To the Cosmic with My Ozmic Ray!

I’ve always been interested in how L. Frank Baum introduced science fiction elements in the Oz books, and his successors followed suit to a certain extent. I don’t recall any directed energy weapons in Baum’s Oz books, although The Master Key does have a tube that that can render a person unconscious for an hour with an electrical charge. Ruth Plumly Thompson does bring a sci-fi type of ray into the Oz universe in Speedy in Oz, specifically an invention of the wizard Waddy of Umbrella Island. Speedy takes it from Waddy’s laboratory because he thinks it’s a flashlight, but upon learning it can cut through iron, he uses it to destroy King Radj of Roaraway’s water cannon. It’s said to make “a loud, clattering noise” as it cuts through the chains holding the water gun to a stone. The wizard calls the device a “metal melting flash,” but when I read the book I was struck by its similarity to a laser. Of course, lasers didn’t actually exist in 1934 when the book came out.

Another laser-like device appears in John R. Neill’s Oz books, where it’s one of the inventions of the Wizard of Oz. Known as the Ozmic Ray, its name is obviously a reference to cosmic rays, which aren’t actually rays at all. Rather, they’re high energy particles from outer space. The Ozmic Ray is described as a long tube, which the Wizard connects to his Teletable, a machine for finding lost people and objects. It creates a “golden beam of light” that melts the chocolate general who lives on a chocolate star and the prison where he has Scraps and Jack Pumpkinhead locked up. The two freed prisoners then slide down the beam like a banister, something I don’t think you could do with a laser. The term “Ozmic Ray” is used in Neill’s next two books, but they aren’t consistent as to what it actually is. In Scalawagons, Number Nine finds such a ray, but here it’s “a short line of light not coming from anywhere” (which means it’s not actually a ray). He tries to capture it to take home to his family, but it evades him. And in Lucky Bucky, the Ozmic Ray is part of the Tattlescope.

I suppose such rays could have several different applications, just as lasers do nowadays.

This entry was posted in John R. Neill, L. Frank Baum, Magic Items, Oz, Oz Authors, Ruth Plumly Thompson, Science, Technology and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to To the Cosmic with My Ozmic Ray!

  1. Anthony Will says:

    I’ve seen more than one commentater ponder over what Thompson might have achieved as an early science fiction writer, usually in connection with “The Silver Princess of Oz (see Mari Ness Tor.com Oz re read) I myself wonder why she didn’t write books after King Kojo. I guess she was making enough money writing for comic books and jack and jill. Hope everything is going well for you

  2. Tarl says:

    Fascinating stuff. I have not delved into any of the expanded Oz series yet. My research is strictly with the Famous Fourteen. In Oz, Smith & Tinker may have developed a beam weapon. In The Hidden History of Oz, Book One: The Witch Queens, the Twisted Lighthouse has a crystal powered light that can focus sunlight through crystals. This creates a beam. With the right lenses in place (not spec), Oscar and Glinda are able to create a concentrated heat ray to battle a bloodsand dragon. Who knows what other devices Smith & Tinker may have hidden in one of their laboratories?

    • Nathan says:

      Sort of like the heat ray that some people claim Archimedes invented, then?

      • Tarl says:

        This heat ray requires the magical suspension of disbelief. (I have seen the heat ray episode of MythBusters, and this heat ray is not like that one.) This one is an adaptation of a lighthouse lamp focused to extreme intensity.

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