Sunday, October 31, 2010


Okay, I'm going to take a whack at answering some questions about rather dark subjects in the Oz books.
  1. How did the Wicked Witch of the West melt?
    In Michael Patrick Hearn's The Annotated Wizard of Oz, he quotes an article in the Baum Bugle by Dr. Douglas A. Rossman. This mentions hydrolysis, "a chemical process in which a certain molecule is split into two parts by the addition of a molecule of water." Baum mentions the Wicked Witch of the East, who crumbles into dust, "was so old... that she dried up quickly in the sun." The Wicked Witch of the West doesn't bleed when Toto bites her, explaining "she was so wicked that the blood in her had dried up many years before."

    From this, it is easily assumed that the Wicked Witches were not immortal by nature. They have enchanted themselves to keep themselves from crumbling into dust. When the Wicked Witch of the East is struck by Dorothy's house, the force is too great for even her magic, and she is rendered unconscious, if not dead, by the weight of the house. Her enchantment wears off, letting her body crumble into dust.

    Similarly, the Wicked Witch of the West's body cannot stand certain forces. Thus, when water strikes her, her molecules are split by the addition of water, or, if you prefer, her body absorbs the water, turning her into a liquid, like how flour can become paste by the addition of water. Dorothy further liquidates this goo in the book by throwing another bucket of water on her.
  2. Do people die in Oz?
    Baum maintained that people and animals could not die under normal circumstances, but they could be "destroyed." I'd assume that if someone was cremated in Oz, they would be considered "destroyed." Thompson refers to people being "utterly destroyed" by magic. I'd assume this would mean being removed from existence, but in all cases where a villain threatens this, it is never carried out. However, it has happened in the past, though this could easily have been another transformation.

    In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, we have some conflicting reports. The Kalidahs that fall into a gulf, we are told, "were dashed to pieces on the sharp rocks at the bottom." Not quite killed, as a Kalidah in The Magic of Oz survives being impaled and goes to be magically mended by the Kalidah King.

    We are told definitely that the Wicked Witch of the West's crows, wolves, bees, as well as the giant spider died. It would appear death was in Oz, and somehow, death stopped after Ozma took the throne. Edward Einhorn's excellent Paradox in Oz explains this with a delicious time travel twist. (Assuming no death is a side effect of the anti-aging enchantment.) That book also explains the conflicting report in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, how Nick Chopper managed to stay alive, imparting his life and consciousness into his new tin body.

    I assume there are other fan theories aside from Paradox in Oz detailing how death was removed yet Nick Chopper survived dismemberment before that. One I had was that he had fairy blood in his family.

Okay, and if you have any other questions, post them in the comments, and if I can come up with an answer, I'll edit it in.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Jack Pumpkinhead of Oz

Well, isn't this an appropriate time of year to write this one?

In a change of pace for Thompson, we open in Philadelphia with Peter from The Gnome King of Oz. He and his grandfather put the gold Peter got in that story to use, putting one bag in the bank for Peter's college fund, and the other bag they basically blew. (All on fun stuff, but still...) Peter kept the sacks, though, and he finds a small leftover gold piece. He toys with it and wishes he was back in Oz and then he finds himself just outside Jack Pumpkinhead's home.

Jack greets him and theorizes that the coin was a "piece of change." They decide to head to the Emerald City, but Jack takes the wrong road.

Thompson really gets on a roll with new places to explore here: they visit Chimneyville, home of the Chimney-villains, who are living beings of smoke; a Goody Shop that sells only Good things, but not exactly what they want; and they even come across a live Christmas Tree that is ready to snatch what it can for ornaments. However, when they refuse to give things to it, it throws ornaments, including a silver bell inscribed "The Red Djinn's dinner bell," which when rung summons a black servant boy who gives Peter a dinner.

Then we head over to Scare City, where King Harum Scarum finds Jack and Peter un-scare-able. Using the dinner bell, Peter defends himself by throwing dishes at Harum. Finally, their luck runs out, and Harum is about to attack, when the pirate sack Peter's been carrying from home sucks up Harum, and all the other Scares in the city, except a griffin called Snif, who has lost his growl—his "gr—rr"—and now calls himself an Iffin and often speaks in rhyme. He offers to fly them to the Emerald City.

The trio takes a break in the Land of Barons, where they meet Baron Belfaygor, who has a constantly growing beard that has led him to a life of seclusion, while the cruel Baron Mogodore has kidnapped his love Shirley Sunshine to force her to marry him. The quartet decides to rescue her, but before they can get to Mogodore's castle, Snif eats some shrinking violets and shrinks. But, a clever plan from Snif helps them reach the castle.

For a bit, we follow Mogodore and Shirley Sunshine, who doesn't think much of the cruel Baron. She unwittingly convinces him to conquer Ozma and the Emerald City. We also learn of the Forbidden Flagon. If it is opened, a dreadful disaster will befall Mogodore's city of Baffleburg. Mogodore is curious as to what exactly would happen.

Peter and his friends arrive and pretending to be powerful magicians, make their way to Mogodore, who sees through their bluff and has them thrown into a dungeon, the sack falling to the ground.

Peter and Snif escape when the effect of the shrinking violets wears off, making Snif burst through the bars of the cell. They quickly free the others, find the sack, and, having heard about the Forbidden Flagon, take that as well.

After a misadventure in Swing City, a city of acrobats, they find Mogodore on the march to the Emerald City. They attempt to swoop down and have him swallowed by the sack, only to have Snif, Peter, and Belfayor swallowed instead, leaving Jack with a broken leg, the Flagon, the sack, and the dinner bell. Having an idea, Jack rings the bell and grabs the black boy who appears, disappearing with him into the castle of the Red Jinn. (The spelling mysteriously changes in the book.)

Jack finds himself in the palace of the Red Jinn, a portly fellow who wears a red glass jar. He gives Jack some advice before Jack mysteriously vanishes.

It so happens that Mogodore arrives in the Emerald City as Ozma and her court is playing Blind Man's Bluff. Mogodore sees that Ozma is prettier than Shirley Sunshine and decides to marry Ozma instead. As a banquet for Mogodore ensues, Mogodore uses the Magic Belt to bring the Flagon. Jack appears, removes his head, and hurls the Flagon at Mogodore.

Mogodore and the people of Baffleburg are restore to their original forms: tiny people only a few inches high. Mogodore's ancestors had done a sorcerer a favor, and he returned it by making them normal sized people, the enchantment maintained as long as the Flagon was intact. Ozma returns the Baffleburgians to the now reduced city of Baffleburg.

The people captured by the sack are restored simply by holding it upside down and shaking it, so even the people of Scare City are restored and head home. Peter, Snif, and Belfayor emerge. Snif has found his growl again, so he is a Griffin again. Belfayor's beard is permanently gone, and he marries Shirley Sunshine. Peter goes home.

Altogether, I was impressed by Thompson's story. I thought her characterization for Jack was a little off, but she explained it was because of Jack's changing heads also making variations in his character. Unlike some of her other books, a linear plot was maintained, stepping away only to introduce situations when they were coming into the story.

Even better, at the end, no one is left unjustly punished or enchanted or transformed in a disturbing way.

So, Jack Pumpkinhead of Oz, well done, Thompson!

But who was that Red Jinn guy? Will we ever find out exactly where Jack went off to? Or is this going to be left unanswered?

Friday, October 29, 2010

The HorrOz Return . . . !

This is Sam Milazzo of Australia.

Back in 2009, I made and uploaded my first Halloween Oz video to Youtube:

Now, in 2010, it has spawned . . . . a SEQUEL. Duh-duh-duuuuuuuuuuuuuhh!!

Yes, it's too early to be posting, but Jared suggested I do so. And I agree, it will allow Youtubers to see it with plenty of time and more comments to come in on the day.

Still, even though it's early, Happy Halloween for 2010!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Penhale Broadcast

The fourth story in Dark Music is less macabre and more mysterious.

In the Penhale cemetery, the voice of late opera soloist Sonya Parrish has been heard singing. This happens regularly, so the WXAT radio station devises an immense broadcast experiment: someone will sit out in the graveyard with a microphone, and the ghostly singing will be broadcast throughout the world.

The man selected is Adrian Ramsey. At midnight on broadcast night, Adrian is in the graveyard alone with only a microphone. After a long introduction, the ghostly singing is heard, filling the entire world with wonder.

Adrian continutes the broadcast.
"Sonya Parrish has sung," a slight tremble in his voice betrayed his emotion. "Sonya Parrish has sung for the greatest audience ever assembled. As I look about me, I bow my head with humility. Never was a mortal man favored with such a sight. I see the world's immortals gathered in this little graveyard to pay homage to the divine artistry of Sonya Parrish. There—not twenty oaces from me—stands great Caesar with his Roman court. And there—resplendent in the many-colored robes of the Orient—Marco Polo, the dreamer and adventurer. And there—kindly-visaged Shakespeare, mightiest of all the men of letters. His keen eyes gleam with heart-felt appreciation of the artistry he has just witnessed. And there is another divine woman, whose memory the world cherishes—the great Bernhardt, more magnetic and lovely than words can tell. Her eyes are moist with tears, a beautiful tribute to Sonya Parrish's art."

This confounds the listeners, but then Sonya's ghost performs an encore. Adrian concludes:
"Sonya Parrish has sung again," came the voice from the loudspeaker. "She will sing no more tonight. For those who have assembled here she has displayed the magic of her great art. I bow my head in the glory of the moment in which I am permitted to speak. Such glory has never before come to a man. I am humble before the multitude that is Sonya Parrish's audience." Ramsey pause, then continued in a voice that was curiously subdued. "And reverently, worshipfully I speak of One who has lately joined the multitude. For Him the great ones made way as for a King. He is garbed simply in a white robe that falls from His shoulders. A circlet of thorns crowns His head. His eyes are kind and gentle and more wise than—"

Adrian cuts out. Everyone is glad of the success, and the technicians just outside the graveyard go to collect Adrian. They cannot see him until they are at his microphone. At the base, Adrian lies dead.
In his eyes shone the light of a greater glory than any living man had ever before looked upon.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Anchor

The third story in Dark Music returns to Snow's more macabre and weird side, but we begin to see some themes Snow revisits.

A young man named Ailil loves boating on the lake at night, surrounded by nature and peace. One night, though, he sees a girl in cabin at the side of the lake, so lovely, that she seems to be a human version of everything he loves about the lake. They spend a night together, but the next morning, she is gone, and Ailil feels an urging to leave the lake. He begins pulling up the anchor to his boat.
And then Ailil saw that which sent him forever from the lake, never to return. Caught on a fork of the anchor was a human skeleton, dripping with mud and ooze, and long divested of the clothing of flesh which Ailil knew in a terrible moment had once been white, and tinged with the pallor of finely chiseled ivory.

Monday, October 18, 2010


The second story in Snow's Dark Music is not quite a horror story.

Very much, a Queen is getting ready to celebrate her diamond jubilee, but through the pomp and everything, a strange little girl catches her eye. Oddly enough, the girl follows her around. The Queen is perplexed as to why the child is unattended, but makes up her mind that she will be friendly to the girl, should she ever come in direct contact with her.

As the Queen goes to her bedroom to rest for the evening ceremonies, she sees the girl run into the bedroom. Intending to let the girl have a pleasant time before sending her home, she says not a word. As the doors close, one of the maids in waiting hears pleasant, rippling laughter.

As the evening festivities begin, the queen does not emerge from her room.
... the Queen's ladies in waiting opened the door of the chamber, and entered. They walked a few steps into the room, and then stood frozen. The Queen sat in a great chair by a window. She was very quiet. A smile lay on her lips. She was not sleeping. She was dead. The afternoon sunlight fell in a slanting ray across the room to a wall opposite where it bathed with a golden flood of luminance the portrait of a little girl with a halo of aureate hair—a tiny little sprite of a girl, whose youth and vivacity the artist had caught so successfully that the little figure seemed about to go dancing and skipping out of the frame. It was a picture of the Queen painted a few weeks after her coronation when she was a child 5 years old.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Dark Music

In my last blog, I mentioned Jack Snow had written horror stories. He sent these to magazines and some saw publication. He even got a book of these stories published, entitled Dark Music And Other Spectral Tales. One of Hungry Tiger Press' first books was a paperback entitled Spectral Snow: The Dark Fantasies of Jack Snow, which contained some stories from Dark Music, as well as a story not in that collection and Snow's "A Murder in Oz."

I have both of these books, and have decided to review each story in October.

"Dark Music" is a story told from the perspective of a man who has bought a parcel of land in the country to vacation in. After spending some time there, he comes across an old hermit who is living on his land. The hermit tells him to leave, but our narrator is indignant, it is legally his land.

After a few more run-ins, our narrator and the hermit decide to peacefully co-exist, as they are not really interfering with each other. The hermit, named Aaron, becomes fond of our narrator and decides to show him something he's been working on. At night, Aaron brings out a cage of bats, and to our narrator's surprise, they make music, Aaron explaining that he has attached tiny pipes to their wings, making notes when they flap their wings. Even more, he has these bats trained to make music. Our narrator is amazed at this, but Aaron assures him the real surprise is still in store.

One night, Aaron shows our narrator the full scope of what he's been doing. He has a whole swarm of bats with these attachments, trained. Aaron plays a chilling symphony for our narrator, an experience which leaves him unable to enjoy music again, as the sounds are so gruesome he can no longer bear it.

The next morning, our narrator decides to go home, but when he goes to say good-bye to Aaron, he discovers the bats turned on him and ate him alive. Disgusted at this, he sets Aaron's cave on fire, also, presumably, killing all the bats. One bat falls out, and he stamps its head with his foot. As he examines it, he discovers there are no pipes on the wings.
I was standing with the the bat in my hand, so that the golden-green luminance of the glen shone full upon it. I looked more closely at the creature's face. Clots of half-dried blood were darkly smeared about its mouth and nostrils—human blood—Old Aaron's blood. I felt faintly ill. Suddenly, the bat's mouth gaped open. It was not dead, as I had supposed.

And then occurred the final horror, the ultimate loathsomeness. As the bat's mouth gaped wide, I couldn't escape seeing that deep in its mouth, protruding from its throat—inserted there with what must have been astounding skill so that it formed an integral part of the bat's breathing apparatus—was one of Old Aaron's tiny pipes.

While my skin crawled, the bat breathed its death gasp. From the little pipe there burst an obscene bleat of sound that was an echo of the demoniac symphony that had shrieked through the glen the night before.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

RATS! And Other Frustrations

Good Oz authors also prove to be prolific authors. L. Frank Baum also wrote mysteries and adventure thrillers, Jack Snow wrote horror stories, Eloise Jarvis McGraw wrote a variety of books, three of them winning Newbery Honors. Even more recent Oz authors get outside of Oz, like Eric Shanower's comic series Age of Bronze. No exception is Marcus Mebes, who recently released a collection entitled RATS! And Other Frustrations, containing revised and rewritten stories and poems he came up with in high school and college.

The book contains three short stories and two poems. The poems are written very well, but you can't really review poetry in depth.

The first story "RATS!" peeks in at the life of four people living in their mundane existences. However, when each of their lives seem to be taking a fatal turn, they find themselves in a gigantic maze with no idea who each other are or what they are doing there.

The next (and shortest) story in the book is "Luna Moths" must really be read, so all I'll say is it is about a woman who climbs a mountain to see something no one else can.

Finally, there is "Be A Wolf." And if you think that sounds like Beowulf, it is based on that story, but now presented as historical fiction, applied to the colonization of what becomes Shreveport, Louisiana, where the author lives. The analogy works brilliantly as told by a Civil War soldier and a Caddo Indian.

I found these stories to be well-written and very enjoyable, and I am trying to not be biased as Marcus is a friend of mine. Each scene in the stories is vividly described and very easy to imagine, aided by amazing illustrations by Alejandro Garcia.

I always seem to enjoy non-Oz work by Oz authors, and this is no exception. I recommend it, but be warned that these are not stories for children, and Marcus briefly uses some language that would be inappropriate for them.

You can get the book here in paperback or a download.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Shipwrecked in Oz

Once you get an Oz fan writing, they don't really stop, and Marcus Mebes is no exception. And no, he didn't stick to 50-page books.

At hand, I have Shipwrecked of Oz, a delightful tale of how Jinnicky the Red Jinn of Ev decides to take a cruise. However, his yacht is wrecked in a storm, and he sinks to the bottom of the ocean in his jar, which he makes water-tight. The crew is rescued by Captain Salt in The Crescent Moon, which has been joined by Trot & Cap'n Bill. However, when a rescue mission is thwarted by an eel man and his eels who have been disrupting the peace of the nearby merfolk, it turns out rescuing Jinnicky is just the beginning of their troubles.

While Shipwrecked maintains the fresh writing approach evident in The Bashful Baker of Oz, Marcus properly makes use of the classic characters, thus giving the story a classic feel. And it's an exciting story, too! It was one where I wanted to get back to the story and finish it when I was forced to take a break.

So, yes, definitely a recommended Oz book!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

The Bashful Baker of Oz

Marcus Mébes should be a familiar name to Oz fans, and if he isn't, then they're obviously not living right. He was the production designer for just about all of the International Wizard of Oz Club's publications for awhile, and still works with them.

He's also written a few Oz stories of his own. One of them is The Bashful Baker of Oz, originally a short story in Oziana, now a 50-page Oz book of its own.

The story peeks into the life of Maria, a young baker who lives in Crafton, a place where everyone uses their talents for the community. Maria's is baking. As the title suggests, she's a shy girl.

However, she has a friend in Lord Luka, a friend of Ozma's. He encourages her to go to the Emerald City and leave Crafton behind. Finally, one day, feeling that she is being overlooked in favor of her talents, Maria goes to the Emerald City. But will she find everything exactly as Luka promised her?

Marcus mainly deals with his own new characters, but when a classic Oz character appears, they match the pre-established characterizations. Marcus writes with a style that is upbeat and lively. This brings a welcome volt of energy to Oz.

I only have two complaints about The Bashful Baker of Oz. For some reason, the third and fourth chapters have the same title. Not sure if that was a typo or anything. The other is that the story ends on page 50. It's a bit short, especially carrying a book on its own.

But anyways, I'd recommend it for anyone who just wants to read a good Oz story.