The Joy and Pain of Pratchett

I was raised by Sir Terry Pratchett. Image

Not in the literal way of ever having met him. Just in the way that I have read him for so long, his perspective on life has shaped my own.

Somebody leant me The Colour of Magic when I was eleven years old. It was silly and funny and I fell in love with the innocence of Twoflower and the way that his passion and interest seemed to shape the world around him. Look around, the book seemed to say, there is beauty everywhere.

Twenty-three years later, I am still in love with Pratchett's Discworld and his deeply funny, deeply felt stories of the wonder and power of being human, whatever shape you come in.

At World Fantasy Con, Pratchett and his assistant Rob are talking about his new book, Raising Steam. Pratchett's PCA seems to be progressing cruelly. His vision is impaired—his hands bang into the microphone repeatedly, eliciting a grimace each time. Frustration? Embarrassment? Even from my second row position it's difficult to tell. Rob reads a section of the book for us which seems as funny and vital as ever. There are more details of the book and his struggles in this recent Telegraph interview.

Rob does all the heavy lifting of the appearance. He dangles morsels of information about upcoming TV and film projects, but the third member of the panel (Mike?) won't allow him to give away much. Rob shares anecdotes about the writing and media development processes, pausing frequently to leave Pratchett space to contribute. Sometimes he does. Often, he doesn't respond, or seems about to speak but decides against it. When he does land upon a small anecdote to tell, a thousand people in the audience hold their breath. We hang on his words like they are a rope dropped into the dark well of our lives, guiding the way up and out.

The joy of reading Pratchett, is that he knows the world is a slick smiling conman built from the lies we tell ourselves and each other, that pile up into a lie so heavy that no-one can move it alone. He knows we all struggle to see, let alone change our own realities. Pratchett twitches back the curtain and shows us how ridiculous it is—shows us the greasy machinery of prejudice and ignorance behind the scenes and inside our own minds. We don't feel stupid for believing the lies. We're all in it together, he says.

But we are left thinking that we'll spot it next time. Next time someone tries to trick you with your own fear, with ignorance or vanity or shame, you'll see it for the silliness it really is. You won't feel angry or afraid or any other emotion that provides fertile soil for lies to grow. You'll remember his stories and you'll laugh. The lies will shrivel. Leaving space for a breath, for a lifetime.

That is his gift to us: a brief respite. A moment's freedom for us to figure out what we want our own truths to be.

World Fantasy Con Brighton: Food & Drink

If you're coming to lovely Brighton for World Fantasy 2013, take a few moments to step outside the hotel and enjoy some of our delicious food and coffee. Nothing is very far away in Brighton, you can walk across the whole downtown area in half an hour, and if you haven't got time to walk, the cabs are easy to spot with their unique livery: white with turquoise bonnets. Avoid chains and going to most places on Preston Road or Western Road (the two main streets leading leading back from the sea front  to the right and left of the hotel respectively. Instead, stroll down to the Lanes (10 min walk from the Con hotel) or the North Laines (20 mins) and you're pretty much guaranteed wonderful experience whatever independent place you stumble into. That said, it doesn't hurt to have a place in mind if you're short of time, so below are my recommendations.

Coffee: Taylor St: a three minute walk from the station towards the seafront. Excellent coffee from obsessive Australians. The food is good if you can get a seat too. Small Batch Coffe: My favourite coffee in Brighton, they roast their own beans and also supply a lot of other coffee shops locally. Don't miss their coffee truck at the station when you arrive.

If you've only got a few minutes to grab a coffee or food, then The New Club is super close to the Con hotel. Turn right out of the venue, walk for 3 mins. It's on the corner of Preston Street. I haven't tried it yet and Trip Advisor has mixed reviews, but it's close if you're in a hurry.

Breakfast: Dumb Waiter: A crazy little cafe. Kind of disorganised but great food and a Brighton institution. 9-6, Sun 10-4. Seven Bees: Officially the best breakfast in Brighton, 9-3. Mad Hatter: Good, cheap cafe. Milkshakes, falafel, burgers and sandwiches. 9-6, Sun 11-5. For fabulous bread, pastries and cakes, try either of the Real Patisserie locations. Western Road open 7.30-6 every day, Trafalgar St. 7-5.30, closed on Sundays.

Lunch: Iydea - home-cooked vegetarian cafe. Eat in or takeaway. Tucked in the North Laines it's the best food you'll get for under a fiver. 9.30-9pm, Sun closes at 5.30. The Chilli Pickle: You'll need to get there early or book if you want dinner, but it's usually a bit quieter at lunch time. The best Indian food I've had in England. Bar none. Open 12-3 and 6-10.30. Mange Tout: Excellent french bistro for any time of day. 10-6 on Thursday, Fri & Sat 10-10 and Sun 10-5.

Dinner: If you want something fancier than the lunch places above, there are two excellent fine dining vegetarian restaurants in Brighton: Food for Friends: Everything on the menu is wonderful (12-10pm). Terre a Terre: (11-11pm) Food divine and diverse, booking is essential at peak times. There's excellent seafood at English's, 12-10pm, or sit down fish and chips at the Regency, 8am-11pm - not too pricey. Or for fast food that's open late, Grubbs Burgers is a Brighton institution, 12-12.

Drinks: Some quirky and distinctly English pubs worth checking out are The Quadrant: surprisingly chilled for it's central position, real ale and whiskeys. The Lion & Lobster: multiple cozy rooms and decent pub food from 5pm til 2am, and The Robin Hood: a not-for-profit pub with great beer and handmade pizza. Also, The Cricketers - An old school English pub, with all the horse brass and flock wallpaper you could possibly need.

If you head across to Kemptown (east of the Lanes) there are more great restaurants and pubs, and a plethora of gay bars to choose from. A couple to mention are the Camelford Arms and Marine Tavern. Both gay pubs with nice atmosphere and good beer, rather than pounding music.


The WFC site also has some recommendations and covers afternoon tea particularly well (scroll down to the end of the page).