DISCWORLD DIARY: A PRACTICAL MANUAL FOR THE MODERN WITCH
by Terry Pratchett
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Following the publication of The Shepherd’s Crown in September, there would be no more Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett. His daughter announced that she would not continue the series which had made him such a popular author. However, she did state that she would continue to produce ancillary works based on the Discworld, having discussed the future of the property with her father before his death. One of those ancillary works, which presumably still is the work of Pratchett, is the 2016 Discworld Diary, themed A Practical Manual for the Modern Witch.
Pratchett began publishing the Discworld Diaries in 1997 and the books were published annually until the 2003 edition. Two more were published for 2007 and 2008, and the series started up again with a 2015 edition. Each of the books contains a calendar showing a complete eight day week on each page, although Octeday is an unnumbered day on each page and often contains a picture of a mock advertisement. Scattered throughout the calendars, usually around the beginning of a month, are articles about the calendar’s theme.
For the 2016 diary, each of the articles is written about a different aspect of witchcraft and by a different member of the Discworld’s witching community. Although the most famous witches of Pratchett’s world are Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, Magrat, and Tiffany Aching, he has often introduced other members of their community, and in many ways this volume gives his other witches a chance to shine, with pieces “written by” Miss Tick and Agnes Nitt, and other witches featured on various Octedays.
Although there is a certain amount of Macbethian Weird Sisters about Pratchett’s witches, for the most part, they serve in the role of wise women and community leadership for the far flung rural communities of the Disc. The articles in the book build on this idea, with Nanny Ogg writing about how witches can positively influence the romantic lives of those around them or Miss Tick writing about the methods witches use to find potential witches, which doubles as a chance to help educate the children in the various communities and make sure the villages are running smoothly. In the world of witches, nothing serves only a single purpose.
It felt as thought there was less background material in this year's almanac, compared to the original series, however what really changed was the material's placement. While the articles are scattered throughout the book this year, originally they all appeared at the beginning of the books, as a sort of introduction. Having them all in one place made them easier to locate and gave the appearance of more heft, but the early diaries and the new ones apparently have about he same amount of background material. These articles expand on what Pratchett included his his novels, providing some of Pratchett's ideas which wouldn't fit into the confines or structure of one of his narratives, and helping to expand the world of the Disc even further.
The Discworld Diaries are fun and certainly worthwhile for a fan of the series. I suppose they can be used as actual datebooks, but the real joy is in the information they contain and the illustrations. Unlike the novels, these are ephemera, and as such, they tend to increase in value. Copies of prior years can be purchased, but they have a tendency to sell for 10 times their original price, making it difficult to backfill a collection. The 2016 diary, focusing on the witches, seems particularly appropriate since Pratchett's last novel focused on the witches and provided them with a fresh start.
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