As with so many other fans I know, Terry wasn't just an author whose books I loved; Terry was someone I *knew*, even if it was only a slight acquaintance. It hurts that he is gone; it hurts that I am grateful that he is finally free of The Embuggerance. He was and always will be an important part of my life, and even the 70+ books he left us don't quite make up for the ones we didn't get.
There are so many stories about him on the net today, of how he touched lives. Little pieces of Terry that will live on alongside his books. This is mine.
The first Discworld con was only the second ever con I went to. I went because it was the Discworld con, because Terry's books had lightened my heart at a time when I was sorely in need of it. I met a lot of wonderful people, including Terry himself.
A few months later, I bought my first modem. That was long enough ago that I selected Demon as my ISP because they offered both flavours of 56k connection. I knew about usenet, and promptly set up my feed for two groups: demon.service, the gripes group for my ISP, and alt.fan.pratchett - and found that Terry was a poster in both. At the time he was posting pretty much every day in afp, and actively involved in conversations, many of which had nothing whatsoever to do with his work, but were just about things of interest to geeks. Because Terry was a geek too, and there were a good many conversations where the Alpha Geek simply happened to be the most shoplifted author in the UK. The online world was smaller then, and such a thing was possible.
I was seconded to the Netherlands for a few months. I still had an online social life to stop me getting too lonely. And not just online. There were friends there to take me out to the pub at a CloggieMeet one weekend, because of afp.
I moved to the US. I still bought the UK editions of the books, via the esteemed ppint, guerrilla bookseller of Interstellar Master Traders. ppint knew that I'm not that interested in autographs just to have the autograph, that it's more about the memory of *getting* the autograph; and accordingly was somewhat surprised the first time I ordered my copy of the latest hardback complete with personalised signature from the signing session Terry did for IMT. "This is different. Terry will probably know who's asking, even if I'm not there to ask in person." He did. And an "it's in the post" email from ppint for one of my orders included a message passed on from Terry that he was glad to hear I'd been successful in getting published. That meant a great deal to me.
Yes. About that. I'm not the only afper who managed to get a book finished and submitted to a publisher in part because of the advice and encouragement Terry freely handed out on afp. There are a number of established writers I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to, but first and foremost is Terry. Best advice I ever heard on not being intimidated by the amount of work in writing a novel: You don't write a novel. You write 300 words a day, and at the end of a year that's 100,000 words, and that's a novel. Thanks, Terry. I don't always manage the 300 words, but that one helped me more than once, especially when I was trying to write again a couple of years ago after a long bout of illness.
Terry eventually quietly withdrew from afp, and the group went on without him. In the end many of the rest of us gradually drifted away in the general Death Of Usenet, but some of the links remained; on irc, on LiveJournal, at meets, at cons. In the friendships and marriages that happened because of afp, and in the children that happened because of afp. And Terry always made it to the UK cons, almost to the very end.
I didn't get to most of the later cons, what with one thing or another. I almost didn't get to 2014, but someone kindly passed on her membership when she couldn't go. When Terry had to withdraw a few weeks before the con, I knew I would never see him again, that most of us wouldn't. In some ways the con became an advance wake -- sharing stories and remembering. And even though he couldn't be with us in person, he was still with us. We had videos of him, and his assistant Rob took video of us to send back to The Boss. He sent us a gift, in the form of a beautiful little folio book he'd had specially printed for the con members when he knew he wouldn't be able to come; one time only limited edition, only 888 numbered copies, ever. We sent him one back, in the form of a Con-inna-Box; a replica Luggage where con members could leave things that represented their memories of the con, and messages written on sheets to be bound into a book. I'll never have to think, "I wish I'd told him how much he meant to me", because I did.
I still haven't managed to read that folio all the way through in one sitting, because I don't want to get tear stains on it. It's probably going to be a while before I do.