Tuesday, September 27, 2011


My last few blogs were just reviews. Why? My computer was down for over a week and I could only blog at the library. Where you get two 1-hour sessions per day.

I intended to get two podcasts out in September, but my computer issues delayed the editing of one until now. I interviewed Tommy Kovac, writer of the Royal Historian of Oz comic series, but was forced to use my brother's laptop to make the call, and I wound up forgetting to set the recording program to record at 128kbps instead of the default 64kbps. So if you find the audio quality lacking a bit, there's your answer.

Something that happened recently is that The International Wizard of Oz Club Forums has decided to close, encouraging users to discuss things on the Club's Facebook page. For me, the forums is where I learned so much about Oz and the community. I asked questions, said some dumb things and said some good things. Eventually, I started blogging about certain topics rather that posting them for discussion there. And now here I am, over 600 blog entries later. (I think we're almost at blog entry 666...)

Since not everyone likes Facebook for a message board (I don't, there's no organization and you can't edit your posts), I have been consulting with my webhost about opening up forums as part of the Royal Website of Oz. More on that as it arises.

Given that, we're also looking at setting up a proper fan fiction site, because my last attempt at one, using forum software, didn't work out so well. Again, more on that as it happens. (The site might also expose talent for future issues of the Club's Oziana.)

And we're also looking at working on an extensive library site of public domain Oz and Oz-related works. I was going to put the Oz books on my site as PDFs to be e-reader friendly, but it looks like I should've just gone with plain flowing HTML all along... Thank goodness for Calibre!

So, with a wiki, playable games, a podcast, a blog, and forums, user-submitted fan fiction, and a library in the works, we might be becoming one of the biggest Oz sites.

Also, as people keeping up to date on the Winkie Convention probably already know, I'm hosting the standard quiz next year and providing the prize. I have picked a perfectly petite Pumperdinkian prize for the prizewinner. So peruse your paperback Sky Island (or hardcover, or ebook) and put by your pay and pop up at the 2012 Winkie Convention! And who knows what else I might do?

Finally, I've been collecting issues of The Baum Bugle and Oziana for reading and research purposes. (So this means I'm counting the Best of the Baum Bugle collections along with the issues.) Right now, I'm just reading The Baum Bugle and learning so much about the Club and Oz history. There's also so many images I hadn't seen before, including photos of the Royal Historians.

Bit of trivia, the Autumn, 1972 issue permanently broke a Baum Bugle tradition that had been in place since the first issue: it was stapled together. (And yes, some members were upset about this.) Also, if you ever see it, take a good look at the cover image. If you think you recognize it and have seen it before, look again.

So there we go, just Ozzing it up. And there's a few other Ozzy things I'm working on I'm not blogging about quite yet.

Monday, September 26, 2011

BBC Radio 4 - The Wizard of Oz

1996 saw the BBC's first radio adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, now under its shorter title. (Is it just me, or did calling it "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" become widespread again after the centennial?) About two hours long, it was initially only available on cassette in the UK. Since then, it's been released on CD in the US and available on Audible.

The adaptation opens with a Judy Garland-esque sounding Dorothy playing with Toto. However this might strike you, it actually follows the book pretty well. Often times, dialogue is lifted directly from Baum and then expanded on. It's almost like something you'd give a MGM movie fan who was reluctant to read the book: something that follows Baum much more closely but flows a lot like the movie.

The nitty gritty: there are four witches, the DOA Wicked Witch of the East, the Good Witch of the North, Glinda, and the Wicked Witch of the West. However, the trip to Glinda's is omitted and she arrives in the Emerald City, saying she felt she was needed due to her "witch's intuition." The Wicked Witch of the West is introduced early, making her feel more like the major villain (unlike Baum), but she doesn't reveal herself to Dorothy like Margaret Hamilton's witch (though she does sound familiar). She keeps an eye on Dorothy from the moment she arrives in Oz, the scene shifting from Dorothy and Co. to the Witch. Early on, I can swear she says she's using a telescope, but later, she mentions her magic eye.

Now, the early introduction of the Wicked Witch allows for some nice moments to set up her character ("If I was a good witch, I suppose I'd go and warn them about those poppies..."), but making her role as a villain larger is one of the reasons why the trip to Glinda's wouldn't work: now the villain's defeated, it's time for the rewards. But in Baum, there isn't a central villain, just a challenge Dorothy needs to overcome: getting back to her family.

The voice acting, if a little MGM-inspired, is top notch! Though the Tin Woodman and some minor characters do have UK accents. The Lion is played up with a over-the-top Bert Lahr-ish Brooklyn accent. However, neither Good Witch really tries to channel Billie Burke.

The overall production quality is very good, but then, this is BBC Radio. However, I must admit to not being able to recall how any of the music sounds.

So, if one wants to hear how Oz has been adapted for audio, this is one version that shouldn't be missed, but given other adaptations of the book for audio have hewed even closer while still being great audio versions, it might not be the best.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

BBC Radio 4 - The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

BBC Radio dramatizations are well known for being high quality productions with music and a faithful adaptation. But would you believe they've done The Wonderful Wizard of Oz twice?

Their first adaptation was done in the 1990s, but we'll get to that one later. The one at hand is a bit more recent, from December 2009.

The production runs about an hour with superb music, sound effects, and voice acting. The thing is, rather than rushing through Baum's story, writer Linda Marshall decided to do some revisions. The story opens right with the cyclone coming towards Dorothy's home, immediately setting up an exciting, serious, and suspenseful pace.

When Dorothy arrives in Oz, she sees smoke and thinks her house is on fire, but a Munchkin arrives and tells her that it is the Wicked Witch of the East dying. Shortly, they fight off a flying monkey together before the Good Witch of the North arrives. In Marshall's Oz, Witches are invisible to those afraid of them, which makes the Wicked Witches extra dangerous, and renders the Good Witches invisible.

Dorothy sets off down the yellow brick road, where she meets the Scarecrow, but as she tires, they find a cottage, and outside, the Tin Woodman (played by Torchwood's Burn Gorman), who has a different origin story this time: his dedication to his work made him heartless, as he replaced severed limbs with tin. (I do not think this change was for the better, as it makes him less of a likable character.) The lion soon appears and refuses to hurt Dorothy. He's fleeing for his life, as Kalidahs are nearby. (He even blames the Tin Woodman for cutting down too many trees, removing hiding places for animals.)

The Kalidahs attack and the lion is forced to carry Dorothy and the Scarecrow over a ditch to save them. The Tin Woodman has to cut a tree down so he can cross, and then manages to get it into the ditch, killing the Kalidah. Soon, they find the Emerald City, which sounds like a wonderful city with people living in poverty on the outside.

The Wizard does grant audiences, but he appears to people as the thing they fear the most. Dorothy finds herself in the cyclone again, the Scarecrow sees fire, the Tin Woodman sees water, and the Lion sees a fierce Kalidah.

The Winkie Country is a dry desert, and the Wicked Witch immediately sends the Winged Monkeys, who she had promised to set them free after one more task. After Dorothy defeats them and the Winged Monkeys drop them off, the king of the Winged Monkeys asks for his freedom, but Dorothy refuses until she gets home, making him say she's no different from the rest of the witches.

When the four friends enter the Wizard's chamber again, it sounds as their combined presence is too much for his pyrotechnics and other devices to handle, and they stop working, revealing him as the man he is. He tells the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Lion that they have to work on getting knowledge, love, and courage themselves, and they're already on a good start. However, his attempt to take Dorothy home in his balloon fails, and he calls down that they should try Glinda.

The journey south finds Dorothy finally stopping and coming to terms with herself before Glinda appears to her. What is Dorothy's problem? Fear. Fear of??? ... Admittedly, Marshall isn't too clear on this. Is Dorothy's home life so bad that she lives in constant fear? At the end, Aunt Em says she finally feels joy at Dorothy's return, but why would living with a gloomy aunt and uncle instill fear? I suppose an hour long production was just too short to work this idea out fully.

When the program aired, it was available on the BBC iPlayer, which allows radio programs to be streamed worldwide. (Videos are region locked.) It was aired a few times in December, but has not been aired since.

However, the production is available on Audible.com for about $5.

Overall, it's an interesting take on Oz, but some of the concepts introduced really needed some fleshing out.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Mister Tinker in Oz

Following yesterday's post, why not look at the other Random House Oz book I got?

James Howe's Mister Tinker in Oz opens with Dorothy in Kansas, on a windy night. Aunt Em sends her out to fasten the gate, when Dorothy sees a ladder descend from the sky and a strange man climbing down it.

The man introduces himself as Ezra P. Tinker. He is Tik-Tok's surviving inventor, and according to his watch, Tik-Tok's thousand year guarantee is about to expire, so he needs to find Tik-Tok as soon as possible to make the necessary repairs.

Dorothy brings him up to speed on Tik-Tok's current whereabouts, as he had no way of knowing that Tik-Tok now lives in the Emerald City instead of Ev. So, Mr. Tinker comes up with a way to get them to Oz: mail. After addressing and stamping an envelope (with his foot), he shrinks them both so they can ride inside. However, the wind carries Dorothy away to Oz alone.

Emerging from the envelope, Dorothy finds herself surrounded by young children called the Widdlebits, who seek a caretaker from the Shiny Bellies, who are ants, but at Dorothy's present size, they are monsters. Can Mr. Tinker find them in time? And what other dangers lay between them and the Emerald City? And if they get there, will everything be all right? And most importantly, can Tik-Tok be found in time?

James Howe, writer of many children's books, including the Bunnicula series, actually proves a capable Oz storyteller, even in the standard six chapters of the Random House Oz books. He is witty, manages to have magic mastered by logic and perseverance, and altogether, provides a story that fits in well with Oz continuity. Unlike Ozma and the Wayward Wand, no specific time is given for the story, allowing it to fall easily after Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, although the Wizard could not appear.

David Rose again proves a capable illustrator, though there are some spots where the story could have used a few more illustrations. I only wish this author and illustrator pair could have done a longer Oz story, because this really is a good little story.

Never mind that I'm not counting it as "canon" in my mind...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ozma and the Wayward Wand

In 1985, Random House Publishing issued four little Oz books, probably timed with the release of Disney's Return to Oz. They were Dorothy and the Magic Belt, Dorothy and the Seven-Leaf Clover, the surprisingly easy to find Mister Tinker in Oz, and the book at hand, Ozma and the Wayward Wand.

These books were not long, being small, thin, having large print, and under ten chapters each. Each of the four were written by a different writer, but illustrator David Rose illustrated them all. Ozma and the Wayward Wand was by Polly Berends. (What a suggestive title, by the way. Don't know what I mean? Good.)

Each of the books are supposed to be set after Ozma of Oz, as that was the last Oz book in public domain at the time. As I'd mentioned, Mister Tinker in Oz seems to be rather easy to find. I know Sam's at least read it, and he's in Australia, and I've owned two copies, a hardcover library binding edition in my first collection, and now a standard paperback.

Ozma and the Wayward Wand finds Dorothy wanting to go on a hot air balloon ride, but when she visits the fair, she spends her fifty cent piece at a fortune teller, who shows her a vision of Ozma and the Scarecrow missing her in Oz. Dorothy does go to the hot air balloon, though she has no money, and is given a free ride, but when Toto jumps out, the operator retrieves him, but before he can get back in himself, the balloon flies away.

The balloon eventually flies to Oz, where it starts to fall over the desert, but the Scarecrow in the reassembled Gump rescues Dorothy and Toto, and Ozma uses the magic carpet, which has become watery, to make a river that reaches out into the desert.

As Dorothy, Billina, and Ozma go boating, a little boy steals Ozma's wand and begins to make trouble in the Emerald City, not what he'd intended and a lot more trouble than he expected.

In the end, everything is returned to normal, and Dorothy goes back to Kansas in the balloon.

The little book isn't such a great Oz story. It specifically states Dorothy's last visit was Ozma of Oz, but that becomes problematic, as that book has Dorothy in Australia at the end, and the next book opens with her on the return journey. The ending has a moral for Dorothy and Ozma, which feels a little forced and doesn't make a compelling story at all. Dorothy feels too restless in Kansas (she even says "Drat!" at having to stay there, which just doesn't feel right), and Ozma seems too silly, alerting the entire Emerald City to Dorothy's plight when only a few people can actually help. And Ozma worries Dorothy's forgotten them, which would be silly indeed, considering Oz is the most exciting place Dorothy's been to.

The best part of the book is David Rose's illustrations. While he caters a bit to the MGM folk by giving Dorothy braids, his designs are largely based on John R. Neill's original illustrations. (Though I don't care for his Omby Amby, who has his beard back already, another contradiction of series continuity.)

Overall, while it's fine for a short kid's book, it's not a great Oz book.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

WAS by Geoff Ryman

A while back, I read Geoff Ryman's Was. And have yet to blog about it.

Well, here goes!

Well, despite hearing some things that made me think it was yet another re-invention of Oz, I was pleasantly surprised by Was.

The book follows a variety of people who are connected by Oz somehow. Judy Garland as a child is focus of one chapter, another follows her makeup assistant on The Wizard of Oz, and another chapter follows the mind of her mother.

One of the most inventive characters flows through many chapters: Dorothy Gael, a little girl who lost her mother to illness, and moves in with her country aunt and uncle Henry and Emily Gulch. But as Dorothy's life goes on, it gets progressively worse. Toto runs away from home (she finds him once, but then he runs away for good later), her only friend dies, and Henry gives into certain temptations.

Dorothy's sad life is briefly brightened by a substitute teacher at her school: a traveling actor about to return home soon. It it slowly revealed that he is L. Frank Baum himself, and during his brief time in Kansas, he becomes concerned for the little girl.

A doctor later meets an elderly and bitter Dorothy in a nursing home, and shortly before her death, she sees the first telecast of MGM's The Wizard of Oz.

Finally, AIDS afflicted film actor Jonathan is yet another subplot. A childhood fan of The Wizard of Oz, he decides to seek out the real Dorothy.

Despite how depressing the book sounds, I was surprised at how warm the ending is. And, as a historical buff, I was glad that an afterword explains where the author took creative liberties with fact. (Especially the stuff with Baum.) The text sometimes reads slowly like a dream, or sometimes quickly like a nightmare. Other times, it flows naturally like our day to day lives.

Given my age of 25, I can't say I'm sorry I didn't read it sooner, as it isn't for the younger Oz fan. Overall, I'd recommend it for someone who'd want a good story that isn't exactly an Oz story.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Somewhere Over The Red Tape

Fellow blogger Angelo directed me to this article using MGM's musical adaptation of The Wizard of Oz as an example of how copyrights have been extended. According to it, the MGM film has a little over 20 years before it enters the public domain.

To be honest, the imagery of MGM's Wizard of Oz, whether you believe they correctly reflected Baum's vision or not, has undeniably entered our culture so completely that it's almost a surprise it's not already public domain.

But really, when 2035 hits and the movie is public domain, what's going to change? Unless another widespread movie version comes along that makes people forget the MGM film (HIGHLY unlikely!), it seems it'll still be loved. And while anyone could make a DVD/Blu-Ray/whatever we'll be using for video then, or a piece of merchandise, it's not guaranteed it'd be of high quality. I'd imagine Warner Brothers still doing video releases, or even claiming people can't use their video transfers of the film, because those transfers are their property. (And considering the price tag these transfers and restorations have had, I couldn't blame them.)

It's like many silent films now. You can get Douglas Fairbanks' The Thief of Baghdad for free from Internet Archive, but the really good version is only on DVD and if you want that, it's not the cheapest one out there. Same for other silents as well. And since these prints have been restored and have new scores, they do own a copyright of their version. We could very well see the same treatment for Oz.

Now, it's possible that Warner or a bunch of studios could press for another copyright extension, but as the article states, a 95 year copyright term is long enough. The copyright will (don't hate me for saying this) last longer than anyone who worked on the film. Even though Warner Brothers should be commended for their handling of the film, they only own the rights. They didn't make it. In a way, it isn't "theirs."

So, where will MGM's rainbow be in 2035? Most likely still out there, still bringing smiles to generations.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Change of plans...

So, I was told that The Witches of Oz Blu-Ray would be here today, but it's apparent that it hasn't even been shipped. I was really planning on writing a review of that for today's blog, especially since I've been slacking in my blogs lately. So, there ya go. There's nothing to blog about, and I'm totally bummed out. I hope everyone has a great weekend, especially if you're going to the Chesterton Oz fest this weekend!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Doing Everything at Memorandum

Cross-posted from my WordPress.

Sometimes the odd encounters in Oz books are so brief as to only cover a few pages, sometimes making a reader wonder why they were even included. Sometimes, however, the mysterious nature of such episodes makes them more interesting. One such case is the appearance in Ruth Plumly Thompson's The Royal Book of Oz of the twins Memo and Randum, or as they call each other for short, Mem and Ran. The two of them look pretty much identical, but their personalities are opposite. Memo is very neat and organized, and Randum quite untidy. The latter does everything at random, and the former at memorandum, meaning he has to act according to his book and take notes on anything he encounters. This makes both of them pretty ineffective at getting anything done. When Dorothy falls into the Winkie River, Memo refuses to save her because he only saves lives on Mondays. Randum does his best to help, but because he's random, he jumps into the river downstream from where Dorothy is. Memo leaves after being told off by his brother, and Randum runs away when he sees the Cowardly Lion, and that's the last we see of them. They do both merit brief mentions in Jack Snow's Who's Who in Oz, though. In the entry for Randum, Snow writes, "Randum has a brother named Memo, and we wouldn't be surprised if father was named Paddy Scratch," a joke I've never gotten. Anyone care to explain it to me?

Since one brother thinks without acting and the other acts without thinking, they bring to mind the brothers Prometheus and Epimetheus from Greek mythology, whose names mean "forethought" and "afterthought." Not that Prometheus doesn't act, but they still fit the roles of thinker and non-thinker. Not necessarily close enough for Thompson to have had the Titans in mind when coming up with these characters, but she was familiar with Greek mythology, so I guess it's possible. That's more likely just how my mind works, however, rather than Thompson's.

Next week, Blufferroo, Grand Counter of the Imperial Spoons of Samandra!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Why Hollywood Fails At Oz

Sean Gates, writer of the independent film L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz wrote a Facebook note about feminism in Baum's works, especially The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I'd recommend going over and reading that now, because it brings up some points I'd like to discuss below.

Baum's mother-in-law was women's rights activist Matilda Gage. While he had some hesitation about her (after all, his marrying Maud ended Matilda's dreams of a self-reliant daughter), once they accepted each other, Baum really respected her views, and as Michael Patrick Hearn points out in his Annotated Wizard of Oz, they found their way into the Oz books. As Sean points out, both Glinda and Dorothy defy the stereotypes they would fit in normal fairy tales.

The strong feminine characters are part of what makes Oz unique. Usually, the male characters are strong, but in Wonderful Wizard, Dorothy's friends feel inadequate and the Wizard, despite his noble intentions, has no actual magic power.

Now, unfortunately, mainstream movies don't seem to be able to capture the same unique sense of feminism. I would not attribute this to the writers, directors, and actresses of being unable to capture this. Rather, it's too different from what mainstream movies do. Because what they do is a business. They don't make movies with "let's make a game-changing movie that will set new standards in the film industry" in mind first, it's "let's make something that will sell." (On a business level, I understand this. As an artist, I find it disgusting.)

And unfortunately, rather than improve on the characterizations, they'd rather sell you over the top action and gore, CGI special effects and 3D.

The feminism of Baum has never been successfully captured on film by a mainstream producer, except in Disney's Return to Oz, where while Dorothy is scared, she is quite capable of finding solutions to her predicaments.

Sean mentioned the flaws of the MGM characterization of Dorothy, which has influenced many depictions since. One notable exception has been the film version of The Wiz, but the making Dorothy an insecure adult  was problematic and does not reflect Baum's feminist themes.

Some of the more substantial depictions have been from foreign producers, one of the better versions being the anime series in the late 1980s. Dorothy is yet the leading force in the story, despite its alteration.

Frankly, I'm looking forward to Sean and Clayton's movie. By being independent, they don't have to worry about paying back investors and a studio getting in the way of what they want to do (although I'm sure they wouldn't mind if some studio threw some money their way).  And, I sincerely hope, we'll finally see an onscreen version of Oz that was everything Baum intended it to be.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Royal Podcast of Oz: The Magic Cloak of Oz

Continuing the series of podcasts about the Movies of Oz, Jared and Sam look at The Magic Cloak of Oz, the second film from L. Frank Baum's The Oz Film Manufacturing Company, but it was actually based on Baum's Queen Zixi of Ix, a non-Oz book!

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

Buy the book
Buy the movie:
(shorter version)
(Warner Brothers Oz 2005 set)
(2009 longer version on DVD)
(2009 longer version on Blu-Ray)

Friday, September 09, 2011


The Witches of Oz theatrical version will be screened at the Oztoberfest next month in Wamego! Click here for more information.

Dorothy of Oz will be showing off a clip and giving people a chance to win a cameo appearance in the movie next weekend at the Chesterton Wizard of Oz festival. Producers Ryan and Roland Caroll will be participate in the parade as well. Read more about the festival here.

The crew on Disney's Oz, the Great and Powerful are going to green! FOX-2 went inside the studio to get a look at how Raleigh Studios is going green. Watch the video exclusive here.

Head over to a thread on the IWOC message board that I'll be updating often listing release dates for The Witches of Oz.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

David Tai on "Executive Decisions"

As a side piece to last night's blog, David Tai wanted to share his own take on writing his first Oziana story.
I blame David Maxine and Jared Davis for "Executive Decisions," let me explain why.

It began, basically, with Jared's "Borderlands"... what he now is calling Outsiders from Oz. He'd asked me to review what he'd written. So naturally, I'd said that Dorothy was being overused for these kind of adventures, and why not, for once, leave Dorothy home? (Jared note: Dorothy was never going to go on this adventure.)

Naturally, then, I suggested he use the opportunity to make a secondary plot out of that if he wanted to write a novel. He chose, instead, to merge it with a different secondary plot. But that left Dorothy sitting around the Emerald City doing nothing, and that left me sad that something wasn't being done with that.

Around the same time, Jared wrote a blog entry about The Lost King of Oz. In the comments, David Maxine discussed how wildly out of character Ozma was, which led me to wonder, just, if there was a way to make the seemingly out of character attitudes make sense.

Why would Ozma so casually execute a witch?

And at around that same time, I'd been talking to Kim McFarland about her own work, A Refugee in Oz, and talking about how she should consider, for a new project, writing about the girls of Oz. She returned that a) she hated cute girls and b) she didn't see much distinction between the girls. So breaking down Trot, Betsy, and Dorothy turned out to be a fun exercise. Putting all that together, naturally, I had to use Betsy and Trot to help illustrate the difference between how each girl would approach a situation, and especially to highlight the decision that Dorothy would have to be making.

So naturally, first, why would Ozma execute someone she'd vowed to take care of?

Answer: she wouldn't.

But how the heck would she manage to do that? Looking again at Lost King, I couldn't help but note that they'd not shown the body, only brought back her shoes... and the answer was pretty obvious after that. But why spoil it? Read for yourself!
"Executive Decisions" is available exclusively in Oziana #38.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Oziana #38

Hmmm... Is it fair for me to talk about Oziana #38? I mean... I have a story in it, helped with another, then checked half the issue for typos. So... Hmmm... How to tackle this?

So, Oziana is the creative magazine of The International Wizard of Oz Club. It began in 1971 and has been published by the Club until now. #38 (which is retroactively numbered, since we had an issue for 2007, then a double issue for 2009 and 2010, so #38 is meant to fill in for 2008, with a new issue coming later this year for 2011 and one already in editing stages for 2012) is the first issue to be hosted on Lulu.com, meaning the Club is free from paying for a print run, while at the same time offering a high-quality printed magazine. By permission of Reilly & Lee, Oziana stories are allowed to freely reference any books and characters from the Famous Forty. A number of Oz writers who are well known today got their start in Oziana.

Alex Garcia of Spain illustrates the cover of #38 as well as two stories. The cover shows a variety of characters from the story in a welcoming and exciting pose against the Emerald City.

The first story is "Executive Decisions" by new Oz writer David Tai. And this is the story I claim I helped with, though really, David did just well on his own. David served as editor on my upcoming book Outsiders from Oz, and there is a part in the book in which Dorothy is left to manage affairs of state in the Emerald City while Ozma is away. David thought I should tell about what Dorothy would do, but I was too busy writing everything else to throw in another subplot, so I decided not to visit this.

Another thing that happened was my blog about The Lost King of Oz and the surprising responses to it. David decided to tie these together into his first Oz short story.

"Executive Decisions" finds Dorothy fulfilling the duty of holding court so the people of Oz can air their grievances. When Mombi enters the throne room complaining about mushroom people building a tunnel under her house, Dorothy, Trot, and Betsy are surprised to see Mombi alive. They begin investigating Mombi's execution, and begin to find many questions before they finally get the answer.

Not only does David tell a good, compelling story and keep the characters in character, he manages to make Dorothy, Trot, and Betsy sound like different characters. (Let's face it, some stories feel like they used Betsy or Trot to avoid overusing Dorothy. Yes, Thompson, I'm looking at you.) Kim McFarland, author and illustrator of A Refugee in Oz, illustrates the story, with wonderfully done depictions of the characters taking cue from Neill, while mixed with Kim's own style.

And then we come to "Bud and the Red Jinn" by Jared Davis. I was commissioned to write the story simply because King Bud of Noland and Jinnicky the Red Jinn of Ev were on the cover but were not in any of the stories. Since I was still at work on Outsiders at the time, I got help coming up with the plot. As it is, the story is only three pages long, stretched to four with a couple of beautiful illustrations by Anna-Maria Cool.

Writing this story was fun. When I was asked to write about Jinnicky, I had to admit that I'd read nothing substantial featuring the character. I quickly got a copy of The Silver Princess in Oz. This way, if for some reason we couldn't be cleared by Oziana's Famous Forty permissions, I could claim the character's depiction was based solely on public domain material. I had read Queen Zixi of Ix many times, so I was familiar with Bud and other characters that I might reference. (And we managed to get Anna-Maria to base her Zixi on Fredric Richardson's instead of Neill.)

The story simply has Bud and Fluff making a formal visit to Zixi for her Queen's Festival, where Bud meets Jinnicky for the first time. (Since Ix is bordered by Ev, it made sense that he might be invited as well.) The two become friends and head outside, where they intercept a surprise visit by Prince Bobo of Boboland, who is about to make a very serious mistake.

I came up with the idea that Bobo has been sailing around the Ozian continent to make peaceful connections with all countries, and I'll tease you now that what I wrote for him in Ix is only a very small part of that adventure!

As for how good "Bud and the Red Jinn" is, I couldn't say. I don't think I'm qualified to as the writer. But I will say that I don't overindulge in details. It's a very quick read, and I got to read it to my parents a while back in the course of ten minutes. (So it's not boring either, it seems. They stayed awake.)

Next up is Gina Wickwar's wonderful "Polychrome Visits The Sea Fairies," again exquisitely illustrated by Alex Garcia. Polychrome meets Merla and Clia (mermaids from The Sea Fairies) and is allowed to have a mermaid's tail herself as she goes underwater, where she assists Queen Aquareine and King Anko in dealing with some of the last of Zog's devil fish.

While Gina's story isn't very long, it does give us a welcome revisit to the Sea Fairies, very much in character.

Gina's Polychrome story is complemented by a full page illustration of Polly by Marcus Mebes, accompanied with a poem.

Following this is Jeff Rester's "Thy Fearful Symmetry," another story involving Mombi, this time explaining how she's wrapped up with the Hungry Tiger. It's illustrated well by Dennis Anfuso.

To be honest, of all the stories in #38, Jeff's was the one I liked least. There isn't much humor, and at times I thought of Kipling rather than Baum, and not in a good way. And the use of old English and the Tiger even quoting a bit of scripture threw me off a bit. However, the concept and plot are good, so I still enjoyed it.

Finishing off the issue is "The Bashful Baker's Honeymoon" by Marcus Mebes, again elegantly illustrated by Alex Garcia. The story follows up with Maria and Derek from "The Bashful Baker of Oz" from Oziana 2003, sending them on a much postponed honeymoon aboard the Crescent Moon with Captain Salt, Ato, Tandy, Roger the Read Bird, Trot, Cap'n Bill, and a couple old friends from Shipwrecked in Oz, another previous Oz story by Marcus. Oh, and we might have a visit from a certain prince in here as well.

"Honeymoon" is just a honeymoon, a travelogue taking us around the coasts of the continent where Oz lies, and for what it is, it reads quite well.

So, overall, Oziana is back in the 21st Century and in good hands. #38 is a strong start, let's hope all of the creative Oz fans can keep it up.

Buy Oziana #38 here.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Bye Bye Bradford

This morning, I cancelled my subscription to the Bradford Exchange's reprint series of Oz books. After spending over $120 on three books, I decided the print quality was not good enough to justify $50 plus shipping per book.

You might remember an enthusiastic entry I wrote about their Ozma of Oz. Upon closer examination, I had to remove it and say, no, we're still badly off-register with the color, especially in the plates. Ozma was the first Oz book since Wonderful Wizard to use color on the actual text pages (though it was reserved for the chapter headings.) The rest of the interior is nice, but if I wanted a nice reproduction of that, there's Dover and Books of Wonder. Considering Books of Wonder and even the publishers of the original edition of The Annotated Wizard of Oz could reproduce the colors so well, it's baffling why a specialty publisher like Charles Winthrope & Sons is finding it "difficult."

I already have a suitable and lower priced set from Books of Wonder and if I want something better, I can hope something else comes along (the books are public domain, so anyone could do a reprint series themselves and Bradford couldn't do a thing), or scheme to get actual Reilly & Britton (or Lee) editions. I already have rebound versions of three of Thompson's Oz books in Reilly & Lee editions (one with a new cover and some reproduced pages, one with a new spine, and another with a new back cover and spine), and one Thompson book and two of Neill's published by them.

I really had high hopes for the Bradford Exchange series and hoped to support them, but after three books with weird color plate errors, it's no longer worth my investment. I'm getting much more satisfaction from collecting Baum Bugles and Ozianas!

Weekly Update: 'Witches of Oz' on Pay-Per-View!

Not much to blog about this week, so this will be a short one.

The TV version of 'The Witches of Oz' is now available to rent on demand on several North American cable providers including: Insight Digital Cable, Mediacom Cable Services, Time Warner Cable, and Dish Network. Several other cable providers in North America have it available too, so check to see if you have 'The Witches of Oz' available on your DVR box!

Okay, so let me give you a run down on the version that's available on pay per view.
The prologue sequence is no different than the version that has been leaked online. All the Oz flashbacks are the same. The Kansas 1899 sequence is the same as well, which means it has crappy special effects.

Some of the effects do look better, some that I noticed below:
the parts involving fire, the shots where various characters are standing on the balcony in New York, some bits in the disaster sequence near the end, and some of the fighting sequences look better.

Overall, I'd wait until the theatrical version comes out. The Pay Per View version is better than the Eastern Europe version, but it's not even close to the theatrical version.

Next week, I'll be reviewing an exclusive screener's copy of the theatrical version on BluRay, that the production company is sending me for review purposes. I'll be sure to share that review with you.