How I deal with Depression

When I’m in a bad place (emotionally speaking) I always turn to things which comfort me. This summer, I could not turn to comfort food, since I am trying to keep track of my calories. I did turn to my one and only, however I really did not want to be too clingy – the poor guy needs his space after single-handedly taking care of all the house chores, etc for the past two and a half-months, so I had to lay off in that sense. And that, of course, left ‘comfort-books‘!

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Some books are a guilty pleasure. As the years roll by, I read them again and again at studious intervals, associating certain books or book series to certain mind-sets. Now, don’t laugh at me, but I actually have a book which I like to read each year when the first big storm hits after an arid summer. The book in question is ‘I Capture the Castle’ by Dodie Smith. There is also a series of books I read when I’m feeling particularly witty or frolicksome (mainly Neil Gaiman), and books I just love to read at Christmas-time, because, you know, they put me in the mood. Whenever I am about to travel on holiday, I also try to find books with a story based in that particular country, and I always manage it! I really had a field day when I went to Venice (why do books set in Venice always seem to be erotic romances?), and of course, the UK is easy. And so on.

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Since this summer was a terrible one for me, as I had to spend most of it in bed and in pain due to health issues, I obviously gravitated towards those books which comforted me. The 10-book part series I read, is the one which first introduced me to epic fantasy books, and the one which made me fall in love with that style of writing when I was 13 years old. I am speaking about David Edding’s Belgariad (first five books) and Mallorean (another 5 books).

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Recently I discovered that these book series are considered to be YA. They were actually written in the 1980s, a time when the term and concept of YA novels wasn’t thought of yet. So even though some readers may consider them to be YA, I do not, as they are certainly not as vapid, mediocre or predictable as YA books usually are (yup, you got me, I hate YA books in general, though there are exceptions).

The plot is basically a bildunsgroman, that is, a coming of age story. We see Garion, a naive boy living on a farm, realize that the world, and the people around him are, and were never, what he believed them to be. The world is complicated, mysterious and wonderful, and Garion finds that he himself is a very special person, destined to change the course of the known world forever. I am not going to go into any more details as I do not want to give any spoilers. Suffice it to say that I really love the cast of characters presented by Eddings. Their repetitive banter may irritate one after a while – still I read all the 10 books in around 3 weeks (remember I’m house-bound here), so one must take that into account. The books are not as lengthy as the tomes I am used to, and the old Maltese Pound price tags attached to the covers make me even more nostalgic, remembering how happy I was about buying these first books out of my own pocket money. Books which, for the first time, no one had chosen for me because they were ‘what children read’, but which I had chosen for myself, deviating from the norm. 

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If you haven’t read the Belgarion and the Mallorean, I strongly suggest you do. They are not as popular or well-known as book series like Robert Jordan’s ‘Wheel of Time’ or George R. R. Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ (Game of Thrones), but they are still worth a read. Then again, I’m biased, hehe…

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If a Sequel is not written by the original Author, it is NOT a Sequel

This is something which personally I never had to wonder about, but which, I realised yesterday, some people seem to misconceive.

What is the difference between a sequel and a fanfic?

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Is ‘Alice through the Looking Glass’, which is the book which comes after ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’, a sequel? Well, of course it is, since it was written directly by the same author, Lewis Carroll, and continues the journey of the main character, Alice.

Are ‘Good Wives’ and ‘Little Men’ sequels to ‘Little Women’? Of course they are, as all of them were written by the same author, Louisa May Alcott, and follow the March family throughout the years.

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Is Robin Hobb’s ‘Rain Wild Chronicles’ a sequel to the ‘Farseer Trilogy’ and the ‘Liveship Traders Trilogy’, even though its not about the same people? Yes it is, because it is set in the same world, tackles events which obviously take place after the other books and which have an impact on them, and because it is WRITTEN BY THE SAME AUTHOR.

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On the other hand, what about books like P.D James’ ‘Death comes to Pemberley’, which was written as an obvious sequel to ‘Pride and Prejudice’? Do you really consider it a sequel? The time-frames are right, and the writer is good, but it’s not written by the original author is it? The flavor is totally different. And what about Alexandra Rippley’s ‘Scarlett’, which was written as a sequel to Margaret Mitchell’s ‘Gone with the Wind’? The realistic feelings of loss and hope in the face of desperation are totally lost to a whiny prima donna who does not capture the original heroine’s spirit in the least. So, written right or written wrong, no I personally DO NOT CONSIDER BOOKS WRITTEN BY A DIFFERENT AUTHOR AS PREQUELS, not even if they do take up the original story-line and move forward from there. For me, that is pure fan fiction. Which has a totally different niche in the literary world, and which I like to read at times too. But which is distinctly different from a REAL SEQUEL, if you know what I mean.

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I hear you ask, what about Robert Jordan’s ‘Wheel of Time’ series? Jordan got sick (in fact he wrote a couple of his books while bed-ridden) in the middle of it and the last few volumes were in fact written by Brandon Sanderson – so are those real sequels? Yes they are. Why? Because Sanderson not only used the original notes minutely written and explained by Jordan, but he also continued with the original story-line as decided by Jordan, and developed the characters as Jordan had originally planned.

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On the other hand, look at the Virginia Andrews franchise. Virginia Andrews only actually wrote 6 books before dying. The ‘Flowers in the Attic’ saga (prequel included) and the standalone novel ‘My Sweet Audrina’. After that, her family said they were using another writer to work with her notes, but keeping her name on the books. Because the notes were hers. Really? I read a couple of the books which ‘came after’, and honestly couldn’t see a glimmer of Virginia. On the other hand, the ‘new’ books tackled totally new and different characters and formed up new serieses, so they never aimed at being ‘sequels’ to anything. All they did was keep alive V.A’s name, and that’s fine.

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I guess a person’s definition of a ‘sequel’ can be different depending on his/her point of view. However, for me, no ‘sequel’ is real unless it is written by the same author as the previous book/s.

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All the rest, no matter how well written, thought out and executed, are fanfics. And there is nothing wrong with that. As long as the distinction is clear.

And honestly, whenever I hear of a ‘sequel’ to something good being made (by someone else apart from the original creator), be it in books or movies, I am terrified they are going to destroy and twist the whole plot-line entirely. Think about the rumors of ‘Labyrinth 2’! *sobs*

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Goodreads Challenge – NAILED!

One of my favorite websites, Goodreads, organises a ‘Challenge’ at the beginning of the year. Basically it asks all readers to set a number of the books to read by the end of the year, in order for one to keep track of his/her reading acumen.

Unfortunately, gone are the days when I had the time and opportunity to read at least 7 books a week (thick dreamy ones not thin ‘young adult babble’ ones). Now I have a demanding full-time job, house chores, a live-in boyfriend and many many errands. HOWEVER I did try to set a reading challenge anyways, at least to see how far I had fallen from my previous pinnacle.

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So, my target was to read at least 50 books (almost one book per week – terrible I know). The catch is this – I was not to record any books RE-READ!! Some books, I fully feel, are like good old friends – one misses them at times, and ends up re-reading, re-living and re-meeting all one’s friends at least once every couple of years. Taking into account how many good books I’ve read in my life, it’s obvious that I do a lot of re-reading. A LOT. So, the target of 50 books for 2015 actually meant 50 NEW books and it also meant that I was conscious that I would actually be reading many more books than this.

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Well guess what? I reached the 50-bookmark yesterday, during the second week of October. Considering that one must keep in mind the many life-changing and time-consuming things that happened this year – some examples; moving in with bf, buying a house, renovating said house, chasing after plasterers, painters, etc, moving for the second time this year into said new house, and going abroad twice) AND also re-reading tons of old friends, I am really proud of myself. I have fallen from my Tower of Incredibly Insurmountable readership BUT I have not fallen off the grid. There is still hope.

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And for those who ask, NO I did not stretch myself to the max trying to reach this goal. I did it naturally and effortlessly. I simply read when I wanted to (which is all the time), when I had the chance, and wasn’t sleeping/eating/consorting with people.

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What I am going to do next is note how many new books I will have read by 31 December 2015 in total, and then set a new target for 2016. Resolving to make time for old friends like Gaiman and Pratchett, Rothfuss and GRRM, but also to read new stuff from new authors, whenever I can 😀

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New Article BY MOI – Did Hobbits really Exist??

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It was 2003 when a team of researchers found her – a woman whose bones were 18,000 years old and whose skull was less than one-third the size of our own. This was the woman to be nick-named ‘the Hobbit’, after J. R. R. Tolkien’s renowned book of the same name.

Led by anthropologist Peter Brown and archaeologist Michael Morwood of the Australia’s University of New England, the team was excavating a limestone cave on the remote island of Flores in Indonesia when they discovered a nearly complete skeleton estimated to be about 1.06m (3ft 6inches) tall. The partial skeletons of nine other individuals, all of them less than 1.09 metres in height, were also found.

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The hobbits of Flores created a storm among anthropologists, causing them to question previous assumptions about evolution and human origins, since they could not actually determine whether these humanoids represented a species distinct from ‘modern’ humans, that is, Homo Sapiens, since they seemed to have existed in the world in the same space of time, yet were distinctly different physiologically and anatomically. The ‘hobbits’, or as they are actually called scientifically the ‘Homo Floresiensis’ are remarkable in that even though they had a very small body and brain, they not only could craft and use sophisticated stone implements, which were found in the cave with them, but also lived until relatively recent times – as recently as 12,000 years ago, making them the longest lasting non-modern human species, surviving long past the Neanderthals.

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It is thought that during the most recent glacial period, these Hominids were left isolated on Flores due to high sea levels. This led discoverers to believe that the species or its ancestors could only have reached the isolated island in the first place through water transport, perhaps using bamboo rafts, which would further point out their mental abilities, as well as prompt scientists to believe that they could communicate and had a language, since they obviously needed to cooperate with each other to reach their destination. The isolation of the island is a factor which, many believe, led to the evolution of this different species, if such it is. There exist in fact, a huge number of theories which try to explain this so-far unknown strand of the human evolution tree.

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The ongoing dispute concerns the issue of whether Homo Floresiensis is actually a species in and of itself (like Homo Erectus and Homo Sapiens), or whether the skeletons found belonged to a group of people who were merely suffering from some type of condition or mutated syndrome. Critics of the claim for species status have put forth several hypotheses – one of these for example, states that the limited food supply in such a confined environment could have caused the body of a Homo Erectus group to evolve a smaller body, and therefore suffer from dwarfism. Anatomist Gary Richards on the other hand, introduced a new sceptical theory stating that the unearthed skeletons might have belonged to a group of people suffering from Laron syndrome, which is a genetic disorder causing a short stature and a small skull. There were even those who thought that these traits could be attributed to ‘modern humans’ (that is, Homo Sapiens) with Down Syndrome.

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The main argument of those who support the idea that the Indonesian hobbit is a species in and of itself, mainly describe the fact that the bone structure found in the skeletons’ shoulders, arms and wrists are very different from those which stemmed from the Homo Sapiens, being much more similar to the bone structure of chimpanzees or earlier hominids. This supports the theory that the Flores hobbits were a separate species of early human, stemming perhaps, from the Homo Habilis, rather than a group of Homo Sapiens with a physical disorder.

In 2012, an American film studio was going to release a movie entitled ‘Age of the Hobbits’ which depicted a community of Homo Floresiensis, and was scheduled to be released right after Peter Jackson’s ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’. The studio was embroiled in a lawsuit for copyright infringement, and ordered by court not to use the word ‘hobbit’. The film was instead released under the title ‘Clash of the Empires’.
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—— A version of this article appeared on the online magazine EVE – http://www.eve.com.mt/2015/08/01/did-hobbits-really-exist-in-indonesia/

Epic-Fantasy Nerd Moment

Ever since I picked up ‘The Sword of Shannara’ around 8/9 years ago, I’ve had this naggy feeling about it. The novel (I admit I hardly managed to finish the first one) was a complete copy (minus the good writing that is) of Tolkien’s ‘LOTR’ and nothing more. Enter the usual metaphorical nerd-grumbling in my head. I researched online and asked about it and everyone seemed to have enjoyed reading it, not to mention staring blankly at me when I criticized it as being a Tolkien-wannabe.

Flash-forwards to a week ago, where suddenly someone I know commented negatively on Terry Brooks and his plagiarism. Miraculously, I could hear a chorus of angels singing ‘Halleluljah’ in soprano and treble. Someone else with a brain!

Then this morning, I stumbled on this – http://www.newstatesman.com/2015/05/neil-gaiman-kazuo-ishiguro-interview-literature-genre-machines-can-toil-they-can-t-imagine  !!

An interview with the MASTER Neil Gaiman who while describing said books said ‘And then you had people like Terry Brooks, who wrote a book called The Sword of Shannara, which was essentially a Lord of the Rings clone by somebody not nearly as good, but it sold very well.’…. YES YES EXACTLY!! THANK YOU!!images (1)

Sorry Mr Brooks, I know I’m not a great book-selling writer, but REALLY… I’m a reader and in this case, that’s what matters, since it is people like me who are the most qualified to actually say whether they enjoyed your work or not.

Anyone who wants to read the whole interview – it is really brilliant, though quite long 😀

Last Night, I was Abused. And it was Terrible.

It is terrifying, having your personal space violated. Feeling so helpless and powerless. Unable to do anything.

What’s worse, is knowing that you can be violated and abused again and again. Suddenly and without your consent.

This is what happened to me yesterday, and what, I am afraid, will happen again.

It was 11.30pm and I was reading in bed. My bedside table glowed over the page, as with the main character of my epic fantasy novel, I journeyed through a wasteland learning about love and magic. I was at peace. I was comfortable and felt loved and protected. My boyfriend was asleep next to me, snoring softly. His body heat a dear reminder of his boyish laugh and strong presence. I was happy.

Then, suddenly, everything was corrupted.

I saw something dark fluttering at the corner of my vision. At first I thought nothing of it, being engrossed in my book. The fluttering came again, and I faintly thought that a moth must have gotten in. Half a minute later, I chanced to look down… and I froze in terror.

It was an overwhelmingly large and violently red cockroach.

Hideous in its smug predatorial harvesting, it scurried towards my semi-naked cleavage, which was exposed over the bedsheets. I was petrified. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t scream.

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I must have made some small sound of fear however, because the cadaverous monster backtracked a bit, falling down to my stomach. With a low voice, chilling in its urgency, I called my boyfriend, waking him up. He jumped panicked, thinking there was a burglar or intruder who had gotten into the house.

It was worse. It was a rapist.

One definition of a rapist is someone who exerts power over you, in order to violate you against your will. That is how it felt. The hideous creature had invaded my personal space, had actually THE CHEEK to crawl on my skin, while I wasn’t even asleep!!! Who knew where it had come from? Who knew what else had or COULD happen during the night?! Had cockroaches been crawling and smearing their squinty legs all over my body while I had been asleep night after night?

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Feeling my partner shift in the bed, the being crawled down the bedsheet to the floor. I sprung out on the other side of the bed while my bf went after it, yet it disappeared. I was in a panic, hyperventilating and crying. We searched for the terrible beast but could not find it. I knew I couldn’t fall asleep in that bed again, not if we did not find it, and hardly after, since I knew I was not safe there.

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We shifted furniture and bags. We banged on the headboard and the wall. Finally, after 20 minutes, it crawled out.

My love, my dearest one, my soul mate, killed the vile thing. Squashed it under his foot like so much jell-o. Yet it was not enough.

For hours, I lay in terror. Imagining every itch was another disgusting thing squirreling its way towards me. Alternately banging on the headboard and scanning the room, trying to see if there was a blot, a patch of darker blackness, creeping towards me in the night.

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In the morning, I sprinkled cockroach powder everywhere. I do not know what I will find when I get home today, but I hope it’s a cemetery – a horrifying space full of decaying bloated bodies, thin curling legs pawing futilely at the air.

I hope they all die

What is Flash Fiction?

My most recurrent problem with writing has always been that of writing too much. I guess there are just too many words flittering and skittering in my brain. This was an issue when I wrote essays at school (they were always too long), when I wrote my Bachelor of Arts dissertation (which exceeded the word count set by the University board) and when I wrote my Masters dissertation (which I spent months trying to shorten, while most of the other students couldn’t make ends meet).

This may sound like me bragging – but it really isn’t. When it comes to writing, I believe this consists of three parts. First, one must be a reader. One simply cannot be a writer, if one does not know the world one is delving in. Most importantly, how can one handle the written word, if s/he hasn’t encountered different examples of how it can be used again and again? Secondly, technique (which is where flash fiction comes in). A writer should be able to navigate through the sea of words and meanings, and steer herself clear in order to arrive wherever she wants to go. This means that if she sets out to write up to a certain word count, she must know how to economize and use her writing skills in order to do just that, and stop the extra flow which is mostly only frills.

Thirdly, of course, a writer sees the world like no one else does. She sees the world with a thousand eyes and none. This is what is called ‘imagination’ by some, ‘inspiration’ by most, and ‘dreamland’ by others. But that, of course, is another story.

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Flash Fiction, also called Micro-fiction, are short moments in time, or very short stories, described by a writer in a few words. Flash Fiction is usually something which happens in one single act. Opinions differ on how long a flash fiction story ‘should be’, there being markets for works as short as 100 words, up to 300 words, or even as long as 1,000 words. There are also many competitions, especially online, for writers of flash fiction.

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Flash Fiction is fun, economical, easy to write, and is really good for ‘flexing’ one’s mind, so to speak. It is also quite good for exercising one’s stream of consciousness approach. Having limited time, but an infinite amount of words waiting to come out, I have decided to post some of my flash fiction stories from time to time, and maybe letting my ‘dreamland’ suffuse my waking moments… and make them more interesting.

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Game of Thrones – S05 FIRST FOUR EPISODES LEAKED!!!

I wish to apologise for not writing for quite some days now. A lot of things are going on, not to mention the fact that I’ve been sick for around 5 days now, and I am heartily fed up of it.

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Fed up of not being able to sleep properly, fed up of my chest hurting due to all the coughing, fed up of feeling as though I have a tennis ball lodged in my throat (what I actually have is inflamed glands), fed up of not being able to speak louder than a whisper without splattering everyone with phlegmy bouts of coughing, fed up of not being able to breathe, and fed up of feeling so damn tired all the time!

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Anyways, no more moaning – scout’s honour!

Because finally, the fifth season of GOT has begun!! I haven’t watched the first episode yet, but I can’t wait to hear that catchy GOT tune blaring across my TV again! What’s more, not just episode number one is available, since THE FIRST FOUR EPISODES OF GOT WERE LEAKED OUT!

Yessss dears!! We get to watch four uninterrupted hours of this devilishly enthralling saga!

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Thank you HBO!

Game of Thrones – WHY I ALREADY HATE SEASON 5!

FINALLY Game of Thrones Season 5 is premiering on HBO next Sunday!

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I cannot believe it’s finally here! The wait seemed interminable, and its continuation so far away! But it’s finally arrived, which just goes to show how time really flies sometimes. It’s actually frightening if one thinks about it.

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Anyways, as many of George R. R. Martin’s interviews affirmed, not only will this season portray things which happened in the last two books published, it will also go forwards in that some things which have not yet come to pass in the books, but which fall in line with the scope of the story, will appear on screen.

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I am really not happy about this. I understand that trying to fit an epic like GOT onto the screen is no easy thing, however George should have thought things through, especially since he is very much involved in the making of the T.V series itself (which is why, in my opinion, it is one of only a handful of Epic Fantasy novels transposed to film, which has not gone to the dogs). The fact that he continues to postpone the publishing of the next book, ‘The Winds of Winter’ is just a publicity stunt. He wanted the series to catch up with the novels, problem is – now the T.V series has not only caught up, but is surpassing the novels themselves!

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As a reader + watcher of GOT, I much prefer to get new information from the books first, and not from the T.V series!!

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Anyways, I’ve been reading the last two books as a preview of season 5. Am in the middle of the last one now and should be finished by Sunday. Tonight I will also be watching the last 2 episodes of Season 4 again.

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WINTER IS COMING!

(actually Summer is… but what do I know? ;p)

Yesterday I cried… a lot…

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Yesterday I arrived home, I put on the water-heater in the bathroom, I switched my laptop on, and while it was loading, went to see which book I would read during the evening, since I had just finished reading Patrick Rothfuss’ ‘The Wise Man’s Fear’ for the second time. I knew it had to be good to follow up Rothfuss, so I picked Pratchett and Gaiman’s ‘Good Omens’, which I hadn’t looked at in a while.

My pc had come around by then, and I went to take a quick peek at my email as well as Facebook, before starting my household chores. It was then that I saw it… TERRY PRATCHETT HAD DIED AT 66

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I know, I know, he had Alzheimer, and all Terry-lovers knew we had to loose him someday. But ‘someday’ and ‘dead at 66’ are worlds apart. Not only is 66 not that old by today’s standards… THIS IS TERRY PRATCHETT!! He died while I was working at some boring meeting two hours previously, and I did not know anything about it! The earth did not tremble, the sun did not shatter, my heart did not scream in rage!! I just could not believe it! How could the literary genius of our time be dead, and only a few be so concerned as to even comment on Facebook?

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How can the rest of the world not be in a brainless comatose stupor like me??

I cried while I prepared my work-lunch for today. I sobbed while I laid out my work clothes ready for usage at 6am. I shrieked silently and continuously while I showered. I trembled and shook while I wrote my aunt’s birthday card. I keened while I stared disconsolately at my Terry Pratchett books in the living room. I wailed when I looked outside and realized that the spirit of that great writer, my inspiration, the source of all comic and parodic genius, had left the planet. I blubbered as I gazed at the pc screen and realized that for most people this was no big deal. I bawled and hugged myself as I crouched in a fetal position under the bedclothes.

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Then, I blew my nose, shut up, and thought a bit. NO he was not dead. His books were still there. Part of him lived and would live forever. There would be no more books. He will never sign anything for me. I will never meet him. That is the truth. But the truth is also that he made his great mark upon the world, he inspired millions of people. Made them laugh. Made them cry. Made them be alive.

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Maybe now that he’s dead, he will finally get the recognition he deserves. Most literary geniuses only seem to get it once they are gone anyways, for some weird reason. I guess TV channels will just gobble up the Discworld stories, and I really welcome that. I just hope that they don’t rape them, like the last Indiana Jones movie was raped. I hope they continue having that awesome flavor and fantastic weirdness present in previously rendered films like ‘Hog Father’ and ‘Going Postal’.

We’ll see.

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