Saturday, February 20, 2010

Setting The Record Straight

Given some occurrences on other Oz blogs, I fear that the integrity of some Oz fans, particularly those of us who write blogs, produce videos, websites, and other media may come under question.

First off, may I remind any doubters that it is not a good idea to base your opinions of a whole fan base off of one or two examples. In any fan base, you'll find conflict. If I wind up in a conflict, I try to remain respectful, though I do have a tendency to say too much. Other times, I will try to keep it private, or, if it's been made public, I'll remain quiet. Usually, the person making an accusation against me is not being completely honest and will trip themselves up.

I'm awful at remembering dates and ages (seems to run in my family, we just celebrated my mother's birthday with a cake that read "Happy Birthday, Mom 52," when she's actually 53), so bear with me here if dates don't quite add up. About 2000, my interest in Oz came back. Having already looked up all my other interests online, Oz quickly became an often-searched topic.

I quickly came across the online texts of the Oz books, the International Wizard of Oz Club, and a number of excellent websites fans had assembled. One that I kept coming back to was Eric Gjovaag's website, which is still an excellent information source. (Anyone who hasn't read his FAQ needs to.)

After a time of looking around at Oz fan sites, I decided to attempt making one myself. The first one was a simple page that said a bit about me and what I wanted to do in the Oz community. To make it sound more official, I came up with the title "Dorothy & Ozma Productions," the label I now use for videos and podcasts. Later, I reworked it into a full-blown site with quite a bit of content. (If I'd put the site online today, it'd probably be "The Royal Website of Oz," which I'll probably name the next incarnation.)

The earliest, most advanced content I shared with Oz fans was a series of text adventures based on Baum books, as well as an original story I'd written for the game, and Disney's Return to Oz. I started adapting Baum's Oz novels, but never finished Ozma of Oz. If anyone wants to try to finish it up, I'd be happy to turn it over to them.

And get this, folks, I maintained this website without home internet access. I'd make my content, copy it to a floppy disk (later CD-R), and go to the library and upload it.

Videos took awhile to develop. We'd bought a new computer in 2001, and noting Windows Movie Maker, I was the first in the family to figure out how it worked. My first Oz video was a simple animation of Polychrome, taken from a John R. Neill illustration. Doing some alterations, I made what would be a very simple animated GIF or flash animation today, showing the Rainbow's daughter dancing.

My first Oz video with sound featured an illustration from The Emerald City of Oz. It was the color plate in which Ozma shows her friends the Nome King and his allies digging their tunnel to Oz. I used two versions, the original, and another with the Magic Picture blanked out. Using fading, I made the picture appear as Ozma says, "Let us see what they are doing now," then "Listen, I think we can hear what they are saying." And who voiced Ozma? Some kid who'd listened to Annette Funicello on a 45 vinyl played at normal speed, tried to imitate that sound, then sped it up in Windows Sound Recorder. Yep, the first Oz character I lent my voice to was Ozma.

(I am glad to say you will never see those videos, as they were lost when our computer was damaged in a power surge and it had to be wiped in order for it to be repaired.)

Over time, I figured out how to work with actual video, instead of just animated slideshows. From this eventually came The Wonders of Oz video series.

My blog was originally to be where I'd discuss my adapting Baum's Oz books into screenplays. The idea to blog came from noting Eric Gjovaag's Oz blog, noticing how interesting it was to read. Later, as I've said before on this blog, I rarely mentioned the screenwriting and changed the focus and name (but not the URL) entirely to cover many Oz topics, a move that I definitely do not regret.

Please note: I did not copycat anyone's work in creating these endeavors. Being inspired by someone's work and plagiarizing it are two very different things. I'm sure the people who inspired me are more flattered than offended that I regard them as an inspiration.

In late 2006, I got an e-mail from someone who enjoyed my website, and offered some corrections and additions. The sender's name: Sam Antony Milazzo. We've been e-mailing each other ever since, and now are very good friends. After he created a Blogger account, I immediately offered to share my blog with him.

Over time, of course the thought of marketing my Oz enthusiasm came into my head. However, I did not want to get caught up in making money that I'd put it before providing Oz content for the community. At the time I began, very few Oz fans were making content. With the advent of sites like YouTube, it's become more common. In the previous year, I did start an Amazon affiliate and a Zazzle shop. The Amazon shop was to help Oz fans find the best contemporary editions of Oz books (all of Baum's I added were either Dover or Books of Wonder), and Zazzle was a little more marketing minded. As such, I did not make my cut of the profits very high, often setting them at the minimum. When someone recently bought a shirt for dogs reading "Toto is my home dog," I only made a currently unclaimed thirty-eight cents.

As for the podcast, a couple friends of mine were working on a project when they suggested I host an audio interview with them to help promote it. I decided that if that would work, I might want to build some prominence as a podcast host. As of yet, that interview has yet to happen, and if it never does, I'm glad it sparked yet another way to share with the Oz community.

My blogs led to me being asked to review a book for the International Wizard of Oz Club's The Baum Bugle. I've volunteered to do more, and yes, you can expect to see much more in the future.

So, there we go. If anyone wants to question my motives in the Oz community, I've spoken truthfully here.

1 comment:

Tegan said...

Any time you get three fans together, you will end up with four opinions. And that's true of any type of fandom. The trick is respecting each individual person while being honest about opinions you disagree with. I sincerely doubt any of us have really mastered that, but many fans strive toward it.

Folks who get too hot about it are ones that need to take some time out and reconsider their emotional investment. Anger shortens your life, and no fan-driven conflict is worth that. Of course, it's easy to say that, but I know there are things that will set me off...

In any case, Jared, I think you've done a fine job and your critics need to wander off and find something else to go nuts about.