I met Sir Terry once at a book signing after one of his talks and found him to be a slightly daunting character. His comments in the talk had made it clear that he didn’t suffer fools gladly, and anger was never far below the surface, though he signed books and fulfilled the tasks of publicity and promotion with grace. But that daunting persona was uppermost in our minds when our local theatre group staged a season of Mort, as permission to use the script came with many provisos and warnings. (Royalty payments all went to the Orangutan Rescue society, incidentally.) On Opening Night, a ripple of gasps ran round the theatre foyer as a tall, dark, grey-bearded figure strode in, topped by a flamboyant black hat. Is that HIM? Should we give him a free ticket? Do we tell the actors? No, they’ll go mental! What if he hates it? Will he stop the performance? Yes, Sir Terry’s reputation put the fear of God into us – but it turned out to be a local audience member taking advantage of a certain look-alike quality to get into the spirit of things.
As a writer, I find enormous encouragement from how bad some of his early books were! The Dark Side of the Sun is a confused mishmash of sci-fi fantasy that lacks the apparently effortless coherence of his later works, giving me hope that any writer can get better if they persevere and work at their craft. It tells me that it’s OK to suck at first as long as you get better, and that even the most brilliant writer learns and improves as they go along.
He has entertained and inspired countless people round the world, and worked hard to make it a better place. That’s a pretty good legacy.