Thursday, March 19, 2015

Im Memoriam: Sir Terry Pratchett and Discworld

For those that know me, the Discworld series has been incredibly important in my life. Heck, I've written reviews about not only main Discworld books, but also an illustrated novel, and the young adult stories as well, probably in some hope that someone else out there, reading my blog, who hasn't picked up these books yet will. Discworld is important on so many levels. Something I've noticed is that many people who read usually have at least one book, something that hit them the right way at the right time and spoke to their very soul, the very essence of their being. A book that has somehow shaped who they are as a person and how they view life. I am very fortunate in that I cannot point to just one book that has influenced me in such a way, but an entire series.

My experience with Discworld began ages ago when I was a sophomore in college. My friend Brendan, who shares a great many interests to me as I do, one day passed a book onto me titled Small Gods. Being someone who tries to read books loaned to me in a timely manner, and finding myself with a little free time between classes I started reading it. And kept reading it, finding it incredibly compelling and incredibly difficult to put down. I am by my own admission, a fairly fast reader, but it has often been very rare for me to find a book that just grabbed me by, for lack of a better term, the soul and made me want to keep reading. I cannot recall exactly how quickly I read Small Gods, but I'm certain it was no more than a matter of days. Brendan soon afterward loaned me Night Watch, which has become one of my favorite books, and that summer I started collecting Discworld books like crazy. By my start of junior year I had a respectable collection. Within two years I had nearly all of them. I actually made it a goal to read all the main Discworld books by the time Snuff came out late in 2011. And while there are certain books in the series I don't care for, and certain books that I cherish, overall I would say Discworld has had a positive impact on my life. If nothing else than because one person decided to be my friend because, "He's sitting over there reading a Pratchett book, he seems interesting."

Because Discworld has long since gone beyond just being a satirical take on well-worn fantasy tropes. It certainly started that way in Colour of Magic, but it grew and became so much more over the years. Pratchett has tackled topics as divisive as politics and religion, commented on economics and law, and some would argue that he has created a modern school of philosophy through the lens of fantasy. And yes, they are silly stories about a world on the backs of four elephants on the back of a turtle, but at the same time they're stories about people as well, and as I'm sure Pratchett himself would say, one of the most powerful ways to shape people is through stories. Whether it be stories about the long and distant past, stories about the here and now, or stories about life on the Disc, when stories are about people they have the ability to shape people, for better or worse, and that's an incredible power.

So what have I learned from the five or so years I've spent exploring the Disc? Essentially, people are people. We can be downright selfish and terrible, or charitable to a fault and good. Sometimes within the same day. And maybe you can't solve all the world's problems. But the important thing is to give your best and try. And while it's sad that Pratchett has passed on, he will remain with us in his dozens of books, and hopefully influence generations of people, and how they think, for the better.

- Kalpar

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