This year, propelled by the publicity for the anniversary of the MGM film, Winkie Con moved from the mid-California Monterey peninsula down to San Diego. The relocation was due in part to San Diego’s proximity to neighbouring resort town, Coronado, where [L. Frank] Baum wintered and wrote several novels. It was also the first year the usually humble Winkie Con expanded to offer a broad conference-style schedule, with concurrent panels discussing subjects such as the strong feminist characters in Baum's books and the rise of fantasy and sci-fi fan culture. Attendance spiked to over 350; many attendees were newer fans, who had found their way down the yellow brick road via the musical "Wicked" or "Oz the Great and Powerful", the new Oz film released in 2013.Oh ho! In fact, one was not supposed to borrow those short stories but to read them in that room. My story “Post-Transformative Stress” disappeared for several hours during the convention, prompting some anxious “no questions asked” announcements. Eventually it reappeared on the table with no questions answered. Had Prospero mistakenly taken it for a closer read?
Prospero, a first-time festivalgoer, was shown plenty of “ozpitality” and welcomed into many exclusive but never exclusionary events. On the opening day, Aljean Harmetz, a journalist and historian whose mother worked in the MGM costume department for 20 years, screened "The Wizardry of Oz", a 1979 documentary follow-up to her exhaustively detailed book, "The Making of the Wizard of Oz". On the second afternoon, a tightly packed audience strained to hear a Q&A with Priscilla Montgomery Clark, one of the munchkins in the MGM film, who is now in her 80s. A family reunion-style slideshow gave regular Winkie Con organisers and participants a chance to reminisce about the years of lighter programming and more intimate festivities. “There’s Dan again,” someone murmured as the slides shuttered past. “He was a marvellous Dorothy.”
Nearly two-dozen of Baum’s The Wizard of Oz books are in the public domain in America, as is the 1925 film. This makes for a rich ecosystem of Oz-related fan culture that continues to snatch up new graphic novels and support reinterpretations of the original characters. At the swap table, a Winkie Con tradition, one could pick up or drop off gently used books and artwork, or borrow stapled short stories from a stack of unpublished fan-fiction.
No harm done. This year’s contest judges had already done their work and chosen which essays, stories, and artwork should win prizes. “Post-Transformative Stress” came away with one. It throws together Dr. Pipt from Baum’s Patchwork Girl of Oz (shown above) and Iva the kitchen boy from Ruth Plumly Thompson’s The Wishing Horse of Oz. No wonder it might have been so compelling.