Today is Sir Terry Pratchett’s birthday. Had he lived, he would have been 70 years old today. In honor of his contributions to the world of science fiction and fantasy, and the creation of the Discworld itself, fans have taken it upon themselves to declare April 28 as Black Hat Day. The celebration of this day offering a toast with friends to the honor of Sir Terry, and of course the wearing of a black hat. Any hat will do, really. And clothes. Clothes are important.
He was knighted for his contributions to the world of literature on February 18, 2009. Afterwards he said, “You can’t ask a fantasy writer not to want a knighthood. You know, for two pins I’d get myself a horse and a sword.”
Then later that same year, he actually went through the process of making himself a sword. With the help of some friends, he crafted one. Colin Smythe, his longtime friend and agent, donated some pieces of meteoric iron – ‘thunderbolt iron’ has a special place in magic and we put that in the smelt, and I remember when we sawed the iron apart it looked like silver. Everything about it I touched, handled and so forth … And everything was as it should have been, it seemed to me.”
Sir Terry left this world for the next on December 5, 2015 from complications of Alzheimer’s, depriving us of one of the world’s most nimble minds.
Pratchett wrote more than 40 books in the Discworld series alone. One of the more endearing characters was the Librarian at the Unseen University in the center of Ankh-Moorpork. Because of the leakage of all the wild magic in the books, the Librarian was transformed physically into an orangutan, a form which he steadfastly refused to have remedied. He rather liked it, and it gave him a convenient out for having to participate in pointless small talk, especially with those who actually ran the University.
In honor of this particular character from the Discworld books, the Orangutan Foundation launched an annual award of £5000, to be given annually to a deserving research scientist, filmmaker or journalist in the advancement of the interests of orangutans and the environments in which they live. They named the award the Sir Terry Pratchett “Oook” Award for the Conservation of Orangutans and their Habitat. You have to like that, if you’re a fan of either Discworld or orangutans in general.
If you’d like to commemorate the birth of Sir Terry Pratchett in a way that helps humans, you may consider contributing to RICE, the Research Institute for the Care of Older People (not sure where the “e” comes from out of that, but there we are).
So long as Sir Terry Pratchett’s name is spoken, Death can’t have him.
Happy birthday, Sir Terry, wherever you are. If you manage to get down over the side to see Great A’Tuin, the turtle holding up the elephants that in turn hold up the Discworld, say hello. We think we’d be very interested to find out what happens.