Sir Terry Pratchett, one of the most prolific, popular and influential authors of the 20th and early 21st centuries, left us March 12, 2015 from complications of a rare form of Alzheimer’s. He was especially well loved by the science fiction and fantasy community, and this year at Sasquan, the 74th World Science Fiction Convention, his presence was keenly felt. There is an exhibit of costumes and props recreating characters and moments from the extensive Discworld series of fantasy novels by Pratchett. Fan had even recreated some of the characters as some very clever and creative hall costumes, immediately recognizable for who they were.
This afternoon at a panel, there was a remembrance of Sir Terry, sometimes funny, sometimes bittersweet. The four panelists were Denise Connell, Anne Hoppe, Tom Whitmore, and Deb Geisler. Each related stories about Sir Terry, giving the attendees a chance to remember him and what he was like to be around. There were many such stories to be shared, some by the panelists, some by the attendees themselves, but these two by Anne Hoppe, who worked with Sir Terry as his editor for several years, are worth retelling:
“Last spring my sister and I were visiting in England, and we were fortunate enough to be there for the Spring Fling Event in Wincanton, which is the town in England which is the twin to Ankh-Morpork, and Terry was fabulous, his health was relatively frail by then, but he was there. And he was interacting with the fans, and having a fabulous time with them. When he was ready to leave and we were going back he said “I feel filled with helium.” He was so lit up by talking to the fans, by spending time with the fans, the fans – he had a great love of writing, but he had such love of the fans too, such appreciation for the people who read his books and wanted to come up and talk to him about the books. And for all that he represents in this room in terms of the smart, funny people who love stories who love books and to give that back to him as he gave it to us.
“I wanted to share a couple of paragraphs with you from a speech that Terry gave to the American Library Association when he won the Margaret A. Edwards Award for significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature:
Within the science fiction and fantasy fraternity – which must include the sorority as well – we have a term called paying it forward. It’s what you do when you become a writer, and you want to give the writers coming after you some of the moments of delight that you experienced in youthful or adolescent days when you read like fire driving through dried sugar cane plantations. And now, I am well into my sixties, beset with this curious form of Alzheimer’s, which means I have to tell my stories rather than type them. I nevertheless never tire of those letters that turn up over and over again, from parents to grandparents, to say that some kid they know never read a book until they picked up one of mine, and that kid is now a professor of English at some university. And sometimes, when that kid grows up, they tell me they are writing a book. And that is a good day – because you know that when the torch is dropped, someone else will pick it up before it hits the ground.
As we remember Sir Terry and his life and work, we are touched by the humor and humanity he brought to his books, and his life. You just can’t talk about him without remembering laughter, and how deeply he loved writing, his fans, and how deeply his fans love him still.
Thank you, once again, Terry. You’ll always be with us.
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