Sadly Missed: Sir Terry Pratchett
Sir Terry Pratchett was a phenomenon of literature, who sadly passed away in the spring of 2015. His works were much loved across the world, and earned him a knighthood, a fan club, and notoriety across genres. He started his career as a form of a hobby, with only little awareness of his works outside the fantasy and science fiction field. However, his prodigious output (sometimes as many as two books a year, and often one book every year), alongside his wit, humour, and compassion grew his audience by a factor of millions.
His works appealed not just to fans of genre (although they, perhaps, were the most loyal), but also across fiction boundaries to appeal to theoretical physicists, historians, sociologists, and even religious leaders – despite his avowed atheism throughout his life! His work travels across the children’s and fantasy genre; from alternate histories of colonial era (Nation) to alternate histories of the Western World (Dodger) to children’s stories (Where is My Cow, The Carpet People) and, most importantly, to his life’s work in the Discworld Series.
The Discworld Series starts with The Colour of Magic, and The Light Fantastic as an ironic satire on conventional fantasy tropes. The world is flat (on the back of a giant turtle), wizards are bumbling cowards, elves are nasty little imps, and heroes are big and dumb with arrogant talking swords. His series took a witty look at the fantasy genre, and turned it on its head. In the later books Equal Rights, Guards, Guards and Witches, Pratchett’s work starts to use this work to point towards human truths and difficult questions. During the course of his career, he used the fictional Discworld to talk about feminism and women’s rights, emancipation and political freedoms, the power of myth and being brave, as well as technology, slavery, and leadership – all through the wry, humorous caricatures of the Discworld figures.
For the collector, the Discworld series is quite unique in the way that it transformed the fantasy/scifi genre, and is equally relevant and fun for children, young adults and adults. ‘Escapism with a Heart’ could be an apt description. In monetary terms, there is a lot of variation in price for his earliest editions – and, perhaps sadly, it is an ideal time to start collecting now. His first hardback editions of his earliest works The Carpet People, The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic were all published by smaller publishers before they moved over to Gollancz, and so are becoming quite rare. Search for St. Martins and Gerrard’s Smythe edtions of the works (but avoid book-club editions). If signed, these can fetch as much as five or ten thousand dollars! There are many options for the starting collector however, and a truly memorable place to start might be the Gollancz clothbound re-issue of all of Sir Pratchett’s books, a matching set in the form of the Discworld Collector’s Library.