Saying Goodbye to Terry Pratchett

Majestic alone beech tree on a hill slope with sunny beams at moI was a guest at the WorldCon that was held in San Fransisco some years back, and I discovered on my schedule that I was on a panel on Death, with both Haldeman brothers (whom I had never heard of at that point), someone else I had heard of but don’t now remember…and Terry Pratchett.

I’d heard of him. I’d read Strata and loved it back before he was OMG Terry PRATCHETT!!! and had tripped over and fallen in love with the Discworld series because I remembered his name from Strata.

Discovering I got to be on a panel with him, I was thrilled.

So I bopped into the green room for the panel about fifteen, maybe twenty minutes early, the way you’re supposed to when you’re a panelist, so that everyone on the panel knows what you’ll all be discussing and how the lead panelist wants to lead…

…And aside from him, I was the only one there.

I sat, and we talked. The panel was about Death, so we talked about life and death. His character DEATH, my experiences with life and death as an RN before I hung up my scrubs to write full time…and then, because we were both writers who loved what we did, about the joy and wonder of getting paid to write fiction, and the tiny little word processor he had in his backpack that only weighed a pound. Because, he said, “A pound is nothing. But two pounds is two pounds.” My monster laptop weighed somewhere between 6 and 8 pounds at that point—and so did almost everyone else’s. I wish I could remember what his device was.

In the middle of a gigantic convention, in the midst of chaos and hurrying people and everyone trying to get close to celebrities, I had a small chunk of time carved out in which I got to speak to OMG Terry PRATCHETT!!!, (because at that point in his life, that was who he was), and I got to talk to him as one writer to another. Without interruption.

He was one of the nicest people I have ever met in my life. He was off-the-cuff funny, warm, kind—the sort of writer you always hope you’ll meet when you talk to someone who’s been writing words you’ve loved for years.

I would not trade that tiny chunk of my life for any amount of money. A gift of time and a little piece of magic fell into my lap, and even today it still brings me joy.

I am sorry he is gone. The world is a better place because he lived, and will be sadly rounder and less wonderful without him.

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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and self-publish my new ones.

12 comments… add one
  • Charlotte Babb May 7, 2017 @ 14:04

    I got to see him at the Discworld convention in Arizona a few years ago. He already knew he had alzheimers, but he was so entertaining. The only things he wrote –or that had his name on it– was the Long Earth series, too much Stephen Baxter and not enough Terry Pratchett.

    He is missed.

    • Holly May 18, 2017 @ 5:32

      Knowing he had Alzheimer’s had to be hard. He was a tremendously kind man, wonderfully funny. And I’m so glad he had people who loved him who were with him to care for him when he couldn’t care for himself.

  • Patti Apr 6, 2015 @ 11:01

    A wonderful little piece. Thank you for sharing that and for sharing your moment with him, with us.

  • glossy red Mar 24, 2015 @ 3:20

    I have only written three fan letters in a long life. Terry was the only star ever to reply personally- and this at the height of his fame. Thousands of fans could say the same. I also cherish the memory of a bookshop meeting attended by 200 fans, average age 14 and all looking intelligent and individual. What an audience to write for! About the computer: he once had an Olivetti Quaderno (a beautiful-looking machine, rarely, despite its modest 20MB capacity)) which he took up Uluru in Australia in his pocket, revelling in its portability. We miss you, Terry.

  • Sarah Mar 23, 2015 @ 15:43

    I still can’t get my head round the fact Terry is no longer with us. I discovered his books at about the age of 9, and was an instant convert. I discovered sci-fi and fantasy through trawling the library shelves to try and find more Pratchett. My sense of humour, my love of words, my way of thinking about the world were all shaped through reading his books. The first books I ever purchased with my own money were all Pratchett. He has been my favourite author for almost three decades, and I have read almost everything he’s ever written.

    Without Terry, I would not be me. To say I will miss him is a ridiculous understatement. I never had the good fortune to meet him, but I have spent the last week and a half grieving as if I have lost some combination of family member, old friend, and mentor.

    “No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away.” – Reaper Man

    “Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?” – Going Postal

    GNU Terry Pratchett.

  • Eddie Cochrane Mar 19, 2015 @ 7:16

    If this was ConFrancisco in 1993, then Terry would probably have been typing into a Poqet PC. I remember him using one when he was guest at the 1992 Beneluxcon. Such a lovely guy to meet, he was the first author I ever chatted to in a con bar.

    • Holly Mar 23, 2015 @ 9:00

      It was indeed ConFransisco 1993.

      And you are exactly right. I looked up images for Poquet PC, and that was what he had.

  • Angie Mar 17, 2015 @ 5:34

    What a jewel of a memory to possess.
    If Terry Pratchett had adhered to the norms of what one is ‘supposed’ to write, the world would be a poorer place.
    Thanks for sharing that Holly.

  • Texanne Mar 16, 2015 @ 12:16

    His passing seemed so quick to me, but surely it wasn’t quick to him and his loved ones.

    I’m glad you have that little jewel of time to keep on your heart’s charm bracelet.

  • Lavern Mar 14, 2015 @ 15:24

    He will be missed by many people, but we still have his books to enjoy.

    The device he used may have been an Alphasmart Neo. I have one and use it for first drafts. The screen only allows a few lines to be visible so it discourages editing. It’s powered by 3 AA batteries which last a long time, so it’s very economical to use.

  • Claudette Mar 14, 2015 @ 12:21

    His words has inspired and entranced many of us, some sooner than others, but all of us who read fantasy. His view of his universe–and consequently ours–laid a foundation that has influenced so many over the years.

    He will be sorry missed, both as a writer and as a person.

    RIP Terry.

  • Alan Mar 13, 2015 @ 20:58

    What a wonderful memory of a wonderful person. I am glad it is yours to cherish.

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