I owe Terry Pratchett an apology.
As a kid, I utterly loved science fiction and fantasy – the worlds, the quests, the violence, the imagination, the weird. I came to Pratchett thanks to my wonderful local library, in Tullycarnet, east Belfast. After a year (a huge chunk of time when you are 11 or 12) of endlessly rereading The Dragonlance Chronicles or Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire – both of which I loved but books I can confidently predict Have Not Aged Well – I needed something more. Something, well, disc-shaped.
Enter Terry Pratchett. Not just Terry Pratchett – there was Douglas Adams, John Wyndham, Jeff Noon’s Vurt, Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age a bit further down the line, Iain M Banks, Grant Naylor’s Red Dwarf books.
But Pratchett stood above them all. I can’t remember which one I picked up first but I can still remember my favourite author biography – ‘Terry Pratchett was born in 1948 and is still not dead’. His description of sex in Equal Rites – ‘count the legs and divide by two’. The absolute absurdity of the Discworld and the sharp comic genius that drove his novels. The ones I loved – Mort, Guards Guards, Soul Music, Equal Rites, Interesting Times – and the ones I didn’t – I remember virtually nothing about The Light Fantastic except it is my immediate answer to the question ‘what Discworld book should I not start with?’
I still have no idea why I picked them up – whether it was the glorious Josh Kirby Corgi covers, which I still love, a librarian recommendation, or that glorious feeling of accidentally stumbling over something you swiftly realise you will come to love – but for several years afterwards, I pretty much lived Discworld.
Of course, then the absolute stupidity of teenagers kicked in and Terry Pratchett was definitely ‘not cool’. I didn’t like Discworld, I liked Bret Easton Ellis. I liked Jack Kerouac. I liked Irvine Welsh. Not once did it dawn upon me that it was ok to like all of it at the same time.
But Pratchett was clearly the bridge between the excessive geekery of my youth reading habits and what I read now. When I read about airborne toxic events, videotapes so entertaining the viewer ends up abandoning all life in pursuit of The Entertainment, clockwork bees as the world’s greatest doomsday device, all of those roads started with a world held up by four elephants stood on the back of a gigantic space turtle.
I’ve been thinking about this recently and whether Discworld is one of those bold lines from my childhood that set what I would love as an adult. Roald Dahl is one of those lines. Twin Peaks another. Star Wars and Marvel Comics a third and fourth. I decided to revisit Discworld, the whole thing, start to finish, both old favourites and brand new books and see what lay there for me as a thirtysomething.
What this is also is my long-winded way of making amends for dumping Pratchett when I did, a project aided by some late night alcohol fuelled eBaying and the decision to buy his entire back catalogue on the cheap.
I’m hardly the first to do this – the Vacuous Wastrel complete Discworld reread project has been a neat way of pushing me into embarking on the same journey. I’ll start with The Colour of Magic and move forward one book at a time, writing my thoughts about each in some convoluted long-form essay. New posts will go up each Friday.
I’ll also be trying to read other books at the same time – in order not to drive myself completely crazy – and could well talk about those too. And maybe other things. I may not have given this enough thought, as seems fitting with someone who impulse buys 40 something books in a weird fit of nostalgia. But we’ll work it out as we go along.
Thanks for joining me – you can get started with my thoughts on The Colour of Magic.