The late Discworld author Terry Pratchett was a “gloriously grumpy”, complex man, who should never be thought of as simply “sweet”, his friend and collaborator Neil Gaiman said today.
Gaiman was speaking about Pratchett, who died on March 12 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s, during a talk at this year’s Hay Festival, chaired by the Guardian’s Claire Armitstead.
“You’d know you were talking to someone who had never met the real Terry Pratchett when they started telling you what a sweet man he was,” Gaiman said. “He was a thousand glorious things. He was so much more interesting than ‘a sweet man’.”
Paying tribute to his late friend’s drive and anger, Gaiman added: “He once said to me that anger, for him, was an engine. It was something that drove him.”
“[He had] this amazing, seething anger. You could see that there were people who had pissed him off when he was 11, that he hadn’t yet forgiven. And not only had he not forgiven them – he’d stored it up. He knew exactly why he hated them, exactly why they were wrong … and he’d put it in a Discworld book.”
Speaking about the years Pratchett spent working for Alzheimer’s charities, and raising awareness of the disease, Gaiman said: “What was lovely with Terry was that he would take that rage and he would do something with it … He thought that people were good. He thought people were worth saving, worth investigating, worth understanding. He thought that people should not be lied to and tricked. He thought that people were worth it, and I think that was the driving force behind Terry’s rage, and his books, and the work he did for Alzheimer’s.”
Pratchett and Gaiman first became friends in 1985, and co-wrote the 1990 book Good Omens, which takes a tongue in-cheek look at the the coming of the Antichrist, and tells the story of an angel and a demon who team up to prevent the impending apocalypse, after realising that they don’t actually want the world to end.
Speaking about the process of writing the book, Gaiman recalled: “He [Pratchett] would do this thing that was really gloriously irritating, and educational at the same time. He would phone me up and say ‘If you change this, it’ll be 17 per cent funnier’. And then he’d change it, and it would be.”