Library Moments: Terry Pratchett

Bessie Sullivan, County Librarian: Hello, I’m Bessie Sullivan from the Haliburton County Public Library and this is Library Moments. Once a week some of us from the library will come and talk about books, upcoming events, or the services we offer at the library.

On March 12, 2015 prolific writer Terry Pratchett died at 66.  Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2008, Terry wrote almost to the end and both advocated for and gave money to alzheimer’s research.

He “enriched the planet like few before him with great skill, enormous humour and constant invention,” said his publisher Larry Finlay.

Today on Library Moments, Sherrill Sherwood, Erin Kernohan-Berning, and I will talk about the man himself, his writing and his influence.

sir terry and the birdsSherrill Sherwood, Collections Development: The literary world would be different had Terry Pratchett been gifted with math proficiency. Born in England in 1948, Pratchett’s wish was to be an astronomer. Thankfully for his many fans, he turned his attention elsewhere when he realized his math skills weren’t good enough for his desired profession. British and American science fiction caught his whimsy and he began attending science fiction conventions sometime around 1963. A fateful meeting with the co-director of a small publishing company led to journalist Pratchett’s first published novel in 1971, The Carpet People, which he illustrated himself. Knighted in 2009, Pratchett remarked that now everyone would know that he was married to a lady, something he had been aware of for many years. Married to Lyn Purves in 1968, their daughter Rhianna is an award winning video game writer. He is survived by both.sir terry and transdimensional beings Diagnosed with a rare form of Alzheimer’s disease in 2007, Pratchett made a million-dollar donation to the Alzheimer’s Research Trust. His fans were inspired to launch the “Match it for Pratchett” internet fundraising campaign. He became a vocal champion of the right to die, disliking the term “assisted suicide”. “The sanctity of life should not,” he said “come at the expense of dignity, since for some people lack of dignity would be reason enough to die.” Asked why he chose to write fantasy, Pratchett would recall Chesterton’s view; that the purpose of fantasy is to show the reader the everyday world, from an entirely different perspective.

good omensErin Kernohan-Berning, Branch Services Librarian: Terry Pratchett wrote, on average, 2 books every year. His writing cut across age groups – adult, young adult, and junior – and included both fiction and nonfiction – all of which can be found inside and outside of his expansive Discworld series. Pratchett also co-wrote stories with many popular authors including, one of my favourites, Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch with Neil Gaiman who described the process as akin to having Michelangelo call you up and ask you to paint a ceiling with him.

The bulk of his work was on the 41 volume Discworld series, a comic fantasy set on the fictional Discworld, a flat disc balanced on the backs of four elephants which stand on the back of a giant turtle. The first Discworld book, The Colour of Magic, was published in 1983, and features the reluctant hero, Rincewind, a failed wizard who spends most of his time running away from things, and who solves minor problems by turning them into major disasters.

Image from

Image from

The final book in the series written by Pratchett, The Shepherd’s Crown, is expected to be published in September of this year and features Tiffany Aching, a witch who has grown up throughout the Discworld series. Terry Pratchett designated his daughter custodian of Discworld upon his death. She has said that she will likely not write any additional novels, but will ‘hold the reins’ of the series and manage whatever the future holds for it.

Pratchett’s final books were written primarily through dictation to his longtime assistant Rob Wilkins. The books in the Discworld series may be read as standalone stories, even though they share the same fantasy world and recurring characters. One of Pratchett’s characters, Death, was often featured in the books with the dialogue of the character always presented in small caps without quotation marks, his voice simply occurring within the minds of the characters he encountered. The announcement of Pratchett’s death on Twitter followed this format as a small scene between the author and Death posted by Rob Wilkins with Death announcing:

Bessie: Neil Gaiman was not only influenced by Terry Pratchett but also considered him a friend,  he states, “It is that sense of fairness that underlies Terry’s work and his writing, and it’s what drove him from school to journalism to the press office of the SouthWestern Electricity Board to the position of being one of the best-loved and bestselling writers in the world.”

Illustration by John Cuneo from The Guardian.

Illustration by John Cuneo from The Guardian.

One blogger stated that Terry Pratchett made him a better father, that Pratchett’s works, “nudged me towards a certain mindset that absolutely influenced how I handled being the father of a female human.”

Tim Chivers of Buzzfeed sums it up nicely he says, “I do know that it would feel dishonest, on the day of Pratchett’s death, not to talk about what he wanted from his death. I hope he got it. But I know that he would want someone to point out that the laws in this country make it less likely that he did.  Anyway. Thank you, Sir Terry, for the last 24 years of my life. They would have been very different, and nowhere near as good, if it weren’t for you.”

Prolific and bestselling authors can have a profound effect on a generation.  Terry Pratchett was well loved and will be missed.  If you are curious about his writing the Haliburton County Public Library has 23, soon to be 24 works by Terry Pratchett. That’s it for today’s episode of library moments and thank you for tuning in here on 100.9 CanoeFM.

*Originally aired on 100.9 CANOE FM March 22nd – 28th, 2015.


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