Don’t Fear The Reaper

I’ve met author and assisted-death advocate Terry Pratchett twice, both times years ago before he began to suffer from posterior cortical atrophy, a rare form of early-onset Alzheimer’s. He is one of the scariest-clever people I’ve ever had the privilege to converse with. I’m not a total moron, and fairly un-used to feeling like one in company, but Pratchett along with my old friend Charlie Stross and Richard Dawkins are three who manage it effortlessly.

If you haven’t read Pratchett’s books – humorous fantasy but with a darkness and an ascerbic wit most reminiscent of George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman series, I heartily recommend them. But whether you’re new to his work or an old fan, you really should read the interview by Laurie Penny currently at The New Statesman.


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Steve Hynd

Most recently I was Editor in Chief of The Agonist from Feb 2012 to Feb 2013. My blogging began at Newshoggers and I’ve had the immense pleasure of working with some great writers there and around the web ever since, including at Crooks & Liars. I'm a late 40′s, Scottish ex-pat, now married to a wonderful Texan, with Honours in Philosophy from Univ. of Stirling, UK 1986. I worked most of life in business insurance industry (fire, accident, liability) including 12 years as a broker/underwriter/correspondent at Lloyd’s of London. Being from the other side of the pond, my political interests tend to focus on how US foreign policy affects the rest of the planet. Other interests include early and dark-ages British history, literature and cognitive philosophy/science.

3 CommentsLeave a comment

  • He’s certainly right that the modern way of life has generally insulated us from simple reality of death. But then, modern life has insulated us from a lot of reality; why should death be any different.

    The violence of war presents/reveals death as something under someone’s control; something arbitrary rather than inevitable, something almost artificial (which is reinforced by depictions in the news, TV, movies). Unless we are involved directly in combat, we are encouraged (brainwashed?) to regard that sort of death as being almost irrelevant to our own lives.

    On the other hand, the deaths of family or friends often seem to come as a surprise. Many people have no personal way to deal with it and also lack a cultural mechanism for dealing with it. I can’t tell you how many times I have been at a funeral, wake or sitting shiva and noticed the awkwardness that prevails as people haven’t a clue how to act/react. The closest to a natural, honest. human response usually comes from the very young or the elderly. The former haven”t learned to cloak their reactions in convention and the latter have generally reached a point where they couldn’t care less about being conventional – they just care about people. (When the ‘days dwindle down to a precious few’, you have no patience with bullshit). In days when families lived together, often three generations in a home or nearby, death was a lot more ‘present’ and people simply grew up understanding death as a part of life.

    Death gives a poignancy to life and I have always maintained that the person who is afraid of death is also afraid to live. Terry Pratchett is living with a vengeance and will go out the same way: Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

    Do not go gentle into that good night,
    Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
    Because their words had forked no lightning they
    Do not go gentle into that good night.

    Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
    Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
    And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
    Do not go gentle into that good night.

    Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
    Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    And you, my father, there on that sad height,
    Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
    Do not go gentle into that good night.
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
    – Dylan Thomas

    BTW: Specially apropos on the eve of Thanksgiving. Thank you.

  • I’m sure that most here have read much of Prachett’s work, I wonder how many are aware that he has also contributed dialogue and ideas to fantasy roleplaying computer games. I know he has written Oblivion and Skyrim mods named Vilja by the Swedish mod-maker, Emma. Both mods are very well written, but now and again one hears a line or two which would fit into his novels nicely.

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