Terry Pratchett: His wonky misfit heroes were a blessing for a certain kind of wordy pre-teen, like me

There was an endless pleasure in reading his new books

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The Independent Online

Once, when I was a nerd child, I took my entire collection of Terry Pratchett books to a signing. He didn’t realise how many I had at first, and was cheerfully signing away, writing tailored dedications about pyramids and death and whatnot, but I kept pulling them out of my plastic bag with sweaty little hands, swooning and unaware of basic book-signing etiquette.

After about the fourth book, he sighed exasperatedly and asked if I’d brought them all. I had. He signed every one of them even so, including the encyclopedia. He often joked that he did so many book signings that an unsigned Pratchett was worth more than one he’d written in, but that never mattered to me.

I’d gone with my Warhammer buddy, and we were paralysed with excitement. My friend was allowed to ask the last question and after much whispered deliberation he stood up and shrilly asked what sex Great A’tuin was, because we were chumps. Terry smiled and said he thought the answer was something that could only be of interest to another giant star turtle, and we were made up.

Terry Pratchett, basically, was a blessing for a certain kind of wordy pre-teen. There was an endless pleasure in reading his new books so you could show off which gags you’d understood with everyone at school - and then feel slightly ashamed when you realised you hadn’t got the ones about sex. Then we’d all go and rip off all his best lines in our English creative writing tasks, and to our parents and to everyone else in an attempt to sound funnier than we really were.

Others will write about his warmth and his humanism and his wonky misfit heroes, and he will be rightly missed by millions. I’ll just remember him as a long-time favourite; someone I read over and over again, my signed copies slowly falling to bits.

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