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 Leonard Nimoy – 1931 – 2015

1931 - 2015

1931 – 2015

When I was a young boy, my parents got divorced. Sometimes my dad would take advantage of his custody rights and my sister and I would go a few hours up north to visit him for a weekend. We did lots of fun things there, but the one that most sticks out in my mind is seeing Star Trek: The Motion Picture at a theater in what was probably very early 1980, though it could have been late 1979.

It was a problematical movie, as I think we’re all aware, but something about it stuck with me, despite the fact that I fell asleep partway through. I also vividly remember seeing Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan at my dad’s house a couple of years later. I’m not sure exactly when. Then in the mid 1980s, when my sister and I visited our dad in Alaska, I got to see Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

Those memories are really the only coherent ones I have of my time with my dad back in that time period. And that probably gives you an idea of how big of a “thing” Star Trek in general wound up becoming in my life.

It wasn’t until 1986, when Star Trek: The Voyage Home came out and my love of the series was cemented. I read the novels, I watched the shows, I collected some of the merchandise. When TNG hit the TV screens, you can bit I was right there watching the first episode.

And yet today I took the news of Leonard Nimoy’s death with something of a sad shrug and went about my day. He was, after all, 83, and with the news that he’d gone into the hospital a few days ago, I was kind of expecting this. Plus I’ve been very aware that by the end of the decade him, William Shatner and Tom Baker would likely all be dead. So it’s unfortunate, but he had a good long life, and did indeed prosper.

Nimoy was by most accounts a good man, and he was certainly a good actor. Trek would not have been the success it was without him as Spock. He’s left an excellent legacy to the world, and really, that’s about all that I want to say on the subject. Aside from the obvious final line.

The human adventure is just beginning…

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 Nelson Mandela – 1918 – 2013


Nelson Mandela has died at the age of 95. He needs no real introduction; if you don’t know who he was then you’re one of the most culturally and politically ignorant people I’ve ever heard of.

Mandela’s early years, before he really became a major international figure, are complex, and included things like him helping to found a militant organization that was involved in bombing campaigns throughout South Africa. That’s why, even to this day, you’ll sometimes hear him referred to as a terrorist. He basically was, at least for a while.

But far more interesting are Mandela’s years after he got out of prison (where he was being held because of the whole terrorism thing). As a kid, I remember boycotts against South Africa’s monstrously racist regime, and controversy involving, if I remember right, the purchase of marble used to help make the Seattle bus tunnels. I also remember being very confused, and remain very confused, about apartheid and why it happened. I mean, what were the whites so afraid of?

At any rate, apartheid went away, and Mandela was released from prison, having denounced violence. He then went on to become, in many ways, the most important president South Africa has ever had. He wasn’t the first, but he was the first to be democratically elected in a real representative election. He was also the one who helped pave the way for a peaceful transition from white power to a more integrated structure. For an example of how this can go horribly wrong, just look to South Africa’s neighbor, Zimbabwe.

Mandela is a near perfect example of how someone can start off on a very good path, fall off that path, and still be redeemed in the end. He became a true light and inspiration to the world, and he will be sorely missed.

Sic Transit Cal Worthington, 1920 – 2013

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

Sic Transit Margaret Thatcher – 1925 – 2013


One of the towering figures of my youth has died. Margaret Thatcher has passed away from a stroke at the age of 87.

Born in the era between the wars, Thatcher originally studied chemistry and had a successful career in the field before going into politics. She eventually worked her way up through the Conservative Party ranks until, in 1979, she became the first female Prime Minister and the longest-serving PM of the modern age.

While in office, Thatcher was known for disempowering the trade unions, privatizing industries, helping to end the Cold War, bolstering morale at home, and waging a war abroad, retaking the Falkland Islands after Argentina’s ill-advised invasion. She helped bring the United Kingdom out of the doldrums of the “ex-empire” era and to a huge extent laid the groundwork for what the modern country has become.

I only feel so qualified to talk about her. I’m not British, after all, and wasn’t an adult during her time in office. So I’ll quote from Andrew Sullivan’s obituary of the Iron Lady.

To put it bluntly: The Britain I grew up in was insane. The government owned almost all major manufacturing, from coal to steel to automobiles. Owned. It employed almost every doctor and owned almost every hospital. Almost every university and elementary and high school was government-run. And in the 1970s, you could not help but realize as a young Brit, that you were living in a decaying museum – some horrifying mixture of Eastern European grimness surrounded by the sculptured bric-a-brac of statues and buildings and edifices that spoke of an empire on which the sun had once never set. Now, in contrast, we lived on the dark side of the moon and it was made up of damp, slowly degrading concrete.

I owe my entire political obsession to the one person in British politics who refused to accept this state of affairs. You can read elsewhere the weighing of her legacy – but she definitively ended a truly poisonous, envious, inert period in Britain’s history. She divided the country deeply – and still does. She divided her opponents even more deeply, which was how she kept winning elections. She made some serious mistakes – the poll tax, opposition to German unification, insisting that Nelson Mandela was a terrorist – but few doubt she altered her country permanently, re-establishing the core basics of a free society and a free economy that Britain had intellectually bequeathed to the world and yet somehow lost in its own class-ridden, envy-choked socialist detour to immiseration.

Regardless of ones’ politics, Thatcher’s place in the annals of history cannot be denied. She was a force of nature that will be sorely missed.