Monday, March 23

on the back of a giant turtle

about a week and a half ago, there was sad news. Sir Terry Pratchett died.

this, unlike any similarly stumbled-upon news of any other famous person's death, struck me differently for a few reasons. some of the reasons are directly related to Pratchett's writing--which is marvelously entertaining and brain-massaging stuff, all in all--and some are indirectly related to a bunch of other things that are indirectly related to Pratchett's writing. since that Thursday two Thursdays ago, when I first heard that the man was gone from the world, I've been wanting to write something. I spent the beginnings of my spring-break roadtrip thinking, driving and thinking, remembering stuff that would make a decent tribute.

in October of 2002, in some old library computer lab at Utah State University, I signed myself up as a member of a message board dedicated to this fantasy author, run by one of his publishers, HarperCollins. these message boards don't exist anymore. in internet-chronology, 2002 was something like four or five centuries ago. but luckily, someone saved a bunch of the most important threads from way back then. I have them copied from Dropbox and squirreled away in a file, for posterity. there are important memories in there. or at least some of them seem important.

early in 2003, HarperCollins invited (begged? bribed?) Pratchett himself to visit our crazy little message boards and answer people's tedious questions. this event lasted a whole week, and it seemed pretty darn exciting at the time. the questions I put forth were: "I've always wondered if you are the one who composes the little blurbs to put in the front or on the back of your books" and "do you have a favorite food?"

his answers were short:
In the UK I write the cover copy, or at least that bit of it which is about the book (I'm too modest to add all the quotes from reviews, so the publishers kindly do that for me). In the US they're done in-house, but I get a chance, these days, to suggest tinkering. 
Favourite food? Oh...good sushi, maybe. Oysters Kilpatrick, possibly. Or Lyn's fish pie :-)
a seafood-lover, eh? me too.

that fall, I traveled to England to live for a year. one brave and nervous-making Saturday while I was conveniently in the same country as she was, a friend from the message boards--Grace--met me in London and we explored old buildings and cafes and sights, bundled up against the drizzly weather. a few months later we met up again, with a few other message-board folk in tow. more cafes. cathedrals. pizza.

I owe a lot of friends and hilariousness and personal growth to the strangers that message board drew together. the original boards don't exist anymore, but there is a spinoff here, and an email list there, and we've got facebook and such now too. I still chat with a handful of these no-longer-strangers. they give much-appreciated advice and take time to listen when I have silly random stories to tell. Grace and Clay let me stay on their sofa when I visited England again in 2010. Ella and I saw some Shakespeare together last summer on my last night in Scotland. friend Yvonne in Berlin has been trading me postcards and sending hours of German pop music and audiobooks. I'm gonna visit her someday, I hope. and whatever on earth would I do without bestfriendface Chris? it's very possible that I would not even at all know how to handle my life. that's what.

without Pratchett, none of these meetings and relationships would have had a proper petri dish. this man, Sir Terry... he visited our message boards for a week but he likely never had any idea how pivotal that place was. perhaps his publishers hold more of the blame for the boards' existence, anyway. but without the books, what would've been the point?

{ the xkcd in memory of }

if you haven't enjoyed any Pratchett in your life yet, you should. The Bromeliad Trilogy is short and cute and awesome. I'll recommend the Johnny Maxwell Trilogy too, since nobody ever talks about it even though it is very cool. and of course, you'll find any old Discworld novel full of delight, I promise, it doesn't matter which one you pick up. they are quirky and pointy and slightly irreverent. they are worth reading. they are worth talking to strangers about. the strangers you talk to about these chunks of fiction might not stay strangers for very long.

No comments: