Terry Pratchett died.
I don't quite know what I think about this, because I haven't quite come to grips with how I feel about it. I mean, it's not like I was what you'd call a fan of Pratchett's writing in that I haven't read any of the Discworld books. The only thing by him that I've read is Good Omens, and I read that because of Neil Gaiman.
However, there is no denying the influence he's had, through Gaiman, on my writing "career." In fact, it would be safe to say that without Prachett, I would never have started writing. It was one of the first things I talked about way back in the time before time when I started this blog: 400 Words. So there it is, even without ever really reading anything Prachett wrote, I would never have decided to "sit down and do the writing" without him. He gave it a context for me as something that was possible.
Knowing that he's gone has left me with a... hollow feeling just below my sternum. You could say that I'm sad, and I am, but it's not exactly like sadness. It's just the feeling of something missing that ought to be there. It's left me feeling more than a bit out of sorts.
It's also made me think about "influence" and what that means. How we influence people. How often we are deliberate in our influence. What impact do we, do I, have on the people around me? All of that but, specifically, as a writer. What do I want my influence to be?
Of course, when writers talk about influence, they are usually talking about what influenced their style. Or their genre. If they are talking about the why, it's usually in some less practical way of "When I read Tolkien as a kid, I wanted to grow up and create worlds just like he did." And I have had unmistakable influences on the things I write about. There's a direct nod to Lewis in The House on the Corner and one to Tolkien in Christmas on the Corner and, when I needed to develop my villain for Shadow Spinner and was trying to think of the scariest thing I'd ever "encountered," it was a character of Gaiman's that came to mind.
But, still, none of that would have mattered if I had never sat down to do the writing, and I have no one else to look to for that influence other than Gaiman for telling the story about how Pratchett started out. Gaiman wouldn't have had the story to tell without Pratchett.
All of that to say that I feel a great sense of loss at Pratchett's passing. And, yes, while everyone knew it was coming (of course, death is coming for everyone, so we knew it was coming), this is one of those battles where knowing doesn't help anything. I knew my grandfather was going to die when I was 20, but it was still devastating when it happened, and we knew my mother-in-law was going to die, but that still rocked our family. I wish I could tell his family the impact that he had on me. Not that it really helps, except that it does.
Not to mention, if there's anyone out there that I may one day look like, it's probably Terry Pratchett.