The Who and Why

Hi! My name is Michael, nice to meet you. You have found this blog, so you must love stories – I know we’ll get along just fine.
As this is my first post in the blog, I think it makes sense to write about why I’m contributing to this anthology. Writing this post is a bit daunting considering the brilliant ones that have already been posted, but I’ll do my best. Feel free to stop reading it if you get bored. Do something fun instead. I heard that there are lots of interesting things out there on the internet, maybe you could go exploring. Or you could pick up your favourite book and reread (rereread, rerereread, …) it. I promise I don’t mind.
You are still reading? Are you sure? Ok, so here goes nothing.
I found out about the anthology in the May edition of Discworld Monthly, which is a great newsletter about Terry Pratchett and his books. And the moment I read about it, I knew that I had to participate. Not just to see a story of mine in a book, but mainly because it provided me with the opportunity to pay my respects to Terry Pratchett and help (in a small way) to fight Alzheimers. And as I started to write the first draft of my story, I thought a lot about the impact Terry Pratchett and his books had on my life.
In 2011, I had the privilege to attend a lecture by Alberto Manguel. He is a brilliant writer who has written books like ‘A History of Reading’ and ‘The Library at Night’. If you have not yet read them, you absolutely should – they are beautiful love-letters to the written word.
At the lecture, he said (and I am quoting from memory here, so it probably won’t be his exact words):
     “My library is my autobiography.”
I love this concept. And it is true: I look at the books in my bookshelf and I see the stages of my life. The places. The people. The good times and the bad. I see how tastes and interests shifted and changed. And I see how important Terry Pratchett’s books were to all of this.
They are at the centre of my bookshelves – literally. In the very middle of my bookshelves stands a Rincewind bookend, The Science of Discworld books to the left, the Tiffany Aching books to the right. Above, left, and right are the rest of his books.
The first time I heard of the Discworld was half a lifetime ago when I had just started the 12th grade. It was a great time because I had just met all those people who are still my closest friends today.
We were sitting in the school’s cafeteria one day when one of them quoted a scene from a book:
‘Have – have you got an appointment?’ he said.
‘I don’t know,’ said Carrot. ‘Have we got an appointment?’
‘I’ve got an iron ball with spikes on,’ Nobby volunteered.
‘That’s a morningstar, Nobby.’
‘Is it?’
‘Yes,’ said Carrot. ‘An appointment is an engagement to see someone, while a morningstar is a large lump of metal used for viciously crushing skulls.’
     Men At Arms, Terry Pratchett
We all laughed a lot. I admit that I hadn’t heard of either Terry Pratchett or that strange place called Discworld before. But I went and bought the book and (of course) absolutely loved it. And that was it. I was hooked.
There are many authors who write funny or exciting or captivating stories, so why was Terry Pratchett something special? What differentiates a brilliant writer from all the other good writers? Well, there are a couple of things, and I expect that everybody will have their own take on this.
For me, the best authors do two things for you:

  1. They create a world in your head you can enter and spend time in, and
  2. they then make you wander beyond that world and show you other ideas and viewpoints, introduce you to new people and concepts, and point out possibilities as well as dangers.

Terry Pratchett was a master at both.

The Discworld is a wonderful place full of imagination, interesting characters, magic, crazy (but surprisingly consistent) logic, and adventure. Whenever I read a Discworld book, I have that distinct feeling of returning home. I’m visiting old friends, and I’m walking through places I have known for many years.
Before I started to read the Discworld books, I hadn’t encountered something like that. Having this world to escape to (although this word always sounds negative – so let’s say ’travel to’ instead) was a new experience for me. The maps and the wonderful art by Josh Kirby and Paul Kidby intensified that feeling of a real world that existed between the covers of those books.
At the same time, there is always ‘more’ to each of the books (it has been said before, but I need to reiterate it). There are so many topics hidden under the layers of the storyline, and they are there for the finding if you dare to look for them. And this quality is what makes them so perfect for reading them again and again in different phases of your life. That, and the fact that they are always funny and witty and entertaining of course.
Over time, I read all the books Terry Pratchett has ever written. At first, I read the books in German (the translations are actually really good), but at some point I switched to the original ones because I could not wait for the books to be translated. So I started to read books in English on a regular basis.
I’m absolutely sure that I would not be able to write stories in English nowadays without that constant input of great writing (and I’m certain I would not know such unusual words as ‘ineffability’).
And ultimately, Terry Pratchett made me want to be able to write. To be able to write stories that transport readers into a different place and that make them turn the pages.
Now, I have only mentioned the Discworld series so far, but the other books Terry Pratchett has written are equally great. ‘Nation’ for example, which Luke has already mentioned in his post, is an astounding book that surprises and moves you.
I once wrote a letter to Terry, but I never posted it for some reason or other. And I never had the chance to meet him at a signing or at a convention. So I could never thank him for his books. In a way this anthology enables me to do exactly that. It allows me to say ’Thank You’ by doing what he dedicated his life to: Telling a story.

Michael


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In Memory: A Tribute to Sir Terry Pratchett
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