Sci Transit Terry Pratchett – 1948 – 2015



This one hurts.

I’ve written obituary articles on here for people like Leonard Nimoy, Elisabeth Sladen and Roger Ebert. And while all were important to me in certain special ways, none were quite as important, quite as interesting, and quite as enjoyable as Terry Pratchett.

Pratchett was born in the UK in 1948. From an early age he’d wanted to be a writer, and his first story was published when he was thirteen. Not bad. From there he drifted into a career in journalism, and eventually wound up as Press Officer for the Central Power Generating Board, which covered three nuclear power plants; something he found very amusing in the wake of the incident at Three Mile Island.

Things changed dramatically for Pratchett’s life in 1983 when he sold The Colour of Magic; the first of what would end up being forty books in the Discworld series. It wasn’t the best of his works, as he himself would later admit, but it was the start of something greater.

Pratchett’s writing career really took off with the publication of Good Omens, which he co-wrote with Neil Gaiman. Not long after that, the Discworld novels took a turn with one of the best books in the series; Small Gods. It was around this time that he did the math and realized it was now costing him money to go to work, so he left the nuclear industry to write full-time.

And write he did! In addition to the forty main range Discworld novels, he also wrote Nation, a book about a young boy and a young girl trying to survive and rebuild a society on an island devastated by a tidal wave. There was also Dodger, a story about a sewer rat in Victorian London and how he rises up into the world. There were also other small series of books, like the Truckers series, and the Johnny books. He even ventured into non-fiction with The Science of Discworld and its sequels, as well as A Slip of the Keyboard.

In 2007, Pratchett’s world took a bit of a turn, when he was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. It was not a happy thing, to put it mildly, but he took it in stride, describing it as an “embuggerance”, and working hard to help Alzheimer’s patients throughout the UK and the world. It was an odd form of the disease, which left him with his memory, but severely impaired his motor skills. He also became an advocate for the “right to die” movement in the UK and worldwide.

I was fortunate enough to meet Pratchett twice. First was at a book signing in Seattle, where he talked about his love of Seattle’s chowder, and his record for the amount of time from landing at Sea-Tac to having his first bowl of that visit at Pike Place Market (something like an hour, which is fairly impressive).

The second time was here in Phoenix a couple of years ago. It was long after his diagnosis with Alzheimer’s, and it was clear that he wasn’t quite as vibrant and lively as he had been. Still, he related a story of getting his knighthood, which involved meeting the Queen. He said that while in Buckingham Palace, he’d noticed that the Queen and his own mother were about the same age and same build. He mentioned that he wanted to see if he could find the light switch and pull-off a bit of a swap.

One of my favorite quotes from Pratchett was this, “”It’s not worth doing something unless someone, somewhere, would much rather you weren’t doing it.” I can think of few better statements about the man and his writing. He will be severely missed.


Sic Transit Paul Spragg

Today someone you probably never heard of died. His name was Paul Spragg, and he was one of the main people at Big Finish, the company I shill for on a regular basis. He did a lot for them, handling customer inquiries, editing their fan magazine and doing a podcast, among other duties. He also handled people like me, the critics who received Big Finish products to review. He was my point of contact with the company, and he and I had a fairly enjoyable and entertaining email relationship. He was always a pleasant, polite guy, who was very enthusiastic about setting me up with the latest new releases, and supporting things like my annual Big Finish panel at Phoenix Comicon. Each year, he’d send out a prize package for me to give away, which I always appreciated.

Beyond his relationship with Big Finish and my email relationship with him, I never knew all that much about Paul on a personal level. I don’t know how old he was, for example. But I do know that he was a great guy to correspond with, and that I’m going to miss opening up emails from him.

The second-to-last post on his Facebook page simply had a picture of him with Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred, and the words, “I’m going off on an adventure.” How very appropriate.

Goodbye, Paul.

Goodbye, Paul.

Sic Transit Kate O’Mara – 1939 – 2014

She has died, but the sneer lives on.

She has died, but the sneer lives on.

I sometimes make jokes that when anyone cancels out on appearances at the Gallifrey One convention, it means that they’re probably going to be dead shortly. This came up after that happened with Mary Tamm and a couple of other actors.

This year, Kate O’Mara, best known to Doctor Who fans for her role as the Rani, cancelled out on Gallifrey, and today we learned that she died at the age of 74.

O’Mara was born in Leicester in 1939. She began her career as a stage actress in 1963, the year Doctor Who first aired. She then went on to several appearances on British TV in shows such as Z-Cars and The Avengers.

O’Mara reached international fame when she started appearing on the American soap opera Dynasty, where she played the sister to Joan Collins’ character. She then went on to sci-fi fame by appearing in two stories for Doctor Who; both times playing the renegade Time Lord scientist, the Rani. She later reprised the role for the rather horrible 30th anniversary special, “Dimensions in Time”. Then in 1995 and 2003, she appeared in two episodes of Absolutely Fabulous, playing Paty’s older sister.

O’Mara was fairly active on Twitter, leaving behind one final Tweet on March 17.

“Thank you so much for your kind tweets. It’s both humbling and completely overwhelming to read all of your messages. Much Love x”.

She is survived by her son, Christopher, and her sister, actress Belinda Caroll.

Sic Transit Fred Phelps – 1929 – 2014

Fred Phelps, 1929 - not fucking soon enough!

Fred Phelps, 1929 – not fucking soon enough!

Not too many people really do the world a massive favor by dying, but Fred Phelps has accomplished just that. He is finally dead, and I come not to praise him, but to bury him. He was a horribly unpleasant person who may, or may not, have been abusive toward his children, who certainly abused the system that guarantees our liberties, and who, merely by existing, made the world a slightly less wonderful place.

Now he is dead. He died earlier today, and did so estranged from much of his family and possibly from his own church, though there are conflicting messages there. Apparently his daughter posted up something on her Twitter feed last week about how he was a “fag-loving whore” and would be in Hell soon, so that’s pleasant.

I really don’t have too much to say about this guy. But I do have something to say about the media. Ignoring Phelps and his outrageous and stupid behavior was always an option, and it’s often struck me as unfortunate that the media didn’t do that as as often as they should have. He was an attention-seeker, and we all gave him what he wanted. In return, we got a villain so repulsive that I’m sure he was instrumental in moving some people toward the gay rights movement, lest they appear to be like him.

Anyway, the dick is dead. If I believed in a god, I’d be thanking him.

Sic Transit Harold Ramis – 1944 – 2014


Harold Ramis, one of the larger figures from my youth, has died at the age of 69. He’s famous as an actor for such roles as Egon Spangler in Ghostbusters and as the director of such films as Ghostbusters. His work also includes classic films like Stripes, National Lampoon’s Vacation and many other greats.

Ramis was born in Chicago. His career in comedy began taking off when he started working for Second City Television and began doing joke editing for Playboy (yes, it really is possible to enjoy that magazine for reasons other than the obvious). He then went on to work for National Lampoon, creating the script for what would become National Lampoon’s Animal House. This success led him on to doing Vacation and then onto the wildly-successful Ghostbusters.

Ramis, to quote Wikipedia, “…contracted an infection that resulted in complications from autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis.” It was that that eventually killed him.

Ramis hasn’t had a popular or successful movie in a while. His last film, Year One, was hated by audiences and critics alike, and that’s a real shame. But on the plus side, at least we have a great body of his to look back on, and I can think of worse legacies that someone can leave the world than the creation of a character whose primary hobbies include the collecting of various spores, molds and fungi.

Sic Transit Philip Seymour Hoffman, 1967 – 2014


So apparently I’m the only person who was unaware that Philip Seymour Hoffman had a drug problem. This became a very serious problem today, when he was found dead of an apparent drug overdose.

Hoffman first came to the public eye in a big way in 1997 when Boogie Nights was released. From there his career slowly, steadily, improved, culminating in his 2005 Oscar win for Best Supporting Actor in the title role in Capote. He also received numerous other awards and nominations, including three more Oscar nominations.

Hoffman was known for a largely quiet acting style. His characters seldom screamed or acted out. Even his villain characters, such as Owen Davian in the under-rated Mission Impossible III, tended to be quiet characters.

But that quiet apparently hid some serious demons. Hoffman went public with drug problems last year when, after a long span of sobriety, he checked into a rehab center. It seems, sadly, that the rehab was ineffective, as it is believed he died from a heroin overdose.

Hoffman was a brilliant and talented actor who will be severely missed.

Sic Transit Cal Worthington, 1920 – 2013

For this man, I can think of no better obituary than this.