Literature has lost one of its greats today. Not just genre literature, but literature as a whole – a household name and a man of a profoundly complex canon presented wrapped in two often underrated fields: speculative fiction and comedy.
It is probably a small thing, on the grand scale, but my most personal tribute would be to say that he was a master builder of worlds. The Discworld was a fantasy pastiche and satire when it first came out with The Colour of Magic, but over its many volumes it grew and grew, a vehicle to tell a truly astounding range of stories, to explore many real world issues, and to present so, so many beloved characters. The Discworld bucked the trends of fantasy – not only was it funny, but it was relevant and it changed and adapted, modernised and expanded, growing in complexity and detail, building story on story to make a flat world set on elephants on a turtle into a unique fantasy destination. Beyond the Discworld, Strata remains one of my favourite and most re-read SF books – as profound and mind-blowing now as it was when I read it way back in the 80’s.
Pratchett also reached an enormously wide readership. He was – he is – an author who broke genre boundaries and was read by people who would perhaps never touch another genre book in their lives. He wrote stories for children of all ages, as the saying went. His younger fare was read by the (ostensibly) grown up, and I have no doubt the same went the other way, because that adult/YA boundary is infinitely porous and I suspect Sir Terry knew that better than most. On a weirdly personal note, Pratchett was the first author I ever picked up that my dad already knew and liked.
He also wrote very passionately about real world issues. He made Points with his fiction. He wrote about class and about prejudice, about modernity and tradition, about the hypocrisy of war, about the many sides of religion. And he wrote these from the back of a turtle, without robbing them of any of their power.
And he was very, very funny.