For the last eight years, award-winning fantasy author Terry Pratchett grappled with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and advocated for dementia patients while continuing to write and give the world stories we will treasure. On Thursday, he died at 66 years of age.
Quite fittingly, it was Death himself who announced Pratchett’s passing through his official twitter account on Thursday afternoon.
AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER.— Terry Pratchett (@terryandrob) March 12, 2015
Terry took Death’s arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night.— Terry Pratchett (@terryandrob) March 12, 2015
The End.— Terry Pratchett (@terryandrob) March 12, 2015
Pratchett was perhaps known best for his Discworld series, which totaled more than 40 books and has sold more than 80 million copies in 37 languages. The flat world balanced on the backs of four elephants standing atop a giant turtle is one beloved by readers the world over and it is no surprise that writers, artists, and other names — both bold-faced and regular — have spent most of the hours since Pratchett’s death was announced heaping praise on his beautiful imagination and unique way of looking at a world, both ours and those he created.
His work was humorous and influenced by the world around him, but as a reader late to the Pratchett game, what has struck me most was the complexity of his characters and the empathy with which he treated them. You will find in his work people who are not perfect or likable, and who will do unredeemable things. But you will not be able to detach yourself from them or walk away from their stories thinking you did not care what became of them. They are as real as you and me (and in some cases the historic figures they were based on). He created worlds that didn’t always make sense, that didn’t necessarily toe any line of uniformity, and that inspired millions.
From Neil Gaiman to Philip Pullman to George R.R. Martin, the internet is awash with admirers at the highest levels of literary fame — and just plain old fame — expressing their deep sadness over the loss of their friend. If you dig further you will find even more accolades from readers of all ages who speak of learning to love reading through his stories and who discovered new sides to themselves through their connections to his books.
Pratchett completed his final book last summer. He is survived by his wife and daughter, and the millions of readers he took on adventures both here and on worlds far beyond where our own imaginations could take us.
Rachael Berkey is a reader, writer, and curator of all things entertainment. She has written and created content for pop culture, entertainment, literary, and nonprofit websites for the last four years. She tweets at @bookoisseur.