PSA: if you ever thought I was going to stop wanging on about Terry Pratchett, this post proves that I’m not. Ever.
The man was a genius. He knew so damn much about so many things AND MANAGED TO IMPART KNOWLEDGE ON ME.
Of course, it helps that I’ve read every one of his Discworld books eleventy-billion times. I would highly recommend you do.
Every time I pick out one of Terry’s books to re-read, I promise myself that rather than reading the book like a normal human, I’m gonna dissection every sentence to really get to the heart of how he manages to make each book so goddamn good. You know, like a proper writer would.
Regrettably, I generally end up getting caught up in the story and just reading it like normal. Still, it’s no great loss. 1, because the books are so good, and 2, because I’m never ever going to be able to write like that.
I’m not feeling sorry for myself here. I mean, it’d be like an artist being jealous of Leonardo Da Vinci – even if I were half as good, that’d be quite impressive. Besides, I have other skills. I bet Terry Pratchett didn’t do his music GCSE piece on the recorder. GUESS WHO DID (clue: ’twas me). I can make the recorder sound like something NOT TOO UNPLEASANT to listen to. Big thumbs up and a round of applause to me.
I’m probably unaware of some of the things Terry Pratchett taught me because there are possibly hundreds. Here are a few though:
1 – How steam engines work
You’d have thought I’d have learned this at school, no? But, alas, I did not. I genuinely had no idea what the hell was going on until I read Raising Steam. And I certainly didn’t know how much maths was involved. It’s all rather interesting, as it turns out.
This also explains the immense pressure those who ran the first railways were – the government insisting they expanded the rail network, whilst facing backlash from the public every time some tiny thing went wrong.
2 – Macbeth
Fun fact: I read Wyrd Sisters before I’d even heard of Macbeth, and it took me a while to realise (I think my friend told me actually) that Terry Pratchett’s Wyrd Sisters is a retelling of Macbeth.
Christ that was helpful to know during my English Lit. GCSEs.
Although points of the story are very different (the witches don’t move the kingdom forward in time in Macbeth, at least not to my knowledge), it helped me to understand that the story was heinously dull, which I truly believed all Shakespeare to be when I was fifteen UNLESS there was a sexy modern day version of it starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
3 – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Lords and Ladies is my favourite Terry Pratchett book. It has witches, evil elves, and an orangutan. I need nothing else from a book. Like Wyrd Sister’s, it’s hardly a faithful retelling, but it definitely follows the basic story of a Midsummer Night’s Dream, but with witches. The same witches, incidentally, that appear in Wyrd Sisters. I don’t think there’s any such crossover in Shakespeare’s universe, but dare I say it, maybe there should have been.
Oh, and no one gets turned into a donkey, but there’re far more bees. JUST READ IT.
4 – Basic Economics
I actually used Making Money as research for my book because it explains how money works in a way I actually understand/don’t fall asleep while reading.
So, here on in the UK, and most countries, we’re on the gold standard, whereby every banknote and coin is essentially an IOU for gold. The gold is locked away in a bank. But we never see the gold. And even if we asked for it, we wouldn’t get it. Paper money has become the currency.
In my book, the country is on the salt standard (as some countries used to be, back in the day), so I needed to learn a bit more about what that would involve. Enter Making Money.
5 – Bees
Quite a few of Pratchett’s novels involving Granny Weatherwax feature bees. They’re incredible little dudes tbh. I’ve had a lot of respect for them since reading these books and have planted a lavender hedge in the garden that seems to keep ’em happy.
Ok, so these are main ones I remember, but there are also books that explain religion and belief (Small Gods, Hogfather, Feet of Clay), politics (Guards! Guards!, The Fifth Elephant, Thud!), time (and time travel) (Thief of Time, Night Watch) and racism/sexism/speciesm (Jingo, Monstrous Regiment, Snuff).
If you like fantasy, magic, crime, mythology, comedy, classic literature or monsters, you’ll love these. Although, if you’re an author they’ll probably make you weep because the man was so damn talented (and looked better than anyone in a hat).
Just in case anyone is interested, there are kids books set in the Discworld universe too, which are sooo good, however, I read Wyrd Sisters when I was about 8 and LOVED it. I probably didn’t understand a lot of it but I enjoyed them none the less. There’s no graphic sex and very not much swearing.
RIP Terry, you were incredible.