…Or, a memorial to Terry Pratchett.
There are different kinds of traveling. There’s the kind where you pack your stuff up and you get on a plane (or a bus or a ship) and then head off to somewhere else. Then there’s the kind where your body stays in one place and you let your mind go.
For a long time in my life, the first kind of traveling wasn’t easily achievable. I grew up in the Philippines. We were middle class people and my parents had to work hard to keep us in a good school. In the summer, we went on road trips all over the country, but the first time I traveled abroad was also when I left my homeland.
I dreamed of travel, but I also dreamed of other worlds. I have always been a voracious reader, and fantasy captured my attention at an early age. I was a frequent traveler to Krynn, Middle Earth and Valdemar. I walked with the Gunslinger and flew with the dragonriders in Pern. I wanted magic and adventure, and if I couldn’t get it in this world, I’d imagine it in the myriad others that so many fellow dreamers had created for me.
In college, I happened to pick up a copy of Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather at a secondhand bookstore. I was hooked. Neil Gaiman had charmed me before with his wise, badass, sometimes melancholy Death. Now Pratchett introduced me to another Death: just a guy trying to do his job, get along better with his clients, and understand people. I mean, how could you not adore a seven-foot skeleton who dresses up as Santa (well, the Hogfather) to save Christmas (I mean, Hogswatch)? I still read this particular book around the holidays every year, as a personal tradition.
The Discworld is one of the most amazing places I’ve ever visited. Each book in the series stands alone, but together they create a universe so magnificent and authentic that you almost forget you’re reading fantasy. So what if you’ve got Death TALKING LIKE THIS? Through his eyes (eye sockets?) you see the world in all its beauty, and all its horror. So what if there are wizards in a magical tower? They’re pretty much like academics everywhere and never get anything done due to bureaucracy. There are witches on broomsticks in the countryside? Well, they don’t really do magic anyway, they just understand what people are like, and give what is needed, whether it’s wanted. There’s a werewolf in the police force? It’s okay, she has to deal with discrimination too.
The Disc is our world turned upside down and revealed for the strange, contrary place that it really is, through a lens of sarcasm, sincerity and funny footnotes that have had me laughing and crying in turns. And as you read each book, you can see how the Disc grows and progresses, and Pratchett as well.
I got to experience a lot of magic this weekend. David and I, along with my roommates, went on a trip to Alaska. I’ll have a lot more to say on that, but let’s just start by saying that for a girl of the tropics, being in such a place was both amazing and terrifying. I had never seen so much snow in my life. I had never been so cold!
But, like I said, there was magic. We happened to visit during the World Ice Art Championship and what we saw was truly fantastic on several levels. Absolutely fitting for this week’s travel theme from wheresmybackpack! The skill and vision of these artists was undeniable.
If you get the chance, definitely visit Fairbanks, Alaska in March to witness some beautiful ice sculptures. Also, pick up a Pratchett or two, and take it with you on your travels. A great man is gone now, and what we have of Discworld is all that will be written of it. My heart still breaks at the thought. But we can continue to travel the Disc and meet its people, and come back home with fresh eyes and a continued appreciation for the world that we do have.
… take the universe and grind it down to the finest powder, and sieve it through the finest sieve, and then show me one atom of justice, one molecule of mercy. And yet, you try to act as if there is some ideal order in the world. As if there is some rightness in the universe by which it may be judged…You need to believe in things that aren’t true. How else can they become? – Death (Hogfather, Pratchett 1996)