Memories

I first encountered Terry Pratchett’s work in 1986, when Fergus McNeill’s Quilled adventure game adaption of the Colour of Magic was released for the ZX Spectrum. Back then, Fergus was a bigger name in my mind than Terry Pratchett. I enjoyed the game a lot, but couldn’t get the book anywhere — this was 1986, the Netherlands, no Internet, Oosterhout, so no bookshop carrying any fantasy books in English beyond Lord of the Rings.

When I was in my first year in Leiden, eighteen years old, studying Sinology, a friend of mine and me, we went to London for a book-buying expedition. Forget about the Tower, the V&A or the National Portrait Gallery. We went for Foyles, The Fantasy Book Center and the British Library. I acquired the full set of Fritz Leiber’s “Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser” series, Frank got Lord Dunsany’s autobiography, I got Clark Ashton Smith’s collected short stories and Lord Dunsany’s Gods of Pegana (straight, apparently, from the rare books locker from the University of Buffalo).

I also bought Mort.

That was the first Terry Pratchett novel I read, and I was hooked. I read and re-read it a dozen times that week.

When I first met Irina, we had an overlapping taste, but very few books in common… The first book I foisted upon her was Equal Rites. I think, I’m not so sure anymore, I recognize books by their colour, and all my Terry Pratchett paperbacks have vaguely white splotchy spines by now.

If you look at our fantasy shelves, it’s easy to see when I got my first job. That was 1994, when I bought my first Terry Pratchett hardcover. Since then, I’ve bought all his books in hardcover when they were released.

I fondly remember the Terry Pratchett and discworld Usenet newsgroups, back when Usenet was fun. alt.books.Pratchett, alt.fan.Pratchett. The annotated FAQ. L-Space. Pterry.

Deciding that, well, sure, I couldn’t wait for the paperback, and would get the hardback, no matter what. Seeing the books’ spines go all skewed with re-reading.

Were all his books awesome? No, of course not. Though I guess nobody will agree with me which ones were less awesome. And I sometimes got fed up with his particular brand of moralizing, even.

But, in my mind, Terry Pratchett falls in the same slot as Wodehouse and Diana Wynne Jones. Wodehouse had about thirty years more of productive life; and Wodehouse’ sense of language was, honestly, better. But Terry Pratchett’s work showed much more versatility, though there, Diana Wynne Jones surely was the greater master. But there are books, like Feet of Clay, that I read, re-read and will keep re-reading.

An author of a body of work that will last a long time.