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March 12, 2015

“IT’S TIME, TERRY.” “I know.”
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 05:21 PM * 90 comments

I started reading Pratchett back when his books were merely funny. No, I tell a lie. They were funny and smart, right from the start.

But what they weren’t at first, what they gradually grew into being, was funny, smart, and passionate. He saw the monstrosities of our world: economic inequality, racism, sexism, religious bigotry, the abuses of narrative and myth. And he made them irresistibly ludicrous, laying them relentlessly out until their inner absurdity smothered them, until the least bizzare and most reasonable thing in the story was that it took place on a disc resting on the backs of four elephants standing on the shell of a giant space turtle.

He was both wise and kind. It showed in his books, and it shows in the stories people are swapping about him on Twitter. He left a lot of that wisdom behind. May we all benefit from it.

Comments on "IT'S TIME, TERRY." "I know.":
#1 ::: omega ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2015, 05:46 PM:

How very true. Thankyou

#2 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2015, 05:47 PM:


<Raises glass.>

#3 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2015, 05:57 PM:

I have many reactions today, including anger at Terry Pratchett for being mortal. But also this:

"Now Death will finally find out if he's real."


#4 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2015, 06:06 PM:

There is a Usenet cultural tradition of obituary haiku among my people. I posted this to Facebook, in emulation:

A turtle's tear falls
Frozen in the cosmic void
Under the great Disc.

#5 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2015, 06:11 PM:

Also, for those who did not see it yet on Twitter, his last words which I assume were prearranged to be posted for him:


People have been talking about their favorite passages where he really got to the heart of something, and David Gerrold cited in his tribute one I think is particularly important:

"For me, the moment I realized what a master he was, came when Granny Weatherwax defined sin. She said it was treating other people as objects. He said it so clearly, so efficiently, and so beautifully that it was as unforgettable as if he had jammed your head inside a giant bell and struck it with a hammer."

#6 ::: Phiala ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2015, 06:13 PM:

I'm sadder than one might expect for someone I'ven ever met, but that will surprise no one around here. I just started the penultimate Discworld book, which is lovely but also, well, sadder than one might expect if one weren't that kind of person.

#7 ::: MJ ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2015, 06:15 PM:

It's not a surprise, but it still came too soon and I am desolate. He had a great heart.

#8 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2015, 06:25 PM:

Absobloodylutely, Abi. Pratchett was a true worldshaper.

#9 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2015, 06:27 PM:

Well, bugger.

#11 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2015, 06:35 PM:

His books helped to get me, and many others, through difficult times. I had a friend who read his way through my entire Discworld collection (as it stood at that time) to get him through a painful divorce. Now, my Twitter feed is flooded with people saying essentially the same thing. The Discworld books are not just hilariously funny; they hold out hope of the way our own world could be.

I also know of no other writer whose books have spawned so many friendships. Of my three best friends, I originally met two online via the #afp chat group (, and the third I met via one of the other two; so if it had not been for Terry Pratchett, I would not have met any of them. Again, there are a lot of people on Twitter all saying the same thing.

He brought so much to the world and will be sadly missed. I'm going to go and cuddle my Librarian, who's going to be pretty upset. Ooook. :-(

#12 ::: Jonathan Adams ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2015, 06:57 PM:

I was (and am) very sad to hear about his passing. He lived his life well, and shared his insight, passion, and rage at unfairness in a wonderfully constructive fashion.

#13 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2015, 07:18 PM:


(dammit, I used to have a good ASCII-art for this that I can't remember any more)

#14 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2015, 07:26 PM:

I was fortunate enough, some years ago, to go to a reading of his. He had people literally falling off their seats and rolling in the aisles with laughter. My ribcage and abdomen hurt with laughing so hard.

I treasure that memory. That, and the amazing humanity he demonstrated through the Discworld books. He was an amazing observer of people and had a wonderful ability to capture the human essence in his writing.

#15 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2015, 07:30 PM:

I ended up writing something that's going to be on Sasquan's Facebook page and blog. Since I'm not on Facebook, I won't see it there. Like Scalzi, I remember him giving me that "Well played!" look on a bon mot when I was interviewing him at the NADWCon in Arizona. We were discussing his history, and he talked about being good at arithmetic and saying about something "...and except for that, I might have been an accountant!" And I replied, "But there's no taste for accounting, is there?" He was not only an excellent source of wit, but he loved wit in others and brought it out.

He once called me a national treasure. I still feel amazed at that -- he was a global treasure.

#16 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2015, 07:33 PM:

Oh, and I just took out of the library and listened to the audiobook of NIGHT WATCH (read by Stephen Briggs). I was driving from Seattle to the SF area, and needed something to listen to. I was struck by how very well structured the book is -- there are all sorts of lovely foreshadowings that run by very quickly that I had to be slowed down enough to notice, and listening to the book did that. It's worthwhile to listen to them as well as read them.

#17 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2015, 07:35 PM:

The strangeness in his work was that he had the power of a mythmaker¹, but turned it against (among other targets) superstition and blind faith. And the more fantastic his creations, the more human they showed themselves.

¹ I've known at least one person who seriously described herself as an "edge-witch", despite knowing that was intended as satire. Coyote must have been laughing all the way to the horizon....

#18 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2015, 07:47 PM:

At a ConJosé party, I somehow ended up doing impromptu Copper Family-style folk-singing with an English chap. It wasn't until he mentioned how happy he was to have met Maddy Prior and found out that she was a DiscWorld fan that I realized who he was.

R.I.P., Sir Terry.

#19 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2015, 07:55 PM:

My copy of The Colour of Magic is falling apart. It has been falling apart for nearly 20 years. (It says it's a 1987 printing; that seems a little early, so I suspect I bought it in 1989, or 88 at the earliest)

I don't know that he had a major influence on my time as a data analyst in an insurance company (my bosses and mentors had strong moral and ethical values to go with their financial guidelines) but he helped keep a human focus to our sense of humour. (I note that our director, a generation older, would reference Douglas Adams who was perhaps sharper and more cynical but still kept a finger on the human side of outlandish systems)

#20 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2015, 08:07 PM:

I still have one of his newest books on hand (The Long Mars) waiting for me to read it.

#21 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2015, 08:27 PM:

Tim @ #18

Prompted by that, this moose has just opened another beer (well, heather ale), put "We shall wear midnight" on iTunes and raised another glass to a truly great man who was taken from us far too soon.


David @ #20

According to the BBC website, there is one more book in the pipeline, and it's a Tiffany Aching novel.

<Sigh.> I should go to bed. Goodnight.

#22 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2015, 08:37 PM:

the least bizzare and most reasonable thing in the story was that it took place on a disc resting on the backs of four elephants standing on the shell of a giant space turtle.

The thing is, the Discworld may have been peculiar (and he admitted as much in-text), but it did have specific rules, and he extrapolated from those rules. F'rex: Big Magical Monster manifests as a huge eye protuding from its gateway? It's not gonna like a magical light source that's amplified by the beastie's own magical radiation. Vampires turn to ash in sunlight, but can be restored by blood? Naturally, a sensible vampire would keep a vial of blood around his neck, rigged to break if he was abruptly ashed.

(Here in Roundworld, one could wish for a Corporate Vampire Temperance League. :-) )

#23 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2015, 08:40 PM:

This is the third site I've read about Terry Pratchett's death, and it still doesn't get any easier. I'm going to go reread one of his books, which will inevitable lead to me rereading many of his books, to remind myself that he left something here for the rest of us to cherish . . .

#24 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2015, 08:43 PM:

David @ #22

Not to mention...

1) The "Being Bloody Stupid Act"

2) The XXXX practice of jailing politicians as soon as they're elected. That would indeed save lots of time.

#25 ::: dotless ı ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2015, 08:57 PM:

I feel like I started mourning early, because of his illness. I'm sad, but not stunned.

Right now I'm thinking about Pratchett's early presence on, and how directly (and sanely) he engaged with people there. It's funny what comes to mind: I don't know why, but I'm remembering two very different comments he made. Paraphrased, because I can't find the posts right now:

1) (Discussing what he might write in the future) "The Discworld is large: it can contain both Small Gods and Eric."

2) (In a thread of slightly altered folk song lyrics) "One misty moisty morning, when cloudy was the weather / I met with an old man, clothed all in ... leather."

#26 ::: Cat ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2015, 08:59 PM:

Into The Reaper's Care
lyrics and melody by Catherine Faber 2015

Sunlight would pour like molasses,
And over the DiscWorld creep;
From the heights of the mountain passes
To the lard mines below it would seep,

.Part of our myth is this lovely land,
.And deep in our hearts we all know,
.That the elephants hold up the disc, and stand
.On the back of the Turtle below.

I've ridden his books like a rover,
From hub highest clifftops of gray,
To the edge that the ocean spills over
In eight-colored rainbows of spray,

Into the black does the ocean fall,
Veiling the elephant's limbs;
The turtle, of course, stands on nothing at all,
But raises her flippers and swims.

Sunset must pass on this spinning blue ball
No matter how golden the light;
Death is a bedtime that comes to us all--
Sleep softly, Sir Terry. Good night.

#27 ::: Sajia Sultana ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2015, 09:02 PM:

He was not perfect. The society of Discworld existed as though the British Empire had never happened. But he was the best of his generation, and I am sad to see him go.

#28 ::: Megpie71 ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2015, 09:26 PM: - written around much tear dabbing and nose-blowing.

#29 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2015, 09:56 PM:

Sad . . . but if he got to go on his terms, not tragic. I hope he got his desire to go with some wit and agency.

And such a body of work.


#30 ::: kate ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2015, 10:18 PM:

I appreciated Jo Walton's Tor dot com post about him, and thank you Jo.

I knew (for some value of knew) Spock & Leonard Nimoy longer, but for all that, pterry's death hit me harder. Don't know quite how or why, but possibly I'll figure it out later. Or not.

(I also started with Pratchett when he was merely funny, and watched him as he progressed to letting his passion show on the page. It was a blessed relief.)

#31 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2015, 10:55 PM:

OK. Finally got the reference in the thread title.

#32 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2015, 11:04 PM:

Cat, that's lovely. I hope to hear you sing it at Sasquan.

#33 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2015, 11:19 PM:

Mongoose@11: I remember reading a reviewer for F&SF saying she saved Pratchett books for the dark spots in her life, and thinking "Yes! It's not just me!". Pterry's books got me through at least three deaths of people close to me.

abi@0: I remember a friend looking at the SFBC flyer 30 years ago and asking if I'd heard of Pratchett; at the time there were only 1-2 Discworld books, so I preferred Strata. I'm fortunate that he's never made fun of my massive failure of prophecy....

I remember dropping into the bar at the Glasgow-in-95 hotel the day before setup started, and being utterly speechless when Pterry sat down next to me and said "Hi! I'm Terry Pratchett." as if there were someone in the room who didn't know who he was. (Speechlessness was merciful; I probably would have started gibbering like a fanboy a quarter my age if I could have gotten out anything.) In forty years in fandom I've met quite a few authors, but I don't think I've ever seen so famous a person be so unassuming.

#34 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2015, 12:21 AM:

My first discworld book was pressed upon me dismissively: a friend found it at his house, said it wasn't his, and insisted, because it contained wizards and such, was a BSD-book and therefore must be mine.

I read it, read what I could find then. And then he became a bigger Pratchett fan than I (Johnny & the X don't do much for me), which is saying something.

#35 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2015, 12:34 AM:

Like many here, this wasn't an unexpected event, though the timing was a unhappy surprise. I came to Terry Pratchett late, and have really only read a couple to a handful of his books. (Though, that also means that I have many ahead of me, including Mort coming in to the library in a few days)

His Bromeliad Trilogy was the first book series I gave my oldest kid, and he has treasured it, and since read more than I have.

#36 ::: PurpleGirl ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2015, 03:10 AM:

I tried reading several of his books but I never really connected to Discworld. Still, I am sad that he has passed. I've many friends who loved his writing and I'm also sad that they have lost someone who was important to them.

According to sites I've read, he died in his own bed, with his cat sleeping with him and surrounded by family. I believe that's a good way to go, but it's still way too soon.

Rest in Peace good sir.

#37 ::: James Harvey ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2015, 06:48 AM:

First Douglas, then Iain, now Terry. Britain seems to be careless with its best SF&F writers :(

#38 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2015, 06:49 AM:

Very indirectly, Sir PTerry is the reason I am sitting in London and not, say, Stockholm.

Through people I met via online Pratchett fandom, I inquired as to the availability at a UK ISP, when the Swedish start-up I was working for at the time were on an unstable basis. I got the job and moved. And I've been here ever since, with some co-workers I've known for longer than the company we work for has existed.

#39 ::: John Dallman ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2015, 07:54 AM:

Cat@26: You've made me realise something. Tolkien wanted to create a mythology for the English, but never quite succeeded, because it was always too structured, too fictional.

Pratchett, with humanity and a splendid comic disguise, actually did it.

#40 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2015, 07:58 AM:

It was at the Glasgow Worldcon. I was marking my card and drinking British beer. I heard a stir, and Terry Pratchett pulled up a chair and sat beside me. He'd remembered me. He knew my name. He reminisced about the interview we'd done in Perth, long before. He'd read the write-up and approved.

He had no reason to do this. Except for his being a mensch to the core of his bones. He was a BNA, the biggest, and he did that for a no-name fan.

Walk in the light fantastic, mate. They dubbed you knight, and so they bloody well should have, but the higher title is gentleman, and you were always that.

#42 ::: Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2015, 09:20 AM:

Terry made the front pages of several UK newspapers today:

The End

#43 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2015, 09:57 AM:

For those interested in reliving the books, Mark Oshiro (of Mark Reads, Mark Watches, etc fame) is amidst a read of all of Discworld in as-written order, and he reads it aloud on video. It's a wonderful way to watch someone (who is -- as this is his schtick -- completely unspoiled for any of it) encounter the works for the first time.

It's also giving me an appreciation for just how Sir PTerry really did learn to WRITE over the course of his novels. Knowing what I know about how good he gets later, the first few read 'strangely' coming back to them now, because he hadn't learned to be quintessentially him, yet.

I've been collecting the Mark vids into playlists to make them easier to find in order:

Part 1 (Color of Magic through Mort):
Part 2 (Pyramids through, at the moment, Eric):

He also does section-by-section (PTerry doesn't do chapters, so fans broke the books into manageable chunks for Mark) recaps/reviews, in which the commentariat is brilliant and funny (and all spoilers are ROT13'ed) at, if you want to relive a particular segment or book in detailed textual discussion/deconstruction/squeeing.

#44 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2015, 10:04 AM:

And as to his writing, he crystallized in some interview somewhere an aspect of his fiction that is also part of every comic novel I adore and clutch tightly to myself: he said that every comedy needs appropriate dashes of tragic relief, or else it just turns into a blur of slapstick.

The tragic relief amid the comedy (without making any of it less funny, or the sad bits less sad, or true) is why I love his work, and the madcap bits of Bujold's Miles, etc. The other "great writers" of comic specfic can sometimes get too wrapped up in everything being funny, cavalcades of jokes that end up leaving you with a too-much-sugar sensation in your mouth after the novel.

PTerry didn't do that (at least, not after he learned properly how to write PTerry novels).

#45 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2015, 11:13 AM:

Lengthy anecdote, too long to repost here.

(Oh, and Death told me who to dedicate the next Laundry Files novel to. Because there's nothing of Discworld in them, oh no ...)

#46 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2015, 11:18 AM:

Pratchett's speech on becoming a professor at Trinity.

#37 ::: James Harvey

Now we know why Rowling is pretty much not writing fantasy. (Or is there news I haven't heard on the subject?)

#47 ::: Eric K ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2015, 11:27 AM:

Last night, I picked up a copy of Witches Abroad, and re-read the riverboat scene with Nanny Ogg loses the coven's money to card sharps, and Granny Weatherwax goes to win it back:

Granny Weatherwax smiled nicely at him, and then waved vaguely at her cards.

"I can never remember whether the ones are worth more or less than the pictures," she said. "Forget my own head next, I expect!"

They all laughed. Granny hobbled to the other table. She took the vacant seat, which put the mirror right behind her shoulder.

She smiled to herself and then leaned forward, all eagerness.

"So tell me," she said, "how do you play this game, then?"

All witches are very conscious of stories. They can feel stories, in the same way that a bather in a little pool can feel the unexpected trout.

Knowing how stories work is almost all the battle.

For example, when an obvious innocent sits down with three experienced card sharpers and says ‘How do you play this game, then?", someone is about to be shaken down until their teeth fall out.

Sir Terry knew how stories worked.

His humor also had a curiously Chestertonian quality: It looked light and easy and trivial at first glance, but it could really get to the heart of a question, and it was driven by a powerful sense of justice. That's no easy thing, to play the clown and to love humanity and to hit your targets dead-center like that.

I'll spend the next few days with the occasional tear in my eye, re-reading favorite scenes and looking forward to one last Tiffany Aching novel.

#48 ::: PrivateIron ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2015, 11:32 AM:

I am not related to Sir Terry in any (genetic) way, but I still keep thinking of Billy Bragg's "Tank Park Salute."

You were so tall
How could you fall

Like a pale moon in a sunny sky
Death gazes down as I pass by
To remind me I am but my father's son.
I offer up to you this tribute
I offer up this tank park salute.

#49 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2015, 12:11 PM:

James Harvey @ 37: First Douglas, then Iain, now Terry.

And today it's Daevid Allen, another whimsical English mythmaker.

For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountaintop, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

(from the link above)

#50 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2015, 12:50 PM:

I was sad when I heard of his diagnosis. It meant the end was coming sooner than anyone--expected, I suppose; I was going to say "sooner than anyone wished," but there are some things I don't think we wish for an ending to. All we can wish for is that the ending comes at the best possible time, and that the best possible time is a long way off.

(I was going to say, "Who wishes for an ending?" But of course the hapless wolf from Witches Abroad jumped into my head and raised a trembling hand.)

At that point the question became not "if" (well, you know what I mean) or even "when" but how. And the answer to "how" was "on his own terms, as his own person, in the company of loved ones, with a great bulk of finished work behind him making the world a better place than he'd found it." Which is the sort of victory I think most of us hope to wring from our deaths. (Which victory I think Death is not-so-secretly rooting for, for all of us.)

So I'm not really sad today.

Thanks for all the links -- I didn't know, for example, that Mark's reading the Discworld novels, or that the Bromeliad Trilogy existed. I have a lot of reading to look forward to!

#51 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2015, 01:36 PM:

James Harvey #37: First Douglas, then Iain, now Terry.
Tim Walters #49: And today it's Daevid Allen

Yipes. I hope Neil Gaiman is getting regular checkups.

#52 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2015, 01:41 PM:

I first met him when I was all of sixteen. My mom snagged him as he walked by and asked if he would pose for a picture with me. He swung his arm around my shoulders, and said, "Why yes, of course I'd like to take a picture with my dear friend—what was your name again?"

We took this picture later that same day—the "locals" to that con threw him a dinner, at which he changed his seat several times so as to speak to different people. At one point, I'd said I felt "zonked," at which point he turned to me and asked, "Are you a Valley Girl?" My mom busted out laughing and explained, "Right state, wrong valley."

I met him again at ConJose; the one real crime of that convention was that they got him and Phil Foglio and Tad Williams and Alison Lonsdale together for an improv storytelling panel, and nobody thought to tape it. Actually, in grand improv fashion, nobody told the panelists how they were supposed to do it, so I got to provide the format (as I'd just come off a college career in improv and felt brave enough to volunteer.) I remember quite a bit about that story, which included Barstow, and alien spider detective, nuns on one-wheeled motorcycles, a "slug slowly bisected by the salted rim of a tequila glass", and my suggestion of a three-year-old with a kitten and a detonator.

I especially remember how Tad Williams said his title for it was "sixty minutes of hell."

Anyway. Sir Terry signed my shirt—not this one, but a different one. I should pull that shirt out.

#53 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2015, 02:42 PM:

My picture of Sir Terry, with penguin. This was from DWCon 2006. Wilfred was there as a scared... er, sacred... penguin of the Ephebian goddess Patina; naturally I was in the Priests' Guild, since my best friend was running it that year.

The fact that the penguin got his own conference badge was so wonderfully Discworld.

#54 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2015, 04:10 PM:

It occurred to me, last night, too late to come back and say so, that NOW I understand what Abi meant about one of her trellisses. Because Leonard Nimoy was a cultural icon and an excellent person (despite his awful singing), to me, but not someone around whom my personality formed.

There are pieces of Pratchett's works that have informed the shape of my soul, though. The absence of their maker and the promise there will (soon) be no more new to sup from that source... that hurts.

#55 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2015, 05:33 PM:

Lenora, #54: Re Nimoy's "terrible singing", I think our ideas of what singing should sound like have become terribly warped by generations of hearing nothing but professional recordings. Nimoy was what I call a "living-room singer" -- not professionally polished, but a nice voice and good pitch control. He sounds quite good when he's doing folk-style pop; I've heard worse at coffeehouses.

(Tangentially, he probably didn't have any choice over releasing albums, and he certainly wasn't given any choice over their content. That was in the days when the studio's attitude about Star Trek was that its fans were like Mikey -- we'd buy anything with that name on it.)

#56 ::: Wrye ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2015, 06:05 PM:

Just as with Nimoy, we were lucky to have him as long as we did, no matter how short that was (or feels). Thank you all for your stories, and rememberances.

A commenter over at Balloon Juice quoted Auden, and I have to agree:

But in the importance and noise of to-morrow
When the brokers are roaring like beasts on the floor of the Bourse,
And the poor have the sufferings to which they are fairly accustomed,
And each in the cell of himself is almost convinced of his freedom,
A few thousand will think of this day
As one thinks of a day when one did something slightly unusual.

What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.

#57 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2015, 09:29 PM:

Lee #55: Not to mention that professionally-released albums tend to be heavily "worked" (I'm groping for the auditory equivalent of "airbrushed" ;-) ), and were already in the 60's.

There's a reason so many of those rock band concerts did and still go for the fireworks, costumes and other spectacles; it's compensation for their having to sing live, without all the studio work that goes into the albums. (Not to mention the occasional lip-syncing scandals.)

#58 ::: Kelly Jennings ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2015, 11:45 PM:

He put his words in our heads.

#59 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2015, 01:18 AM:

Lee; That was mostly a joke. AFAIK, the only Nimoy song I've seen is the Bilbo Baggins one, which is awful, but in a conscious, deliberate "I'm having fun with this so let's go three more steps over the top" way. And no, his voice actually isn't the issue there, either, so much, as the, well, everything else.

ANYONE who is willing to sing in public is worthy, and I am a huge fan of social singing circles of every kind. Nimoy would have been absolutely welcome in that world (if we could get over the squee).

#60 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2015, 04:29 PM:

Lee@55 Nimoy was what I call a "living-room singer" -- not professionally polished, but a nice voice and good pitch control. He sounds quite good when he's doing folk-style pop; I've heard worse at coffeehouses.

Oh, good. I've always quite liked his voice, and have been rather ashamed to say so in case it betrayed that I was a much worse judge of pitch and so on than I think I am.

#61 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2015, 12:14 AM:

I think there might also be some inflated expectation due to Nimoy's speaking voice being so hugely rich - I catch people making assumptions about singing voices based on talking all the time, and it's amazing how often they're simply wrong. (in all kinds of directions, sometimes range, sometimes quality. I particularly remember a male friend whose speaking voice was on the deep and resonant side, but whose SINGING voice was about an octave further down still, a bone-shivering basso profundo).

Nimoy's speaking voice would lead one to assume a singer of near-operatic style, and the reality, while perfectly good, is nothing like.

And I apologize very much for how this passing mention hijacked the thread.

#62 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2015, 01:42 PM:

I saw him go down the hall. Look, a hat!

We had gone to Minicon because he was there. The chance of a lifetime. And I had a great time at the convention, seeing people, talking, listening, playing, showing. Almost singing. As we headed home, I suddenly realized I hadn't gone to a single event of his. Not one.

I thought about it recently. We went because of him. I know I wouldn't have gotten to be his special pal, or impress him with my lightning wit. And I did have a fine time at the convention.

So that's what I have to bring to the wake. Thanks, Sir, for that great weekend with my friends. It wouldn't have happened without you.

#63 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2015, 03:09 PM:

I did meet Pterry at that Minicon in 2005. At that particular Minicon (as in most since), the consuite and bar were in cabana rooms on the second floor of the pool atrium, which has a walkway/balcony overlooking the pool. It was about 2 am, and I was leaning against the railing, considering whether I should go to bed or find the music party or the gaming, when Pterry came out of the bar with a drink in his hand, and stopped next to me. For the next hour or so, we stood there and chatted about folk music, Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, and (for quite some time) about Thief, a video game I've never played and likely never will, which he described in loving detail. Not so much the gameplay as the world, and the idea of the world, and the things you could do around the edges. It was magic. Every so often someone would wander by, and join in for a bit, and then wander off, but mostly it was just Pterry and me.

It was a very fannish conversation, which might explain why he was in no real hurry to disappear; he didn't have to be Terry Pratchett, the Great Author; he was just a guy who really liked Thief and Steeleye Span and odd reference books. And afterwords, when he strolled off, presumably to his room, I waited until he was decently out of sight before squeeing madly to myself....

#64 ::: Cat ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2015, 05:09 PM:

People on Reddit are working out ways to insert Terry Pratchett's name into html headers and so on, inspired by the Discworld custom of "sending home" the names of people who died working on the "clacks" (the message towers.)

Which inspired Send Him Home which includes an mp3 (linked just under the title)

#65 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2015, 06:01 PM:

Cat #64: Damn, now I'm crying again. Truly he was a mythmaker, and that's how he lives on in all of us.

#66 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2015, 06:13 PM:

A few years ago at the Phoenix Discworld convention, I heard somebody behind me humming a tune I almost recognized, turned around and asked what it was, and it was Pterry humming "And the larks they sang melodious" (which is the tune Laurie Penny mentions him singing for her.) So he sang the rest of it for me, and we talked about traditional music, and he'd had Steeleye Span* over for a recent birthday party because he'd always been big fans of theirs, and apparently they of him as well.

(*Thanks to my brother for guessing really well and introducing me to their music many years ago.)

#67 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2015, 07:25 PM:

Bill Stewart @66: The way you phrased that last makes me think you may not have seen the collaboration between Steeleye and Sir Terry, Wintersmith. It's definitely worth hearing, and features Terry doing a recitative.

#68 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2015, 08:18 PM:

Cat @ 64: I'd run across something like this on tumbr--don't know if it's part of the same thing or not, but even the idea made me smile (sadly, but still a smile). Please tell me you are going to put this song on an album one of these days . . . it's lovely.

#69 ::: glinda ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2015, 08:19 PM:

Cat @ 64:

That... that is perfect. Thank you. (Yeah, crying a bit again...)

#70 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2015, 10:42 PM:

Cat #64: And having listened to your recording of the song: I gather you wanted to get an example out, with the means you had handy... and yet, reading the lyrics, I imagined a more elaborate arrangement:

Nearly (or fully) choral, with different voices for each verse... and backed by a percussion theme of sticks and similar instruments, with other instruments providing not only melody, but "wind".

Naturally, my own musical ability is nil, so all I can do is imagine it, for now.

#71 ::: estelendur ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2015, 08:36 AM:

I didn't realize, until reading here, how very much of my self and my ideas of how people are and should be are scaffolded around Discworld.

I met Terry Pratchett once, in probably-2004, when he came to my hometown on the Monstrous Regiment tour. I would have been 13. At that point I'd probably read a good chunk, but not all, of the Discworld books that were out thus far. All I could think of to ask him was, "Why does everything always happen to Rincewind?" And as I recall he said "Because I want it to." Which one may take as one likes, I suppose.

Pterry is on a very short list of authors I can and do cheerfully re-read (I purchased Good Omens after I read it three times in one library lending period). The implicit view of humanity I get from Discworld is that humans are, well, basically human, capable of being good or terrible but mostly ending up somewhere in the middle. I find this a considerably more hopeful and reassuring viewpoint than the one popularly promulgated in "gritty," "realistic" fiction these days.

I came over to the thread to post GNU Terry Pratchett but I see Cat beat me to it. :)

#72 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2015, 09:24 AM:

David Harmon @ 70: Like a hymn at a state funeral? Maybe?

#73 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2015, 07:25 PM:

Mary Frances #72: I do not believe I've ever listened to a state funeral.

I was just considering the conceit of a group of clacks-workers singing it against the background of the clacks themselves, with their different voices coming to the fore in turn.

#74 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2015, 07:57 PM:

Thinking about being flummoxed at Glasgow and I completely forgot Brighton in 1987, where Pterry made sure that people getting autographs also got their Kirby covers autographed (on the back). Generous even early in his career, when a lot of authors would still have been grabbing for every bit of attention they could get....

#75 ::: Bjorn ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2015, 01:28 PM:

Cat @ 64:Thank you so much.

Turns out I wasn't quite done crying...

#76 ::: Cat ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2015, 09:30 PM:

David Harmon, Mary Frances, glinda, Bjorn, Thank you. I'm so glad that you liked the song.

Yes, I wanted to get an example out so people could hear the tune. But really for optimal performance I envision a call and response format for the verses (or at least the first one) with a single voice on the first and third lines and more voices on the "We will send him home" parts and deep layers of harmony on the choruses.

I like the idea of a rhythm part for the clacks too.

I do make albums, and yes, this is a keeper. It takes me about a year to make an album though, which is why I put up "living-room carpet" tracks free, because I just can't stand keeping them hidden for that long.

When I do get my next album done it will go on my bandcamp page.

Lee, I am very sorry but I don't expect to make it to Sasquan. I can only make it to a handful of cons a year, and Sasquan would wipe out my con budget for a year and a half or so. I hope you have lots of fun there, and I will put up a recording of the first song pretty soon, so hopefully you can at least hear that.

#77 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2015, 10:41 PM:

Cat @76: If I may make my unsolicited orchestration ideas know...

I envision it like a work song: one voice for the unique lines in each verse, all voices for the refrain and choruses. Each verse features a different main singer, symbolizing the message getting passed down the line.

In the background, I envision a clacker, a percussion tattoo, rapping out (in Morse Code) GNU TERRY PRATCHETT over and over again, preferrably timed so there's a single repetition over a verse or verse/chorus. Each repetition is done using a different fist (characteristic sound) -- drumsticks for the first repeat, muted cowbell for the second, hollow wooden blocks for the third, etc. I also hear it begin with a fade-in of the tattoo, starting halfway through a repeat, with the singing starting when the tattoo begins again, and ends with a fadeout of the tattoo, so gives the sonic impression that the message isn't over, it's just passed through us.

#78 ::: Cat ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2015, 07:41 PM:

Buddha Buck--ooo, I like it. I like most of it, anyway. I am not sure I can make the morse code work. Morse code dits are drum-like, but morse code dahs have a duration; a drum wouldn't work for that. The clacking sound of the clacks would be drum-like (or like a wooden block, I expect) but it would probably have a fairly regular beat--actually I wonder if it would sound like typing? Though you have to change several shutters to change to a new letter I expect, so some changes would be louder than others, depending on how many shutters are flipping from black to white or back again, since you probably flip them in unison--flipping them one at a time would leave your watcher wondering which of the intermediate stages was the correct letter.
The morse code has the advantage of being decipherable, (by people with that skill, which isn't all that common anymore) of course.
Maybe one repeat of the morse code at the end? Or one and a half, fading out?

I like the idea of giving each solo vocal to a different singer (I'll have to see how many singers I can recruit for this) and I would position them in the stereo sound-space so that the first soloist is far left, the next a bit more to the center, and so on until the last is far right, to contribute to the sense of the message passing out of hearing. (Ileft to right because in comics and such people associate this with the passage of time, probably because that's the direction we read in.)

I'm tempted to have the clacking of the "clacks" shift in the sound-space also--I like that idea better than changing the , but the obvious way to handle that would be to superimpose it on the soloist--the problem being I'm afraid that would make the lyrics harder to hear. I'll have to think about that.

#79 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2015, 07:49 PM:

Cat @ 78: Morse code dits are drum-like, but morse code dahs have a duration; a drum wouldn't work for that.

Short rolls for the dahs would be one solution.

#80 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2015, 07:51 PM:

Another would be to use hi-hat: closed for dit, open for dah.

#81 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2015, 08:50 PM:

My understanding of Morse code, confirmed by Wikipedia, is that the space between clicks can be the dot or dash. Or you could use different tones of woodblock-- even high and low tones of different instruments if you wanted to get really fancy.

#82 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2015, 11:52 PM:

There's a GNU_Pratchett workaround for blogs posted:
[!-- X-Clacks-Overhead: GNU Terry Pratchett --]
with the usual replacement of brackets.
It won't show, but it's there.

#83 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2015, 11:04 AM:

YouTube has videos of telegraph sounders, where you can hear what they sounded like. Morse code was originally a visual code, not an audio code, and the original sound was that of a solenoid/relay pushing a pen down on a moving paper tape with a click and releasing it with a clack.

It didn't become an audio code until telegraph operators found they could decode the clicks and clacks by ear faster than waiting for the message to come out of the machine and decoding the marks.

One way you could do it for recording purposes is to find a few local ham radio operators who can do 20wpm CW on a straight key and rig up the keys to different sized relays (so each operator sounded distinctive) and put them around a table with a microphone in the middle, passing the message around and around for a few minutes to get a nice clean recording.

For a stage performance, assuming you couldn't get your singers to learn CW that much, you could build a little box with a TinyAT in it which would, when triggered by a key, simply play out the dits and dahs to a relay, and then pause until retriggered. Then the singers/operators, would merely have to mime keying the message when it got to them, and it would play perfectly.

Morse code, done right, is perfectly rhythmic, albeit a bit syncopated. The size of dits, dahs, and silent spaces are regimented to a time-scale.

The usual way of stating that is that the length of a dit is 1 unit, the length of a dah is 3 units, the space between dits and dahs in a symbol is 1 unit, the space between symbols is 3 units, the space between words is 5 units, the space between phrases/sentences is 7. If a unit is a 16th note (and we are using percussion to simulate old-fashioned sounders with each dit/dah having a separate sound for start and end), then a dit-and-space would be two 16th notes, a dah-and-space would be a dotted-8th and a 16th note, a symbol-gap would be 2 units, or an 8th note, a word-gap would be 4 units, or an 4th note, etc.

Now I feel like transcribing in staff-notation GNU TERRY PRATCHETT, but I can't do that here. Maybe tonight, when I'm at my home computer.

#84 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2015, 11:30 AM:

Buddha Buck, it would give a good idea of how long a phrase we're talking about for someone who wanted to do a more elaborate setting of the piece.

#85 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2015, 01:52 PM:

Carrie S. @84:

According to Lilypond, using the notation I described, it's about 9.5 measures of 4/4 time long. You can see the output here. I didn't do it fancy because I'm supposed to be working on API code, not music ;-). Each beam represents a dit or a dah.

I would be tempted, myself, to try to do the song in 6/8, at which point GNU TERRY PRATCHETT would be just about 15 measures long, and a final rest measure (or the addition of a K (end of transmission) prosign) would bring it up to 16 measures, which is a common length for a portion of a tune.

Using the speed I gave earlier (20 wpm CW), it's about 4 "words" long (a word is 5 characters and a space), so it would be about a 5th of a minute, or 12 seconds long.

I'll improve on it tonight and post a nicer version.

#86 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2015, 03:38 PM:

Buddha Buck @83: Morse code, done right, is perfectly rhythmic, albeit a bit syncopated.

This has me thinking itchy thoughts about running the phrase through different instruments (piano, violin pizzicato (in which you could superimpose a tune over the rhythm, for additional variation), triangle, etc.) as another axis of variation.

Fiddle with the "percussion" "tune" and make it into a round...?

IANAMusician in any wise, but this is so deliciously geeky that it's seriously chutneying. -ish. -ificating....

#87 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2015, 05:43 PM:

Having rewatched "Going Postal" (and tearing up more at odder spots than I thought I might) here's a question:

Is the emissary from the Magician's University Brian Blessed?

#88 ::: Andrew M ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2015, 06:28 PM:

Was not the V-sound (used as a signal by the BBC broadcasting to the resistance in World War II) played on a drum? (Though they also used the opening bars of Beethoven's Fifth).

Another notable musical use of Morse Code is the Inspector Morse theme.

#89 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2015, 11:52 PM:

Timothy West.

Why, yes, I watched it again.

#90 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2015, 11:37 AM:

And Unspeakable Vault (Of Doom) weighs in. With a callout to a prior strip of his.

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