Last updateWed, 20 Sep 2017 9am


Fantasy becomes reality as author faces death

Distinguished English author Terry Pratchett looks a bit like a mix of Dr. Andrew Weil and Johnny Cash – with a touch of wizard thrown in (depending on the tilt of his black fedora on any given day). He enjoys a huge fan base, having written in the fantasy genre for both children and adults. In fact, Queen Elizabeth liked him so much that in 2009 she knighted him for services to literature.

Pratchett is best known for his fantasy book series about a place called Discworld, described as a large disc resting on the backs of four giant elephants, all supported by the giant turtle Great A’Tuin, as it swims its way through space. (Are you still with me?)

I must confess, I found this whimsical place very funny to think about. In fact, alone in my office, I laughed out loud for quite some time. Then, as I slowly regained my composure and tried to carry on my serious work, I unexpectedly broke into another fit of hilarity as my subconscious began to ponder, “Then, who’s holding up the turtle?”

That’s what happens when you only dip your toe in the waters of Pratchett-land. To fully appreciate his genius, one must enter the gates fully engaged and ready to believe.

I am not well acquainted (OK, I’m not acquainted at all) with the fantasy/sci-fi genre, but that plotline makes “Star Trek” seem like “Father Knows Best.” In fact, there are Discworld conventions, much like the Trekkies have.

After the initial jolt, however, it is apparent that Pratchett’s Discworld is not as unrelated to our Earth as it would seem at first glance. He cleverly uses his fantasy civilization to parody our own present world situations in war, politics, entertainment and society in general.

In 2009, Pratchett also became known on UK television for an award-winning BBC documentary series on Alzheimer’s disease. He has contracted a rare form of the disease, Posterior Cortical Atrophy, in which areas at the back of the brain begin to shrink and shrivel.

In the April 21 Guardian, a British newspaper, reporter Stephen Moss writes of Pratchett:

“‘It’s not morbid to talk about death,’ he insists. ‘Most people don’t worry about death, they worry about a bad death.’ In Discworld, death is an attractive, sympathetic, sometimes comic figure, a far-from-grim reaper – and Pratchett sees no reason to change his view here in Roundworld.”

I’m just saying … imagination can be a wonderful thing, and I love the way Sir Terry Pratchett is using his to transit many worlds: flat and round, here – and hereafter. We wish him well.

Sharon Lennox-Infante, a contributing editor for Book Buzz, is a Los Altos resident.

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