Tag Archives: Terry Pratchett

The Importance of the Little “Lies”

I’d like to thank Mrs. Lane, Mrs. Murphy, and the freshman and junior English classes at Clay Center Community High School for the opportunity to speak about story structure and the power of story. It was an absolutely fabulous experience for me, and, hopefully, also a positive experience for the students.

The day reminded the 53-year-old grumpy, old man in me how awesome our young people are. It reminded me to have confidence in the future. It reminded me that these students will be fully capable of cleaning up the mess my generation is leaving them. I challenged them to keep their natural BS meters sharp by reading and thinking and attacking problems. I pleaded with them not to lose this skill as they grow and mature. A well-honed BS meter will be an essential skill as they learn to live with the portal to access all of humanity’s information that they carry in their pocket.

Parents and school administrators, be proud of your students! Their potential shines and I can’t wait to see them mature and grow into the people they dream to be.

Below is an excerpt from HOGFATHER by Terry Pratchett (one of my favorite books and movies) I’d like to share with the students as repayment for being so warmly welcomed into their world for a day.

HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN

The Hogfather nodded at Death, as one craftsman to another, and then at Susan. She wasn’t sure if she was being thanked—it was more of a gesture of recognition, of acknowledgment that something that had needed doing had actually be done. But it felt like thanks.

Then he shook the reins and clicked his teeth and the sleigh slid away.

They watched it go.

“I remember hearing,” said Susan distantly. “That the idea of the Hogfather wearing a red and white outfit was invented quite recently.”

NO. IT WAS REMEMBERED.

Now the Hogfather was a red dot on the other side of the valley.

“Well, that about wraps it up for this dress,” said Susan,. “I’d just like to ask, just out of academic interest…you were sure I was going to survive, were you?”

I WAS QUITE CONFIDENT.

“Oh, good.”

I WILL GIVE YOU A LIFT BACK, said Death, after a while.

“Thank you. Now…tell me…”

WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED IF YOU HADN’T SAVED HIM?

“Yes! The sun would have risen just the same, yes?”

NO.

“Oh, come on. You can’t expect me to believe that. It’s an astronomical fact.”

THE SUN WOULD NOT HAVE RISEN.

She turned on him.

“It’s been a long night, Grandfather! I’m tired and I need a bath. I don’t need silliness!”

THE SUN WOULD NOT HAVE RISEN.

“Really? Then what would have happened, pray?”

A MERE BALL OF FLAMING GAS WOULD HAVE ILLUMINATED THE WORLD.

The walked in silence for a moment.

“Ah,” said Susan dully. “Tickery with words. I would have thought you’d have been more literal-minded than that.”

I AM NOTHING IF NOT LITERAL-MINDED. TRICKERY WITH WORDS IS WHERE HUMANS LIVE.

“All right,” said Susan. “I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need…fantasies to make life bearable.”

REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.

“Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—”

YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.

“So we can believe the big ones?”

YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.

“They’re not the same at all!”

YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET— Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME…SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.

“Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—”

MY POINT EXACTLY.

She tried to assemble her thoughts.

THERE IS A PLACE WHERE THE GALAXIES HAVE BEEN COLLIDING FOR A MILLION YEARS, said Death, apropos of nothing. DON’T TRY TO TELL ME THAT’S RIGHT.

“Yes, but people don’t think about that,” said Susan. “Somewhere there was a bed…”

CORRECT. STARS EXPLODE, WORLDS COLLIDE, THERE’S HARDLY ANYWHERE WHERE HUMANS CAN LIVE WITHOUT BEING FROZEN OR FRIED, AND YET YOU BELIEVE THAT A…BED IS A NORMAL THING. IT IS THE MOST AMAZING TALENT.

“Talent?”

OH, YES. A VERY SPECIAL KIND OF STUPIDITY. YOU THINK THE WHOLE UNIVERSE IS INSIDE YOUR HEADS.

“You make us sound mad,” said Susan. A nice warm bed…

NO. YOU NEED TO BELIEVE IN THINGS THAT AREN’T TRUE. HOW ELSE CAN THEY BECOME

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Terry Pratchett—”bystanders to byrunners to bystampeders”

I will miss the writer Terry Pratchett.

He was a master.

I came to the Pratchett game late. I don’t know what rock I lived under, but I did eventually see the light and find his work. The Discworld novels, the Tiffany Aching books, DEATH, Hogfather, the collaboration with Neil Gaiman, GOOD OMENS. It makes my head spin to consider the volume of outstanding art he produced.

He was a master.

There’s been this vision in my mind of a huge two story wall existing in some secret location which served as a Discworld storyboard. I imagine illustrations of characters, storylines, locations, and a sapient pearwood trunk—all on an octarine background floating on the back of the Great A’Tuin. Truly a piece of wall art one could spent a decade studying. Maybe someday…

Terry Pratchett died March 12, 2015 from his Alzheimer’s. His speech on his Alzheimer’s is magnificent and can be read in a past post. It is a bit depressing to think of the stories he did not get to paper. The volumes of ideas nature kept for itself and we will never see. I think a good life goal will be to read every Terry Pratchett book published. I will give it a try, I believe.

Here’s an example of Terry Pratchett’s genius. It is from his latest (and 40th) Discworld book, RAISING STEAM.

“Most of them arrived in time to see something heading out toward them, panting and steaming, with fast-spinning wheels and oscillating rods eerily appearing and disappearing in the smoke and the haze, and on top of it all, like a sort of king of smoke and fire, Dick Simnel, his face contorted with the effort of concentration. It was faintly reassuring that this something was apparently under the control of somebody human—although the more thoughtful of the onlookers might have added “So what? So’s a spoon,” and got ready to run away as the steaming, dancing, spinning, reciprocating engine cleared the barn and plunged on down the tracks laid in the field. And the bystanders, most of whom were now byrunners, and in certain instances bystampeders, fled and complained, except, of course, for every little boy of any age who followed it with eyes open wide, vowing there and then that one day he would be the captain of the terrible noxious engine, oh yes indeed. A prince of the steam! A master of the sparks! A coachman of the Thunderbolts!”

RaisingSteamCover

Bystanders to byrunners to bystampeders…

Nobody can do it like Terry Pratchett did.

Rest in peace, Sir.

You will be missed.

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Terry Pratchett’s Alzheimer’s Speech

Terry Pratchett’s Alzheimer’s Speech in Full

“Soon after I told the world (about his Alzheimer’s diagnosis) my website fell over and my PA had to spend the evening negotiating more bandwidth.

I had more than 60,000 messages within the first few hours.

Most of them were readers and well-wishers.

Some of them wanted to sell me snake oil and I’m not necessarily going to dismiss all of these, as I have never found a rusty snake.”

Terry Pratchett is one of the most talented writers of our time.  A satirist known for his Discworld series and for GOOD OMENS, co-written with Neil Gaiman, the creations he crafts are extremely entertaining and humorous.  Personally, I just discovered his work not long ago.  I don’t know what rock I have been living under, but I am glad I’ve finally seen the light.

Neil Gaiman may have given Mr. Pratchett the ultimate writer compliment in his comments on working with Terry Prachett on GOOD OMENS.

“Terry is that rarity, the kind of author who likes Writing, not Having Written, or Being a Writer, but the actual sitting there and making things up in front of a screen. At the time we met, he was still working as a press officer for the South Western Electricity board.  He wrote four hundred words a night, every night: it was the only way for him to keep a real job and still write books.  One night, a year later, he finished a novel, with a hundred words still to go, so he put a piece of paper into his typewriter, and wrote a hundred words of the next novel.”

It is a cruel fate with his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.  No matter how prolific Mr. Pratchett can be, there will still be a wonderful tale trapped in his brain without synaptic release for all of us to enjoy.

Thank you, Sir Terry Pratchett, for all you have done and all you will do.  Keep pushing forward.

Humor in the face of tragic news. Hope over despair.  Courage over fear.  And (which would make Hemingway proud), grace under pressure.  Class.

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