Sir PTerry is Dead. Long Live the Discworld.

On the morning of Friday, 13th of March, the following messages appeared on Terry Pratchett’s twitter feed.

All Good Things Must Come to an End

All Good Things Must Come to an End

…and I cried, because this meant that Sir PTerry, author of over 70 books, including the famous Discworld series, was dead.  The literary world is all the poorer for his leaving this Earth so young.

Terry Pratchett’s books have a special place in the hearts of his readers and in the hearts of the Owls Well crew.  My personal favourites are Reaper Man and the books in the Tiffany Aching series.  Debs favours The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents and Men at Arms.  The Boobook’s favourite books are Hogfather and Thief of Time.  Even the Barn Owl has his favourites, The Colour of Magic and The Bromeliad Trilogy.

It is difficult to put into words how much the Discworld series, and Terry Pratchett’s other work mean to me.  Even now, as I type these words, I cannot help but feel tears streaming down my face as I recall how very alive he was as an author.  His books always brimmed with energy.  In his work, we could see our own world through a fantasy lens, realising the beauty in it while still recognising the terrible and awful things that needed changing. FullSizeRender(8)Back in University, I was able to attend a talk that he held in a small meeting room just off Darling Harbour.

Though the room was packed, he still somehow managed to make his speech feel intimate and friendly.  He spoke about having open heart surgery, about cosplayers at Discworld conventions and even chatted to a few of the cosplayers at the talk.  After the talk, he sat down to sign everyone’s books and I remember asking him if he had any books about Chinese people.  He said he did and handed me a copy of Interesting Times, which he signed with a flourish.  A present from him to me, he said.  I still treasure that book.

Three days later, the announcement came that he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and yet he kept writing.  Even after he could no longer read, he continued to write through dictation.  Even now, after his death, there are still a number of books that will be published posthumously. Even though Sir Pratchett has gone, his books and characters will live on.  And for that, we are grateful.

Cheap as Free Online Novels for the Broke

I like reading, but reading can get pretty expensive.  Good books cost upwards of $30 out here in Sydney and eBooks readers can get quite pricey – not to mention all that headache with eBook compatibility and such.

There’s only one way to solve this conundrum… TO THE INTERNET!

Many web novels on the Internet are free, or at least extremely cheap.  I’m proud to say that over the many years that I’ve lived on the Internet, I’ve been able to amass a fairly impressive library of online novels and am happy to share them with you.

Thalia's Musings1. Thalia’s Musings by Amethyst Marie

I’ve got a real soft spot for Greek Mythology.  Some of the earliest media I consumed were about Greek Myths and I’ve even won prizes for memorising and retelling the stories of Grecian heroes when I was a little tyke in school.  So, I was drawn to Thalia’s Musings by Amethyst Marie, a well-written insider account of the various quarrels, love affairs and dramatic deaths of the Grecian pantheon, as seen through the eyes of the not-so-innocent bystander, Thalia, the Muse of Comedy.

Although the series loosely follows the stories of many Grecian myths, it diverges slightly from what is expected and doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to the raunchy behaviour of the Grecian gods (and goddesses too)!  All in all, a great read.  Amethyst Marie has written three books of the series so far and is currently writing the fourth.  I’m at the edge of my seat to find out what happens next!

The books are available free online, but if you’re willing to shell out a little money and support Amethyst, you can buy eBook versions of Thalia’s Musings in her shop.

Stefan Gagne2. Stefan Gagne’s Fiction Factory by Stefan Gagne

All right, I’ll admit that Stefan Gagne (aka Twoflower) is one of my favourite online novelists – I’ve even tagged him on the writing process blog tour!

Unlike other online authors, Stefan really makes good use of the capabilities of html, working with different fonts, colours, images and even little flash programs to flavour the stories that he tells.  His latest work, cyberpunk web novel series, Floating Point, is very topical; but I’m a little more fond of his earlier cyberpunk work – A Future We’d Like to See (FWLS).  FWLS is a little 90s era zeerusty, but it still contains an underlying layer of unbridled optimism that came with the early Internet before the Eternal September of 1993, before all the trolling and the nastiness and the doxxing and stuff.

Of his works, my favourites would have to be Unreal Estate, a sweet sci-fi romantic comedy deconstruction of harem anime of the 90s that spans across the multiverse; and Anachronauts, a post-apocalyptic fantasy novel about fairies, aliens and working together for the common good.  Both of these novels are now available for purchase in book or eBook form on Stefan’s store.  As a bonus, Stefan has included an extra short-story in each book that is not available online.

Velveteen vs3. Velveteen vs. by Seanan McGuire

I’ve written about one of Seanan McGuire’s books before, so I was pleased to note that she also releases free short stories on her Livejournal.  Velveteen vs. is a realistically modern take on superheroes in a corporate world, exploring how the very nature of superheroes can be corrupted by the ever persistent bottom line.  The series follows the story of Velveteen, a retired superheroine on the run from her former employers and her attempts to eke out a living as a civilian.  It’s a compelling and emotional read, certainly worth the wait between chapters.

The Velveteen vs. stories are still ongoing, but Seanan has collated most of them into two books – Velveteen vs the Junior Super Patriots and Velveteen vs The Multiverse.  Both are available at most bookstores, though you may have to order them in.

4. Tapestry: a Tale of Empire by Wysteria Climbing

Asian fantasy novels are fairly common these days, but very few capture that Tale of Genji spirit quite like Tapestry does.  With its unique diary-style format, Tapestry follows the tale of Lady Uru, her husband Seichi, children Pen and Pang and house slave Heiye as they navigate the treacherous politics, pomp and ceremony of the Elite class in a fantasy empire.  Wysteria Climbing does an expert job of painting Lady Uru’s personality through her conservative attitudes, reserved language and clever use of wordplay and inflection.  Don’t let the 2008 dates on the Livejournal fool you, Wysteria is still very active on her blog and updates her story sporadically.  The series is currently on its second book.

While Tapestry doesn’t have a dead tree format just yet, but you can still support Wysteria on her Patreon.  Doing so will increase the speed of her updates.

While these series represent what I feel are the best web novels on the Internet, you can still find plenty more to sate your reading appetites at the Web Fiction Guide.  However, if your tastes are more classical, you might want to give Project Gutenberg a try.

As a bonus, I’ll leave you with two more stories that didn’t quite make the A-list, because they’re not quite books…

Blue Sky by Waffleguppies:  If you like the Portal game series, you might want to check this excellent piece of fanfiction out.  It will seriously give you a case of the feels.  (Don’t worry, they’ve started a support group for that).

Digger by Ursula Vernon:  This Hugo Award winning graphic novel follows the story of a very lost wombat and her adventures in a strange world full of cults, religions and talking hyenas.  It is beautifully illustrated and cleverly written.

Sparrow Hill Road: A Ghost Story on the American Road (Book Review)

When I was 14, I managed to get a copy of Final Fantasy VI.  Now, if you haven’t played this game, let me tell you that it’s a fantastic game with a wonderful storyline and ending.  As the end credits rolled when I finished the game once and for all, I felt a sense of achievement, tears rolling down my cheeks.  It was a rare piece of narrative that managed to touch my heart and bring out a whole bunch of emotions.

Rose died driving to the prom, now she hitches rides

Rose died driving to the prom, now she hitches rides

Sparrow Hill Road has that effect on me.  Finishing the book made me feel a sense of achievement not because the book was complex or extremely difficult to read, but because I felt that my life has become richer for having read it.

Writing a ghost story from the perspective of the ghost isn’t something that’s entirely new.  Heaven knows that it’s been explored before in books like The Lovely Bones[1].  However, it’s a rare book that can make me sympathise so heavily with a main character with circumstances so different from my own.  Seanan McGuire manages to make the eternal 16-year-old Rose’s voice compelling yet world weary in an expert manner that doesn’t resort to cheap melodrama.  I particularly love how she mentally matures over time despite never physically aging.  It’s very refreshing, something that I rarely see in supernatural fiction young adults, which circle the Neverending High School and mentally never get much further beyond the prom date level of relationships[2].

I very much enjoy Seanan McGuire’s work.  Her InCryptid series makes for good light reading and her Velveteen vs series is a fascinating exploration of the effects of the corporation on the superhero lifestyle, but she really has outdone herself with Sparrow Hill Road.  It is a beautiful book and I want more.

You can get a taste of Sparrow Hill Road on The Edge of Propinquity here.  The book is published by DAW Books.  Ask your local bookstore for a copy or support Sydney local businesses and get it at Galaxy Bookstore here!

EDIT:  Seanan McGuire has requested that buyers of the paper or electronic copies of the book refrain from purchasing it from Amazon, due to Amazon’s monopolistic attitudes towards book publishers.  She has requested that people spend their money at Borders instead.  You can get it here.


[1] A book which I found terribly distasteful in its writing and execution.

[2] See Twilight for example.  The main character manages to marry, give birth to young, yet never seems to move into a mindset much further than eternal prom date, despite her growing responsibilities in life.