Terry Pratchett diagnosed with a very rare form of early onset Alzheimer's
December 12, 2007 5:05 AM   Subscribe

Terry Pratchett diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's. Turns out last month's stroke was a symptom of a greater illness. While there's still some time to go before we have to worry about Discworld substitutions, it has been a pretty tough year for fantasy authors.

The instances of rare diseases showing up in otherwise healthy fantasy authors who should hopefully still have years and years of stories in them is distressing. If these things come in threes, who's next?
posted by robocop is bleeding (113 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
He listens to Michael Buble?
posted by Roman Graves at 5:11 AM on December 12, 2007

If these things come in threes, who's next?

Sigh. How fast Mike Ford is forgotten.

Damn, damn, damn. I like Terry, haven't had nearly enough beer with him yet.
posted by eriko at 5:12 AM on December 12, 2007 [2 favorites]

What would Rincewind do?

posted by QuarterlyProphet at 5:12 AM on December 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

posted by SpiffyRob at 5:12 AM on December 12, 2007 [2 favorites]

Damn, that's sad.
posted by garius at 5:13 AM on December 12, 2007

So how are the treatments for Alzheimer's going these days? Plus, what SpiffyRob said.
posted by Aversion Therapy at 5:14 AM on December 12, 2007

Ah, shit, that's too bad.

I know that this is completely the wrong way to look at things, unjustifiable in every sense, but I always get more of a twinge hearing about someone who's made their living by their wits being diagnosed with Alzheimer's. I was never much of an Iris Murdoch fan, but it was very difficult to contemplate her debilitated by this particular disease.
posted by OmieWise at 5:22 AM on December 12, 2007

It's a bit like Beethoven going deaf, isn't it?
posted by athenian at 5:26 AM on December 12, 2007

It's a bit like Beethoven going deaf, isn't it?

No, that would be more like Pratchett losing his sight. It's a hindrance, but they could both still produce.

Alzheimer's is something a bit more insidious.
posted by chrismear at 5:32 AM on December 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

*Early* onset? He must be prematurely gray, because I remember him looking around 50-55 back when I discovered him almost 20 years ago. ...Huh, only 59. Well well.
posted by DU at 5:38 AM on December 12, 2007

posted by tdismukes at 5:42 AM on December 12, 2007

He's not dead yet. Let's enjoy him while we've got him.
posted by lodurr at 5:48 AM on December 12, 2007

Insidious is an understatement. Skipping lightly over the effect this disease has on those related and associated with the victim, this is a condition in which the sufferer slowly, inexorably has his personality, skills, memories and everything that defines him/her as a person stolen from them and, for 80% of the time, they know damned well that it's happening.

I remember all too clearly an ex-girlfriend's father railing against what he all too clearly understood to be his own death for many years. He would, early in the process, rail coherently and heartbreakingly in diaries, notes and impromptu speeches; trying to get everything out so that it wouldn't die with him and wouldn't be lost.

The anger and frustration stayed with him long after the "he" that was loved had gone. All that was left was unfocussed frustration and aggression that (guiltily, at the time,) reminded me of a great ape, only able to express himself in the basest of ways. He still knew there was something wrong, he still struggled to express that, but he no longer had the faculties.

It still breaks my heart to think of him like that. I still live in fear that there can be a disease so cruel as to steal "me" from myself with no reason or logic to it. Jesus, I suppose we all do. My thoughts go out to him and his family.
posted by Jofus at 5:52 AM on December 12, 2007 [36 favorites]

The instances of rare diseases showing up in otherwise healthy fantasy authors who should hopefully still have years and years of stories in them is distressing

When you put it that way, it sounds like you're sadder about a potential dearth of reading material than about the writers themselves.

Actually, I've noticed a lot of the same sentiment creeping into movie and TV buffs' opinion on the writers' strike as it wears on. I'm sure your intentions are pure, but I'd much prefer to wonder how he's coping with this personally than how everyone else will cope with any loose ends left in a storybook. The fact that his message to fans is mostly a reassurance about the books tells me that he has a pretty keen eye on what people's priorities are and what their first questions will be.
posted by hermitosis at 5:53 AM on December 12, 2007 [2 favorites]

Oh, God. From that earlier Daily Mail story about his "stroke" and his feeling that he dodged a bullet:

The GP gave Terry a basic test to rule out dementia/ Alzheimer's. ... Terry also had an MRI scan to check his brain activity and see whether there were any areas of dead tissue. ... Later that day, Terry was shown the scan. "There were grey spots where brain cells had turned up their toes and died." ... In some ways, he's had a lucky escape. ...

Terry's other main symptom is that he can no longer knot his tie. ... Terry says: "I lost the automatic mechanism that allowed me to do up a tie. "I stood in front of the mirror with my PA and tried to copy what he was doing with his necktie, but it wasn't altogether successful. But it doesn't matter — I rarely wear them."

Although his health history might have been a red flag that Terry was at risk of a stroke, he remains philosophical that nothing could have been done. And he continues to observe, with interest but rarely alarm, the symptoms of his cardiovascular problems. "Since my stroke I have noticed I have full recall of the lyrics of advertising jingles from 40 years ago. Is a stroke a gateway to a world of ancient ads? In other respects, I don't suffer from memory loss as much as slowness of retrieval. "I say: 'What's the name of the actress that appeared in that programme, you know the one.' And later on, I shout out the name. I'm a fanatical worrier only over things I have some control over."

Can you imagine having something terrible ruled out, then brought back on the table? Damn.
posted by maudlin at 5:56 AM on December 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

I always get more of a twinge hearing about someone who's made their living by their wits being diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

I'm sure it's just some kind of selection bias, but Alzheimer's really does seem to follow the old "the bigger they are, the harder they fall" rule. I've never dealt with anything as sad as watching my formerly brilliant father become an overgrown toddler.
posted by JaredSeth at 5:57 AM on December 12, 2007 [3 favorites]

This is awful. God, I feel for people diagnosed with Alzheimer's, I cannot imagine what the news must do to them. I think in many ways it is almost preferable to have a more immediately terminal illness like cancer, which at least generally leaves you with your sense of self, than something like Alzheimer's.

Me, I'd kill myself if I was diagnosed and there were no viable methods of treatment.
posted by Anonymous at 6:02 AM on December 12, 2007

This is terrible news. This man is so very clever and his writing becomes more and more clever with every book. How horrible to think that he's going to lose his muse. Pump everything out, Terry, before it slides away. Oh, the more I think of it, the sadder it is.

I remember reading 'Salmon of Doubt' by Douglas Adams and becoming so very sad because he wasn't around anymore to expand on all of the wonderful ideas that he had. He had an untimely death, no idea that he wouldn't be around the next day to finally get everything done. At the very least, if it's any kind of consolation, at least Terry has some prior warning.

Terry Pratchett is an incredibly clever and funny man and oh I hope he gets out as much as he can before it all becomes too difficult. Let's hope he never forgets how much he was appreciated because I, for one, am absolutely and utterly smitten (the Nightwatch series snared me, although my brother has been trying to push the Discworld books upon me from day one. Anything involving Vimes and Vetinari (in even the most peripheral way) has me enthralled. I think I'm almost ready for the entire series, involving the witches and wizards (even though I'm really not into fantasy at all - I have exceptions of course, Harry Potter being one) because I can't bear the thought of missing a Terry Pratchett one-liner).

Keep writing until it becomes a blur, I say.

Terry Pratchett, Very Clever Man Esq.
posted by h00py at 6:10 AM on December 12, 2007 [3 favorites]

Very sad. Alzheimer's is always sad, whether it be a great author, or your mum. There is no closure. The personality is eaten away, tiny piece by tiny piece, until they are not the same person anymore, but they still are not dead. It's harrowing for loved ones. It's awful in a way that even a sudden fatal accident does not approach.

But he is not at that stage yet, and he has had a rich creative life. Even if he went tomorrow, he would still have lived a wonderful full mental life, far beyond most of us, I dare say, and he has shared it with the world. What a blessing!

I would suggest he take up smoking cannabis.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 6:10 AM on December 12, 2007

Damn. Take good care of yourself, Pterry. You're still on my list of authors whom I need to meet before they and/or I die, and I missed out on Douglas Adams.

If conventions and book signings are still in the offing, even if long-distance travel is ruled out, I may find myself taking a trip to England in the nearish future.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:14 AM on December 12, 2007

And Henry, I have no evidence to back this up, but I would be very surprised if Pratchett turned out to be a stranger to the kind bud.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:16 AM on December 12, 2007

hermitosis: When you put it that way, it sounds like you're sadder about a potential dearth of reading material than about the writers themselves.

This may seem cold to you, hermitosis, but I think this is the most touching way readers can receive bad news of a writer they love that they have never met. A reader's relationship to a writer isn't like that of a friend, it's inextricably bound up in the text the writer has produced. To you, hermitosis, it may seem that the reaction you decry shows a lack of concern for the writer as a human being, but to me it indicates that this stunning bit of awful news hit robocop is bleeding on a deep, emotional level.
posted by Kattullus at 6:21 AM on December 12, 2007 [11 favorites]

PS I would just like to draw attention to everyone reading the above that this should be interpreted as 'I am not dead'. I will, of course, be dead at some future point, as will everybody else.

Gotta love that attitude.

I know it's a very human thing to say "Is there anything I can do", but in this case I would only entertain offers from very high-end experts in brain chemistry.

Not surprised the man who invented such a hilarious Death would have such a philosophical take on his own. Hope he lasts a long, long while.

For newbies who don't know where to start: The Discworld Reading Order Guide.
posted by mediareport at 6:25 AM on December 12, 2007 [2 favorites]

"Since my stroke I have noticed I have full recall of the lyrics of advertising jingles from 40 years ago. Is a stroke a gateway to a world of ancient ads?"

Love him. It's a shame he has to suffer from Alzheimer's that young; let's hope he and his own take it as well as they can.

But as Beethoven wrote his (arguably) greatest symphony while deaf, Pterry still has time to write that book about a man who forgets faster than his hourglass. Binky hasn't come yet.
posted by ersatz at 6:35 AM on December 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

*faster than his hourglass empties.
posted by ersatz at 6:36 AM on December 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Erstaz, I was thinking the same thing - just not as eloquently as you.
posted by selfmedicating at 6:38 AM on December 12, 2007

That's just terrible.

He seems to be reacting to it with grace and humor, which is inspiring.

But still. That's just terrible.
posted by ook at 6:41 AM on December 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Damn. I always knew that Death character was an asshole.
posted by LordSludge at 6:45 AM on December 12, 2007

Fuck you, God.
posted by smackwich at 6:46 AM on December 12, 2007 [33 favorites]

The instances of rare diseases showing up in otherwise healthy fantasy authors who should hopefully still have years and years of stories in them is distressing.

Fugitive from the Law of Averages Dep't: I recall my ex pointing out how many NFL quarterbacks seem to have kids with autism, Down's or other congenital problems. No cause/effect relationship evident, just one of those statistical-outlier things.
posted by pax digita at 6:51 AM on December 12, 2007

Maaaaaaan, this really sucks. I have nothing more articulate than that, unfortunately. I love Terry Pratchett.

If these things come in threes, who's next?

::hides Neil Gaiman::
posted by aclevername at 7:06 AM on December 12, 2007

posted by sourwookie at 7:09 AM on December 12, 2007 [7 favorites]

I've never dealt with anything as sad as watching my formerly brilliant father become an overgrown toddler.

Same here, and my father's only 63. His father didn't really start to show signs of Alzheimer's until his mid-70's, so for this to come on now is like a slap in the face.
posted by poppo at 7:12 AM on December 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

God damn, this is sad.

When you put it that way, it sounds like you're sadder about a potential dearth of reading material than about the writers themselves.

I wouldn't read that into it. Isn't it worth remarking on that 2007 has been a bizarrely fatal year for fantasy writers? Madeline L'Engle, Lloyd Alexander, Robert Jordan, and now this terrible news.
posted by Iridic at 7:16 AM on December 12, 2007

Fuck you, God.

I've long defined myself as a misotheist.

If anything happens to Daniel M. Pinkwater all three authors that helped me develop my sense of ridiculous cynicism and made me love reading at a young age will be... I don't want to think about it.
posted by JeremiahBritt at 7:17 AM on December 12, 2007

hermitosis: When you put it that way, it sounds like you're sadder about a potential dearth of reading material than about the writers themselves.

Such a world goes down with him. When lose Pterry, we lose Rincewind, and we lose Weatherwax, and we lose Carrot, and we lose the Librarian. We lose Tiffany, and we lose Maurice, and we lose Nanny Ogg and Vetinari and Detritus and Death himself.

What he's written will always be there, but they stop growing. Discworld books have got me through some nasty times, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. I want to know where Tiffany winds up. I wonder about the baby Vimes.

How many writers have we lost this year? I've become fatalistic, and wait for the next axe to drop. We lose the wonder of the author, and then we lose the wonder of their gift. It's a double blow, in some ways.

My thoughts go out to him, and his daughter, and his wife. Distressing as this is for his fans, they are on a long road to nowhere good.
posted by Jilder at 7:25 AM on December 12, 2007 [7 favorites]

This thread literally brought me to tears. I adore Terry Pratchett, the man and his work, with all my heart.

I grieved when Isaac Asimov died, and I was very young myself then. And then we lost Douglas Adams.

But there is something so sinister and sly and cold and cruel about Alzheimer's. It slowly robs a person of his dignity and his consciousness, of his cleverness and humor, of himself. I just can't imagine Terry falling down that deep dark well.

They *have* found ways to slow the progression of the disease, and I'm so thankful for that. I've watched my husband's mother succumb, though, and it's just...well, it's tragic who she has become, when I know who she really was.

He may have many happy, creative years ahead of him yet, though. I so hope this is true. And I feel, deep down inside, that when it is his time to go, Death himself will come for him, because if ever there was a wizard of words, that man is Terry Pratchett.
posted by misha at 7:29 AM on December 12, 2007 [2 favorites]

This is terrible. On the other hand, at least we haven't been using federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. So there is a bright side.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 7:34 AM on December 12, 2007 [6 favorites]

2) My friends are under strict orders to ensure that a tragic accident befalls me before I can inflict Alzhiemers on my loved ones.
3) FUCK.
posted by Skorgu at 7:37 AM on December 12, 2007 [7 favorites]

I can only imagine how hard it would be to learn that one has such a terrible disease. His response is amazing.
posted by theora55 at 7:37 AM on December 12, 2007

That fucking sucks.
posted by Divine_Wino at 7:59 AM on December 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

I've been a fan of Terry Pratchett ever since I read "Men At Arms" (the newest at the time), loaned to me by a friend. I'd never heard of him before, but after I finished the first few pages I knew I had to own a copy of everything else he'd written, and everything he'd write in the future. For my money he is one of the best fiction writers of the 20th and 21st centuries.

I hope that modern medicine can help him.

Alzheimer's runs in my family, its killed several of my older relatives and will likely kill me as well. Its the reason I'm part of the right to die movement. If Alzheimer's strikes me my partner will help me die when my mind finally begins to truly fall apart, and she's promised to leave a glass of sherry out. I hope Pratchett's partner will do the same for him.
posted by sotonohito at 8:00 AM on December 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

I refuse to accept this.

And if I have to go to the counterweight continent, and involve myself in some arcane plot involving children's teeth, sapient pairwood, and crystal clocks, to ensure that Pratchett continues to have his unique vision to share with the world, then so be it.

Fucking Auditors of Reality, always trying to sterilize everything interesting.

This really sucks.

posted by quin at 8:01 AM on December 12, 2007 [3 favorites]

I've been casually keeping some Discworld in my purse for casual reading (currently I've got Pyramids) and have been leisurely making my way through the entire Pratchett canon. It's taking on new meaning now that the series is definitely going to be coming to a close. The brilliance of the books is no longer about the books themselves, but about the brilliance of the man who wrote them and what a gift it is to us readers that he did.

His letter is amazing; it's wonderful to see him taking this in stride, with dignity and grace. This is a terrible, terrible thing to happen to a great person. Still, in the words of another fantasy character (The Dread Pirate Roberts) - "Life isn't fair. Anyone who says otherwise is selling something."
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:10 AM on December 12, 2007

I wish I could come up with snappy remarks (especially "Ook", hee) about this, but I just want to cry.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:16 AM on December 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

posted by subbes at 8:19 AM on December 12, 2007 [3 favorites]

So sad. I only just discovered his books.
(And yes, I'm sad about him as a person not just an author, so there.)
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 8:26 AM on December 12, 2007

Terry Pratchett made me start thinking critically about the activities of governments and those in power.

He made me appreciate the value of a good hat.

He has perfected the art of intertwining heartbreaking pathos with some of the funniest dialogue and most absurd situations, only rivalled by the final minutes of Blackadder goes Fourth.

He makes me proud of the British sense of humour.

He has never failed to write a book that hasn't made me stop, at some point, look at the ceiling and nod, because in the course of telling one of his wonderful recurring subversive jokes, he's unearthed something that I can't help but feel is as close to a universal truth about people as you can get.

I hope to meet him one day, I wish him health and happiness for as long as possible. This is truly sad news.
posted by Happy Dave at 8:28 AM on December 12, 2007 [4 favorites]

The vinegar is bitter. Bitter, bitter, bitter.
posted by everichon at 8:29 AM on December 12, 2007

His response is amazing.

Well, not only is he a humorist, but he's a Brit - to these people the Blitz was a "spot of bad weather, what ho?"

To chime in on hermitosis's reaction to my reaction, both Kattullus' and Jilder's replies are spot on. My family has been blessedly free from Alzheimer's cases - we tend to be laid low by the Big C, the consequences of a life spent tilling the fields, or working in a factory - so I have no loved ones on which I can project what Pratchett and his family must be going through.

So instead of thinking back to the times I had together with a victim of this horrible affliction, I can only think back to the times I had together with the creations of this particular victim. I remember the first Discworld book I read (Reaper Man), where I found it (small display of "new paperbacks" near the checkout counter of my local library that I later got my first job at), and the frantic search that ensued to find more. I remember the excitement of getting a few of his older, not-yet easily available in America, books loaned to me by a librarian at said library and the horror of accidentally dropping one (Colour of Magic) into the toilet. I made a lasting friendship over Good Omens and a lasting enmity over the spit-balled casting of the same.

His books played a major role in the development of my sense of humor and style of writing. I still have to almost physically refrain from tossing in parentheticals and footnotes when I write (1). The amount of high school short stories and one act plays that I wrote out that were directly inspired by Good Omens is enough to if not choke a horse then at least make him ask for a glass of water (2). Discworld influenced my taste in reading. I judge other humorous fantasy solely against Pratchett's measuring stick (3). Hell, I judge "is this book worth the money" against that same stick.

I have never met Terry Pratchett and doubt that I ever will. My only interaction with the man is from his books, which I took for granted would continue to be published once or twice or three times a year for a long time to come. Sure, I knew he would die or retire or jump the shark eventually, but I never really thought about it, and if I did I'd think "at least I'd still have all those books he already wrote to reread," but thinking about that now, I find that wholly unacceptable. Comforting, but unacceptable, like all the platitudes you hear at funerals - "Remember the good times you had."

Well, I don't want to remember dammit! I want to look forward to new times, to new material. And God willing, we all still have that to look forward to. There are still books waiting to be published, ideas and stories off in the distance. Except now that horizon isn't so open. Slowly a shadow spreads across the edge-of-the-world, reaching up past four huge elephants and a great turtle, as one of the brightest minds working today slowly starts to dim.

The sun is setting on Discworld. Given the huge influence Pratchett's works have had on my life, I can only hope we have years to go until it sets.

(1) I often fail.
(2) God and Satan play Scrabble to determine that fate of man kind. "And I feel Fine" won me the Best Short Story award for my lit mag, which I then turned into a one act play, which then led me to dating the cute upperclasschick that played Gabriel, which led my first kiss and my first heartbreak.
(3) Were not for him, I would have been reading Xanth books. Xanth books, damn it!

posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:34 AM on December 12, 2007 [18 favorites]

Fuck you, God.

That's exactly what I said too...

Here's hoping for a long, productive period before the lights start to dim...
posted by sparkletone at 8:35 AM on December 12, 2007

This is honestly bringing tears to my eyes.

Enjoy life while you can, folks. Ook.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:37 AM on December 12, 2007

I love his work.

Ook indeed.
posted by idb at 8:41 AM on December 12, 2007

posted by fermezporte at 8:42 AM on December 12, 2007

Man. I actually just picked up The Color of Magic the other day and finished reading it a week ago or so. I was really looking forward to reading more of the continued adventures of Arthur Dent.
posted by shmegegge at 8:46 AM on December 12, 2007

The thing with Terry Pratchett is that his narrative voice is ridiculously strong. So one is not only reading a story about characters, the story-teller is a character; one who we have come to know and love in that simultaneously more intimate yet standoffish way we love writers.

For many, Pratchett is that lovable uncle who carries a small flask of whiskey, spouts witticisms under his breath when the overbearing grandmother is on a tirade, and is always ready with cleverest answer to any conundrum.

For all these reasons, this diagnosis is a personal tragedy to millions of people.
posted by eurasian at 8:58 AM on December 12, 2007

I re-read the message hoping we've just wandered down the wrong leg.
posted by gomichild at 8:59 AM on December 12, 2007 [5 favorites]

son of a bitch.

alzheimer's is a motherfucker.
posted by dismas at 9:00 AM on December 12, 2007

posted by LobsterMitten at 9:04 AM on December 12, 2007

This sucks ass. It sucks ass so hard. Shit.
posted by infinitywaltz at 9:12 AM on December 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh shit.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:17 AM on December 12, 2007

This breaks my heart. Ook. Eek.
posted by teleri025 at 9:19 AM on December 12, 2007

as watching my formerly brilliant father become an overgrown toddler.

Also bad: Lewy-body Dementia (aka what my father's deep into.) Not only do you lose your mental faculties, but also your physical abilities, such that it's often confused with/lumped in with Parkinson's. That combo is a one-two punch.

I was visiting a few years ago, and while moving him into a bed he said his legs hurt (which was not an uncommon complaint from him.) However, when I asked him to rate his pain on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the worst pain he had ever felt, he said "ten ten ten." A few days later, after my mother and I insisted on X-rays, they found a broken hip that had been broken for weeks or possibly months. He just didn't have the mental faculties to express the level or location of pain verbally prior, nor did his broken hip alter his already-severe physical condition in any noticeable way.

My heart goes out to him and his family (and to you and yours, if you have a loved one going through the same thing.)
posted by davejay at 9:26 AM on December 12, 2007

god, that makes me feel sad. he's such a great writer.
posted by nerdpita at 9:27 AM on December 12, 2007

Jilder, your comment almost made me cry. I can't tell you how much I love The Watch, that I devoured every Watch book this summer (some for the second time, in reverse order for some reason), and was at a loss when there were no more. I know it sounds pathetic, but I love those people, the Watch. Especially Angua.

But you know how it is already.
posted by gc at 9:37 AM on December 12, 2007


I've been hooked on Terry's books ever since I picked up a copy of The Colour Of Magic and was reduced to helpless laughter inside of two pages by the Discworld's Steady Gait theory and Big Bang hypothesis.

The thought that he'll ultimately slowly slip away to alzheimer's, just as my father did, is terribly sad. Doubly so because of its early onset.
posted by arc at 9:39 AM on December 12, 2007

My grandmother has OldTimers (the common or garden version).

Watching her slowly lose it and wander off into a fantasy world, some slightly dark side of me wonders if pTerry already has his fantasy world created. Kind of like the kid in Sourcery...

There's worse places to live I guess.
posted by twine42 at 9:50 AM on December 12, 2007

Alzheimer's is a time machine. Alzheimer's is a comic play with in a tragic play.

For a writer I imagine it will be a nightmare and a journey.

When my father-in-law was dying of it he spent the last five years of his life pretending he knew who the fuck you were and what you were talking about. He could have won an Oscar.

Alzheimer's may ravage the brain's library current release stacks but it sure seemed to activate a dormant thespian center. It took us a long time recognize what was up. Verl couldn't assemble reliable short term memories so he would composite old ones on top of the immediate temporal world.

And that's how you would catch him. When he came to visit us in Seattle he was living experiences from being here 40 years before at the close of WWII. One day he became very excited and happy about going downtown to the old Dance Hall. "There is a hell of a party going on down there... lot's of gals who've been without men. Even ugly cusses like us can get laid tonight! Wear your uniforms." He said that to me his daughter and his wife. Apparently knowing who we were by instinct still he could seamlessly meld together realities.

But it was so painful to watch his frustrations. He forgot if he had eaten. He eventually forgot his circadian rhythms and would get up and shave and dress at 3am expecting to go milk cows. Or he would go to bed at 2pm based on some odd environmental cue and get up a few minutes later like he had the best nights sleep ever,

Anyway. I'm so sorry to hear about this for Mr. Pratchett.
posted by tkchrist at 9:50 AM on December 12, 2007

This is one of the worst bits of news I could have heard today.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:54 AM on December 12, 2007

Speaking of Good Omens, one of my three copies is currently circulating my office (and has been for the past year) with the simple instructions: Read; You'll like it.

A co-worker just finished it a couple of days ago. When he handed it back to me, his overall evaluation was "Anyone who hasn't read this has done themselves a disservice."

I think that sums up Pratchett, in general, pretty well.
posted by quin at 10:09 AM on December 12, 2007 [4 favorites]

"Millenium hand and shrimp," as two of his characters, Foul Ron and Mrs Tachyon, are wont to express.

(Note: each of these characters could be said to be um, forgetful...foreshadowing?)
posted by Lynsey at 10:09 AM on December 12, 2007

Threes? Who are the others that have come down with illnesses this year? Might have provided us with a link to whoever you're referring to.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:14 AM on December 12, 2007


George RR Martin, we're still here for ya buddy. Stay strong.
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:14 AM on December 12, 2007

I kept typing and retyping a comment, trying to say something that meant something. Hopeless.

He's a thoroughly decent person, is Mr. Pratchett, and an inspiration to many. It seems unbearably unfair that this would happen to him of all people. I'm just going to go tear up now.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 10:21 AM on December 12, 2007

This is terrible, terrible.
posted by painquale at 10:25 AM on December 12, 2007

Time to break out the dried frog pills, I guess.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 10:29 AM on December 12, 2007 [2 favorites]

I came across Pratchett in 2000 at an Aggiecon convention. I was there to see Harlan Ellison and Joe Lansdale, but I caught bits of some of Pratchett's sessions and he was telling good stories (including one about a gorilla that I can recall but not remember, which is kind of scary given the context of this thread,) and I figured he could probably write them too. So I bought some of his books and got in the signing line. He spent some time talking to the guy ahead of me about how good the enemy AI in Half Life was, so I was pretty sure I wasn't going to dislike the guy. I really wish I had been into him before the convention so I could have caught more than just bits.

I love discovering a "new" author with a big back catalog that you can just plow through once you're smitten by them and Terry was the last time that happened. But there's a few of my favorite authors whose complete collections I own, but I still have a few of their books that I haven't read yet. They're either gone or are going soon and I can't bear to read that last one knowing it's the last time I'll get to take a new look into their world.

So I think Making Money is going right up on the shelf unread. Just in case.

Also, this sucks.
posted by Cyrano at 10:30 AM on December 12, 2007

Here's a pint of scumble hoping that he doesn't suffer unduly.
posted by porpoise at 10:32 AM on December 12, 2007

As part of the sad contingent who witnessed my paternal grandmother's erosion after being struck by progressive organic dementia at age 32 (then called "early senility" and erroneously labelled as Alzheimer's for many years before her autopsy), I cannot imagine a more horrible way for someone so brightminded to begin their fadeout from this existence.

Pratchett is a genius, not just of comedy but in his perception of the human condition (which, of course, is what makes him such a rich humourist), and this is just awful, awful news.

My only comfort is in his prolific output, not just of the famed series but of other writings, other collaborations, and, hopefully, as the threads of his Terry Pratchettness fray.
posted by batmonkey at 10:34 AM on December 12, 2007

I have nothing to add, other than I've read all of his work, in some cases (Hogfather, Night Watch, others) more than ten times apiece. His books cover the gamut from mostly slapstick to mostly thoughtful, but there really isn't a title in the series that's "meh." (Small Gods came the closest for me, but I re-read it some time later and changed my mind about it.)

I hope Terry is able to put off the inevitable until perhaps it isn't inevitable. If I was Patrician, this would cue turning all the city's resources to finding a cure and quite fucking around "liberating" Sto Lat and giving my buddies in the theives' guild tax breaks, but what do I know.
posted by maxwelton at 10:53 AM on December 12, 2007

Buggrit, buggrit, buggrit.
posted by ooga_booga at 10:55 AM on December 12, 2007

Someone always gives me the newest Discworld hardcover for the holidays. I can't wait to read Making Money in a few weeks.
posted by sourwookie at 10:59 AM on December 12, 2007

This news has ruined the day in our house, and it's only 8AM.

If you could donate brain cells I'd be lining up for a tissue match.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:01 AM on December 12, 2007

bloody hell.

I was loaned a handful of Pterry books in the early nineties, after I read Good Omens, and have spent the 15 years since then reading and rereading them as they came out. they work on a number of different levels.

If I was in his situation I would seriously consider not writing much more and doing whatever I wanted to here on out. But, perhaps, if we are lucky, writing is what he wants to do.

A few years ago Terry Gilliam was trying to write a script for Good Omens, and was having a sufficiently difficult time doing so quote
"You can report that Good Omens is proving to be FUCKING difficult to reduce to the FUCKING SHIT ASS limitations of a two FUCKING hour film."
But a script was written and they even got actors interested, but, as with many Gilliam projects no one was interested in financing it. So, who knows if it'll ever come to light.
posted by edgeways at 11:38 AM on December 12, 2007

Bugrit. I grew up with Pratchett books. Got the colour of Magic when I was a nipper, and a relative continued to give me them unasked every year for christmas. It's been a good ride, too, despite some of the lol-fantasy sneering he gets in the UK.

They're also good to re-read, which I don't often do with books. A world on a tortoise is just a funny conceit when you're 13, but when you later know about "turtles all the way down" it becomes a much more interesting bit about philosophy and religion.

The industrial revolution series was also taking A-M in interesting directions, with much more social commentary than we've had before. Making Money (and its credit calimity) came out here just at the time of the Northern Rock run, and reflected it beautifully.
posted by bonaldi at 11:44 AM on December 12, 2007

I have copies of both Thud! and Making Money that I've been waiting on for unclear reasons. Maybe it's time to get to them. Or save them. Christ I dunno. What terrible news.

Maybe this will get Stephen Fry to finally actually read one of Pratchett's books.)
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 12:14 PM on December 12, 2007

Unlike a lot of people who started with his more recent stuff and then worked their way back, I started at the beginning and worked my way forward. As good a fantasy parody as The Colour of Magic is, it's really been a treat to see how he matured as a writer, moving from clever and witty to clever, witty, and incredibly smart and touching all at once.

And to reiterate what I said above, this sucks ass. Shit.
posted by infinitywaltz at 12:17 PM on December 12, 2007

Shit, shit, shit. Best of luck to him. A thief not even Vimes could set a trap for.
'Round here we love, love, love his stuff, but especially all the Vimes books. I read them aloud and do all the voices.
Where is my fantasy author? Is that my fantasy author?
posted by agentofselection at 12:29 PM on December 12, 2007

I keep reading this and trying to figure out what to write, in between being choked up. It's about that time for my annual re-reading of Hogfather, and the though of Pterry losing himself, and of Sam Vimes and Vetinari and Tiffany and Death and everyone being lost too...

yeah. Ook.

(Also, is there where we start trying to figure out how to preserve Neil Gaiman for all future generations, not allowing him to age or sicken? Because I'm totally up for that.)
posted by kalimac at 12:37 PM on December 12, 2007

He once turned up to my 18th birthday party with a magic briefcase full of expensive liquor far beyond the budget of starving students that he shared freely. Thank you Mr Pratchett.
posted by meehawl at 1:29 PM on December 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

This is really, really sad. I love the discworld books, and I met Mr. Pratchett himself twice when he came over to Germany on book tours; he was always so nice and friendly and took the time to chat a little with every fan (and there were lots) who went to have their books signed.
I distinctly remember what watch he wore (a Casio Triple Sensor, same one I wore at the time) and I'll always regret not asking him what excuse he gave if people asked him why he wore a watch with barometer, compass and thermometer built right in; I for my part would always start "See... when I'm on a plane above the amazon rain forest, and the plane catches fire and crash lands, I can stumble from the burning wreck, just look at my watch... and tell you the exact time when I starve to death." I have no doubt his answer would have been so much funnier.
I hate this disease, and I sincerely hope this great writer will take some time to enjoy the fruits of his works while he still can - and I wish there was something I or anyone could do.
posted by PontifexPrimus at 1:33 PM on December 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

meehawl: He once turned up to my 18th birthday party with a magic briefcase full of expensive liquor far beyond the budget of starving students that he shared freely. Thank you Mr Pratchett.

That must have been way cool. Care to elaborate?
posted by Kattullus at 1:48 PM on December 12, 2007

Yes, one of the things about Terry - compared to say, Roald Dahl - is that he appears to be a nice, humane, decent person. A mensh, in fact.

Whenever I read some mention of him having become very rich, I always thought "marvellous! He deserves every penny." I'm not sure who deserves premature ga-ga, but surely not him.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:57 PM on December 12, 2007

I didn't know my Nan, but I knew Alzheimer's when it had her. Devastating and inert and horrible. Someone linked me here and I immediately assumed he had died. Then it sank in that really, what happened to my Nan is going to happen to him. And that's unspeakably terrible. But in the main link, he's pretty positive about it. We're all going to die at some point, he's just one of those people that get a rough idea of when it's going to be. So I just hope he wraps up any loose ends in his writing! Good luck to him. I'll try and ignore the lump in my throat for now...
posted by saturnine at 2:16 PM on December 12, 2007

If there were any justice in the world, TP would be properly recognized as a bona fide National Treasure alongside the Pythons, Douglas Adams and Stephen Fry. Sadly, I don't think the awful news of his illness makes this a whole lot more likely to occur in his lifetime, but it'll happen eventually - the books are just too good to ignore.
posted by teleskiving at 2:50 PM on December 12, 2007

Ook :(

... one of the few authors out there who writes books that are deeply thought-provoking. And they're even funny.
posted by ysabet at 3:02 PM on December 12, 2007

Fuck. fuck. Horrible news, just horrible. I grew up on a double diet of Pratchett and Adams, and their fondly despairing, deeply humanist absurdism was just about the most formative extended cultural experience in my life. I grew apart from Pratchett's books as time went on - I thought he started getting a little formulaic after, say, 15 or 20 books - but from what I hear, his latest ones have been top-notch.

I wish it hadn't taken dreadful news like this to make me resolve to go read him again. Bugger. Bugger. Bugger.
posted by flashboy at 3:35 PM on December 12, 2007

I have spent the last four years watching my grandmother transform from a vivacious, active 80-year old full of stories and moxie, to a living husk with not a glimpse of memory or glimmer of coherent thought in her eyes.

Knowing that is the path in store for one of my favorite authors, a genuinely awesome human being whose wit and sparkling language has carried me through good times and bad... I'm at a total loss for words.
posted by gemmy at 4:14 PM on December 12, 2007

His work is a little too much like the Harlem Globetrotters instead of the NBA of real storytelling to appeal to me very much, but I consider our failure to have a 'Manhattan Project' started 20 years ago to figure out what's going on with Alzheimer's unarguably a symptom of a collective cultural dementia.
posted by jamjam at 4:35 PM on December 12, 2007

I was going to make a joke about him being a prolific writer and how his career will be cut short with only 30 more books, but then I felt bad because I like him so much.
posted by Large Marge at 4:48 PM on December 12, 2007

I understand the impulse to vent on this thread - when I saw it and read the news I'd felt like I'd been punched in the guts, as Pratchett is my favourite author bar none.

May I humbly suggest turning this thread around to be a bit more positive though? If anyone could use some seriously strong positive thaums right now, it's Pterry.

Less waily, waily and more gie you sich a kickin'!

You know the man in the big hat would prefer it that way.
posted by Zinger at 5:03 PM on December 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Seriously. You know Pratchett has enough weird shit in his brain to keep the Alzheimer's demons at bay. Foul Ole Ron, Granny Weatherwax, Vetinari and the Nac Mac Feegle are in there. They'll make a fight of it. ...I hope.
posted by Pallas Athena at 6:14 PM on December 12, 2007


He was doing a signing and a talk, someone asked him did he want to go to a party? He's very affable - and this was when he less books out so he was less well known and thus more accessible. Now he just gets mobbed. But there are very few irascible scifi authors who attend fan functions - it's a self-selecting group. But some are more amiable than others.
posted by meehawl at 6:56 PM on December 12, 2007

I discovered Terry Pratchett in around 1988 when the Science Fiction Book Club (here in the U.S.) began and continued to send me all this weird crap I didn't want. One such bit of weird crap was Mr. Pratchett's work.

Soon after, I wrote him an email because I had read and loved it even though I hadn't asked for the stuff. He replied to that email, although I no longer have it.

I adore his books.

Terry Pratchett is, was, and always will be awesome.
posted by psmith at 7:03 PM on December 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

So there's this 14-year old I know who I've been a little worried about - crazy single parent, seems kind of aimless, in and out of homeschooling, doing just ok in his work even though he's pretty smart...you get the picture. I hadn't seen him in almost a year when he came into the bookstore a few weeks back.

He asked if we had any Terry Pratchett books. He left with Good Omens.

He was 200 pages in when I saw him again.

The next day.

I'm not so worried about him anymore.
posted by mediareport at 7:10 PM on December 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh, forgot to mention one of the things that worried me so much: He hated to read.
posted by mediareport at 7:14 PM on December 12, 2007


Very sad.

Anyone in the UK ready to bring him some medicine?
posted by jtron at 9:43 PM on December 12, 2007

My daughter and I were just watching "Hogfather" on Ion last night..again. We love Pratchett's books. We were even wondering how old he was and how much longer he'd be able to write. Ook. Now, I have to tell her this. I have no music with rocks in today.
posted by Mojojojo at 2:57 AM on December 13, 2007

Anyone in the UK ready to bring him some medicine?

I'm on it.
posted by chuckdarwin at 7:30 AM on December 13, 2007

Pratchett has a new statement up. Here's the text in full:

My good friend Sandra Kidby of PJSM Prints is allowing me to use her website because I am proverbially too busy to run one of my own. We have hardly the time even to read the thousands of messages that have come in here, let alone reply to them, but thank you all.

Could I make a small comment, however? Lots of people are sending me plot ideas. Please, I have a lot of ideas. There is no shortage of ideas and ideas sent to me, even with the very best of intentions, are carefully filleted out of the correspondence before they even get to me. I know they are sent in an effort to help, and I appreciate this, but I advise you not to waste your time.

I am also getting a lot of requests for interviews. I am not giving any because everything I have got to say or that can be said is in the bulletin below. There is no point in saying it again, but in a different order.

Can I remind everybody that I still aten’t dead, even today.

Thanks again for all your good wishes.
posted by Kattullus at 9:59 AM on December 14, 2007

What kind of person would send Terry Pratchett plot ideas?
posted by maxwelton at 9:22 PM on December 15, 2007

There is a certain brand of twit who seems to operate under the bizarre assumption that ideas are a rare commodity, and that as such authors can't generate enough of their own. Asimov and a few other writers who have commented on the phenominon report that often these people want to *sell* their idea, not give it away.
posted by sotonohito at 4:38 AM on December 16, 2007

« Older 110%, Québec sports french TV show posted...   |   Some saxophonists. Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments