Monday, December 31, 2012

Oz: The Other World That Isn't

When asked about fantasy worlds, many people throw out Narnia, Neverland, Oz, Middle-earth, Discworld and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. However, that's not exactly the case. Tolkien intended Middle-earth to be part of our actual earth, but in a forgotten period of history. And in the case of Harry Potter, the Wizarding World is part of our world, but it's been hidden away.

Arguably, a fantasy world doesn't necessarily mean it needs to be in a place outside of Earth. Simply, it is a restricted area where fantasy can take place. A prime example is Middle-earth: aside from it being a work of fiction, you can't get to Middle-earth because it no longer exists. All the places and people are long gone.

An example that does get thrown out is Wonderland, but I consider this inappropriate as I maintain that Wonderland was never anything more than Alice's dream. Thus, it may count as a world only for the fact that it is entirely cut off from anyone getting to it: it never existed except for one person's subconsciousness.

An example somewhat closer to Oz is in Harry Potter's Wizarding World. The existence is known to only a few trusted non-magical people, and their access to the lands of magic seems to be limited. This is similar to Neverland and Narnia: some can go there, but not everyone.

This brings us to Baum's Land of Oz and its Surrounding Countries. What makes it unique is that anyone can go to Oz or the outlying lands through a number of methods, a barrier of invisibility simply keeping these places from being discovered.

Some argue or present Oz as not being on Earth or being moved to another dimension. I find these contrary to Baum's clear intentions, particularly as non-trans-dimensional means of travel are used to reach Oz after the barrier has been set up.

It is certainly odd about the Barrier of Invisibility. While Baum refers to it in The Patchwork Girl of Oz and it seems more complicated magic is needed to send people through it in Tik-Tok of Oz. Furthermore, it cannot simply just protect the Land of Oz, otherwise the other lands would be quickly discovered, and with the later introduction of satellite photography, this would result in a "hole" in a continent. No, surely Glinda had to have extended it to cover outlying lands, including Ozamaland, which was said to be a large continent.

Jack Snow, though, seems to have had the idea that Oz itself is yet protected by the Barrier (perhaps a secondary one) in The Shaggy Man of Oz, which creates an obstacle for the main characters, albeit a minor one.

This brings an issue that's come up, given the longevity of the Oz series and related works: the aging enchantment. Supposedly, it affects many people in the Surrounding Countries as well. It seems the Valley of Mo has never been affected by this, as the Monarch of Mo has always been the Monarch. In some recent Oz stories, Bud and Fluff from Queen Zixi of Ix appear, not too much older than their appearances in their debut book, despite that book telling us how they grew up. (I maintain Baum added that to package it as a fairy tale on its own, same case with the ending of John Dough and the Cherub.)

However, proximity to Oz seems to be a major part of the aging enchantment: while some islands—like Pingaree—seem to be affected by it, the second volume of The Royal Explorers of Oz reveal that Ozamaland must be too far away, though there are other ways to keep oneself alive for a long time.

But back to the main point, Oz is different from other fantasy worlds: it is not exclusive or entirely cut off. Thus, it is a fantasy world only in that is only partly cut off from the rest of the world.

I guess you didn't really follow through there, Glinda, but it seems to have worked well enough...

Friday, December 28, 2012


For 2012.

Happy Friday! I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and all that good stuff.

On Tuesday, Disney Channel will present a special sneak peek of Oz the Great and Powerful beginning at 6:00pm (so that's 5:00 for you central timers). I believe that clips and such will be shown during commercial breaks of whatever show is airing at 6:00. Exciting!

Speaking of Oz the Great and Powerful, InsideDLParis on Twitter shared an image of a new character poster on display at the Disneyland theme park in Paris. Check it out!

On February 12th, the Smithsonian Channel's The Origins of Oz documentary will be released on DVD. I've yet to watch this, so looking forward to picking it up. Click here to pre-order from Amazon. 

On February 26th, Lightyear Video will be putting out a 25th anniversary edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz anime films, originally released as one TV show in Japan. It's not clear if there will be any special features or if there's anything at all 'special' about this re-release, but it's unlikely that there will be much effort put into this re-release. They didn't even bother to use anything besides elements from the ugly 2004 release artwork. *sigh* Anyways, you can pre-order it from Amazon here.

Still keeping my fingers crossed for a Return to Oz DVD re-release sometime soon...

2013 looks to be an exciting, Ozzy year with the release of Oz the Great and Powerful and (hopefully) Dorothy of Oz!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Fantastic Funhouse of Oz

And here's an earlier book by Chris Dulabone featuring Egor's Funhouse!

For those who don't remember, Egor is a furry monster who is actually quite friendly. He runs a funhouse in alternate dimension, but allows people to visit.

In this story, Egor and his friends recall a visit to Oz, and while they can't go back to Oz on their own, they decide to create a new funhouse that will have spectacular rides that take you through animatronic re-enactments of the Oz stories! The animatronics are so lifelike that an Oz character could imitate one and no one would know the difference.

And unfortunately, that's what happens. Allidap, the Wicked Witch of the West, takes the place of the animatronic Wicked Witch, and when groups of children come through, she occasionally turns one into an insect. Eventually, the missing children get reported to Egor, who has no idea what's going on.

Things change when Allidap turns a girl into a bag of ice to be used in drinks. The other transformed children manage to get a note to Egor revealing their predicament. Now, Egor and his friends have to find the ingredients for the spell to restore the children, but Allidap is onto them. Will she stop them? Are the children doomed to remain insects forever?

Again, Chris only loosely ties the tale to Oz, but honestly, this is one of his wacky humorous stories and is not meant to be taken too seriously. It's a lot of fun, which, I know by now, is what to expect from Chris.

Definitely one if you enjoy an off-beat Oz book.

Get a copy here.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Royal Forums of Oz downtime

Any visitors of the Royal Forums of Oz might note that the site is down at present. I am fully aware of this, in fact I asked for it to be shut down myself.

The reason being that I checked the forums and my antivirus popped up, warning me of a trojan on the site. The server host confirmed there had been a security leak and the skin (the "look" of the site) had been infected and needed to be repaired or changed. I lost write access, so we decided to shut the site down to prevent the trojan from infecting anyone's computer. We plan to be back up soon, though.

It's a good reminder that it is imperative that you use up-to-date antivirus software if you're connected to the internet or download materials. If a site ever asks you to shut it off, don't. I personally use Avast! antivirus, which has served me quite well.

If you accessed the Royal Forums of Oz in the past couple days, definitely run a virus scan on your computer.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas! To celebrate the season, Sam has put together a new video using the original color plates by Mary Cowles Clark for the original edition of L. Frank Baum's The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. Enjoy!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Giving the Gift of Oz

Early this year, I got to visit my youngest brother Daniel. We live in the same city, but we rarely see each other. He's 14 now, and quite well read. During that visit, he showed me his bookshelf. On it were copies of The Chronicles of Narnia, the Harry Potter series, the Percy Jackson series, and a copy of Peter Pan with Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens that I'd given to him a couple years ago.

He told me he'd actually read all of the books multiple times. (Except Peter Pan...) So, I thought "Why doesn't he have the Oz books?"

Daniel also lives with my niece Amber, and last year, I'd given her a copy of The Wizard of Oz in Del Rey paperback and the MGM film on DVD for Christmas.

This year, I decided to step the gift up a notch: get them all of the Baum Oz books. In Dover editions.

Thanks to some Oz fans selling items from their collection, a few Oz fans sending spare Oz items my way, an item picked up at the 2011 Winkie Con Swap Meet and a large order from Dover Publications, I'm not quite giving them all of the Baum Oz books, instead they're getting the first eight novels, Little Wizard Stories, Queen Zixi of Ix, The Magical Monarch of Mo, The Sea Fairies and Sky Island.

Yes, they'll have two copies of Wonderful Wizard, but the Dover edition has a checklist of Baum's fantasies in the back which will also serve as the "reading order" if they care to follow it.

I am a little wary about how well it'll be received, though. Earlier this month, we were informed that Daniel had specifically asked for The Lord of the Rings, and while he's getting that as well (I'm not his only brother), I certainly hope he can find some time for Oz. If he does, I can probably pick up the last six books and see if I can get copies of John Dough and the Cherub and Dot and Tot of Merryland as well.

(The preceding paragraphs were written the evening of December 22nd. On the 23rd, we met to exchange presents. As such, the next two paragraphs have been added...)

And Daniel loved getting a large collection of Oz books, and I even helped get them on the bookshelf. He says he'll read them, though my niece was much less enthused...

And for those fellow Peter Pan fans, he told me had actually read the book and found the original Peter Pan to be more daring and heroic than the typical pop culture version.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Interview with Tom Mula

Happy Friday (night)!

I recently got to interview Tom Mula, author of the new book The Hackers of Oz.

Could you run down the basic premise of the story for us?
Scraps and the Scarecrow come here, and help Elizabeth, our heroine, defeat the Wicked Witch of the West. Again.
What inspired you to write this story?
Truthfully, a dream I had many years ago, of the brightly-colored Oz characters on a gray street in downtown Chicago. I always remembered the dream, and finally got around to writing the book.
How does this story fit in with the original Oz books or the 1939 movie?
It’s based on the original books; it also references the popular mythology created in the movie. Anything more is a spoiler; suffice to mention that Scraps and the Scarecrow are very familiar with the movie.
You’ve written quite a few books and plays already, most notably Jacob Marley’s The Christmas Carol. How was writing The Hackers from Oz different than the other projects you’ve done?
As in Jacob Marley's The Christmas Carol, I was dealing with a hugely popular work of genius that many people care about deeply; and once again, I felt a responsibility to be faithful to what I saw as essential in Baum’s creation: his sunny, wacky, joyful humor and whimsy. And as in the Baum stories, there is genuine danger, and the stakes are high. I had the same experience writing Scraps that I’m sure Baum had: once you let The Patchwork Girl open her mouth, it’s pretty hard to get it closed again. Sometimes characters write themselves. Making this journey with Scraps was a delight, and surprisingly, very moving for me.
Would you consider The Wizard of Oz to be a childhood favorite?
Oh, heck yes.
Are you planning on writing any more Oz stories in the near future?
It’s very possible. Another of the characters in the book seems to have a great deal more to say that seems pretty interesting.
Why do you think Oz fans should check out this story in particular?
I’ve really strived to deliver a genuine Oz book—sunny, funny, optimistic, faithful to Baum, delightfully illustrated. At the same time, putting the Oz folk in our world…is not the most natural fit, and they have some strong opinions. I’ve tried to make the book about something important, in addition to being highly entertaining. I hope your blog followers will think I’ve succeeded.
Thanks to Tom for taking the time to do this interview! Amazon is currently out of stock, but you can order Hackers from Oz in hardcover format here from Barnes & Noble.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


Just updating a few things:

Sam and I decided to take a break from the podcast this month. It's Christmastime after all, and plus there's a movie coming out this weekend I've been waiting about nine years for.

I got and read The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West #2. We meet the Sawhorse, who—while not the somewhat surly creature Baum wrote about—is quite a fun character. Some great plot development as Tip and the Scarecrow flee the Emerald City, but Jinjur sends the horrid Wheelers after them!

I also received my CD copy of Colonial Radio Theater's The Emerald City of Oz. My earlier review was based on a free MP3 copy that was provided for me to review. I like the cover art better than the previous CRT Oz releases, but to be honest, I miss jewel case packaging for dual CD sets. Sure, it was breakable, but it feels a lot sturdier than a small paper box with a slab of styrofoam and the CDs in paper envelopes.

I never thought I'd be waxing nostalgic over CD packaging. But I guess this is what we have to deal with as physical media gives way to digital, even if the physical media contains digital data. I appreciate both. I can't really feel like I can count digital texts, pictures, video and audio in my collection and I don't. With a few clicks and keystrokes or a bad accident, they could be gone forever. There's ways I can make those into physical media, of course, but unless it's something really rare that I'm unlikely to get any other way, having the real thing is much more fun.

On the other hand, particularly with digital audio, it's much easier to load digital files onto a portable player and use that on the go rather than carry around a lot of CDs.

Also received a great little Christmas gift from a wonderful Ozzy friend: a copy of Ruth Plumly Thompson's The Princess of Cozytown. Totally floored by this one!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Witchy-Washy Weakness

When talking of weaknesses in works of fiction, one example that obviously comes to my mind is the Wicked Witch of the West and her aversion to water. While L. Frank Baum only mentions this weakness in conjunction with this one particular Witch, Ruth Plumly Thompson seemed to think it was typical. In The Lost King of Oz, Mombi says that "water is death and destruction to all witches," and indeed she is destroyed with water at the end. As some recent Oziana stories indicate, however, not every historian buys that the execution actually took place. In the same book, Mombi drinks coffee and refers pretty casually to rain. Rachel Cosgrove Payes wrote in Wicked Witch about how a river nymph made Singra immune to water; I understand this bit was added in at editor Fred Meyer's behest. It's not entirely clear what the rules are here. Does water only melt wicked witches? Only witches of a certain type, perhaps because they extended their lifespans with a particular sort of magic? It's never totally clear. Neither is how someone can avoid water for even a normal lifespan, let alone one lengthened by magic. In the Futurama parody of The Wizard of Oz, Mom plays the Wicked Witch of West, and she puts it quite well: "Who would have thought a tiny amount of liquid would ever fall on me?" Then, when Leela tries to take her place, she's immediately taken out by an overflowing toilet. It's one thing to keep away from wells and bathtubs (although you'd think witches would end of being awfully smelly), but rain can come up pretty suddenly. Maybe witches who are susceptible to water have some form of weather control magic. And as we see in the very first Oz book, the water-soluble Witch allows her slave to access water for the purposes of cleaning and bathing. This issue is one that's been discussed quite frequently and thoroughly in Oz fandom, with no real conclusion forthcoming. As I indicated earlier, water might also be an effective weapon against certain dragons. This is again a Thompsonian invention, although it appears to be based on something in Baum. In Tik-Tok, the dragon Quox informs his companions that his kind have fires inside of them that keep them going and presumably never burn out under normal circumstances. Grampa seems to run with this idea by having a dragon named Enorma die when her flame is extinguished by an icy stream. And Dismocolese, the dragon in Enchanted Island, is afraid of water. The list continues with the Ogre of Oh-Go-Wan in one of Thompson's King Kojo stories. These aren't Oz stories, but they're similar in tone and could easily take place in the same world as the more famous fairyland. In this tale, the ogre dissolves in the ocean. This is presumably not the same ogre as Og from Pirates, who also identifies himself as the Ogre of Ogowan (note different spelling, however), and lives on a small island. While water might not be effective against all ogres, or indeed all witches or dragons, it really strikes me that an Oz explorer's first move upon encountering an enemy should pretty much always be throwing water at him or her. Well, maybe not if they're made of water, because then it would probably just strengthen them.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Fairy Circle in Oz

And next up in the Oz reading is the follow up to Wooglet in Oz by Hugh Pendexter III. Except this is by Chris Dulabone himself.

It also follows up on the "Egor's Funhouse" series of books by Chris, but I've yet to read any of those yet.

The Fairy Circle in Oz finds Wooglet returning to Oz years after her last visit, and she joins Jellia Jamb on a mission to help the Love Fairy Amouretto recover the magic mirror from Egor's Funhouse that served as a portal from Egor's dimension to Oz.

They discover the mirror was taken by a slug-monster from the Sluggarden, an anti-magical place. The effect this could have if it is not recovered right away could destroy the entire earth.

After a ride in a hot air balloon (which involves a humorous tipsy scene), they must take Egor's rocket ship, which sends them to a planet inhabited by birds with surfboard-shaped bodies. Can anyone help Jellia, Wooglet, the Love Fairy and Egor off this planet? Ozma? Egor's friends at the fun house?

The story is a wild and rollicking fantasy by Chris and a lot of fun, though I would suggest that one familiarize themselves with some Chris' other work first. The illustrations by Anon E. Mouse (Marcus Mebes) are some of his better work. He manages to pull off elegant human forms and remarkably funny humanoid forms.

Something I found surprising was that there's what could be considered a gay couple in this story, though I'm not sure that's correct. King Genovarma was made a very handsome man due to a gift from the Love Fairy herself. He became vain and jailed a man he thought was handsomer named Xwingline, as he wanted no competition in selecting a bride. However, due to his overwhelming envy, he decided to marry Xwingline instead. The two admired each other until one day they were transformed into the slug monster in the Sluggarden. It is written in a way that depicts an unhealthy obsession with physical beauty rather than an actual love.

I find the Fun House to be quite a fun idea indeed and look forward to reading about it in some of Chris' other books.

Get your copy of The Fairy Circle in Oz here.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Do It For Oz

I haven't talked about any Oz books for awhile, and the reason is...

...hold on, there's something at the door.


Hey! Shipping from Belen is really fast! Got a new box of Oz books from Chris Dulabone!

Huh, which one to read next... Hmmm... Ah, Do It For Oz looks fun, and I recall reading Eric Gjovaag's review of it on his website. Let's try that one!

One day later...

Do It For Oz isn't a long Oz story. It was written in 1990, but wasn't published until 2002. Partly because Chris really doesn't like publishing Oz books without pictures, and considering this one is illustrated by Luciano Vecchio, it was worth waiting for!

Do It draws from a number of Baum books: The Road to Oz, The Enchanted Island of Yew and Dot and Tot of Merryland chiefly.

The book starts on the pleasantly titled Island of Malaria in the Nonestic Ocean, where the jolly Duke reigns with his not so jolly wife Madame Innador. Since they have no children, the Duke put Madame in charge of the orphanage, where his favorite orphan is a little girl named Duit. Duit, however, is also the target for most of Madame's cruelty.

One day, though, Duit is given a gift by a centaur: she can turn into a cat and escape punishment. Duit manages to do this until one day she is finally caught.

Then we catch up with Johnny Dooit, who made a brief appearance in The Road to Oz, as he finally gets a little break from his ongoing work. There are some fun misadventures along the way!

Then we go to the Island of Yew, where we find what became of the Red Rogue of Dawna (I believe I have yet to blog about that book), whose backstory Chris expands on, giving him the name Stora. He wishes himself to America, where he gets a job in a grocery store and decides he wants to find Johnny Dooit to help him find Prince Marvel. Who he does meet is Madame Innador. When she hears he's looking for "Dooit," she thinks of "Duit" and assumes they must be one and the same person. So off they go to find her!

So, while Do It For Oz is short, it makes for a delightful book, that is, if you're used to Chris' writing style. And Luciano's artwork make it quite a visually pleasing book as well.

Buy Do It For Oz here!

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Speculations on Santa Claus

Last week, I did my annual re-reading of The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, a Baum book I blogged about so much, I eventually ran out of things to say about it. (Check the Santa Claus tag.)

For our new blog readers who haven't seen those blogs, basically, this book tells Baum's own unique take on the Santa Claus mythos. He has no ties to St. Nicholas and would likely denounce the title "Father Christmas." Baum's Santa Claus is actually named Claus and "Santa" is just a form of the word "saint." (Likely intended to be how a child mispronounced it.)

Baum's Claus was raised by the immortal Wood-Nymphs of the Forest of Burzee, a forest later revealed to be south of the Land of Oz. When Claus grew up, he committed himself to bringing joy to children's lives, first by being their friend, and later by giving them gifts of toys he'd make from wood and clay and later other materials. Eventually, the Immortals decide to give him the Mantle of Immortality so he may continue his giving gifts (which has been limited to Christmas Eve) forever.

The book's tone is unique in Baum's juvenile work. When discussing the Immortals, Baum evokes a mystical tone, telling us much about how they live, but it feels more like he is letting us in on a wonderful secret.

The tone changes when discussing the life of Claus: suddenly here is the Baum we know, here's his classic fairy tale style, just now he's giving us a biography instead of his adventure or journey stories.

Something I did think of while reading it this time is that Claus' first toys are made of carved wood. Baum himself did woodwork, making a bit of furniture for his summer cottage in Macatawa Park, Michigan. He also carved the sign for his cottage that he called "The Sign of the Goose," which featured a wooden goose standing in a circle.

I almost wonder if one of Baum's sons (likely one of his latter two) saw him making the sign and asked if that was how Santa Claus made toys, and from that question came the spark of inspiration for this book.

Baum himself must have identified quite a bit with Santa Claus, and I almost feel as if Baum's Claus is Baum putting what he hoped were his best traits into a character. Quite likely, they were exaggerated. One of Baum's sons remembered how one year they had four Christmas trees, one for each of the four boys.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

What About That Wizard?

Over three years ago, I pointed out how Glinda might not be as good as we think. And today, it hit me that the Wizard is, in fact, holding a powerful secret that makes him the most powerful magic worker in Oz.

In The Magic of Oz, the Wizard learns the magic word "pyrzqxgl" which can transform anything or anyone into anything. By the end of the story, the Wizard is presumably the only one in Oz who knows it, except maybe Bini Aru. The only other people who knew it had their memories wiped.

Consider that: a word capable of complete transformation. And only one person knows it.

Did he tell Glinda? Well, Glinda would know he had the secret by the Book of Records, unless he could alter it with the word.

Did the Wizard ever use the word after The Magic of Oz? We aren't told, though there are a variety of places in the Famous Forty where he could have. But where's the fun in that?

Actually, there's one point in the Famous Forty where I feel sure the Wizard did use "pyrzqxgl." It's in The Giant Horse of Oz as Ozma and company set everything back to rights in the Ozure Islands. The Sea Horses are long dead due to a monster eating them and only their bones remain. But after the monster's destruction, the Sea Horses appear to have come back to life. Thompson's explanation:
...when they all crowded curiously around the Wizard he merely shook his head and muttered that restoring a herd of sea horses from a pile of bones was quite easy—if you just knew how. And with this answer they were forced to be satisfied.
 You see that?


What else can he do? Create life? Life that answers only to him? Slim down? Fatten up? Look at the continuity in John R. Neill's pictures of him! His weight (and age) is all over!

Actually, in Wonder City, doesn't he make himself unrecognizable to Number Nine and turn Jenny Jump into a younger version of herself and remove parts of her personality? This is one great and terrible guy we're dealing with!

So, does Ozma keep Glinda and the Wizard around because she's scared of them, or because she needs to keep an eye on them?
This has been a tongue-in-cheek but completely plausible speculation blog entry.

Monday, December 03, 2012

The Royal Podcast of Oz: Christmas Poems by Ruth Plumly Thompson

For Christmas 2012, we present five Christmas poems by Ruth Plumly Thompson, read by Arthur Davis, Mike Conway, Kim McFarland, Sam Milazzo and Jared Davis.

As always, you can listen and download at the podcast site or use the player below.



Podcast Powered By Podbean