Terry Pratchett, the British author whose fantasy novels sold in their tens of millions worldwide, has died of a rare form of Alzheimer’s disease aged 66, his publisher said yesterday. News about the death of Pratchett - who fought during his final years for assisted death to be legal - came on his Twitter account in a series of tweets written in the style of his Discworld novels, where Death always talks in capital letters.
Pratchett’s daughter Rhianna referred to one of the recurring characters in the Discworld novels, Death, a strangely loveable creature who likes cats - and whose speech on the page are written in capital letters.
Pratchett, who sold over 85 million books worldwide, "passed away in his home with his cat sleeping on his bed, surrounded by his family", said Larry Finlay, managing director at Transworld Publishers, the company that published his books.
"The world has lost one of its brightest, sharpest minds," Finlay said, adding: "Terry enriched the planet like few before him ... his legacy will endure for decades to come."
After being diagnosed in 2007 with a rare form of early-onset Alzheimer's, which he called an "embuggerance", Pratchett worked to raise awareness and reduce the stigma related to the disease.
Pratchett won worldwide fame and a cult following with his Discworld novels about a flat world balanced on the back of four elephants which themselves stand on the shell of a giant turtle.
He wrote the first book in the series, The Colour of Magic, in the late 1960s although it was not published until 1983. The 41st book was completed last summer, before he fell ill in the final stages of his disease.
A fan of science fiction in his youth, Pratchett wrote his first Discworld novel to make fun of fantasy books - but the target of his satire would come to define his work.
"Many thanks for all the kind words about my dad. Those last few tweets were sent with shaking hands and tear-filled eyes," his daughter tweeted.
Pratchett was knighted in 2009 and in 2010 was awarded his own coat of arms. The motto on the coat of arms is Noli Timere Messorem - Don't fear the reaper. Later in the same year he decided that he needed his own sword, and so he made one. He used metal from a meteor which he had gathered from fields around his home in Wiltshire, Britain, and smelted it himself. "thunderbolt iron, you see - highly magical, you've got to chuck that stuff in whether you believe in it or not," he told the Independent.
Fellow writers paid tribute to Pratchett's work, more than 70 books over the course of his career, with Canadian author Margaret Atwood praising his novels as "playful, smart".
British author Neil Gaiman recalled meeting Pratchett as a young journalist in a Chinese restaurant, beginning a friendship that would see them write apocalyptic comedy novel Good Omens together.
"There was nobody like him. I was fortunate to have written a book with him, when we were younger, which taught me so much. I’ll miss you, Terry," Gaiman said.
Born in Beaconsfield in South East England, Pratchett began his career as a journalist before getting his first book published after interviewing the co-director of a publishing company.
His friendly manner won over fans he met at science fiction conventions, sometimes wearing a self-effacing t-shirt reading "Tolkien’s Dead, JK Rowling said no, Philip Pullman couldn't make it. Hi, I'm Terry Pratchett."
As his Alzheimer’s progressed Pratchett found it difficult to type and switched to dictating to his computer, his writing giving him the strength to go on as he fought for awareness of the disease and against Britain’s prohibition of the right to die.
British Prime Minister David Cameron also paid tribute to the author, who was knighted in 2009.
"His books fired the imagination of millions," said Cameron.
Pratchett is survived by his daughter and his wife, Lyn.