Beloved Discworld author, Terry Pratchett, has announced that he will be unable to appear as planned at the Discworld convention in Manchester, England later this summer. Pratchett revealed to fans that he’d been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2007. Up until now, the news from Pratchett’s spokes-folks has been relatively positive. Yes, his illness has demanded some concessions, like having much more assistance to write his books, but he has been able to continue writing and making a few select appearances.
Pratchett wrote on the International Discworld Convention website, “I have been putting off writing this announcement for quite some time and on good days thought I wouldn’t have to write it at all … I am very sorry about this, but I have been dodging the effects of PCA and have been able to write for much longer than any of us ever thought possible, but now The Embuggerance is finally catching up with me, along with other age-related ailments.” PCA stands for Posterior Cortical Atrophy, which is the specific form of Alzheimer’s with which Pratchett is afflicted.
Since he announced his diagnosis, Pratchett has been a vocal supporter of both Alzheimer’s research and of legalizing euthanasia in the U.K. He has donated 500,000 GBP to Alzheimer’s research and is a patron of Alzheimer’s Research U.K. In 2010, Pratchett gave a Richard Dimbleby lecture in which he said, “I would live my life as ever to the full and die, before the disease mounted its last attack, in my own home, in a chair on the lawn, with a brandy in my hand to wash down whatever modern version of the ‘Brompton cocktail’ some helpful medic could supply. And with Thomas Tallis on my iPod, I would shake hands with Death.”
Then, in 2011, Pratchett made his heart-rending documentary, Terry Pratchett: Choosing to Die. In the film, Pratchett observed the process of a man named Peter Smedley, who suffered from motor neuron disease, from asking questions and visiting the facility of Dignitas, an “assisted dying” facility in Switzerland to his ultimate choice to end his own life with medical assistance, while he was still physically capable of doing so. Pratchett said, “it should be possible for someone stricken with a serious and ultimately fatal illness to choose to die peacefully with medical help, rather than suffer.”
For now, we hope the time for such decisions has not yet come. We hope that while the strain of an in-person appearance at a huge con may be too much for Pratchett, he will still be able to continue enjoying his life and writing a while longer. We hope that the adoration, admiration, prayers and positive energies of millions of fans will help.
Of this “embuggerance,” I give you the words of Foul Ole Ron: “Buggrit! Millenium hand and shrimp!”