The Light Fantastic

Terry PratchettI spent my teenage years painting Citadel miniatures and playing a bucket-load of role-playing games: Traveller, Warhammer, MERP, Shadowrun, to name but a few. I was an avid reader of course, SF mostly, some fantasy: from Lord of the Rings to the Pern series to Neuromancer. For some reason I’ve always struggled with fantasy that wasn’t set in Middle Earth. There is one other notable exception.

Back in October 1986 I had a subscription to White Dwarf magazine and when issue #82 appeared through the letterbox I had no idea I was about to read something that would influence me as a reader — and perhaps as a writer — for the rest of my life. That little something was an extract from the novel The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett.

I was blown away! A story with Death as a character speaking in capital letters! A completely hapless wizard with the most amazing magical item to have existed since the One Ring: the multi-footed Luggage. The Discworld felt like something from one of our giddy all-day role-playing sessions! Moments of brief violence separated by long tracts of mirth and hilarity. This was my kind of fantasy.

I headed straight out to grab the first book, Colour of Magic, and I was soon back to reading a complete copy of The Light Fantastic before I moved onto Equal Rites, Mort and so on. I remember devouring some of these books in just an afternoon, rolling around on my bed and laughing so hard that I was soon wheezing with asthma and chugging away on my inhaler.

RIPPLES MADE INTERESTING PATTERNS ON THE SEA-

‘ALRIGHT, YOU’VE MADE YOUR POINT,’ said Death. ‘WHAT PRECISELY WAS IT YOU WISHED TO KNOW? QUITE A LOT OF THINGS HAPPENED THIS MORNING. PEOPLE WERE BORN, PEOPLE DIED, ALL THE TREES GREW A BIT TALLER, RIPPLES MADE INTERESTING PATTERNS ON THE SEA -‘

So here we are in 2015. Terry Pratchett has finally left us alone to fend for ourselves. I guess we all knew this day was coming. Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease.

I still have my pristine copy of White Dwarf #82. It was stored in a box in the loft amidst a pile of other issues, next to another box full of little black Traveller books and old miniatures.

White Dwarf magazine #82 and some other memories

White Dwarf magazine #82 and some other memories

It’s strange to think that I was only 15 years old when I first met Rincewind and the Luggage. I’ve read a lot of books since then, but I don’t think any of them have become a part of my memories as much as my first trip into Discworld. I guess I was also writing back then, though it was probably all role-playing scenarios and rule-sets. It would be a few years before I decided to start writing fiction.

Nowadays I have two sons and my eldest , coincidentally, is 15 years old. He’s reading Good Omens at the moment. This happy circular maybe-coincidence feels about right to me. Perhaps my sons will have daughters or sons of their own who will, in turn, find their own Pratchett to read.

I hope so.

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Please spare a moment to donate whatever you can to one of the following good causes or just spread the word if you’re strapped for cash right now:

The Alzeimer’s Society [http://www.alzheimers.org.uk/]

Research Institute for the Care of Older People (RICE) [https://www.justgiving.com/Terry-Pratchett]

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