Today, I bid farewell to one of my favorite authors, one of the most extraordinary minds on the planet.
I’ve been a Pratchett fan for over half my life, a figure that absolutely astounds me. I picked up my first book at 14, after getting a rec from a friend at summer camp. The first day of school, I asked my librarian if she had anything by “a woman named Terri Pratchett.”
I was Angua for Halloween my senior year of high school. I still remember the looks I got at the pet store when I tried on potential dog collars.
After running out of Harry Potter books to read aloud to my parents, I started in on Discworld. Of the Watch books, I read “Guards! Guards!” through “The Fifth Elephant,” then when I went off to college, I recorded myself reading “The Truth” as a Christmas present.
On one of those classic “a dare takes on a life of its own” adventures, I wrote a fair chunk of “Men at Arms: The Musical.”
This past November, I reread Monstrous Regiment. The first time I read Monstrous Regiment, when it was released in 2003, I didn’t like it. As a big fan of the City Watch, I resented that we were teased with cameos from Vimes and Angua but we didn’t see their characters evolve, and I thought the ending was too contrived. From the sidelines, I watched my fellow fans EXPLODE with love for the book and produce reams of fanart and fanfic, never participating myself. I made a mental note to maybe give it another go, but I never got around to it.
So last November, in a fit of feminist fury, I bought the audio edition and listened over the span of a few days. And I realized that oh my god, this book is phenomenal.
I think I read it at the wrong point in my life. In 2003, I’d just graduated from an all-girls’ high school. I went to an all-girls’ summer camp for a big chunk of my childhood, too. I was fed a steady diet of girl power propaganda, which was ultimately meaningless because I didn’t really understand what it was like to live in a universe where to be a woman meant feeling lesser or unwelcome. I grew up with Female as default, and I was told I could have anything I wanted, because I wanted to be an engineer and the world was desperate for women engineers! Of course, one month into my first semester of my 90% male computer science major, when this book came out, my ego was busy being CRUSHED. I felt like everything I’d been promised was a lie, because the subject that had always come easy to me was kicking my butt, and I had no idea how to make friends to work and study with, making me even more useless. And I couldn’t reach out for help, because admitting failure felt like I was failing on behalf of ALL women.
I don’t know if I resented the book because it was too close to home, or if I was in denial about what I was experiencing, but now that I’ve grown and rebuilt my self image, I can fully appreciate this marvel of a book and the struggles Polly faces. It wasn’t what I needed at 18, but it’s exactly what I needed at 30. It was a balm on my soul.
And more than that, I felt like the universe had given me a gift. It was like discovering a gem from Pratchett’s heyday for the first time. I love these characters. I love the world they discover and how they shape it. This book is GENIUS. I actually got a little teary explaining to my roommate about how meaningful the experience of rediscovering this book was. It was like my favorite author reached forward into the future to write the book I needed when he was still in prime shape to write it.
So thanks, Pterry. Thanks for always being the author I needed, no matter my age. Thanks for creating a world so nuanced and intelligent and dense with humor and references that each time I revisit it, I’ll discover new territory.
De Chelonian Mobile,