: The Best Of AFP

20 Years of Discworld

Date: 02 May 2004
From: Cliff

Doesn't seem that long, does it?

In a tiny gloomy second hand and second rate bookstore sandwiched a showbar and lingerie shoppe (with live models so customers could make sure the sleepwear would fit), where I had found fine old books (O. Henry's Rolling Stone; and a collection of Restoration (1660's) plays (by Fletcher, Dryden, et al.) that could not be staged even today anywhere including San Francisco or Amsterdam printed in the early Victorian Period, i.e., before morality) a new name "Pratchett" caught my eye.

Because I knew most of the mystery and fantasy writers of the time and it had been years since anyone had written real science fiction. (Those were the days of Keith Laumer, Mike Resnick, Ellis Peters, Jack Vance, L. Sprague de Camp, Lin Carter, and more who wrote in Analog, Galaxy, and F&SF).

The new name was on a little paperback book perched way up high where, maybe, a NBA Star could leap and get it. (Bookstores put the books they don't expect to sell well in places like that and, surprise!, the books don't sell well.) It wasn't the sort of bookstore to have any conveniences like ladders or step stools or clerks, it sold used books, underground comics and those vanity books of poetry.

I got the Pratchett book down by throwing other books up at it: The Colour of Magic, printed in UK.

I know the date was May 2, 1984, because when I got home my middle daughter stood oh so proudly displaying the improvements she'd made to my Apple keyboard with the boss's nail polish. She really did have a gift for color selection and coordination. It must have taken hours for her to painstakingly paint each key. That keyboard really did look a lot better. It didn't work. That Apple never really had worked the way I wanted it to.

Still there had to be consequences.

So, at story time, which precedes lights out, I read The Colour of Magic to all three daughters out loud instead of the so-called children's books we parents were supposed to be reading to our kids. I liked it. They liked it. A family tradition changed. At story time we read the new Pratchett out loud, when there was a new Pratchett.

The next Pratchett, The Light Fantastic, did not appear in American bookstores until 1988. By then our children could read to us.

It was obvious 20 years ago that Terry Pratchett had written the best book in the genre. He'd go on to be the best of the 20th century.

Favored Pratchett nifties that come to mind:

"life expectancy of a glass hammer"

"hair like an orange gone nova"

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