A few weeks ago, the only author who consistently and almost persistently made me laugh out loud as I read through his works died of an extremely rare form of Alzheimer’s disease — a form that left his mind fully functional, but attacked and destroyed almost every other neuron in his body. That he died the day after I had completed rereading the 40 books that made up his Discworld series was pure coincidence, yet nevertheless affected me more deeply because of the timing. Terry Pratchett’s Discworld was where I escaped when I needed a break from reality as we know it. Discworld is a place that knows all about roundworld science–such as that found on Earth and our own universe; it’s just that the majority of scientific minds on Discworld cannot understand how such universes can possibly exist, as it has been scientifically shown there that only flat worlds carried on the backs of four elephants who stand on the back of a giant space-faring turtle is the way planets are formed and moved in their own universe. What they further fail to understand is just how any universe can function without magic as the very basis of science.
In Discworld’s largest city, on the sight of the greatest magical university in their world is the greatest library of the Discworld which, like Dr. Who’s Tardis, is far larger on the inside than its walls suggest. Unlike the Tardis, however, the halls and rooms exist in several places–including several universes–at once. The corridors and interstices never seem to stay in the same place, and books can often be found only by the librarian, who was accidentally changed into an orangutan during a surge in the library’s magical field; he has refused all attempts to turn him back into a normal wizard, finding his new shape far more conducive to his job, especially when finding a particular book might require extraordinary acrobatics. and all the Librarian expects in salary is bananas.
The idea of a virtually endless supply of books–including rare tomes and scrolls believed on Earth to have been destroyed during times of war and religious purges to have vanished forever– is a reader’s idea of Heaven. Thus, as a reader, there is no place I would care to spend eternity than the nooks and crannies of a virtually limitless library.
Imagine strolling through a veritable endless maze of books, stumbling every so often on books about every conceivable topic from long lost civilizations and universes of which we currently know nothing. The smell of old books and skin scrolls mingle with the tintinic smell of magic, wafts of sulphur and “octarine” drifting past your nose, as bursts of sparkles from magical volumes dim in the lightning flashes from sky-high ceilings housing angry books straining against the heavy chains that restrain and contain them safely in their proper order. And yet the dimness of traditional Old World libraries envelope the visitor–me!–and fade the bright gems encrusting many volume to dull shimmers within age-darkened leather covers embossed in flaked or worn off gold leaf lettering. Through this maze I could wander forever, stepping into fields of frozen time or transcending both time and space, not to mention alternate dimensions, as I read one book after another, changing myself in the process, and changing the books as they read my thoughts and subjective experiences.
And here I live, forever in time and space, moving forward and backward through time and unknown–unknowable, perhaps–civilations and mind-twisting thoughts and ideas using a mind not meant to cope with unimaginable information, descriptions, customs, cultures, and existences. Will my mind explode, expand, twist beyond repair? Do I care?