Thursday, March 12, 2015

R.I.P., Sir Terry Pratchett

If you don't know Terry Pratchett's work or his courageous fight against Alzheimer's, you won't understand why so many people are so very upset at his passing.  I encourage you to seek out his books and prepare to be entertained.  He'll make you laugh, and if you look at all closely, you'll find a great intelligence informs both the stories and the humor. 

I did not know Pratchett, but I did meet him twice, both times at Noreascon 4, the 2004 World Science Fiction Convention.

The first time was when he presented a special costume-contest award to the masquerade contestant group of which I was a member.  I was in costume as Tom Jones--I was much thinner then and from a distance could carry off the role--and the group's skit was, well, unusual.  (That's another story for another time.)  Pratchett's publisher had given him money and a special silver Discworld to present to the best Discworld-related costume.  He chose ours after laughing so hard during out 80-second skit that he actually fell out of his chair.  I saw this happen in the corner of my eye from the stage, a viewing possible only because he was in the front row.  I'm still happy to be able to say I was part of something that made him laugh that hard.  As he was presenting us the award and congratulating each of us individually, I was near the end of our group filing up to him.  As I approached him to receive his congratulations, he started to laugh again and said, "Go on, you.  I can't even look at you."  He wasn't being mean; he just didn't want to crack up again in an auditorium crammed with thousands of people.

The next time was the last night of the convention.  Jennie and I had wandered to the con suite to see if anything was happening, and he was standing alone in an almost entirely empty space, just looking around.  He was the con's guest of honor.  We wandered by, he said hi, and we chatted about the con for several minutes before he left.  Even though he was the guest of honor at SF's biggest convention, he had about him a vibe I know well:  the feeling of not quite belonging, the edges of impostor syndrome and discomfort at being in one's own skin.  He could not have been nicer to us.

His books were a joy, and both what I know about him as a person and these small brushes with him were all only good.  I am sad at his passing. 

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