with Mort or Guards! Guards! or The Wyrd Sisters. There are flow charts. I’m serious.) They’re cleverly written, but not in such a way as to make you feel stupid while reading it. The characterization takes stereotypes and turns them on their heads, with humor and with thoughtfulness. The footnotes are truly hilarious. The plotlines expose the pettiness and awfulness of people, then say, “it doesn’t have to be that way,” and then show how it can be better. In short, the Discworld series is everything I look for in a book.
I discovered the Disc through Neil Gaiman, actually. It’s a funny popcorn linearity as to how. From the Stardust movie coming out in 2007, and reading that book before seeing the movie, to recognizing Gaiman’s name on the spine of Good Omens in my high school library – and then recognizing Pratchett’s name on the spine of Carpe Jugulum, also in my high school library. I was fourteen, and Agnes Nitt was exactly the protagonist I needed. The rest, as they say, is history.
I don’t think I’m the only person who cried when they found out Sir Terry had passed in 2015. He was clever and kind and angry, and he felt like a third grandfather to me despite never having actually met the man. His books have outlined my life for the past eight years, and I expect that they will continue to do so even if there aren’t any more new ones. No, I still haven’t read The Shepherd’s Crown. I know that I should. But it still feels too much like saying goodbye.
As a fantasy/sci fi writer, Sir Terry reached thousands of people. He never talked down to the reader. His characters felt real. There was wit and warmth and kindness in his words. And if I can aspire to a quarter of what he accomplished, I’ll consider it a job well done.