This one goes out to all non-Spanish speaking STP fans, which I guess is most of them.
It isn’t easy for me to talk (or, as is the case, write) about Sir Terry Pratchett. Not ever since he died. Although, if you were to talk to my close family, they’d say that Pratchett is the only person I talk about (if you don’t take into account Neil Gaiman, Jeff Bridges, the Coen brothers and, on occasion, Tim Curry).
But that’s not what I meant. Even though I talk about STP quite often, I still feel a sting in my heart every time I mention him or quote him (which is very, very often).
But before I talk about him, let’s travel back in time. Seven, eight or, maybe, nine years. I’m not quite sure about it. Anyway, let’s go to Arte 9 a comic-book store that’s one of Madrid’s nerd culture staples. Let’s go to the franchise they have by Manuel Becerra, where I spent many (maybe too many) afternoons as a teen.
If you were to venture into the outstandingly dark store, you’d see it quite empty. It is, after all, five pm and, even on a Friday, not many people are going to be there. People would shuffle into the store at about six thirty-ish for the Magic: the Gathering tournament. I tended to go early to avoid people. Usually, after having spent some time at my public library.
It’s self-evident that I wasn’t the most popular kid at school. Most of my friends, actually, were made out of ink and paper (some were made out of celluloid). I was that kid with glasses and who always, always, had a book tucked under his armpit. Or, alternatively, the kid who was reading between the goalposts both because he loved his book and was absent-minded and loathed football. It mostly depended on if my friends had come or not.
In any case, I want to talk about Pratchett not my wonderful childhood.
So, I went into that dark comic-book store, clutching what little money I had, and leaning by the door was a huge piece of cardboard with a book glued to it. The book was Equal Rites and, by it, the editor had said something or other about Pratchett. I don’t remember what it was, but I’m sure it didn’t do him justice. I’m positive.
Two days after buying it, I’d already read it and was doing a short presentation on the bespectacled, bearded, man on the back-cover. I wasn’t an expert, but I knew enough to convince people to read his books. Sadly, most of the kids in my class didn’t share my interest for literature.
At the same time (year) that bespectacled, bearded, man was finding out he had a variant of Alzheimer’s, but let’s not dwell on it just yet. Let’s take a leisurely stroll back to 2016.
Before I read Equal Rites, I had no clue what the Hell I wanted to do. I only knew I liked reading and, occasionally, writing the odd short story. Writing, to me, wasn’t much more than a fetus of a hobby. I didn’t much care for it. I preferred reading.
After reading Pratchett, however, something inside me changed. His biting sense of humor eroded the jail in which I’d locked in my passion for the written word. I’d locked it in a long time ago out of fear because, as a kid, I drew a sci-fi/biology epic (I used the inside of the human body as a city à-la Bladerunner) and a friend laughed at me.
So, for years on end, all of my stories were trapped inside my head; something we can all agree is an act of savagery. After all, stories are meant to be free and fly from head to head, evolving and changing, both the stories themselves and the people who live them.
So, for seven or eight years, they stood in my head, still, half dead. But Pratchett’s writing cheered me up.
I don’t remember what set it into motion, but I started writing again. I tried to find a world I liked as much as the DiscWorld (and it wasn’t until last year that I located one). And I say find, not create because worlds like the DiscWorld exist. They really do. Not here (obviously. I think we would’ve found a Chelys Galactica) but, as the author’s characters say, they’re the width of a shadow away.
But let’s keep on talking about Pratchett, not fantasy (although there’s an essay or two in there somewhere).
I’ve recently decided to dedicate the month of March to celebrate Pratchett. To do this, I’ve had to start rereading every DiscWorld book and, since many a year has passed since I first picked them up, I’m living them in a completely different fashion.
In fact, thanks to the many books I’ve read ever since I picked up Equal Rites all those years ago, I’ve confirmed all my suspicions which, in retrospect, are fairly obvious:
Pratchett was incredibly well-read (obvious, I know, but still…).
He disassembled everything and satirized it in the process.
Many other things.
His culture lead me not only to writing, but to reading and buying other books (Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, for example) and, also, to improving myself as a person. Although that’s secondary.
And I’m not the only one. Many a doctorate has been earned by using his novels as a base (and many more will be written).
But let’s keep on trucking.
Pratchett followed an interesting path which I’m trying to ape as best I can. I’m not doing it particularly well. He never went to college and, well, I’m literally writing this in class as my teacher speaks. But I don’t care about that. Nor the fact that I’m not following his steps at a tee. I am, after all, doing my best.
So, I read Equal Rites, I picked up a pen, I wrote and I haven’t stopped writing ever since. I usually write fantasy but, recently, I’ve been writing reviews.
In any case, thanks to Sir Terry Pratchett, I’ve realized the strength writing can give you. Reading is great and all, it helps you run away from whatever you’re living through (it doesn’t matter if it’s good. If you’re reading, out it goes) and it helps you get better. You don’t read about shiny golden gods, unless they’re falling fast. No. What you read about is people who’re struggling with something quite similar to what you’re dealing with or, alternatively, who are flawed in the same way as I am.
However, it wasn’t until I (re)started writing that I realized how wonderful it is to create instead of consuming.
Sometimes consuming entertainment can be nothing more than a merely cathartic experience (in my case, videogames) or, simply, forgetting and running, creating offers solace. It’s not only a way of getting “rid” of bad memories or trying to see problems under a different light, with a more positive spin, but I know that I can help people sort their own heads (even if it’s just one person, it’s something, innit?). Some people might tell you that it’s bad to forget, but I disagree. I don’t mean forever, obviously, but we do have the right to do so for a while.
As many people say; laughter is the best medicine and comedy is tragedy plus time. So, we have to forget a little bit to distance ourselves from ourselves and then laugh at ourselves. And, if we can’t laugh, at least, face our mistakes with a renewed strength. We let those white hot nails in our sides cool down, not to toss them aside, but to grab them confidently and build something better out of them.
Jesus, this is getting a little sad, isn’t it?
Let’s see if we can lighten the mood.
Let me think.
Oh, right! His sense of humor. I haven’t talked that much about it.
I know we can find a bit of Monty Python in it, P.G. Wodehouse and Douglas Adams – or was it the other way around?
In any case, Pratchett didn’t want to be as existentialist as the latter, who discovered the meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything (it’s 42, for all those who are out of the loop) or, frankly, he didn’t get as bloody stupid as the first. He started by following in the steps of the second one and then made his own path which he didn’t walk down, he sped down it, burning bushes as he passed and charring intersections.
He combined his characters’ realism with the fantasy of a world that rode on the back of four giant elephants which, in turn, rode on the back of a Chelys Galactica (giant turtle). A great deal of the comedy, if not all, came from really sensible characters and a ridiculous world.
But what he did best was summing up his own world in little gems (“when a wizard is tired of looking for ground glass in his supper, he is tired of life”) and our own in poignant sentences (“The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it”).
He always knew how to balance brutal honesty with a killer sense of humor. A mix I’ve always tried to ape. Sadly, for the time being, I’m not even close to being even close.
And that search for a razor sharp sense of humor is what’s driven me to become a better writer and, in consequence, a better person (or so I feel).