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Discworld creator Pratchett dies after Alzheimer's battle

The British fiction writer Terry Pratchett has died at the age of 66, his publisher says. The sci-fi and fantasy author, whose Discworld novels have sold tens of millions of copies worldwide, was 66.

The fantasy writer Terry Pratchett, creator of the Discworld series and the author of more than 70 books, has died at the age of 66. He had had a very rare form of early-onset Alzheimer's disease and earned wide respect in Britain with his dignified campaign for the right of critically ill patients to choose assisted suicide, making

a documentary on the topic

.

"Terry passed away in his home, with his cat sleeping on his bed, surrounded by his family," said Larry Finlay, managing director at Transworld Publishers, who added that the world had lost "one of its brightest, sharpest minds."

Pratchett's flat, parallel Discworld universe - balanced on the back of four elephants themselves stood on the shell of a giant turtle - is the setting for more than 40 of his comic novels. The universe's debut came in the 1983 novel "The Colour of Magic." In total, Pratchett sold more than 65 million books worldwide, translated into multiple languages. He received a UK knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II in 2009 for his services to literature.

In 2007, Pratchett had announced that he had the early-onset Alzheimer's. He donated $1 million to research into Alzheimer's, also appealing to the scientific community to place more emphasis on research into the disease. On Thursday, his frequent collaborator Neil Gaiman - the English author of several cult sci-fi, fantasy and graphic novels - urged readers to do the same.

"He was my friend for 30 years and a month," Gaiman said on Thursday. "I miss him." The author added: "Donate to Alzheimer's research and and make it so things like this don't happen again."

'Fired the imagination'

Praise for Pratchett and his work came from all spectra of society.

"His books fired the imagination of millions, and he fearlessly campaigned for dementia awareness," UK Prime Minister David Cameron said on Thursday.

The British comedian Ricky Gervais also paid his respects. "RIP the brilliant Terry Pratchett," he said, and then quoted one of the author's best-known aphorisms: "It's not worth doing something unless someone, somewhere, would much rather you weren't doing it."

Presumably, that would include dying, and on Thursday Pratchett left a world that might have preferred him to have left a few more books behind.

mkg/msh (AFP, dpa, AP)

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