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315 pages, Hardcover
First published September 23, 2014
But beneath any jollity, there is a foundation of fury. Terry Pratchett is not one to go gentle into any night, good or otherwise. He will rage, as he leaves, against so many things: stupidity, injustice, human foolishness and shortsightedness, not just the dying of the light, although that’s here, too. And, hand in hand with the anger, like an angel and a demon walking hand in hand into the sunset, there is love: for human beings, in all our fallibility; for treasured objects; for stories; and ultimately and in all things, love for human dignity.
Or to put it another way, anger is the engine that drives him, but it is the greatness of spirit that deploys that anger on the side of the angels, or better yet for all of us, the orangutans.
I’ve never had occasion to use one magnificent tip from a well-known author, but I pass it on anyway: “Keep an eye on the trade press. When an editor moves on, immediately send your precious MS to his or her office, with a covering letter addressed to said departed editor. Say, in the tones of one engaged in a cooperative effort, something like this: ‘Dear X, I was very pleased to receive your encouraging letter indicating your interest in my book, and I have made all the changes you asked for.…’ Of course they won’t find the letter. Publishers can never find anything. But at least someone might panic enough to read the MS.”
Fantasy should present the familiar in a new light—I try to do that on Discworld. It’s a way of looking at the here and now, not the there and then. Fantasy is the Ur-literature, from which everything else sprang—which is why my knuckles go white when toe-sucking literary critics dismiss it as “genre trash.” And, at its best, it is truly escapist.
But the point about escaping is that you should escape to, as well as from. You should go somewhere worthwhile, and come back the better for the experience.
Laughter can get through the keyhole while seriousness is still hammering on the door. New ideas can ride in on the back of a joke; old ideas can be given an added edge.
We look around and see foreign policies that are little more than the taking of revenge for the revenge that was taken in revenge for the revenge last time.
There were fights at school over the question of whether or not Batman could fly. Those of us who said he couldn’t were in the minority and, therefore, got beaten up by the thick kids. But, hahaha, it wasn’t us who broke limbs by jumping out of their bedroom windows. Shouting “Batmaaagh!” on the way down didn’t work, did it …
(...) I’ve never disliked religion. I think it has some purpose in our evolution. I don’t have much truck with the “religion is the cause of most of our wars” school of thought, because in fact that’s manifestly done by mad, manipulative, and power-hungry men who cloak their ambition in God.
I number believers of all sorts among my friends. Some of them are praying for me. I’m happy that they wish to do this, I really am, but I think science may be a better bet.
So what shall I make of the voice that spoke to me recently as I was scuttling around getting ready for yet another spell on a chat show sofa? More accurately it was the memory of a voice in my head, and it told me that everything was okay and things were happening as they should. For a moment, the world had felt at peace. Where did it come from?
Me, actually—the part of all of us that, in my case, caused me to stand in awe the first time I heard Thomas Tallis’s Spem in alium, and the elation I felt on a walk one day last February, when the light of the setting sun turned a ploughed field into shocking pink; I believe it’s what Abraham felt on the mountain and Einstein did when it turned out that E=mc^2.
It’s that moment, that brief epiphany when the universe opens up and shows us something, and in that instant we get just a sense of an order greater than heaven and, as yet at least, beyond the grasp of Hawking. It doesn’t require worship, but, I think, rewards intelligence, observation, and inquiring minds. I don’t think I’ve found God but I may have seen where gods come from.
I have the opposite of a superpower; sometimes, I cannot see what is there. I see the teacup with my eyes, but my brain refuses to send me the teacup message. It’s very Zen. First there is no teacup and then, because I know there is a teacup, the teacup will appear the next time I look.
(...) despite the fact that there is no scriptural objection [to suicide], the prohibition came about in the fourteenth century when, because of religious wars and the Black Death, people were committing suicide on the basis that, well, since this world was now so dreadfully unpleasant then maybe it would be a good idea to make an attempt on heaven. Authority thought otherwise and objected. Who would milk the cows? Who would fight the wars? People couldn’t be allowed to slope off like that. They had to stay and face their just punishment for being born.