Turtles all the way down
I woke up this morning to five messages on my phone. I’d not had a chance to look at Twitter or my email, but the messages quickly filled me in on the news: Sir Terry Pratchett had passed away.
Those five people spoke to the depth of the impact of Terry’s works on my life. Two were from my brother and my dad, who I’d introduced to the Discworld series. One was from a good friend Katie, who I’d met through an online Discworld community. And two were from high school friends, Rachael and Mark - people I’ve known for more than 15 years.
AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER.— Terry Pratchett (@terryandrob) March 12, 2015
Terry took Death’s arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night.— Terry Pratchett (@terryandrob) March 12, 2015
It was Mark who introduced me to Terry’s Discworld novels - and I was immediately hooked. In high school I would read whenever I had a spare moment - on the train to school, between classes, late into the night - and Terry’s humour and wisdom connected with me straight away. Any time I was asked whether there was a book I wanted, I’d write out a list of the older Discworld books I didn’t own, or the latest release. Terry would tour Australia every year or two to promote these books, and I was always in line at Minotaur (with so many other fans) to get my copies signed.
As high school wrapped up, I came across an online community called Addicted to Discworld, and quickly made friends with many of the regulars. Our regular community chats were scheduled for Sunday evenings - and I would do my best to be there every week. Some of those friends - including Katie, mentioned above, and Susanne, I still catch up with regularly.
My first overseas trip was with another friend, Adrian, over to the UK for the Discworld Convention in 2002. Even while I enjoyed it, I was overwhelmed by the size and even the fanaticism of the event. Adrian, however, made sure he got Terry to wish me a happy birthday.
And then back in Australia, someone suggested that there should be a local convention. I embraced the idea with something approaching stupidity - I’d never run an event before, let alone something this big - but I decided to make it real, and call it Nullus Anxietas. Over the course of three years, I and other fans worked hard to put everything in place - and we even convinced Terry to visit.
I remember the feeling, on the first day of the conference, when after running around madly I took a moment to breathe - and it sunk in that everyone was actually showing up. Terry had arrived, along with 300 fans from all around Australia and the world. Holy shit. It was real!
Unknown to the rest of the committee, I’d spoken to Daniel Knight and Snowgum Films about having a short video clip of someone dressed up as the character Rincewind running around the tourist sites of Melbourne. Daniel took that idea, ran with it (almost as fast as Rincewind), and created one of my most favourite moments ever. Terry (judging by his laughter at the end of this clip below) loved it too. I’m so proud of this, even though I have no right to be: Daniel and his team did all the work.
My bookshelf still has many of Terry’s books on its shelves - and there’d be more, but I’ve lent many out over the years and can’t remember who I gave them to. The humour still rings true, and the social commentary - especially in the later books - resonates even more.
In some ways, the fact that Alzheimer’s took Terry from us too soon adds to the heartbreak. But we still have such a fantastic catalogue of stories that he’s written, and I’ve gained so many great friends and memories as well.
The rest of the convention was a success, by the way - and it has been happening every second year since! I stepped out of the organising team in the lead up to the second one, but number five is happening in Sydney next month, and I’ll be there to catch up with old friends, make new friends, run games of Werewolf, and celebrate Terry and his creativity and wit.
Right now, though, I’m going to re-read Night Watch. Terry, thank you.