In Praise of Terry Pratchett


Let me say first off that if you don't like fantasy and you don't like to laugh, you will not like Terry Pratchett...nor will you like this post, so it's best if you move along.

However, if you like all three as I do, please read on!

Back in 1997, long before I met Sir Pratchett (in the literary sense), I was directing a film in Big Bend. For those of you unfamiliar with Texas, it is a national park right on the southern tip of the state, famous for its mountains (the Swiss would call them hills) and its arid desert (the Saharans would call it a rest stop).

Just outside the park, in the middle of that desert, is the Starlight Restaurant. This one-time movie palace serves up such tantalizing fare as wild boar sausage and antelope strips, along with some guitar-picking entertainment.

Our film crew went there for dinner one Saturday, and apart from the lights from the restaurant, the desert was pitch black at night. It just so happened the Hale-Bopp comet was passing the earth on its 2,500-year orbit of the sun, and in the clear, dark, desert air, its tail stretched from horizon to horizon. It was a spectacular sight.

So what does that have to do with Terry Pratchett? Everything. Like a comet he streaked through our lives, leaving us gasping in awe, and was gone far too soon.

Some have labeled him the greatest comedic fantasist of our generation. I would go one step further. I don't think we've ever seen his like, nor will again, certainly not in our lifetime.

Were there times he could have used an editor? Absolutely. But who would have dared attempt it? He was like a literary Robin Williams--free-wheeling, fast-paced, somewhat manic--there are times when only he knows what he's talking about--but none of that negates the sheer exhilaration and enjoyment of the ride. And trying to slap a governor on such spontaneity would have been like trying to lasso the Hale-Bopp comet. Not only an impossible feat but a foolish one as well. Better to stand where you are, watch in awe as it unfolds, and thank the stars that you got to live in a time when Terry Pratchett was making his delightful journey around the sun.