Authors are amazing people who open up new worlds for their readers to explore. They allow people to escape everyday life and delve into worlds of mystery and imagination. I’ve been reading since a young age and one of my all time favorite authors is Sir Terry Pratchett. The author of the fantasy and comedy series, Discworld, his books are extremely popular over in England, though not as much in America (making it very annoying to try and get all of them). Sadly, Sir Terry Pratchett passed away in 2015, leaving behind a vast collection of books for future readers.
Early Life and Career
Terry Pratchett was a British born author who was born in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire on April 28th, 1948. An only child, he went to the High Wycombe Technical High School, now John Hampden Grammar school, where he was a member of the debate team and wrote stories for the school’s magazine. He originally wanted to be an astronomer, but lacked the mathematical skill. An avid science fiction fan, he read any book he could get his hands on, which is what he referred to as “getting an education”. In 1965, he began working as a journalist for the Bucks Free Press, where he wrote under the name Uncle Jim.
The first book that Pratchett published was Carpet People in 1971, after an interview with Peter Bander van Duren, the codirector of Colin Smythe Ltd.. This book was followed by Dark Side of the Sun in 1976 and Strata in 1981. In 1980, Pratchett became the Press Officer for the Central Electricity Generating Board, though in 1987 he gave up the job and made writing his full time position. In 1996 the New York Times ranked him as Britain’s highest earning and top-selling author.
Terry Pratchett’s best known series is his Discworld novels, which is forty-one novels long. Set on Discworld, a flat world carried on the backs of four giant elephants who stand on a turtle as he floats through space, it’s a satire of the modern world and politics. Rather than one series from start to finish, the Discworld collection is actually a set of different mini-series and stand alone books that take place in the same world. There are seven main series along with standalone books, maps, and companion novels.
Pratchett began writing the Discworld series in order to “have fun with some of the cliches”. In this series he parodies everything from Shakespeare (The Witches Series) to rock music (Soul Music). In collaboration with other authors, Pratchett also published companion maps, science books, and folklore that take place in Discworld. The final Discworld novel was published in 2015, after Pratchett’s death.
In 1986 Terry Pratchett married Lyn Purves and they had one daughter together, Rhianna Pratchett, who is also an author. Still an avid lover of the night sky, he build an observatory in his backyard. An avid videogame player, Pratchett not only had several computers (using them for writing as soon as they were available), but also helped upgrade them and design video games based around his books. He adored games that are “intelligent and have some depth”, citing Half-Life 2, Thief, and Oblivion as some of his favorites. He also enjoyed fanmade missions and mods in these games.
Terry Pratchett was also fascinated with the natural world, having a greenhouse filled with carnivorous plants. He was also a trustee for Orangutan Foundation UK, trying to protect the species in its natural habitat. Due to his concern, fans adopted the charity as their nominated charity at conventions. In 1995, Richard Köhler, a paleontologist, named a sea turtle fossil after Terry Pratchett, the Psephophorus terrypractchetti.
In 2009, he received a knighthood for “services to literature”, about which he was quoted as saying “you can’t ask a fantasy author not to want a knighthood”. He was also a recipient of the British Book Awards’ Fantasy and Science Fiction Author of the Year in 1994 and many of his books were recipients for other awards. Pratchett also received ten honorary doctorates and was an adjunct professor of English at the Trinity College Dublin.
Alzheimer’s and Death
In August 2007, Terry Pratchett was diagnosed with having had a stroke in either 2004 or 2005, which doctors believed to have caused damage to the right side of his brain. However, in December 2007, Pratchett announced that he had been misdiagnosed and he was suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Rather than give into despair, Pratchett decided that he was going to stay optimistic and “keep things cheerful”. He continued writing, though by early 2008 he was having a hard time writing dedications while signing novels. Later, he would write by either dictating things to his assistant, Rob Wilkins, or using voice recognition software. He was open about his condition, donating one million US dollars to the Alzheimer’s Research Trust and working with BBC to create a documentary about his life with the condition. He also met with the Prime Minister and asked for more research funds to be given to dementia research. In a 2009 article, Pratchett was quoted as saying that he wished to commit physician assisted suicide before the disease progressed too far, which was again addressed in the BBC documentary Terry Pratchett: Choosing to Die. However, in the end, he ended up dying of natural causes. On March 12th, 2015, Pratchett passed away at home at age 66, surrounded by his family and his cat. As a way to announce his death, his assistant tweeted the following: