I can't remember the first Terry Pratchett novel I read, it was that long ago. I guess it doesn't really matter since I've read almost all of them now - all but the last few, written after he was diagnosed with a rare form of Alzheimers. His tone then became too dark for me.
I have never encountered a writer as brilliant as Terry Pratchett. His wit, of course, was extraordinary; his talent for the craft of writing absolutely stellar. But it was his tenderness which attracted me most to the books. And I think it is this, more than anything, that made Discworld come profoundly to life for me. Granny Weatherwax, Susan, Sam Vimes, Agnes, Lobsang, and all, especially Death - they feel so real to me, I'm mourning today not only because of Terry's death, but theirs too. I know I can read their stories over and again, but the truth is they will not move forward into new stories, and that is a kind of death too.
Terry made me see life in deeper ways. That he did so through endlessly charming humour somehow makes it even more admirable. There was never any preaching involved, only a sense of shared humanity. A catching of the eye, a private smile.
Generally, my favourite of his characters were the Wyrd Sisters, because the way they embodied edgewitchery was how I had been raised with it, and lived it for decades, until modern Wicca made me no longer want to be associated with anything witchy at all. How did a middle aged atheist know so perfectly all the personal, political, philosphical issues I was dealing with in my pagan religion?
But specifically, I love Lobsang best, don't ask me why. Oh, and Lu Tse, and Andre the secret policeman, and Shawn Ogg, and of course absolutely Death. So much kindness in these characters. The books also dealt with wickedness, and the banal evil of uncaring communities, but they always left me with the sense that humankind was essentially good - and by this I don't mean heroically good, but good in the small, everyday, ordinary, barely-thinking-about-it ways, like worrying about each other, and there being someone to make sure old folk were eating properly, and men treating the fat girl as if she is a worthwhile person. And like the awesome Susan who is, of all things, helpfulness personified. Kindness as a superpower! - see why I loved this man's books? I spent years hoping there would be another Susan novel ... and now there never will.
For a family whose speech is peppered with Mac Nac Feegle words, and who privately uses Discworld character names as nicknames for certain people we know, and who lives in a country where so many of the old Discworld books have completely vanished from availability, this death is a terrible blow.
My condolences to Terry's family and to all the millions around the world who loved him.