When I was a kid, I found about Sci-Fi and Fantasy novels from my dad very early on. He had quite a large collection, including an original paperback of Dune (in sadly terrible condition), lots of the ERB Princess of Mars collection (NSF kids, BTW), and all sorts of assorted good collections from the 60s and 70s. Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, just everything. About 200 to 300 novels.
At one point he was going to toss them. I stole the whole lot instead and took it to college with me. Now they sit in my bookshelf, because *hell no* you’re not tossing those!
In something like 8th grade, I discovered Douglas Adams in my school library. Sometime shortly after that, I discovered the Discworld of Terry Pratchett. Instant addiction.
When I was in college, one summer, I was staying at home. I was probably around 19 or 20, and working for the summer, as a computer salesman (yes, seriously). My dad had a predilection for late-night reading back then. Lot to do during the day, people bugging him all the time, best to do his reading alone, when he could smoke, at some time after 10 pm. Simple. He used to borrow from my collection (his, which again, I totally stole and told him I was doing so), but which also had many of my own added in.
One night that summer, he chose to read “Moving Pictures”.
I woke up to my dad *screaming* in laughter. He came into my room, at about 2 am, turned on the light, and in between fits of giggling, read this back to me:
‘What’s it called?’ he said cautiously.
‘We call it Evil-Minded Son of a Bitch,’ said the newly-appointed Vice-President in Charge of Camels.
‘That doesn’t sound like a name.’
‘ ‘S a good name for this camel,’ said the handler fervently.
I laughed along with him, and proceeded to inform him that a) yes, I had read the book like a dozen times, and b) it was 2 in the god damn morning, let me sleep you son of a bitch, I need to be at work at 7 am, jackass.
Here’s the thing. Thinking back on that, that particular quote isn’t actually funny without the backstory and setup. It’s a straight-man joke. It’s the kind of joke you need setup for in TV shows. That’s how good Terry Pratchett was. You had this entire mental image of the surroundings, the people, the background, the backstory, everything necessary to make that joke *friggin’ hilarious*, without ever seeing anything but black text on a white background. Terry was simply that good of a storyteller.
Tonight, I received in the mail “The Shepherd’s Crown” from my Amazon pre-order. I have not opened it yet. I actually teared up when I looked at the package, because Terry died back in March, and I have not fully dealt with that fact yet. I have read and reread everything Terry Pratchett ever wrote, oh, hundreds of times. I have memories of me and my dad laughing over his prose. I know excessive amounts of details about the Discworld and can quote ridiculously long passages from the novels for no reason whatsoever.
Laughing along with Terry at his insanely funny parody of the crazy world around us helped me through sometimes, especially when I needed to laugh rather than weep at the silliness surrounding us all.
I’m not sure I can open that package from Amazon. I’m sure I will, eventually.
But, you know what? I miss you, Terry. Thanks for all the laughs, especially when I needed them the most.