Monday, August 19, 2013

Thoughts on Oziana

So, last night, I finished reading the 2005 issue of Oziana. I'd already read the 2006 issue a while back, and read the 2007 issue when it came out, as well as subsequent issues. So, I've now read the entire run of Oziana, from 1971 to 2012. (I look forward to the forthcoming 2013 issue!)

Oziana contains stories, poems, art, games, and even in one case, sheet music created by Oz fans. The 1971 issue contained a letter from Harvey Plotnik, the then-president of Reilly & Lee, stating that the company had "no objections to the use of any characters and locations in the series." This has allowed Oziana to publish work referencing anything from the Famous Forty Oz books. Basing a work on other copyrighted interpretations of Oz require prior permission. (An as-of-yet unpublished story written for Oziana briefly features Tempus from Paradox in Oz by Edward Einhorn. Einhorn's permission was obtained for using the story in Oziana.)

There's a myriad of stories in Oziana, and when I told the current editor that I finally had a complete set, he informed me that I had some of the best and worst Oz fiction ever published. To be honest, I didn't spot anything that was so horrible that history would be better without it, but there are some tedious stories.

A surprising number of stories fill in gaps between Oz books and explain things. "Mombi's Polka Dot Vest" explains where Mombi got the clothes that Tip used to dress Jack Pumpkinhead. "The Merchant of Oz" explains why there is no money in Oz in The Road to Oz. "Evrob and the Nomes" lets us look at the state of the Nome Kingdom just after The Emerald City of Oz. Unfortunately, some of these stories get too carried away with explaining that they could really only be enjoyed by someone already quite familiar with the series. (Of the ones mentioned, only "Merchant" somewhat suffers from that in my opinion. The other two are fine stories on their own.)

There have been a lot of shifting opinions in Oz fiction. A lot of early Oziana stories played it safe with little new happening in Oz. Eventually, though, people began to write bold new adventures for the Oz characters. The entire 1996 issue was a story that followed up Speedy in Oz. Sometimes, stories offer peeks at the Oz characters. One tale features the Wizard coming up with a potion to turn the Tin Woodman back into flesh, and he must decide if he actually wants it. One story even features the fates of Mr. and Mrs. Yoop.

A number of Oz writers got their start in Oziana. My own story "Bud and the Red Jinn," was my first published work of fiction. I already discussed Eric Shanower's start in Oziana. Among her artwork and stories for Oziana over the years, Melody Grandy published a couple stories that would later become chapters of The Seven Blue Mountains of Oz trilogy. Donald Abbot's first version of How The Wizard Came To Oz was in the 1976 issue of Oziana. Nathan DeHoff has only been published in Oziana, but I hope he will publish some of his Oz stories in book form soon.

Just before this year's Winkie Convention, I discussed with the people at breakfast that it is quite possible that Oz has the most fan fiction ever written for it. Rachel Cosgrove's The Hidden Valley of Oz began as a story that we'd call fan fiction, except she submitted it and got it published. And if she did that, who else did? It was very fortunate that the International Wizard of Oz Club got Oziana going so that some of this could actually be seen and enjoyed by all. The legal clearance from Reilly & Lee was needed in 1971 as only the first two Oz books were public domain at the time.

Today, with people able to put out a book for free using a print-on-demand service or put it online in some form, Oziana can now afford to try to showcase the best results of Oz fan works. Long live Oziana!
To submit work to Oziana, contact current editor Marcus Mebes. You can also submit your work to the International Wizard of Oz Club's research table and possibly win a prize as well as getting your work in Oziana! E-mail the heads of the research table for more information.


Glenn Ingersoll said...

hi Jared,

Could you imagine a "best of Oziana"? A top-5 stories, say?

Jared said...

Possibly, but I'd want some help narrowing it down.

Glenn Ingersoll said...

Let me change the question.

Are there stories that you remember especially fondly (other than your own) ... can you think of 5 (an arbitrary number, feel free to change it)? Or maybe break it down into decades - the two that stuck in your mind from the 70s, the 80s, etc.?

It's been ages since I sat down with Oziana. I remember I reread my "Cowardly Lion and the Courage Pills" ten years after it was published - and was underwhelmed. {sigh} But I also remember stories like The Silver Shoes of Oz, which struck me positively, although I recall not being especially taken by the personification of the elements (the gods?) in that story.

I know my tastes have changed over the years - I'm intrigued rather than dubious about varieties of Oz other than the Baumesque, for instance.

I'm curious about your thoughts.

J. L. Bell said...

I didn't start "Evrob and the Nomes" with any thought of exploring the Nome Kingdom after Ruggedo lost his memory. The initial inspiration was the scene of Prince Evrob on the beach, feeling oppressed by his big family. Only after the little prince was on his way to the Nomes did I think about what situation he might find there.

The idea of a "Best of Oziana" comes up regularly. There are some copyright issues involved. First, does the permission grant that allows stories connected with all the Reilly & Britton/Lee Oz books to be published in the magazine also extend to ancillary collections? Second, would the authors and artists give permissions for a secondary publication? And then there's the question of what exactly is the best of the collection.

Jared said...

I think Glenn was asking me to make a list of what stories I thought were the best rather than look into compiling a collection.

Glenn Ingersoll said...

Yes, Jared. Your personal whim is solicited.

Nathan said...

I don't know about the most fan fiction, but there was definitely quite a bit of it around long before the term "fan fiction" came into popular usage. Earlier sources tend to call such writings "pastiches," but that's not always technically accurate, as a pastiche is supposed to be in the style of the original.

I believe "The Romance of the Silver Shoes" credited Mercury with the creation of the shoes, but there are several different origin stories given in fan works.