Thoughts on Pratchett – [Part 1]

Earlier this year, when I was in Germany on tour, Terry Pratchett died.

It didn’t come as a complete shock. We’ve known for ages that he was sick. We’ve had years to brace for the inevitable impact.

Even so, it hit me surprisingly hard. I hadn’t expected that.

Odds are, if you know much anything about me, you know I’ve been a fan of Pratchett for years. If you follow me on goodreads you’ve seen me write reviews so gushy that they border on the inarticulate.

Terry Pratchett – Facing Extinction

I didn’t know him. Honestly, I didn’t even know too much about him. I saw him speak once at a convention in Madison, and got to meet him very briefly. I wrote about it on the blog.

The fact remains that his work (and a few of the things I knew about him) had a huge impact on me.

So… yeah. It hit me kinda hard.

If you’re in your 20’s and 30’s and reading this blog on the interweb, it may be hard for you to understand that our opinions about authors used to come almost entirely from reading their books. Even after the internet crawled gasping onto the devonian shore of the 1990’s things like social media and author blogs simply didn’t exist in any meaningful way.

As a result, one of my first exposures to Terry Pratchett as a person was in an interview in the Onion back in 1995. Just to give you an idea of the time frame. That was back when you could pick up a copy of The Onion printed on paper. What’s more, it available *only* on paper, and even then, you could only get it in my home town of Madison, WI.

What Pratchett said in that interview had a big effect on me, as I’d been working on my own novel for a couple years at that point.

It took some digging (as I said, this was published pre-internet) but here’s the interview:

O: What’s with the big-ass hat?

Pratchett: Ah… That’s the hat I wear. I don’t know, it… It… That hat, or types like it, I’ve worn for years and years. Because I bought one, and I liked it. And then people started taking photographs of me in it, and now, certainly in the UK, it’s almost a case of if I don’t turn up in my hat people don’t know who I am. So maybe I could just send this hat to signings. I just like hats. I like Australian book tours, because Australians are really, I mean that is the big hat country, Australia.

O: You’re quite a writer. You’ve a gift for language, you’re a deft hand at plotting, and your books seem to have an enormous amount of attention to detail put into them. You’re so good you could write anything. Why write fantasy?

Pratchett: I had a decent lunch, and I’m feeling quite amiable. That’s why you’re still alive. I think you’d have to explain to me why you’ve asked that question.

O: It’s a rather ghettoized genre.

P: This is true. I cannot speak for the US, where I merely sort of sell okay. But in the UK I think every book— I think I’ve done twenty in the series— since the fourth book, every one has been one the top ten national bestsellers, either as hardcover or paperback, and quite often as both. Twelve or thirteen have been number one. I’ve done six juveniles, all of those have nevertheless crossed over to the adult bestseller list. On one occasion I had the adult best seller, the paperback best-seller in a different title, and a third book on the juvenile bestseller list. Now tell me again that this is a ghettoized genre.

O: It’s certainly regarded as less than serious fiction.

P:  (Sighs) Without a shadow of a doubt, the first fiction ever recounted was fantasy. Guys sitting around the campfire— Was it you who wrote the review? I thought I recognized it— Guys sitting around the campfire telling each other stories about the gods who made lightning, and stuff like that. They did not tell one another literary stories. They did not complain about difficulties of male menopause while being a junior lecturer on some midwestern college campus. Fantasy is without a shadow of a doubt the ur-literature, the spring from which all other literature has flown. Up to a few hundred years ago no one would have disagreed with this, because most stories were, in some sense, fantasy. Back in the middle ages, people wouldn’t have thought twice about bringing in Death as a character who would have a role to play in the story. Echoes of this can be seen in Pilgrim’s Progress, for example, which hark back to a much earlier type of storytelling. The epic of Gilgamesh is one of the earliest works of literature, and by the standard we would apply now— a big muscular guys with swords and certain godlike connections— That’s fantasy. The national literature of Finland, the Kalevala. Beowulf in England. I cannot pronounce Bahaghvad-Gita but the Indian one, you know what I mean. The national literature, the one that underpins everything else, is by the standards that we apply now, a work of fantasy.

Now I don’t know what you’d consider the national literature of America, but if the words Moby Dick are inching their way towards this conversation, whatever else it was, it was also a work of fantasy. Fantasy is kind of a plasma in which other things can be carried. I don’t think this is a ghetto. This is, fantasy is, almost a sea in which other genres swim. Now it may be that there has developed in the last couple of hundred years a subset of fantasy which merely uses a different icongraphy, and that is, if you like, the serious literature, the Booker Prize contender. Fantasy can be serious literature. Fantasy has often been serious literature. You have to fairly dense to think that Gulliver’s Travels is only a story about a guy having a real fun time among big people and little people and horses and stuff like that. What the book was about was something else. Fantasy can carry quite a serious burden, and so can humor. So what you’re saying is, strip away the trolls and the dwarves and things and put everyone into modern dress, get them to agonize a bit, mention Virginia Woolf a few times, and there! Hey! I’ve got a serious novel. But you don’t actually have to do that.

(Pauses) That was a bloody good answer, though I say it myself.

I’m looking forward to buying myself a cheese hat.

O: Back to the hat.

P: Let’s go back to the hat… Everybody needs an edge, and if the hat gives you an edge, why not wear a hat? When you get started writing, you’re one of the crowd. If the hat helps, I’ll wear a hat— I’ll wear two hats! In fact, I’m definitely going to buy a cheese hat before I leave here. We’ve never heard of them in the UK, and I can see it as being the latest thing in fashion.

Okay, you can turn the tape back off again.

I actually remember where I was when I read that. Right now, twenty years later, I remember where I was sitting as I held the paper and read it.

I’m not going to be cliche and say it changed my life.

You know what? I am. I’m going to say it. It changed my life.

Remember what year this was. It was 1995. This was before Harry Potter was written. Before Neil Gaiman wrote Neverwhere.

Pixar has just released its first movie. There was no Matrix. No Sixth Sense. No Lord of The Rings movies. Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy were a decade away.

There was no Game of Thrones on HBO. Hell, there wasn’t even Legend of the Seeker. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was 2 years away, and even more years from being recognized as brilliant television, rather than silly fluff with vampires.

I had been writing my fantasy novel for about two years, and while I loved fantasy, I knew deep down, it was something I should feel ashamed of. Fantasy novels were the books I read as a kid, and people picked on me for it. There were no classes on the subject at the University. I knew deep down in my bones that no matter how much I happened to love fantasy, it was all silly bullshit.

Even these days, people look down on fantasy. They think of it as kid stuff. They dismiss it as worthless. They say not real literature. People say that *NOW* despite the fact that Game of Thrones and The Hobbit and Avengers and Harry Potter are bigger than The Beatles.

That’s NOW. If you weren’t around back then, you really can’t begin to understand how much worse it was. When I told people I was working on a fantasy novel, a lot of people wouldn’t even really know what I was talking about.

I would say, “I’m writing a fantasy novel” and people would look at me with earnest confusion and concern in their eyes, and they would say, “Why?”

Then I read that article, and it filled me with hope. With pride.

*     *     *

I’ve got more to say on this, but this blog is already really long. And I’m leaving for PAX in the morning, so I’ll save the rest for next week

Be good to each other everyone,


This entry was posted in emo bullshit, European Adventures, Fantasy, Stories about stories., the longest fucking blog ever, the man behind the curtain, travel abroad. By Pat77 Responses


  1. Jezdynamite
    Posted August 25, 2015 at 1:18 AM | Permalink

    Thanks Pat.

  2. Posted August 25, 2015 at 1:50 AM | Permalink

    Why do your blog posts always make me cry? That’s not manly!

    Curse you, Pat Rothfuss. Curse you!!!

    • Posted August 25, 2015 at 2:43 AM | Permalink

      We’re taking crying back, brah. It’s totally manly now.

      • SidAlpha
        Posted August 25, 2015 at 8:11 AM | Permalink

        With a beard like that, Pat, I am pretty sure you could do anything and make it manly.

      • Posted August 25, 2015 at 6:54 PM | Permalink

        Suddenly this salty face water is making me feel more powerful than ever! And all it took was the power of Rothfussy thinking. Huzzah!

    • J McK
      Posted August 25, 2015 at 12:47 PM | Permalink

      Nothing unmanly about it. My book just arrived by courier five minutes ago and I seem to have something in my eye. Still haven’t opened it yet, it’s like reading a will or something.

  3. Kotgewitter
    Posted August 25, 2015 at 3:36 AM | Permalink

    I nerver read a book from Terry Pratchett.
    I just realised i SHOULD read a book from Terry Pratchett.

    But before i search for myself i like to ask the mighty pat for suggestions and buy every titel he names.

    • laura118b
      Posted August 25, 2015 at 8:01 AM | Permalink

      I know I’m not Pat, but this might help. An excellent chart showing the novels in order by sub group of characters. I personally dislike Rincewind and would recommend Guards Guards, Equal Rights, or Mort as good starting points.

      • chiromo
        Posted August 25, 2015 at 8:25 AM | Permalink

        I am also not Pat. And unlike Pat I’ve never read a Pratchett book either. I have a to-do to rectify this gaping hole in my reading experience. I’ve asked around a bit, done the googling, and found a chart like the one above – it filled me with both a sense of dread, and one of anticipation – SUCH a world to dig into! But with so many starting points, so many cross references, where to begin!?!? And finally to the point of this post – some readers I trust have suggested that reading them in the published order is a perfectly acceptable way of experiencing their majesty.

        I don’t know how it compares to reading them in another order, but having a plan made the task seem easier. Good luck Kotgewitter! I hope our reading lives up to the expectations we have.

        • kelbeaner
          Posted August 25, 2015 at 8:44 AM | Permalink

          I love the world of Discworld! I’m sad to hear you didn’t like Rincewind. I loved Rincewind! Such a goofy wizard just trying to unbeaten the crazy world that defines common sense. That being said all of Discworld books are fantastic. I just feel you will miss out on learning so much about the beautiful crazy world if you don’t meet the traveler.
          Oh and don’t be intimidated by all the novels. It’s worth the leap!

          • laura118b
            Posted August 25, 2015 at 10:06 AM | Permalink

            Eh, he just never clicked for me. I like Ponder, Ridicully is great, I use the Librarian as an avatar in places, but Rincewind leaves me cold.

        • josh
          Posted August 25, 2015 at 9:20 AM | Permalink

          I second the idea of just reading in the published order. I was more than a little daunted by the number of Discworld novels in the beginning, especially since there were 25-30 of them already published by the time I got started. The first few may be a little rough, but they set the stage, and do so very well. The Colour of Magic is still one of my favorites.

          As the series moves on I remember being a bit disappointed when I found out the next book I was starting wasn’t about one of my favorite characters. More often than not, it turned out that the list of characters I was eager to read just ended up growing. By the time I got towards the end of my Discworld journey they all felt like old friends. I couldn’t name one favorite character out of them as they all have their own unique traits and characteristics that made them so fun to read.

          Pratchett’s passing left the world just a little more dim, and I was extremely sad when it happened. Suffice to say the world he built for us is an amazing place, whatever order you choose to read them in will be fine.

        • Beni
          Posted September 24, 2015 at 9:11 PM | Permalink

          Hey What a coincidence I am also not Patrick Rothfuss. I don’t even have a beard but I have read all the Pratchett novels – every one (except the very latest like Raising Steam) at least 4 times. (that is over about 17 years btw).
          I was so pleased to discover that Pat has said he has taken moral and sociological messages from Pratchett’t writing! Having grown up reading them I sometimes find it hard to distinguish between real world moral aphorisms/jokes/references and Discworld ones. I found myself using the phrase “As rich as Creosote” instead of Croesus and not realising why everyone looked at me funny which is a little bit alarming since I normally know why everyone looks at me funny!

          Short answer:
          I thoroughly recommend reading in publication order for a first read. If you are on your second pass dot around no problem.

          Reasons if you are interested:
          1, The world changes, it is subtle and it is wonderful to behold since you can literally feel Pratchett creating the world as he goes.
          2, The characters have long term story arcs between books – that might seem like a reason to read, for example, all the Vimes books together. It isn’t for me because he elbows his way into other books that don’t feature him strongly and it is great to know who he is at that time. All the characters benefit from an up to date perspective (that is not too far behind, and not too far ahead).
          3, similar to the last point… all the books are sequels. None of them go back in time (well not exactly) so if you read them in publication order you get the kind of character arc of the world (in the story’s own chronological order) and individual places/groups of people which is one of the best things about these books.
          4. Allot of the humour is self referencing (allot is not too but…there is lots of humour). And enough of that humour is character based humour from other story arcs (like the Librarian (Wizard story arc) might appear in a Death novel). If you know the Librarian as much as Pratchett has currently imagined him in his native environment at the time of writing it all works. If you don’t know him s0 well it probably still works but the references are not as strong.

          You can still enjoy them other ways. I just recommend that for a first read.

      • baronfunke
        Posted August 25, 2015 at 12:44 PM | Permalink

        That chart is a great tool, but I would strongly recommend reading them in published order – you jump around a lot, but it helps you figure out who and what you like (Most von Lipwig is one of my favorites). Taking breaks from each set of characters brings them more clearly into focus for me.

        Once you’ve read them in order, then go back to the chart and read them by story (I’m just finishing up that task, which I started the day he died).

    • Magrat
      Posted August 25, 2015 at 9:30 AM | Permalink

      As a NotRothfuss, I humbly suggest starting with Feet of Clay. It’s a leap past Vimes’s formative years, but I think counts as one of Pratchet’s Ur-Novels, and one of his best. You can go back and watch Vimes struggle with the nature of his inner darkness afterwards.

      DO NOT miss Night Watch, but read Guards Guards, Men At Arms, Feet of Clay, Jingo, and Fifth Elephant first for maximum catharsis. Then read Thud, with Snuff as a chaser. I’d read some Dorothy Sayers or watch some Jeeves and Wooster in between so you can fully appreciate Willikins as a character.

      If you’re one who can’t be having with people, then start with the Witches, and don’t omit the Tiffany Aching stories.

      If you’re one who likes your archetypes literal, then Mort is your boy, but don’t neglect Lu-Tze.

      If you’re trapped in a bureaucracy, Rincewind is right there with you, and Moist will play along until he steals your stapler.

      • Beni
        Posted September 24, 2015 at 9:15 PM | Permalink

        I prescribe to the order of publication but this is wonderful advice – especially the Jeeves and Wooster tip! Especially of you are not so familiar with slightly dated (classic and timeless but dated none the less) UK comedy it can really help highlight what he is playing with.

    • matt campbell
      Posted August 25, 2015 at 10:19 AM | Permalink

      Why not start at the beginning? They’re short and easy reads. The Color of Magic was good, but I was really sold Pratchett during book 2, The Light Fantastic. It had me laughing out loud pretty frequently.

    • Posted August 25, 2015 at 10:34 AM | Permalink

      My first suggestion: Start with Equal Rites. Read them in order and realize the books get steadily better from there.

      Second suggestion: Guards Guards! It’s a little further into the series. But it’s a great place for anyone to start the series.

      Wherever you start, I do recommend you read them in order, as the world grows and changes as the books come out. It’s not as sequential as the Dresden files, but you will lose something if you just read them all higgledy-piggeldy.

      • Kotgewitter
        Posted August 26, 2015 at 5:53 AM | Permalink

        I thank pat and every ‘not-pat’ for their answers! Especially laura118b, the infografic is great!
        The first book is on the way.

  4. firebird
    Posted August 25, 2015 at 7:12 AM | Permalink

    Oh god I had hoped to never think about legend of the seeker again. Thanks.

    • Jsherry
      Posted August 25, 2015 at 9:38 PM | Permalink

      You know, if you watched the first season episodes of Legend of the Seeker out of order for a bit, so that you stopped trying to recall the much better plotline and characterizations in the novel and gritting your teeth at every deviation, the show became surprisingly palatable, and even better by the 2nd season (plus, they got Mord-sith leather really, really right).

  5. julie m
    Posted August 25, 2015 at 7:27 AM | Permalink

    I wonder if this blog would help to convince my book club members to read fantasy, sigh…

  6. gareth-r
    Posted August 25, 2015 at 7:46 AM | Permalink

    I remember reading wheel of time in high school and being amazed and losing days reading it, but when I was asked ‘what are you reading so much’ hesitating to respond ‘it’s a fantasy novel’ . People ask me still what’s your favourite book/genre and I still hesitate and sigh internaly before I reply fantasy. As there 100% is a stigma and I know it’s not worth explaining the merits of fantasy literature to a judgey ‘that’s not real reading’ People.
    Thank you for sharing that interview, I wish I’d read it at 15 . I do love Terry pratchett’s work and I look forward to bringing this up the next time someone says ‘oh’ when I talk about my favourite books being fantasy.

  7. impsandthings
    Posted August 25, 2015 at 7:48 AM | Permalink

    Fascinating stuff (particularly about hats), especially for someone who started reading fantasy in the late 70’s when if you were lucky a bookshop had one case with Tolkien, R. E. Howard, Morcock and a bunch of D&D inspired drivel (please don’t mention Gor). When I first read Sir Terry’s work it was a revelation, here was a chap who I could relate to. I have read all his books, usually on the day of publication, ever since and when his last comes out later this week it will be a truly bittersweet read.

  8. outerspaceguy
    Posted August 25, 2015 at 7:55 AM | Permalink

    Well said!

  9. SmoochieWoo
    Posted August 25, 2015 at 8:08 AM | Permalink

    They used to have a Tolkien class back at the University in Madison in the late 80’s. Since I was a huge nerd I thought it was a great class and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The professor really made us think and although I don’t remember the exact wording of the essay question on the final it had to do with what why is fantasy relevant.
    I believe one of the reasons fantasy and science fiction is valuable is that it allows us as people to step outside our normal biases. If I am looking at the world through the eyes of a Theruvian princess or a Filliax slave I can understand their perspective. Maybe that allows me to have more empathy for my neighbor or coworker.

    Love the Onion interview Pat thank you for sharing it

  10. gryphia
    Posted August 25, 2015 at 8:14 AM | Permalink

    As I suspect Pat knows, but as other blog readers may not, Ursula Le Guin (in my opinion one of the greatest living authors, fantasy or otherwise, and a national treasure) has also been very active and vocal in defending fantasy as worthwhile literature over the years. Her essay Why Are Americans Afraid of Dragons is a classic one (from 1974!), but she’s made many such statements over the years. If you’re interested, google around a bit and you’ll find something. Or, better yet, go read her books.

    • gryphia
      Posted August 25, 2015 at 8:16 AM | Permalink

      Also, because the topic of the blog is Terry Pratchett, I should mention that I am a huge fan of his. His passing hit me hard, and I decided the best thing I could do was to pass along his work to other people. So I bought various books of his and gave them out to friends and family I thought would enjoy them.

    • Posted August 25, 2015 at 11:36 AM | Permalink

      Thank you for the link. That was wonderful and just what I needed today.

  11. Mickey
    Posted August 25, 2015 at 8:28 AM | Permalink

    The early days also held gems like Dragonlance, Magician, the Wheel of Time, A Wizard of Earthsea, Spellsinger and hundreds more. Before the web, and particularly in Apartheid South Africa, books had to be discovered the long, hard and adventurous way. Many works were banned by the govt because of their egalitarian nature and the prolifferance of allegory, so we had to get books and comics posted to us from the UK and U.S. Disguised as other types of literature. Reading our genres became something of a revolutionary/counter culture activism and forged many geeks into tight knit bands of outlaws destined to challenge the Empire ! Er…no wait a bit, that’s a different story, but the result was there nonetheless. Many of my closest friends to this day were brought into my life by a shared adventure of discovering fantasy by having to track down books and not simply clicking on an icon. I love the web, I really do, but the new generations have missed something in having never had to seek their own adventure.

    • baronfunke
      Posted August 27, 2015 at 11:46 AM | Permalink

      Man, I love Spellsinger. So few people know it…

  12. MommaAng
    Posted August 25, 2015 at 8:31 AM | Permalink

    I love this post Pat. Growing up my sister and I loved fantasy of any kind we could get our hands on but my mom thought for sure anything of the sort was witchcraft. My sister got a dragon ring with a book once and my mom went nuts and threw it away. And when I was in sixth grade we were reading in class ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ and she lost her shit because we were actually reading about witches. Apparently she didn’t know much about Lewis at the time. Haha…I can laugh now. But now fantasy is such a huge part of my life and I make it a part of my kid’s because I think it enriches their imagination and truly they love it too. If someone says fantasy is BS in my home I’ll burn them at the stake…you know with dragon fire and such.
    Oh and mom has calmed down quite a bit we even got her to watch the Hobbit. ;)

  13. Attradis
    Posted August 25, 2015 at 8:40 AM | Permalink

    Back in the high school I thought reading was for nerds. The only books I had read in my life were those the teachers made us read. I hated it. Really.

    Then I started writing some poetry. Just a 15 years old boy’s poems but they were worth the 1st place in the hight school contest and I got three books as prize. One of them was “Sourcery” by Pratchett. From that day I’ve been reading nearly every single day of my life. It’s hard to fall asleep without reading for some minutes, subway trips are too long without a book, life is too silly without being in the middle of a story… and it’s all because of Terry Pratchett.

    So I understand you, Pat. he changed my life too. His death made me feel somehow alone. Thanks for that interview that bought him closer for some minutes.

  14. Knightrous
    Posted August 25, 2015 at 8:48 AM | Permalink

    I am waiting for the email, saying that my slipcase copy of The Shepherd’s Crown is ready to be collected from the bookshop; I normally pick up the standard hardback release in whichever supermarket is selling it most cheaply, to be honest, but for this one that wasn’t going to be the case.

    I am, however, waiting with some trepidation.

    My first fear: is it going to read like a proper Pratchett book? Whilst I enjoyed Raising Steam, it was missing something, I think of it as Pratchett’s voice. Whilst it was his story, it felt like someone summarising his words rather than capturing his precise, exquisite tone; knowing that he was no longer able to use a keyboard, thanks to that imbuggerance, and that he was having to dictate his work to his assistant, I suspect that that is the cause of my discomfort.

    My second fear, the greater one: am I going to be able to finish it? As I near the end of most books, the realisation that the climax is approaching, I find myself struggling to put it down (especially in the early hours of the morning) and become fixated on finishing it, not wanting to interrupt those remaining paragraphs in their pursuit of the finale. This one, I fear, I’m going to find myself going slower and slower, not wanting to know that there is no more Discworld beyond the last full stop.

    • arachnid
      Posted September 10, 2015 at 10:35 AM | Permalink

      I’m suffering the same trepidation. I’m considering rereading the entire discworld series before finally reading The Shepherd’s Crown.

  15. Nick
    Posted August 25, 2015 at 8:51 AM | Permalink

    I love Pratchett, I remember when someone first got me to read his work. I was in the Navy and I had recently done some very stupid stuff, I wont go into that on hear, and I was pretty depressed as a result. I started off with guards guards. It made me laugh and at the time I needed it, needless to say I bought a rediculos amount of Discworld novels at that point. I kindabgot lost in all of the books for awhile. When I heard he dieded I didn’t believe it because well I figured that yeah he was sick but he had been for years. I left school and went fishing, I could care less about the fish its where I do a lot of my reading these days, and read guards guards. I didn’t laugh as much and I cried a little.

    • Posted August 25, 2015 at 10:21 AM | Permalink

      Guards Guards is one of the good starting places in the series, in my opinion. Makes for a good entry point to the series. You got lucky there…

  16. Speakofawe
    Posted August 25, 2015 at 8:55 AM | Permalink

    I had always had fantasy around me growing up in regards to books and film. Around that time, I was being encouraged to seek it out and enjoy the crap out of it. It saddens me that we tend to live in a society where we deprive ourselves of so many creative opportunities to really use our own imaginations and be inspired – it seems as though society as a whole, seems to be content to just judge more often rather than give something a chance. In this particular case, it’s not as though -giving fantasy a well deserved chance is harmful to anyone (as the only time giving something a chance isn’t so good – is when it harms yourself or others). Thank you for sharing Pat! At least there’s a lot of people that supported it than and will now – despite creepy drones, ignorant zombies, and husks of ghosts. <3 (Finally, it's worth mentioning that when I typed "Thank you for sharing" above, I managed to type "sharting" first).

  17. Constance
    Posted August 25, 2015 at 9:07 AM | Permalink

    Terry had such a way with words. He could make even the simplest of phrases magnificent. You mentioned passages that make you stop and weep because they hold some kind of special inner meaning for you — he has more than a few on me there.

    Miss him so much. I’m glad he… left before he had to take himself out. It’s hard to say but I feel like he was losing himself; bits of his soul slipping away piece by piece because of his illness. Perhaps it’s a kindness he met Death before he could lose all of himself.

  18. Posted August 25, 2015 at 9:13 AM | Permalink

    I have loved fantasy all my life, Pat (and I’m nearly a generation older than you are, so the problem of being taken seriously for reading it is something I know all about). When Terry’s books came along, I thought ‘Hallelujah’. Then I started reading The Light Fantastic – and I HATED it, even though I knew I should love this kind of writing. I think it was Rincewind and that bloody Luggage, to be honest. Anyway, some years passed. A lot of years, actually. Terry got a bit famous, but not THAT famous. Not baying mob famous. He came to a small book conference I was at. We chatted over the weekend quite a lot. Finally I girded my loins and confessed my problem to him. I think it went something like this: ‘Your books have everything I usually like, I want to read them, but I got put off, and now I don’t know where to start.’ He looked at me and sighed. Then he settled The Hat on his head, took my arm and led me to the bookshop, where he picked out Carpe Jugulum for me. ‘Read this one,’ he said (then he wrote in it – ‘Go for the throat, why don’t you, Lucy?’). Once I’d met Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat, I was hooked. I’ve even managed to read Rincewind without wincing. Terry has made me laugh till I weed my knickers in public, he’s made me cry a lot, he’s made me think thoughts I never knew I had in me. He’s also taught me a whole lot about fine writing and how to do it. When The Shepherd’s Crown is published this Thursday, I shall cry again. Because when I have read the last line and closed the book, I know there will be no more Discworld. I was obstinate and late to the Pratchett party, but I got there in the end, and it has enriched my literary life immensely. So I say sod ’em all to the ones who still put fantasy in some little geeky box, and I celebrate Terry’s heirs – of which you are one of the finest, Pat. As for the Hat Man, well…HE ATEN’T DEAD. And he never will be as long as we read his books.

    PS: I am SO using that campfire image for the students I teach writing to. It’s brilliant.

    • Posted August 25, 2015 at 10:36 AM | Permalink

      Yeah. I usually advise people skip the first two or three books in the series. They’re more farsical parody than anything else. They’re good, but nowhere near as good as what comes later. He hadn’t really hit his stride yet, in my opinion….

    • urimeir
      Posted August 25, 2015 at 12:49 PM | Permalink

      I think I’ll wait a few years before reading it….

    • MandaAnne
      Posted August 25, 2015 at 2:44 PM | Permalink

      Thank you for sharing this. My eyes are leaking. But thank you. I love having that little movie clip of him walking you to the bookstore, and his inscription to you. <3

  19. thedarkempress23
    Posted August 25, 2015 at 9:15 AM | Permalink

    I actually took a class at The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1990 (or 1991) called “Literature of Fantasy.”

    • sambradbury89
      Posted August 25, 2015 at 12:01 PM | Permalink

      Yeah – it’s still going on. I took it 3 years ago on my year abroad and it was excellent.

      Even wrote a few essays on your books Pat!

  20. angs7
    Posted August 25, 2015 at 9:32 AM | Permalink

    This.. so much this.

    I count myself fortunate in that my family always had a full bookshelf, and the television was rarely on. My mother had a preternatural sense of where a good garage sale or library disposal event was to be held; and I’ve read many books that are arguably good, awful, or that hold some vague half-life in between. Getting hauled along to the campus libraries certainly didn’t hurt…

    When we moved to WI ~’94, I lucked out, the librarian on staff when my class picked out books had a soft spot for sci-fi/fantasy. There was always a quiet little corner tucked away with some real gems, and I was told in no uncertain terms that if there was one I wanted that they did not have, it WOULD happen. It was also about this time that computer labs started taking over library space, and I was there to watch that whole tragedy unfold.. But I digress.

    Good Omens was one of my favorite books, still is. And Pratchett’s style and personality are sorely missed. Speaking of.. Is it just me, or has there been a dearth of good British authors available stateside lately?

  21. kyfty
    Posted August 25, 2015 at 9:49 AM | Permalink

    I recently told some newer friends that I like to read fantasy books and they honest to goodness thought I meant “erotic fantasy”, I guess because of my gender, who knows. But, since my friends were looking for new books to read after exhausting Oprah’s reading list, I took them over to my bookshelves and recommended a few things. One of them grabbed Wicked right away because they recognized it from the play, but another of them came away with my worn copy of The Name of the Wind. I hope at least one of them comes back for more, but at least now they won’t look at me strangely for reading fantasy.

  22. Alec1887
    Posted August 25, 2015 at 10:26 AM | Permalink

    Let’s go back to the hat… Everybody needs an edge, and if the hat gives you an edge, why not wear a hat?
    Anyone else wonder if this is where the idea for Inigo’s razor-edged hat came from?

  23. browncoat
    Posted August 25, 2015 at 11:32 AM | Permalink

    I don’t usually comment here, but this blog made me a bit weepy (okay, this actually happens quite often on your blog, Pat).

    I actually (briefly) met you on your Germany tour, and you (again, briefly) met Pterry, which means I’m only 2 degrees away from him xD

    Welp, I guess it’s time for a Discworld reread :)

  24. J McK
    Posted August 25, 2015 at 12:31 PM | Permalink

    My first would’ve been Diggers and Truckers, back in the day, then Johnny and the Dead. I lost Fantasy in my teens because my peers thought it stupid and I was stupid for caring what they thought. I picked my dusty old LOTR back off the shelf at 18, and shortly after I came by a second-hand copy of Equal Rites in Oxfam for a pound. It was amazing, revelatory, transformative. Fantasy and Magic and Parody and Commentary and so much ANGER! “Wow”, I thought, “where can I get more like this?!”

    He changed my outlook. The stories of my teens had brave warriors fighting evil men who knew no good. Simplistic and so very wrong. Terry showed me the real enemies: neglect, indifference, bigotry, spite, avarice. The small, mean ways in which small, mean men manipulate the world to their advantage without heed to the greater cost.

    The battles of my twenties were of a social justice flavour. I lost more times than I won, but some of the wins were big. I was a consultant on the Equality Act 2010 and mostly steered it toward the good. I was involved in a few other, similar projects with broadly positive outcomes. Never thought I’d have the confidence, but it was never about confidence.

    Pratchett’s protagonists, my inspirations, don’t really have well-laid plans for the future of the Disc. They don’t say “I know what to do and I’m confident that I can do it”. Only politicians say crap like that. Rather they take a look at this manky world, say “I can’t be having with this”, they go spare, and then they prod some serious buttock.

    Pterry knew how these things go, and he knew how to make it funny. We’ll likely never know his like again, but the books he’s written I’m blessed to have read.

  25. Argent
    Posted August 25, 2015 at 12:56 PM | Permalink

    It took me sometime to start feeling confident in myself as a fantasy reader – I imagine it would’ve been even more difficult as an author (plus, I am only in my twenties, which means that by the time I became a fan of fantasy much of the stigma against it had started to fade). But words like this always make me happy, and just a little bit justified in my love of the genre. I don’t want to feel like it’s the best genre, but it really does allow for everything present in the other genres, PLUS dragons and wizards.

  26. rrrebecca.mae
    Posted August 25, 2015 at 1:01 PM | Permalink

    I, like many, will never be able to fully articulate the impact of Pratchett’s writing on my life, on my person, on the way I think, or on the way I tell stories. But on the day of his death, I remembered him the best way I knew how.

    I was at working at a daycare, rocking a baby to sleep, checking Facebook on my phone. I knew the news before I read the article, and as I sat in the dark, I thought about the shape of stories and the turning of time. When I had the chance, I called my sister and we began our plans.

    First, I went to the Farmer’s Supply store, and asked for turpentine. I didn’t know what it was really, but it came in a gallon and smelled of trees. Then I drove to a field where I met my oldest friend, and we trudged through the snow to get wool from some sheep. They would not come close until we stole an egg as an offering, and then they let us stcritch their heads till we had what we had come for. We drove to the mountain where we met my sister. She had with her chewing tobacco in the spirit of jolly sailor, whiskey, and a cast iron skillet. It was dark. We walked to the top, combined the wool, tobacco, and turpentine in the skillet, and passed round the scent of Granny Aching. We sang. We drank. We poured one out for him. We left our offering, and we drive home.

  27. Posted August 25, 2015 at 1:07 PM | Permalink

    Your beard is the hat, innit?

  28. Jaberkaty
    Posted August 25, 2015 at 2:16 PM | Permalink

    I remember when I was telling a friend who was also interested in writing that I wanted to write fantasy. She snorted and said “You mean with dwarfs and elves? Why?”

    And though I didn’t have Prachett’s words to build me back up, I never let it go and I’m still writing Fantasy. Glad the world is catching up with the rest of us. It makes us all richer people.

  29. TotalWhittle
    Posted August 25, 2015 at 2:44 PM | Permalink

    I needed this….. Thanks Pat

  30. MandaAnne
    Posted August 25, 2015 at 2:45 PM | Permalink

    Pat, man, when you hit it, you hit it SO HARD. Thank you for this.

  31. rosanafcrios
    Posted August 25, 2015 at 4:42 PM | Permalink

    THANK YOU! As a Brazilian writer, I have many times got THAT answer from publishers: “We are not interested in fantasy”… Since then, I’ve seen things change a bit around here. However, “serious” people on the top of the Brazilian book business still don’t understand. Most literary prizes here are always awarded to “serious” writers… (I write for Young Readers and have been, for about 20 years, speaking in Libraries and schools and book fairs and saying exactly what Terry said). Would you grant me permission to translate your article to Portuguese and show it to my contacts on TT and FB and whatever? I will always quote the source and post links to your blog, of course. BTW, my literary name is Rosana Rios.

  32. thomasmhewlett
    Posted August 25, 2015 at 4:54 PM | Permalink

    “They did not complain about difficulties of male menopause while being a junior lecturer on some midwestern college campus.” And Pratchett hits so-called Literary Fiction right in the…well, you know.

    Had to comment on that sentence, but what I really want to say is that I think he was dead-on about fantasy being the sea in which other genres swim. He captured so much in his books and they were so subversive and rebellious and angry. That’s why for me, speculative fiction will always be the rawest and realest place to read (and Discworld will always be one of my favorite places to visit!).

    Thanks for sharing, Pat!

  33. aboxorox
    Posted August 25, 2015 at 5:30 PM | Permalink

    A good friend introduced me to “Color of Magic”. Years later, she also introduced me to “Name Of The Wind”. I owe her a debt that I can never pay back.

  34. MottSpott
    Posted August 25, 2015 at 6:24 PM | Permalink

    It hit me harder than I was ready for too, Pat. I work at a library so I heard pretty soon after the news was out. Had to hang out in the back room while I got myself under control. Initially felt a little silly for crying (Ooooooh us Midwestern men and public displays of our Feelings), but thankfully, because I work at a library, the coworkers understood.

    I stumbled into Pratchett’s works at a very dark time in my life and his humor-coated wisdom was definitely a beacon. Sanderson’s farewell mentions his humor making us all taller. So true.

  35. MrPensees
    Posted August 25, 2015 at 6:52 PM | Permalink

    So to draw an analogue between author and character; reading what you said about your experience with people’s reactions to you writing a fantasy novel reminds me of Kvothe saying that he wants to study the Chandrian. He was right about them, and you were right about your goal.

    I’m about 10 years (give or take) younger than you are, but I remember when fantasy wasn’t taken seriously, and we were made fun of for loving it. Fantasy deals with the bigger problems, but it takes us into a different world of magic and away from our world for a while while we learn to cope and find the real magic that’s inside of us.
    You’ve created a world like that for us, and in the age of the internet you’ve allowed us to see the man behind the magic, and you’ve handled it all so well. Thank you >^.^<

  36. Miranda
    Posted August 25, 2015 at 7:41 PM | Permalink

    My roommate and I just printed that interview out and stuck it to our wall. The number of times both of us have had the university teachers dismiss our fantasy writing out of hand as “not literary enough”… sigh. We needed this. Thanks, Pat.

  37. Posted August 25, 2015 at 9:25 PM | Permalink


  38. Posted August 25, 2015 at 11:36 PM | Permalink

    Even after the internet crawled gasping onto the devonian shore of the 1990′s things like social media and author blogs simply didn’t exist in any meaningful way.

    Ah, but there was Usenet newsgroups and that was close enough. Pratchett used to post on On that newsgroup, there was an understanding to be respectful and kind to TOFIAH (The Old Fart In A Hat, as we called pterry) and he wasn’t above commenting on threads as if he was just another user. AFP was such a great community and it created all sort of fun sites like and the Discworld MUD.

    I got into Pratchett around the same time as you did, via an SFX magazine interview. Finding his books in the US back then was a challenge back then. Your best bet was through the SF&F book club — which had generic art on the covers and were slightly Americanized — or pay for overseas shipping if you wanted the original text with the Paul Kidby illustrations (which I did).

    Thanks for writing this, Patrick. Pterry was an incredible space/time event and I’m so sad that he’s gone.


  39. Savenra
    Posted August 26, 2015 at 3:31 AM | Permalink

    My husband woke up on That Day to a wife with her iPad in her hand, tears flowing down her cheeks. Pterry’s death was in my Facebook news feed and it felt like a hole had opened in my world. Someone who seemed like a friend since childhood whose books had been part of my formative years in the mid 80s, a man I had briefly met and listened spellbound to his wisdom at a book signing, a part of the secret underground of people who love the fireside tales of heroes and dragons and realise how much they are part of our cultural psyche was gone and only two books remained unpublished for his people.

    A person is never gone while their words remain and their stories are still told. I will miss the new stories but the old stories will be cherished forever.

  40. Nightface
    Posted August 26, 2015 at 7:34 AM | Permalink

    Pterry, Leonard Nimoy and my great-uncle died around the same time. All 3 affected me, Pterry the most. There may come a day when I can think of his death without tears welling up, but I don’t that’ll be anytime soon.

    He wrote great books. They inspire, make laugh, humanize, save lives, brighten days and help keep the monsters at bay. This week I was feeling down, so I reread Fifth Elephant and Thud. It helped.

    Somewhere there’s a story out there, around a future campfire, or one so far in the past that it loops around and has touched the future. That story starts:
    “Once there was a hat that wore a man.
    Boy, was he funny.
    It was a good hat, known wherever it went, and the man with it. Without it, he was unknown, hidden in the crowds. Without him, the hat felt, sometimes, just a little sad.”

  41. Anna
    Posted August 26, 2015 at 9:44 AM | Permalink

    I translated the part of the interview about fantasy in French. Here it is, if anyone is interested. That’s probably not the best translation ever made, but if it means my non-English speaking friends get to read it, it’s worth it.

  42. Ridley Kemp
    Posted August 26, 2015 at 11:53 AM | Permalink

    Lovely. When I met him at a book signing, he was unquestionably the funniest and most gracious author I’d ever met. He even drew a little turtle on my copy of Small Gods, which is somewhere in my top 10 most treasured possessions. That interview is so, so very “him.”

  43. Farrago
    Posted August 26, 2015 at 1:29 PM | Permalink

    Thank you for sharing. Despite knowing it was going to happen sooner rather than later it was still a big shock. It took me a good few months before I could face reading a Terry Pratchett book again. Whenever I see his books on my shelf it makes me sad, but glad that he shared so much with the world.

  44. mauricio gomez
    Posted August 26, 2015 at 5:48 PM | Permalink

    I found your message in Chapter 43 of The Wise Man’s Fear, in the letter sent to kvothe denna

  45. mauricio gomez
    Posted August 26, 2015 at 5:55 PM | Permalink

    I found your message in Chapter 43 of The Wise Man’s Fear, in the letter sent to kvothe denna
    Horse Rumble
    I send this message to know to know more about your work
    I hope to receive a letter from you

  46. Posted August 27, 2015 at 5:23 PM | Permalink

    too late for really participating, but even before 1995 I was reading The Onion at the University of Illinois in Urban-Champaign. (My favorite was the one about Gen X’ers having laser vision but being too lazy to do anything with their super powers other than reheat their coffee, complete with funny picture.)

    just thought I’d share. No internet, just usenet groups (and I did some of those, but none with Sir Pratchett) but the Onion was spreading its wings by then.

  47. JuliannaUnderhill
    Posted September 1, 2015 at 9:41 PM | Permalink

    I read this too…the Onion made it into the Chicago area, and Terry’s insight into the pretension of the publishing and authoring industry has always rung true. I remember being baffled for years about why people would react the way they did when I told them I thought the very best literature was scifi and fantasy. By the time I got to University I knew to keep my moth shut, but Holy Jeebus! the crap I had to read for class! And the writing courses were worse.

  48. svstrauser
    Posted September 11, 2015 at 9:32 AM | Permalink

    “I’m not going to be cliche and say it changed my life.

    You know what? I am. I’m going to say it. It changed my life.”

    Please, feel free to say it. I’ve just read it and it changed mine a little.

    I am a lover of fantasy novels and just starting to dabble in writing – and by saying starting I’m being quite literal, I’m in the middle of my first short story! – and one of the saddest things I can think of is that I’ll never get the chance to meet Sir Pratchett in person.

    He was, if not the best fantasy writer ever, at least sitting comfortably in the table with them.

  49. Brett
    Posted January 19, 2016 at 11:58 PM | Permalink

    So it’s been a few months since you wrote this and I found my way back to it in my saved links again today. I really enjoyed this blog post when I first read it and enjoyed it every bit as much when I read it again today. Just wondering when we can h0pe for the promised sequel to this post? I enjoyed your Pratchett inspired musings and would very much love to see more of them, but can’t seem to find the blog continued in another post.

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