Earlier today, the account shared by Sir Terry Pratchett and his assistant Rob Wilkins tweeted these messages.
The subtext of the messages was clear to many fans of the ailing author's work, in which the Grim Reaper's dialogue is printed in all capital letters and without quotation marks. The black desert, as well, is often the first stop a of a person on their way to the afterlife in Pratchett's popular Discworld series. The later tweets confirmed the news in more explicit terms, linking to an official statement from Penguin Random House:
Terry passed away in his home, with his cat sleeping on his bed surrounded by his family on 12th March 2015. Diagnosed with PCA1 in 2007, he battled the progressive disease with his trademark determination and creativity, and continued to write. He completed his last book, a new Discworld novel, in the summer of 2014, before succumbing to the final stages of the disease.
Death, as a character, appears in the majority of the Discworld novels, stars in a few, and has even had incarnations appear in other settings, such as Pratchett and Neil Gaiman's co-written novel Good Omens. It's entirely appropriate, tear-jerking, even, that Pratchett's friends and family would commemorate his death by alluding to his interpretation of the Grim Reaper: a kindly figure, often confused but always fascinated (and sometimes obsessed) by humanity.
The author's late public life, outside of writing, was characterized by his illness. After being diagnosed with posterior cortical atrophy, an atypical form of Alzheimer's disease that causes the loss and dysfunction of brain cells at ages much earlier than those usually associated with dementia, he dedicated much of his time to researching and campaigning for the legalization of assisted suicide. In 2012 he collaborated with the BBC and Charlie Russell to host a documentary special (Terry Pratchett: Choosing to Die) that followed the experiences of several people suffering with terminal illnesses as they sought "dignity in dying."
The official statement urges those who feel moved by SIr Terry's death to donate in his name to the Research Institute to the Care of Older People (RICE). Pratchett's long-time friend and collaborator, Neil Gaiman, echoed the sentiment.
He was my friend for thirty years and a month. I miss him. Donate to Alzheimer's research and make it so things like this don't happen.— Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) March 12, 2015
Penguin Random House's statement did not indicate to what extent Pratchett had been able to manage the time, place, and nature of his passing, though, according to the BBC: "Despite campaigning for assisted suicide after his diagnosis, Sir Terry's publishers said he did not take his own life." We have reached out to the publisher for a statement.
As Pratchett's condition progressed, he lost the ability to type, taking on a full time assistant (Rob Wilkins) and dictating his writing. Throughout, he made his intentions known to fans: he wasn't going anywhere while he could still write stories. The most recently released Discworld novel was published in 2013 (2014 in the US), and he completed another (a Tiffanny Aching story) set to be published this fall. The BBC continues production on a television show based on his popular Ankh-Morpork City Watch characters, with filming set to begin this year.
In 2012, Pratchett announced that he would be leaving the future of the Discworld in the hands of his daughter and fellow writer, Rhianna Pratchett, who may be more familiar to the public as the writer behind Heavenly Sword and 2013's Tomb Raider than her father's daughter. Her own Twitter account echoed the messages of her father's, adding:
Many thanks for all the kind words about my dad. Those last few tweets were sent with shaking hands and tear-filled eyes.— Rhianna Pratchett (@rhipratchett) March 12, 2015