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Remembering Terry Pratchett

Just two weeks ago, the nerd world lost the beloved Leonard Nimoy. Today, we’ve been served another crushing blow: Sir Terry Pratchett has died at 66 after a struggle with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. The fact that my Twitter feed is full of Pratchett love and lore is enough to choke me up, but that last tweet from his account — “The End.” — is close to throwing me right over the edge.

pratchett tweets

I’m sad. Of course I’m sad. Surprisingly upset, in fact, at the loss of someone I did not personally know. But I’m finding that there is also joy and laughter in remembering an author who could both break your heart and make you do a spit-take with one sentence.

nationI am thinking of one of my favorite moments in grad school having to do with Pratchett’s 2009 Boston Globe–Horn Book Fiction Award–winning Nation (his speech can be found here). Our class had just finished Nation and was discussing it critically, probably in relation to Marxism or post-structuralism or something else equally mind-stretching. At some point toward the end of our discussion, our professor asked the class when it was that we all realized the story took place in an alternate world. One of my classmates — a marine biologist — was completely taken aback.

“Are you saying,” my professor asked, “that the tree-climbing and -dwelling octopi didn’t alert you to the idea that maybe this wasn’t Earth?”

My classmate — again, guys, a marine biologist — stared for a moment and then burst out laughing. She was so taken by the story that at no point had the oddness of a tree-dwelling cephalopod struck her as something otherworldly.

Also, I realize now that Terry Pratchett is a part of my every day. You see, Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab creates, among other things, scents based on fictional characters. And my perfume of choice is “War” — “She held her sword, and she smiled like a knife” — from Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens. I can’t help but think this is a surprisingly perfect tribute to the man. I mean, the fact that I wear a perfume based on an American motorcyclist of the apocalypse is really just absurd. But there is so much beauty in this idea as well: every single day, with intention, as absurd as it might be, I wear my love of literature. Every single day, Sir Terry Pratchett influences a small part of my life. What better way to show love for a man who was consistently able to capture the beauty in the absurd?


Siân Gaetano About Siân Gaetano

Siân Gaetano is assistant editor for The Horn Book, Inc. Follow her on Twitter @KidLitChick.



  1. I LOVE that story about the tree-dwelling cephalopods.

    One of my absolute favorite books is The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents, but really, I love almost everything of Pratchett’s that I’ve read. Despite knowing this was coming some day, it still through me for a loop all day Thursday.

  2. Steve Bircher says:

    Sir Terry was definitely one of a kind, and I truly hope that Death (DEATH) did come for him in person. I think Sir Terry would be deservedly disappointed if he did not.

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