Dear Sir Terry,
You showed the world that fantasy, long dominated by backwards-looking escapism, has as much to say about modern society as science fiction does. I had enjoyed one of your children’s books, so after coming across a couple television adaptations a decade later, I decided to give your Discworld series a try. The first book, The Color of Magic, was a blast. I wasn’t hooked, however, until Jingo, which taught me as much about geopolitics and civil-military relations as a semester at Georgetown. (Ok, maybe not quite as much, but it was certainly a better value.)
You helped teach this once cynical and dismissive atheist the value of religion by showing the goodness religious belief can inspire, even as you never ceased to poke fun at pompous or absurd religiosity. Perhaps the most beautiful scene I’ve ever read was when Pastor Mightily Oats, the overeager, literal interpreter of scripture, finally realizes how to save his companion using the words of the prophet – by burning his holy book as kindling.
Belief in your books isn’t passive, but a tool to shape the world. In Hogfather, it’s the ability to believe in the Santa Claus-like title character – basically, to find meaning in stories – that lets us believe in intangible things like justice and mercy. That became how I think of human rights. They exist only because we choose to belief they exist, and the world is a better place for that.
Best of all is the sense of decency that pervades your books – and the reminders never to take one’s own goodness for granted. Like the witches who watch over one another lest one of their number ends up cackling and baking children into pies, we all need good people around us to tell us when we’ve gone too far. Otherwise, we may start to think we’re kinder, smarter, better than other people and that that gives us the right treat them however we want. On the Discworld, as in our own, not everyone is good, but anyone could be good. A goblin. A vampire. An all-powerful dictator. Even an elf.