Dear Mr Pratchett,
I have been thinking of writing to you for some time now, writing to tell you how much your books mean to me and my family; but it seems like the hourglass ran out on us. I’m not sure what the communications are like where you are (is there broadband in the silver desert?) but I will write this anyway, and hope it makes its way to you somehow.
I remember distinctly the first time I read one of your books. I was at boarding school in the early 1990’s, I hadn’t done anything wrong in case you’re wondering, it’s just the way life goes sometimes isn’t it? So this particular weekend it seemed like everyone had gone home but me. There were a few other girls knocking around, but no one that I knew well or was in my year. I was a bit adrift really, feeling lost and bored, roaming the halls of the boarding house without purpose or intent. I can’t remember how I ran into another girl in my year (I think her name was Lane), we didn’t get on and we knew it. We didn’t try to get on for the sake of boredom either, but she was the one who loaned me one of your books. Maybe it was just to get rid of me, but that book was the beginning of a deep love that exists to this day.
What was a desolate and lonely weekend, became hours immersed in the world you had created. Suddenly I was glad there was no one to drag me away from the pages of Mort, I dived in and swam gloriously filled with joy. I couldn’t believe what I had found! Someone who’s writing really seemed just for me, just written to bring me happiness. I still feel that way, as if I’m sharing in a secret joke known only to a few. I know that your books are read in the millions, yet it feels like being part of a little gang who see the world the way I do.
Over the years I read all of the books you’d written and then waited with eager anticipation for the next instalment. I had to wait for the paperback of course, it wouldn’t be until later I could afford to get the hardbacks with their earlier release date and fancy jackets. Yours were the books I turned to when I needed a break from reading 18th century novels or 20th century poetry, I’d read them in bits promising myself another sample later on if I just did another hour of work. They were my temptation, my treat, my peace.
When I met my beloved, 20 years ago now, we bonded over our love of Pratchett. That’s what we call you, Pratchett, like Shakespeare or Shelley, your name is a whole category of things to us, a monolith, a titan. Later, when we decided we should both live under the same roof on a more or less permanent basis, we merged our two Pratchett collections into one. That seemed to outrank wedding vows in our minds; we committed to sharing something so very dear, to having only one copy of each from now on, a copy we would share and care for and keep, forever. It was a symbol of our union, it was a sign that we we loved the same things. We would giggle together over lines read out in the pre sleep bedtimes; sometimes we were laughing too much to read it out aloud and would have to pass the book to the other person, pointing breathlessly at the line that caused it all.
Christmas became easy during your more prolific years, the latest Pratchett from who ever wished to buy it. Always happily received, always read with maximum relish and as quickly as possible. I would wait, eagerly and not patiently, for my love to finish his first read, then I could tuck in. We knew it was Christmas when we were lying on the sofa reading the new Pratchett. It was a part of our lives, expected and enjoyed. Each year the collection grew a little bigger, moving into the hardbacks as money became more available, the weight of the book increasing as your style evolved and grew.
When we heard you were ill, it was like hearing the news of a dear friend. We wondered how you were doing and, selfishly, rejoiced when the books kept coming. We dreaded doing without them but knew that they had to be rationed a little. The books became more satirical, they went deeper and stayed with me more. I find it is the later books, with their finesse and depth I read over and over, the chance to be with the characters that are now so familiar is like sinking into a warm bed after a long day. They coax me into a different world and leave me better than when they found me.
This year I started to read the Wee Free Men series to my eldest boy, he fell in love just as we did. He rolls around on the sofa, laughing and slapping his knee, crying ‘Crivens!’ and other such phrases. Nothing could be funnier, better or more exciting to him. He wants to create a computer game of the Wintersmith, he wants to stay in that world as long as he can every day. We have to ration it out because we know he’s not quite ready for the older books just yet. So we take it slowly, delighting in sharing this bit of ourselves with our boy, of sharing our secret love known to millions.
So when we heard that Death, the Death I met when I was 17 (I won’t lie, that was over 10 years ago now…) had come for you, it was a blow. I cried out ‘Oh no!’ as the news hit the interwebs, and had to explain to my boys that a wonderful man had died. When I read the tweets, later on by myself, I cried. Someone we loved had died, someone who had brought so much joy and laughter into our lives was gone. It was not abstract, nor is it now. But as I read the tributes, as I saw how many others felt this sad loss, I was a little comforted. It’s nice to know so many care about the things you care about.
I don’t know what your thoughts are on the afterlife, whether it’s an inn with endless quaffing, a library filled with the boundless knowledge of the ages or, perhaps, the Disc World itself, balanced on the back of the great A’tuin. But I know that you live on here, in hearts and minds, in pages in houses in real life homes. You are a part of our family, a part of who we are and what we’ll be down the road. I thank you for being part of this journey with us, for sharing your vision, your boundless imagination. I thank you for looking into the secret places and telling us what you found, with humour and kindness and no reverence what so ever.
Good luck on this next part of your journey, your adventure into the unknown. If you don’t mind could you please pass on a message to Death, if you happen to see him? Could you tell him, ‘You came too soon. Way, way too soon.”
Thank you Mr Pratchett, and gods bless.