From the moment he wrote The Carpet People at the age of 18, Terence David John Pratchett was destined to become one of our most celebrated writers.
Taking his anger at the idiocy displayed by so much of the human race out on the page, Pratchett quickly moved from being a respected science-fiction writer to a respected and cynical commentator on modern times. Using his invention of the Discworld (a flat world which rests on the back of four elephants, who in turn stand on the back of a turtle which is continually travelling through space), he told stories of crime through the eyes of the Ankh Morpork (the largest city of the Discworld) Night Watch (Guards Guards), the paranormal through the eyes of vampires and werewolves, military life via the girls who secretly served their country in disguise (Monstrous Regiment) , and life in a dictatorship, and made them funny and thought provoking.
Neil Gaiman, Terry’s friend, and his co-author for the novel Good Omens, said of Pratchett, “His books are fuelled by a deep-seated moral anger about the stupid things humans do: Pratchett was so furious because he was adamant we are all capable of so much more. His Watch novels deployed trolls and dwarves to rail against racism and social constraints, but did so by showing how we all have some degree of prejudice…”
Selling more than 85 million books worldwide in 37 different languages during his lifetime, Terry Pratchett was the UK’s best-selling author of the 1990s.
As the Discworld series evolved, its fantastical aspects faded into the background, and slowly he allowed technology to replace magic. He made the consequences of the evolving of industry into funny, fast paced novels such as The Truth, which charted the effect of the introduction of newspapers.
Above all, through his 41 novels, whether they were for adults or children, Sir Terry Pratchett successfully brought science fiction into the life of the non-science fiction reader. He took his flawed and very human characters (even if they might not always be of our species), and used them to explain the chaos of the modern world.
In December 2007, Sir Terry Pratchett announced that he was suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s, and he sadly died on 12 March 2015, aged only 66.
Dr Kathryn Bates is a graduate of archaeology and history. She has excavated across the world as an archaeologist, and tutored medieval history at Leicester University. She joined the administrative team at Oxford Open Learning twelve years ago. Alongside her distance learning work, Dr Bates is a bestselling novelist, and an itinerant creative writing tutor for primary school children.