I was in Washington, D.C. last fall for work, and then got to spend a few days with my family just being a tourist. As we popped up out of the Smithsonian Metro stop the first day, we were surprised that the Mall was full of tents, celebrating the National Book Fair. We looked down the list of authors speaking that day, and noted to our delight that Terry Pratchett had just begun his talk in the science fiction tent. The SF tent was SRO, but we managed to find reasonable roosting spots there out of the sun.
In my opinion, Terry Pratchett is one of the greatest all-time writers in the English language. In my personal pantheon of penmanship, he ranks right up there with Mark Twain. I can't think of many other writers who blend humor, science, cosmology, political commentary, theology, and philosophy with such dexterity. The more one knows about any of these subjects, the more one enjoys both the clever puns and the deeper issues raised in his books.
As it turns out, Mr. Pratchett speaks just the way he writes, which made for a very enjoyable 30 minutes. After a witty and entertaining talk, he fielded questions and comments from fans. One young fan was almost incoherent with emotion as he testified how Small Gods changed his life.
More recently, I spent an hour of altered reality under the influence of both pain-killers and Pratchett, while undergoing a crown prep in my dentist's office. While my brain buzzed from laughing gas, Nigel Planer's brilliant reading on the audible.com edition of Guards, Guards! made for a particularly vivid visit to the Discworld.
I'll wrap up this paean to Pratchett by mentioning what the author himself has termed "an embuggerance". In August 2007, he was diagnosed with posterior cortical atrophy, an early-onset form of Alzheimer's disease. In March of this year, he donated a million dollars to the Alzheimer's Research Trust. Some of his fans have established the Match it for Pratchett campaign, which hopes to match his generous gift.