19 June 2009

The Road to Oz at 100

At next month's Winkie Convention in Asilomar, California, the theme will be The Road to Oz. That's the Oz novel authored by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill a century ago this year.

To the right is the cover for the convention program, created by organizer David Maxine, also editor of Oz-Story and the Hungry Tiger Press. Beyond the cover art by Michael Herring, the booklet features illustrations by Skottie Young, Steve "Ribs" Weissman, Joe Phillips, Eric Shanower, Tommy Kovac, and Jed Alexander, and essays on The Road to Oz by Gregory Maguire, Peter Hanff, Judy Bieber, John Fricke, Edward Einhorn, Anil Tambwekar, Paul Miles Schneider, Michael O. Riley, Shanower, and (ahem) me.

On Wednesday I mentioned my recent article on the big plot problem in Baum's previous Oz book, Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz. That adventure puts Dorothy and her companions in terrible danger, then rescues them magically with no preparation.

In The Road to Oz Baum avoided the same mistake by barely putting Dorothy and her friends in danger at all. Yes, they all get lost, but only one member of the group seems to care. Little Button-Bright is inconvenienced by having his head transformed; Baum apparently liked that plot point so much he had the same thing happen to the Shaggy Man. About two-thirds of the way through the book, those problems are solved, and it becomes evident that Ozma is looking after Dorothy every step of her journey and will send her home whenever she wants to go.

And yet I love The Road to Oz. And I've seen other Oz fans also say that it is (or, when they were children, was) one of their favorite books in the series. My essay is on how that could possibly be.

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