On Terry Pratchett's Death
"A man is not dead as long as his name is spoken."
What is it about authors that make us feel as if we know them? They've opened up their minds and invited us to come in and play, to take part, to build our own worlds inside theirs. We take their characters and internalize them, give them our voices and quirks, our dark hair or yellow eyes. We move forward as if we have every right to own what has been gifted to us, as if the world were created just for us, just for me.
What happens to these worlds when the author dies?
A man I have never spoken to, a man I have never seen in person, who has no idea of my existence, has died and I am looking out at a world that is very different from the one that contained him.
I grew up reading Terry Pratchett.
I grew reading Terry Pratchett.
I read Terry Pratchett.
I turn to Going Postal, in my mind repeating the phrase about sending someone home on the clacks and knowing that a man is not dead as long as his name is spoken. His will be a name I teach my children because in his books, the worlds he invited readers to come participate in, he entertained as well as showed us what we could be. The things we lacked and where we could grow, be more than just adequate but great. More than ordinary.
I wrote him a letter once. After he'd announced that he'd been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. My grandmother had been diagnosed when I was a child, she'd died, and I felt we had a connection, however tenuous. So I wrote him, I said that I would remember him if he forgot. I would remember. At the time I thought it rather sweet, that a woman half a world away would say to a dying man that she'd remember. Now, a little older and knowing more of the world I it see it as presumptuous that a woman who'd never met the man would intrude on his life. A letter from a stranger is not comfort.
And today he has died. The only thing I can offer is remembrance, the promise that his words will live on in me, in my children because I will read them bedtime stories populated with Vimes and Granny Weatherwax. They will grow up with a map of Discworld on their walls.
Remembering is all I have to offer.