Like so many people my life as a writer has had the steady background influence of Terry Pratchett’s work. It was not something I truly recognised until his sad passing a week ago, far too young and with many literary footsteps still to tread.
I didn’t really like “Sourcery’, the first book of his that I read, To be honest I’ve never fully engaged with Rincewind and all that studied ineptitude. But there were enough concepts, ideas and let’s face it jokes in there to keep me happy. After that I read Equal Rites and enjoyed that a lot more, but it was ‘Lords and Ladies ‘which converted me once and for all to the Pratchett way.
I loved it so much that I based an A Level Theatre production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream on it with my students at Bridgwater College. Along with Raymond Feist’s book “Faerie Tale’, ‘Lords and Ladies’ introduced me to the idea of fairies being far from light and airy Cottingham a’ fluttery. ‘No-one ever said a fairy was nice’ remains one of my all time favourite quotes. In my mind and work fairies have remained these creatures of unease where ‘glamour’ has a totally different meaning and since then I’ve been far more drawn towards the dark side of fairy. Nowadays it’s the likes of Graham Joyce’s ‘Some Kind of Fairy Tale’ and the Harry Dresden novels of Jim Butcher but the lure of the ‘un-seelie court’ remains and Terry started it.
My by now far too mature students may not remember but they bought me the Josh Kirby Discworld portfolio, a book so big it won’t fit comfortably anywhere. And that’s maybe as good a way as any of describing Terry Pratchett’s work. A world and a body of work, to all intents and purposes, too big to fit comfortably anywhere and why not. Surely nothing Terry Pratchett wrote could ever be described as comfortable. Years ago when the critic Tom Paulin accused him of being a complete amateur because he didn’t even write chapters, he responded to the complaint by using it as a quote on the back of his next book. Now that’s style!
Of course Lords and Ladies provided something even more important in my literary development because it introduced me to Granny Weatherwax and even more importantly to the irrepressible Nanny Ogg, a single toothed cackler who could find a double entrendre in Queen Victoria’s mourning dress.
The witches have always been my favourites, so it’s with a sadness tinged with delight that I hear that the final novel to be published will be one of the increasingly wonderful, witty and wise Tiffany Aching series. I can only hope both of the old girls are in it.
Thanks Terry and I do hope it’s not just bananas in the afterlife.