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Dewi Morgan

Farewell, Sir Terry Pratchett.

Farewell, Sir Terry Pratchett.

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Sir Terry Pratchett touched many a life, but like too many of my heroes, he touched mine only very lightly before passing on.

My first experience was of course through his books, the Color of Magic, the Light Fantastic, Wyrd Sisters, Mort... and then there was a sci-fi convention in Cardiff. Guest of honor, Terry Pratchett. I had to go. I talked my dad into taking me, since he was visiting my mum and step-dad at the time, helping build an extension.

We got to the convention, my very first convention, I was so excited. And he gave a Talk, and I asked a Question! And he gave me an Answer! I was overjoyed and crushed with embarassed starstruck shyness at the same time. I believe the question was "How do you pronounce Ankh Morpork?" (or it may've been A'tuin). I believe the answer was "Yes".

I enjoyed the rest of the convention, and at the end, went to find my dad in the bar. He said he'd met Pterry, who was great, and had been chatting with him most of the evening. Quite a nice man. He just left in fact. He'd mentioned, as they shared drinks, that he no longer liked banana daquiris.

I stared at him agape in disbelief and envy.

Many glorious books, a university degree and several jobs later, I was lucky enough to have Lee Alley as a business partner, who netted us the chance to pitch an online version of Thudgame to Pterry. Well... not actually to him, to Lee's friend Bernard Pearson (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernard_Pearson), also known as the Cunning Artificer, who would be making the physical boards and pieces, and to Trevor Turan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trevor_Truran) who had designed the game itself.

It was a pretty huge undertaking. As I remember it was due the day after my birthday, so I stayed late at work on my birthday, photographing these little minuature pieces from eight different angles, then took them home and fiddled with them in paintshop pro until I was happy. And then I stayed up all the next night, writing an applet in Java, and a very simple PHP server, to make a two-player game.

We set off, driving past stonehenge to a little village called Wincanton, where I showed my first effort. I loved Bernard's reaction: he'd expected a top-down display, with letters for pieces or something, and instead got an 8-way rotatable isometricish projection map multiplayer game. Eventually we got it online, and briefly had the biggest Discworld fan community on our forums.

And then after a few years, I moved off to get another job, the applet died, and eventually, I think, the server was taken down, breaking its delightful "zero downtime" record. Distributed IRC back-end, see? :)

In that time, the promise was always there that I'd get to meet the Big Guy Himself... and I never did, except in passing. A compliment that we were "great druids, none of this white cloth nonsense!" when we dressed in brown monk's habits and mistletoe for one meetup. But mostly, we stood back - we were kinda "staff" by then, and didn't really want to annoy him by getting in the way of paying customers! We kept meaning to get some books signed by him, but of course, there was always the queue. and once the signing queue was closed, well, it was too late then.

We did get to eat at the same table as him a couple of times, but they were large tables, and we were just peripheral to the Great Man, who regaled the table with many a great tale and anecdote.

One time, Lee and I joined Bernard in a van loaded with ThudGame merchandise to drive through Europe and sell it at the German Discworld convention, held in a youth hostel. We navigated by Bernard's TomTom, which worked decently well apart from at one point sending us into some bavarian farmer's woodshed. We backed out quickly, and eventually arrived at the hostel. This was NOT the kind of hotel Terry was used to as Guest of Honor, and I saw the very harried convention organiser running down the stairs with an armload of towels, because those are not provided in German hostels. "Terry Pratchett doesn't KNOW where his towel is!" said one fan, shocked. "Wrong fictional universe", I replied. We sat at a table with Terry again, and he joked with Bernard about being in Germany: "don't mention the war!" and about the hostel's curry, which he declared, was exactly the same kind of curry served in boarding school canteens. This was not, we understood, a good thing, and this was not even the same planet as the kind of curry Death would have murdered.

But probably the most memorable Pratchett event in my life though, was one which didn't actually happen.

I was in London, walking home from my last day taking an Oracle course, having drunk a good few beers with the other students who had passed (I had failed it by precisely the correct amount that I wouldn't have to pay several thousand pounds to cover the course price if I quit my job in the next couple of years, but that I could cheaply retake one module to get the certification on my own.) On the other side of the night-time street, I saw a gentleman accompanied by a few ladies of a certain dignified age, holding onto each arm and gazing at him admiringly and laughing at his wit. It was Pterry! I considered going up, but once more, my reticence stopped me. I was a few drinks worse for wear, and it would be ill to disrupt his clearly enjoyable night out. I walked on.

Suddenly, on the road ahead of us, was a traffic island. And grounded upon it was a doubledecker bus. Nobody around, nothing to explain it. The ladies and he were remarking on it.

In my mind, I cried out in sorrow and ran up to the bus. "Oh, the poor thing! We treat them so shabbily, we work them to death, eventually they can't take it any more and beach themselves up on these islands! Come, help me push her back into the flow! No, it's too late for her..."

In my mind, it was hilarious, and Pterry would have laughed along with me, and I would have mentioned casually that I recognised him, and was working on a game for him with Bernard, and he would have remembered me.

And common sense told me I was tipsy. And I walked on.
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