Rhianna Pratchett remembers her father, Terry


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Interesting what she says about Tiffany Aching; I just finished The Shepherd’s Crown, and the first part is so obviously a a goodbye letter to his daughter. Made me cry.


She probably didn’t see Halley’s Comet, which was pretty much invisible from the UK this time round, and certainly didn’t ‘blaze across the sky’. However, in the mid 90s two comets did: Hale-Bopp and Hyakutake, both of which were visible from within major cities, never mind the dark countyside of Uberwald.

Oddly enough, when Halley turned up in 1910 it was preceded by the Great Daylight Comet, so-called because it was visible (well, the nucleus was) during daylight. Elderly people interviewed at the time of the 1986 apparition of Halley tended to give descriptions of it, rather than of Halley itself - which goes to show that Rhianna Pratchett was far from being the first to be seduced!


One of Kipling’s Just So Stories is a tribute to his daughter Josephine who died young. The accompanying poem has alternate male and female rhymes. The last line is a real tear-jerker.
(The relevance is that there are quite strong similarities between Pratchett and Kipling. Though Kipling didn’t create a whole fantasy world he made India as real as he could for British audiences, and like Pratchett it is pretty obvious that Kipling was sympathetic to the good bits of religion, opposed to the bad bits, but did not himself believe in the theological bits. Like Pratchett, he emphasised the unimportance of religious beliefs, skin colour and so on. Also, like Pratchett, he was not in favour with the literary establishment as a whole who resented his popularity and accessibility.)


Are you really correcting someone’s remembrance of their dead dad?




Very possibly; the fallibility of memory is always interesting.


Not that it bloody matters, but I’d say that she probably did see Haley’s Comet, because those other comets came about a decade too late to fit her story.


Right, she lost her father at too young an age for him to be dead. How about respecting that and not correct her on this little point, when I’m sure she’s smart enough to know that human memory is imperfect (she has, in fact, I’m sure, read much of her father’s work, which at times does reflect on the nature of human frailty).

She’s not testifying in court, she’s not a historian writing about an event, she’s not a biographer of Terry Pratchett, seeking out the most accurate portrait of his life: she’s remembering a much beloved public figure who happens to be her father.


According to Wikipedia, she was born in 1976, so was the right age to see Halley if it was visible.

That’s a big ‘if’.

Wikipedia also correctly describes the 1986 apparition of Halley as being woeful: “*Halley’s 1986 apparition was the least favorable on record. The comet and Earth were on opposite sides of the Sun in February 1986, creating the worst viewing circumstances for Earth observers for the last 2,000 years.[88] Halley’s closest approach was 0.42 AU.[89] Additionally, with increased light pollution from urbanization, many people failed to even see the comet. It was possible to observe it in areas outside of cities with the help of binoculars.[90] Further, the comet appeared brightest when it was almost invisible from the northern hemisphere in March and April.”

Ten years later there were TWO Great Comets in quick succession, and I really do think that one or both of these provided the memory, not Halley.


When she was 18 or 19, which doesn’t fit.

Why are you focusing on this, anyway? I’m about the same age as her and I remember being excited about Halley’s and trying to observe it with my parents, even though it turned out disappointing. The memory is about the way her dad shared cool things with her.


As I said, I’m interested in the fallability of memory, no more, no less - simples!


…that’s the same Kipling who wrote The White Man’s Burden, yes?


I really don’t think she confused seeing something with her father when she was ten and seeing something when she was an adult - and no longer living at home.
Not to mention that, you know, that Sir Pterry was a lifelong astronomy enthusiast. I’m pretty sure his ptelescope* made Halley’s a lot more impressive to look at. Your fallible memory narrative is undercut by the assumptions you’re making.


No kidding. I found the comet by myself from the middle of town, needing only binoculars an a vague sky map from the newspaper.


I bet it was bloody spectacular when seen from a home observatory. I can imagine how magical it must have been to be awoken by her father to see that - something most people didn’t get to experience.


Of course. Authors are not totally consistent. But it has to be read in context. The US had annexed the Phillipines. Kipling was worried, given the history of the US, that it would exterminate the native people and react violently to any setbacks. The White Man’s Burden is cautionary - telling the US that progress is slow, that violence will be counter-productive, and that civilising the Phillipines will cost a lot in lives and will not return profits to the US. It in, in fact, an implied criticism of the way the US expanded Westward.

Kipling was proved entirely right when the US launched a war on the Phillipines, killing large numbers of people in a pre-run of Vietnam.

This is the same Kipling who wrote about a British sailor in England regretting having left his Burmese girlfriend behind in Burma, and, in Kim, having a half-English half-Indian officer tell an ignorant Protestant clergyman that a Tibetan Lama is “a great gentleman in his own country”. The central characters in Kim are Irish (Kim), Tibetan (the Lama), Afghan, Hindu, and Iranian. None of them are stereotypes.


I’m still reading “The Wee Free Men”-- and thinking of “Pan’s Labyrinth” and how they were derived from the same source material. It may be a while until I read the fifth book in the series. Will this change fundamentally the meaning of her statement

I don’t intend on writing more Discworld novels, or giving anyone else permission to do so. They are sacred to dad’


How about worry about this somewhere that isn’t a remembrance of someone’s dead father?


Minor point, but my mother remembered seeing some things (that Mr. Shaw would probably doubt) when she was a child. It helps to know that she lived on a hill in a rural area and a neighbour had an 8 inch reflector. When I was a child and visited my grandparents I could easily make out quite a lot of stars in the Pleiades and a number of nebulae. In the 55 years since, London has spread out to envelope the village they lived in, and light pollution means little can be seen. But where the Pratchetts lived, in Wiltshire, things would have been little different from pre-1960 Hertfordshire.