GNU Terry Pratchett

The news is a little old now, but I wanted to acknowledge Terry Pratchett’s passing.

He meant a lot to many of us, and his was the first celebrity death that affected me emotionally. His brand of fiction shaped the way I think about the importance of fantasy to our humanity. That phrase – “where the falling angel meets the rising ape” –  is crucial to the way I see myself, and humanity. If we have the humility to see ourselves as closer to earth than heaven, then we are moving upwards to greatness. That’s a positive message, and gives me hope for myself.

As my own little remembrance, I am offering a little code snippet. Webmasters can all contribute to an ongoing commemoration by setting the following HTTP header: X-Clacks-Overhead: GNU Terry Pratchett

I looked around and couldn’t find that anybody had written the code for webapp2, which is the common web server framework for App Engine for Python. You can bet that it will be going in my soon-to-be-announced next project. Here’s the RFC, and there are configs for other platforms.

You know they’ll never really die while the Trunk is alive[…]
It lives while the code is shifted, and they live with it, always Going Home.
– Moist von Lipwig, Going Postal, Chapter 13

I’ll close with a few things I wrote on Facebook, the day of his passing:

“And, hand in hand with the anger, like an angel and a demon walking into the sunset, there is love: for human beings, in all our fallibility; for treasured objects; for stories; and ultimately and in all things, love for human dignity.” – Neil Gaiman: ‘Terry Pratchett isn’t jolly. He’s angry’

This is the most important lesson I learned; that we can be angry with the world, but we should use it to drive wit, and that we should keep our love for all things.


Farewell to a man who very strongly influenced my view of the world, literature, and humanity. I learned the difference between parody and satire, puns and wit… and that I prefer the latter in each case. He taught me that you can question and laugh at something, and still believe in it.

Finally, I think it’s fitting that I echo the friend who introduced me to Terry Pratchett:

I’d like to thank him for his works, and the joy and friendships he brought to me via discussions about those works.