“In a distant and second-hand set of dimensions, in an astral plane that was never meant to fly, the curling star-mists waver and part …” (opening lines of The Colour of Magic)
I was in my early teens when my uncle Tony opened up his bookcase to me, and amongst the horror stories of Stephen King and Richard Laymon, Dean Koontz’s thrillers, Tolkien and JK Rowling’s fantasy, the Discworld series. It was the logical progression to go from Middle-Earth to Discworld, in the same way that the teenage years lead to young adulthood. Sir Terry’s stories started off as yet another fantasy series in The Colour of Magic, but steadily developed into more, as did I by reading them. Underneath the adventure and comedy lay musings of life’s most important issues. In Small Gods, which will always have a place in my heart, there is talk of religion and belief. He talks of justice, love, art (“He knew in his heart that spinning upside down around a pole wearing a costume you could floss with definitely was not Art, and being painted lying on a bed wearing nothing but a smile and a small bunch of grapes was good solid Art, but putting your finger on why this was the case was a bit tricky.” – from Thud)… Everything. Ultimately, he talks about what it means to be human.
‘HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.’ (Hogfather)
If ever humanity was successfully summed up in less than a hundred tomes, here it is. And coming from Death’s eternally grinning mouth, nonetheless. You cannot but admire Sir Terry’s simultaneous appreciation of humanity’s shortcomings and his love for us having gotten this far inspire of that. He believes that the one crime is to treat people as objects, as illustrated so often by Granny Weatherwax, but especially in Carpe Jugulum:
‘There’s no greys, only white that’s got grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.’
‘It’s a lot more complicated than that -’
‘No. It ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.’
Words cannot begin to describe the sense of loss I feel at the loss of the man whose words have shaped more than any other author. He formed so much of who I am and how I view the world that it feels like a beloved distant uncle passed away, except that he’s one whom the whole world owes tremendous gratitude for making it infinitely better.