It feels like the right time to be reading (or rereading) Terry Pratchett, doesn’t it?
A lot of us are exhausted, the truth often seems to pass people right by, and we could all use something comforting, I think. So here’s a little corner of the internet where we can perhaps spend some time together and enjoy some very good books.
If you are unfamiliar with the work of Terry Pratchett, I won’t razz you for it because that would be rude. Suffice it to say, he is responsible for the Discworld series and many other enjoyable books and stories besides, the first of which was published in his school’s magazine in 1962 when he was only thirteen years old. He was an only child as well, and wrote about many more only children in his books because he believed they were more interesting. Being an only child myself, I understand this mode of thinking all too well.
He was a journalist as a young man, and an avid believer in reading as education rather than being part to it. He also loved astronomy, though he lacked the mathematical prowess to pursue the career professionally. Eventually, he saw his way toward writing novels, starting with a couple of science fiction tomes, and then working his way over to the concept for Discworld with the release of 1983’s The Colour of Magic. By 1987, he was a full-time author.
Pratchett was not overly-precious about his career as a writer; when receiving a knighthood for services to literature in 2009, he said, “I suspect the ‘services to literature’ consisted of refraining from trying to write any. Still, I cannot help feeling mightily chuffed about it.” He was a master of satire, of humor, and of fantasy and science fiction tropes. He was also a defender of fantasy literature, insisting upon its place in the literary pantheon as “the oldest form of fiction.”
We lost Sir Terry in 2015 to Alzheimer’s Disease, and the world misses him to this day. We will never know the stories we have lost without him tapping away, and that’s how he wanted it—he insisted on having his computer hard drive steamrollered after his death, assuring that no one could take his unedited work and try to stuff it into pages as some sort of “lost manuscript.” What we have is all we’ll likely ever get.
How Does This Thing Work?
You’re probably wondering why we’re not calling this The Great Pratchett Reread, or something like that.
I have read some of Pratchett’s work, but not all of it. (Because there’s, you know… a lot of it. My completist impulses utterly failed me here.) In addition, much of what I read was years and years ago—and my memory gets wobblier by the minute in this media-saturated world we live in. So this isn’t a reread! More of a guided book club. A place to come and appreciate the work of a great author who knew how to make sense of senseless things. Or at least knew how to think through what baffled and frightened us all, and pare it down to something a little easier to understand.
He wrote three other novels before starting Discworld, but I’m going to start with that series anyhow. If we want to come back to those three books at some point, we can always do that, and I think they might be more fun to read in retrospect—the science fiction ones in particular, The Dark Side of the Sun and Strata introduced concepts that Pratchett used in Discworld. The first, The Carpet People, was a comedic fantasy that Pratchett would later rewrite in the 90s (which is fair, I would probably rewrite most of the stuff I wrote in my early twenties, too).
So we’ll begin with The Colour of Magic, the very first Disc book—and the second Pratchett novel I ever read. (The first was Good Omens, if you’re curious.) We’ll split it up by its very helpful sections, starting with the eponymous part one. My plan is to just run through Discworld by publication order, but we might pause for other books, or do something else entirely. Who can say?
So let’s have a go and see where we end up! Hopefully, we’ll have a lot of fun along the way.
Come back this Thursday, June 18th, for Part I of The Colour of Magic.
Emmet Asher-Perrin had to grab an e-copy of the book because all of their books are still in storage due to The Great Bedbug Infestation of 2019, so that’s been odd. You can bug them on Twitter, and read more of their work here and elsewhere.