Discworld for the Best Novel Hugo?

Charlie Stross has an interesting idea:

To clarify, novel series are currently eligible for the Best Hugo Award, as seen by the inclusion of The Wheel of Time last year, though it’s of course arguable whether or not the Discworld series could be seen as a single story under its rules. If not, one could also argue that with the last Tiffany Aching novel having been released, that particular sub-series should be nominated instead.

Should this be done? That’s a harder question to argue. Terry Pratchett himself declined at least one Hugo nomination some years ago and while a nice gesture, he himself is of course not around anymore to see it. Quality wise the Discworld series in parts is as good as anything that ever won a Hugo, while even its worst parts are nowhere near as bad as the worst novels to have won the Hugo. But still, should the Best Novel Hugo go to a sentimental gesture? Or would it be better to just nominate the last Discworld novel ever on its own merits?

I don’t think I would include the series on my ballot, as a) I don’t like the idea of having proper novels compete with series anyway and b) I’d rather see a living author get the recognition. Pterry really doesn’t need a Hugo, even if it is a nice gesture. However, I reserve the right to change my mind if I can’t find five worthy novels to nominate this year.

Get real. Jonathan Jones is just a professional troll

It doesn’t matter to me if Jonathan Jones’s latest column is cynical clickbair or literary snobbery. I have never read a single one of his columns and I never plan to. Life’s too short.

It’s only are still lingering collective inferiority complex that makes us want to defend Pratchett against such a dumb and pointless attack, to take his bait. A certain annoyance at seeing him attacked in such a cowardly and dismissive manner of course also plays a role, but in the end what does it matter? Jones can hurt neither Pratchett nor his reputation and ultimately all that happens is that the Grauniad gets a few more clicks on a bank holiday.

Reaper Man — Terry Pratchett

Cover of Reaper Man

Reaper Man
Terry Pratchett
287 pages
published in 1991

Even before rereading the day after pTerry’s death, Reaper Man was mired in grieving for me. Because I reread it in 2012, the year after Sandra’s death, when I had fallen back on Pratchett’s Discworld series as comfort reading, something to lose yourself in and forget for a while. And then I hit Reaper Man, in which DEATH has been retired by the Auditors for having become too human, has to find a new living as BILL DOOR and a fragile, predoomed romance starts between him and Miss Flitworth, the never married widow he ends up working as a farmhand for. It’s a novel about death and life and humanity and the essence of it is captured by what DEATH argues at the climax of it:


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What can the harvest hope for, if not for the care of the Reaper Man?

The news is no less shitty for being expected. Terry Pratchett, long suffering from early onset Alzheimers, has died. I’d been worrying about it ever since he pulled out of the Discworld con last year. I’ve been crying ever since I heard the news, coming in from an after work dinner with co-workers.

It’s hard to underestimate the impact he has had on my life, through his books and his fandom. The humour came first of course, shining through even the idiosynchronatic Dutch translation; the deep humanity came later. And then, in 1997 pTerry came to the Netherlands for a book signing in Rotterdam and I came into contact with alt.fan.pratchett fandom, people who are still friends almost twenty years later. There was Usenet and meetups and irc and Clarecraft Discworld Events and Discworld Cons.

And then there was Sandra.

We met on lspace IRC in spring 2000, mutually annoying each other (in what turned out to be a flirty way), then getting to talking each evening on the phone, then she came over just after Christmas 2000 and that was that. We spent the next two years travelling to and from each other’s homes, until in 2003 she moved in with me. Cue seven years of bliss, or at least domestic comfort, all thanks to Terry Pratchett.

But that’s not the best thing Terry Pratchett did for Sandra and me. The best thing he did for her was to help her die at a time of her own choosing. It was watching his documentary when she was in the middle of a two year battle with failing kidneys and the side effects of receiving a transplant. Talking it over afterwards she admitted that she had been thinking of wanting to die herself, of thinking that there would be a point at which she felt her life would no longer be worth living, that she had to give up the battle.

In the end, she of course did. She had been afraid that if and when she died, it would’ve been in pain and fear, not at a time and place of her own choosing. Terry Pratchett’s documentary gave her the strength and conviction to do put an end to a struggle no longer worth fighting, when she still had the ability to do so with dignity and on her own terms.

That was the greatest gift he could’ve given her and me, but I’ve never found the words to thank him for it.

Faust Eric — Terry Pratchett

Cover of Eric

Faust Eric
Terry Pratchett
155 pages
published in 1990

Eric is a bit of an odd duck in the Discworld, out of place amongst the increasing sophistication of the last couple of novels coming before it, almost a throwback to the very first few books. It’s a lot shorter, a lot less serious and a lot more written for comedic effect than its immediate predecessors were. All of which can be explained by the simple fact that it was first published as an illustrated book, written around a series of Josh Kirby illustrations, which was later adapted into standard Discworld paperback format, losing most of its charm in the process.

A word about Josh Kirby is needed at this place. Kirby was of course the cover artist for all the Discworld novels up until his death, Thief of Time being his last novel. His work was incredibly caricatural in nature, with very exaggerated figures and bright colours, not really to everybody’s tastes. Some might have found it a bit childish even, but I always liked it. To me his covers were Discworld, especially the early novels when it wasn’t all taken that seriously yet even by Pratchett himself. Therefore it made perfect sense to do an illustrated Discworld story with his drawings, just like his replacement as cover artist, Paul Kidby, would do with The Last Hero.

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