It’s being reported that Sir Terry Pratchett has died. Which means that it’s a very sad day for lovers of fantasy and science fiction. Sir Terry (which I will call him here rather than “Pratchett” because, hey, have you been knighted?) had been dealing with Alzheimers for some time now, and his public journey with it, I think, did more to demystify the disease than anything else has in recent times.
More selfishly, he was the co-author of one of my favorite fantasy books of all time: Good Omens. I love that book insensibly.
I met Sir Terry only once and that fleetingly, but that encounter left me with a good story to tell, and I will share it now. It was at the 2004 Worldcon in Boston, where Sir Terry was the Guest of Honor. He was on a panel called “Looking Backward: the 20th Century,” along with Esther Friesner, Craig Gardner and me. I was definitely the junior member of this crew — Old Man’s War had not been published yet — and in retrospect I vaguely wonder whose idea it was to put a complete unknown on a panel with the convention’s GoH (whoever it was — thank you).
The discussion was far-ranging, and because we were talking about the 20th Century in the past tense, we started talking about what future archeologists would make of the century, with the notation that trash heaps were invaluable for acheological purposes; after all, everything everyone uses sooner or later is turned into trash. This prompted Sir Terry to note that archeologists in Jerusalem very recently came across two thousand year old cloacae (i.e., latrines), which, because they were in an anaerobic enviroment, their contents were perfectly preserved from when they were, uh, deposited, two millennia ago.
To which I replied, “Holy shit.”
And for which I was rewarded with still the largest laugh I’ve ever gotten at a convention, much less a Worldcon.
Mind you, the reason I got a laugh that large was because hundreds of people filled a room to see Sir Terry, not me. But for that moment, I got to share. And if memory serves, Sir Terry gave me a little duck of the head after I said it, as if to say, well played.
It’s one of my favorite moments of all my time in science fiction and fantasy, and it would not have happened without him. For that alone, he would be forever enshrined fondly in my memory. It is not that for that alone that he is fondly enshrined there.
My good thoughts and condolences to Sir Terry’s family, friends and fans. He is not replacable, but we were gifted by the time he was here. May his memory, and his writing, be a comfort to all.