Terry Pratchett started his career as a crypto-monarchist and ended up the most consistently humane writer of his generation. He never entirely lost his affection for benevolent dictatorship, and made a few classic colonial missteps along the way, but in the end you’d be hard pressed to find a more staunchly feminist, anti-racist, anti-classist, unsentimental and clear-sighted writer of Old White British Fantasy.
The thing I love about Terry’s writing is that he loved - loved - civil society. He loved the correct functioning of the social contract. He loved technology, loved innovation, but also loved nature and the ways of living that work with and through it. He loved Britain, but hated empire (see “Jingo”) - he was a ruralist who hated provincialism, a capitalist who hated wealth, an urbanist who reveled in stories of pollution, crime and decay. He was above all a man who loved systems, of nature, of thought, of tradition and of culture. He believed in the best of humanity and knew that we could be even better if we just thought a little more.
As a writer: how skillful, how prolific, how consistent. The yearly event of a new Discworld book has been a part of my life for more than two decades, and in that barrage of material there have been so few disappointments, so many surprises… to come out with a book as fresh and inspired as “Monstrous Regiment” as the 31st novel in your big fantasy series? Ludicrous. He was just full of treasure. What a thing to have had, what a thing to have lost.
In the end, he set a higher standard, as a writer and as a person. He got better as he learned, and he kept learning, and there was no “too late” or “too hard” or “I can’t be bothered to do the research.” He just did the work. I think in his memory the best thing we can do is to roll up our sleeves and do the same.
This post seems to be making the rounds again so here it is on the word blog
GNU Terry Pratchett