L. Frank Baum’s Wonderful Land of Oz

As I’ve been writing this column, I’ve realized that there’s points where I have to move ahead and skip authors, or, after some reflection, research and writing, that I missed someone critical. Over the last couple of months, I’ve been realizing that not covering L. Frank Baum has been a drastic oversight, and that at the next available opportunity, I need to cover him and his wonderful world of Oz.

I defy you to find someone who doesn’t know the story of The Wizard of Oz. It’s an enormously popular story, so ingrained into our popular culture world that statements such as ‘We’re not in Kansas anymore’ need no reference. Oz is on par with stories from Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley – we know what happens without even reading the works. As such, it’s good to go back and take a look at their place in SF’s canon, because they are very influential, and it’s easy to see why: they’re fantastic, eminently readable stories that hold up with their sense of wonder.

Recently, I attended ICFA down in Orlando Florida, where I had dinner with a couple of authors, notably Ted Chaing. We had gotten on the topic of robotics, and he mentioned that Tik Tok from Ozma of Oz could be considered one of the first robots in SF. It’s certainly an early appearance of a robot, and with that in mind, it’s interesting to see how much of Oz prefigured some of the modern SF genre.

Go read L. Frank Baum’s Wonderful Land of Oz over on Kirkus Reviews.

The Fantasy Tradition in American Literature: From Irving to Le Guin, Brian Attebery. There’s an entire chapter on Oz here, and it’s got some excellent background on the nature of Oz and how it relates to the fantasy canon.
The Marvelous Land of Oz, L. Frank Baum. It’s always good to go to the original source – this was helpful in picking out details about the story. Baum remains extremely readable.
Ozma of Oz, L. Frank Baum. Available on Gutenberg, this was helpful for the quotes about Tik Tok.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum. I have a reprinted edition of the original, from Barnes and Noble (which I can’t wait to read to my son), which has the original forward.
Oz and Beyond: The Fantasy World of L. Frank Baum, by Michael O. Riley. This book is an in depth, exaustive look at Baum’s Oz novels and his other works, presented in clear, chronological order with a good amount of detail.
Teenage: The Prehistory of Youth Culture 1875-1945, Jon Savage. Savage devotes several pages to Baum and Oz, which provides some excellent context to the impact that Oz had on readers.
When Dreams Came True, Jack Zipes. This book also has an entire chapter devoted to Oz, with story details and biographical information.

Online:

Baum, L. Frank: As usual, the SF Encyclopedia has a good entry on my subject and looks at the wider genre-context.
NY Times Review: The original review of Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

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