Today I have a special guest: Jim Lambert, a friend, sci-fi writer, and a fellow Terry Pratchett fan. Despite sharing our last name, we are not related. At least not that we know of. It has become a standard joke and greeting at parties: the Lamberts, not related. When Sir Pratchett died, both of us were pretty torn up. But Jim wrote down his thoughts, and did a hell of a lot better job with it than I would have. Enjoy!
The Goblins have a word: Hang. It means ‘Survive’. It’s their universal greeting.
Terry Pratchett died Thursday.
But it’s hard.
I’ve read all the Discworld books he wrote. More than once. The whole series, in order, at least three times. I’ve read the Johnny series. I’ve read the Bromiliad and Strata and The Long Earth. I’ve read Good Omens. A lot.
And there are no more words.
He’s gone and there’ll be no more Discworld books. No more words. There’s one more left in the pipeline that hasn’t been released, but everything he will ever write, has been written.
Writing has been described as telepathy. Using nothing more than words (many borrowed from common streetsigns) writers put thoughts and emotions in our brains. Terry Pratchett has put a lot in my brain. It came from his brain and went into mine. Telepathy.
But that’s all done now.
I suppose rather than telepathy, it’s now necroman… Post-Mortem Communication. There are no Necromancers at Unseen University. Or maybe the Reddit forum has it right: GNU Sir Terry Pratchett.
Had to stop for a moment, go into the other room and take a look at one of my bookshelves. The entire four-foot-long top shelf is packed tight with Terry Pratchett books. That’s where all the best stuff goes, right? The top shelf? There’s a little wiggle room because I’ve loaned out a few. There it is. I pried out Going Postal.
Oh God. I forgot. That’s the one he signed. I drove eight hours to Seattle, walked to the wrong place (the website had said University Bookstore, but it was at one of the halls in the university), walked to the right place, bought Wintersmith, found a seat, and listened to Terry Pratchett talk. I stood in line to get two books signed. We got numbers so there wouldn’t be as much confusion. Mine was in the 300’s. I’m really not sure what I said to him. Probably “Thank you”. I suppose that seems appropriate. Then turned around and drove eight hours home the next day.
So my point was to quote from Going Postal. Let me find the page. Give me a minute. Talk amongst yourselves.
[The letter G means send it on.] “I know a U at the end means it has to be turned around at the end of the line, and an N means Not Logged.”
“We keep that name moving the Overhead,” he said, and it seemed to Princess that the wind in the shutter arrays above her blew more forlornly, and the everlasting clicking of the shutters grew more urgent. “He’d never have wanted to go home. He was a real linesman. His name is in the code, in the wind, in the rigging, and the shutters. Haven’t you ever heard the saying ‘Man’s not dead while his name is still spoken’?”
If that’s true (and since Terry said it, it must be fundamentally true), it might be he’ll never really die. But there are still no more words. It’s still hard.
There are others who, once again from Going Postal, are:
“…offered that greatest of all treasures, which is Hope, sir.”
Tom Pride started a petition, at Change.org, asking Death to ‘Reinstate Terry Pratchett’.
“It’s a million to one shot, but it just might work.”
They can tak’ oour troousers, but they cannae tak’ oour Terry Pratchett!
While the dead don’t need these gestures and rituals, we, the living, sometimes do.
We all know it can’t happen. It could never happen. But it just might. And if it did, and we didn’t sign, we’d all taste the Bacon Sandwich of Regret.
I bought a bunch of the stage plays based on Discworld novels. Most of them are adapted by a playwright/director/actor named Stephen Briggs. He also reads some (all?) of the audiobook versions. They’re good plays. Funny, with a lot of the feel from the novels. Shorter, with a lot of the subplots and such cut for time. I tried to get two of them produced at one of the local community theaters (I’d directed there previously and had attached myself as director for these). I picked Carpe Jugulum for a Halloween show, and later Maskerade about the same time the Phantom of the Opera movie was being released. Both were turned down. I got Carpe Jugulum through the script committee, but the board of directors thought there were ‘too many characters’ and the names were difficult. So it goes.
Back to Thursday.
My smartphone vibrated. It was a Facebook post from an old coworker. I just checked: 9:37am. “I thought I would share with you. I know he was a favorite writer.” The Buzzfeed.com article: The Author Sir Terry Pratchett Has Died Aged 66. The author of the Discworld series has died.
“Thanks. I’m devastated.”
I shared the post out again: “No words.”
I tried to get back to work, but I was having trouble seeing the screen. My phone buzzed a lot that day. Everyone who commented or ‘liked’ my post. Same for the original post where I was named. My old boss texted me: “I just heard about Terry Pratchett passing and immediately thought of you. I’m sorry—guessing it’s hitting you hard. My condolences, take care”
And every time my computer screens would get blurry and I’d have to stop work for a bit. After work I walked over to a favorite bar (which just happened to be a block from where I was meeting my critique group in an hour). The bar manager is a writer, too. But not a Pratchett fan. I had to explain. I think I looked pretty down. He offered to buy me a shot. Maybe I should have taken him up on it. I did have a beer.
Made the toast.
So here I am. It’s 4:30am and I’ve been thinking about writing something like this since Thursday. I still don’t know where I’ll put it.
Who I’ll send it to.
But I wasn’t sleeping, so what the heck. I had come up with a good finish for this, but now I can’t recall just what I was going to say. Oh, that’s right: the tweets.
Terry had some tweets posted.
3.06pm: “AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER.”
One minute later: “Terry took Death’s arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night.”
The final tweet: “The End.”
Every good author knows to end their story with “The End.” Terry Pratchett was a brilliant author, and I’ll miss him.
James T. Lambert (”call me Jim”) is a long time science fiction reader who decided to try his hand at writing the stuff a few years back. He planned on doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). That’s fifty thousand words in thirty days. First time he was two weeks late starting. “Maybe next year.” It was only held in November at that time. Next year he was a week late. “Maybe next year.” Next year he was three days late. “You know, I type fast. I can make up three days.” Now he needed a plot.
Steampunk. Going to the moon. In 1894. And, go!
He finished Steam Opera, then Aether Powered, then Proxies. He’s still working on Muse. And working with some other authors on Monster Marshals. So science fiction, Steampunk, and urban fantasy. He’s in four critique groups, and they tell him the stories need work. And they do. So they are all opened up on the surgical table and are slowly bleeding out. Once they’re resurrected, they’ll be sent out into the world to stagger about and cause havoc.
Please wait patiently.
Until then you can see his progress in building a website at https://jamestlambert.com.