Everything But the Kitchen Sink in Oz

It often seems to be the case that people who read Oz books by authors other than L. Frank Baum when they were young accept them as official, while those who read them later are a little more wary of them. Back in the day, they were marketed as all part of the same series. After Baum died, the publishers asked Ruth Plumly Thompson to continue the series, and Baum’s widow approved. Her first Oz book, The Royal Book of Oz, was even credited to Baum, with Thompson said to have “enlarged and edited” it. Actually, it’s very clearly Thompson’s work throughout, but the publishers apparently wanted to ease the transition. I’m sure they mainly wanted more Oz books for the money, but if Baum had seriously objected to someone else continuing the series, I kind of doubt Maud would have approved. Then again, she does seem to have worn the pants in the Baum household. Four other authors wrote Oz books for the same publisher, and libraries often just sort all of them under “Baum.” It certainly makes them easier to find. I’d heard that other writers had continued the series after Baum before reading any Oz books, and it turned out that the fourth one I read was a Thompson. It wasn’t even one of her better ones, but it didn’t occur to me not to accept it as part of the same continuity. I think people who care about Oz canon at all generally accept at least the books that have come to be known as the Famous Forty, also throwing in the Little Wizard Stories and some other Baum fantasies that are tied into the series. There are others, however, who are quite adamant about only accepting Baum. There’s certainly some merit to the argument, as he was the one who created the franchise, and his successors tended to take it in directions he most likely wouldn’t have. Personally, I accept not only the FF, but others as well.

Robert Pattrick’s essays on Oz, collected in Unexplored Territory in Oz, were groundbreaking in terms of research on this fictional place. One of these, “Oz vs. Authors,” dealt with the question as to which books should be accepted as official, with a clear bias toward an inclusive attitude. As the annotations by Patrick Maund mention, Pattrick doesn’t completely distinguish between whether a book is worth reading and whether it’s considered canonical. There’s also the question as to what you’re doing with your take on the issue. Some people just read, some write their own continuations, and some analyze the stories as if they’re real. Pattrick states that James Thurber only accepts the first two books, which is true. Thurber wrote an essay in which he makes clear that he sees just Wizard and Land as authentic and worth reading. But then, Thurber wasn’t writing his own Oz stories or Oz-as-history essays. Some fans write material based only on Baum, which is fine, but it does come off as a little arrogant when they dismiss other authors who were doing the same thing they are. Since none of the official post-Baum books really changed Oz all that much, though, a continuation based only on Baum isn’t necessarily going to contradict them. There’s a difference between not using Thompson as a source and purposely going against what she wrote. It’s often not really an issue, because the post-Baum authors didn’t change all that much, and even when they did there’s often a fairly easy fix for contradictions. That’s if they use all of Baum as a baseline, anyway; tales that branch off from just Wizard or just the first six Baums tend to be irreconcilable with the rest of the series. Oddly, I’ve seen a few works that consider only the first SEVEN Baums, which strikes me as a strange cut-off. Baum originally intended to stop with the sixth book, but once he wrote the seventh, he was in it for the rest of his life. I’m not sure it matters a whole lot to most fans anyway, but it does if you’re trying to get a coherent picture of the history of Oz. Pattrick claims that people who go beyond Baum are more interested in Oz as a concept, which isn’t necessarily true, but there’s probably some merit to it. After all, a later author might have expanded upon an issue or solved a mystery that you’re researching for your own work. And if you’re working from the conceit of Oz as a real place, wouldn’t it make sense to consult multiple sources instead of just one?

Going beyond the FF authors is a more difficult matter. One of the most inclusive lists of books is Joe Bongiorno’s Royal Timeline of Oz, but there are things I accept and he doesn’t, and vice versa. Since Dick Martin’s Ozmapolitan seems to be considered at least deuterocanonical as it was written by someone who illustrated one of the FF, it would also make sense to count the work of Eric Shanower, who illustrated three books by FF authors that were published later (Rachel Cosgrove Payes’s Wicked Witch, John R. Neill’s Runaway, and Eloise Jarvis McGraw’s Rundelstone). Beyond that, it’s a little more up in the air. One of the more inclusive lists of Oz books is Joe Bongiorno’s Royal Timeline of Oz, although there are some stories I accept and he doesn’t, and vice versa. His Supreme Seventy-Five includes the FF and other works by those tied to the FF, as well as a few others that are significant in establishing the history of Oz. Some of these are by authors who have no direct connection to any of the FF authors, and published by small presses in limited runs. I try not to judge too much on the quality of the stories, although obviously if they’re awful, I’m probably not going to pay enough attention to be concerned with fitting them into continuity. But there are, for instance, some books written by children that were published with very little editing. While the ideas in them are generally good, they often come across as sloppy in some respects. It’s not just stories by kids that come across this way, but they make for good examples. I’ll usually accept them as accurate if they don’t mess too much with established continuity, but might take them as somewhat less than faithful in their descriptions of particular actions and dialogue. Of course, even if you ARE using post-FF books are sources, there’s a good chance you wouldn’t have read all of them, which can result in unintentional contradictions. The old Nome King’s story has gotten really convoluted over the years, with a few different books ending with his reformation, and others making him even meaner than he originally was. The Royal Timeline ties a lot of them together, but there are a few it doesn’t include for various reasons. Mrs. Yoop’s history branches off in different but not necessarily mutually exclusive ways as well. When I write Oz stuff, I’ll reference non-FF material, but usually not in ways that I think impact the story all that much. But then, I’ll also reference events that haven’t been written about at all, because I assume things keep happening in Oz even when authors aren’t recording them.

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16 Responses to Everything But the Kitchen Sink in Oz

  1. Bryan T Babel says:

    In that picture, shouldn’t L. Frank Baum be the roots, or maybe the trunk, from which all other branches spring?

    I’m kind of talking off the top of my head here, but wasn’t there a Russian translator of “The Wizard of Oz” who wrote his own continuations? Where would you place that (if at all) in the canon?

    I have my own book, “The Cash Cow of Oz.” The cover illustration shows the Tin Woodman and the Scarecrow screaming as I waddle down the Yellow Brick Road.

    • Nathan says:

      In that picture, shouldn’t L. Frank Baum be the roots, or maybe the trunk, from which all other branches spring?

      That would probably make more sense, but Bill Eubank is no longer around to ask what he intended.

      Would there be much need for a cash cow in a land that doesn’t usually use money?

  2. Marc Berezin says:

    Alexander Melenyevich Volkov wrote five sequels to his Russian adaptation of WIZARD. Starting in 1992, others began writing continuations to his work.


    • Nathan says:

      Some authors writing more traditional Oz stories seem to consider Volkov’s Magic Land a parallel-universe version of Oz. March Laumer sometimes did this and sometimes just put Volkov characters in the regular Oz. Chris Dulabone’s A Million Miles from Here Is Oz and Three-Headed Elvis Clone Found in Flying Saucer Over Oz also reference Magic Land.

  3. I don’t know how I missed this post, but good one! You’ve piqued my curiosity to ask: what books do you accept that I don’t? And vice versa? I sometimes come across titles that I didn’t initially think could work in the mainstream continuity (e.g., Ruggedo in Oz), but a re-read reveals that with only a few tweaks it could. The opposite has also been true, ala, Roger Baum’s Dorothy of Oz.

    • Nathan says:

      Looking over the Parallel Histories page, I guess there aren’t really that many. There are a few I kind of regard as part of my vision of Oz just because I read them a while ago and enjoyed them, even if your reasons for not including them are valid, like Enchanted Gnome and Jeremy Steadman’s books. And I think your reasons for excluding Glass Cat and Robin Hess’s books are a little too extreme, as it’s probably easier just to disregard the troublesome statements. The issue of Button-Bright’s brother in Christmas is a rather tricky one, but I’d have to look at it again to see if I could think of any way it can fit in with Lost Boy. Others, like Emerald Enchantress, don’t even have reasons why they’re not on the Mainline Timeline. Not that most of these make all that much difference in Ozian history anyway, and I do have a few ideas for future stories that acknowledge non-mainline stories without really getting into whether their accounts are entirely true.

      • I tried hard to keep Glass Cat in, but as it stands the narrative kept putting forth these definitive statements that were incorrect. There’s a lot of little things that I was willing to overlook, but it just got to be too much, with the big one being Ozma and Cap’n Bill saying no one’s come to stay in Oz in 50 years. That restricts the world in a way that’s irreconcilable. It’s one thing if it’s a narrative statement from the author because then you can chalk that up to historian error, but when it comes out of the mouth of a character (in this case two characters), then it’s really problematic, particularly since Ozma would know. Oddly enough, such statements serve no purpose to the narrative, except to restrict other stories. I’m surprised Glassman didn’t edit that out. That said, I enjoyed the story and would consider a revised version if Hulan were up to it (particularly as I’m doing revised versions of Eureka in Oz and The Magic Carpet of Oz).

        I’ll re-read The Emerald Enchantress again, as I’m quite fond of Schulenburg’s works, but when I come across names like the Enchantress Vile, or E.Vile, then the pull of the fireplace gets overpowering along with my urge to toss in the book. :)

      • Nathan says:

        I think Hulan has said that the statement about no one coming to live in Oz in the past fifty years probably contradicted a lot of apocryphal stories, and might have even mentioned that he shouldn’t have put it in. Not that I think this one statement should mean disregarding the rest of the book or publishing a totally new edition (although I’d most certainly buy it if you DID put one out).

  4. Christmas in Oz was troublesome on a few levels, as was the Toto and the Cats of Oz. I love Robin Hess as a person, but he also tends to make strong statements in his books that just don’t jive with the rest of Oz history.

    As far as persons and places from non-mainline stories, I accept the possibility that even though certain stories didn’t occur on the timeline, persons and places might still exist. For example, I don’t accept the events of The Colorful Kitten of Oz, but I accept that there may be a kingdom of Pinkaree (which appears in The Seven Blue Mountains of Oz: Book 3) with similar persons living there.

    It’s the kind of thing I’d look at on a case-by-case basis.

    • Nathan says:

      I agree that some of Hess’s takes on Oz are a little difficult to accept, although for the most part I don’t think they affect his stories all that much. Nothing really seemed to happen in Christmas, but I liked Toto and the Cats considerably more.

      • I liked it until Ozma sent all the cats out of Oz back onto the streets of the outside world. While that version of Ozma might be in keeping with Thompson’s portrayal of her (something I just sought to reconcile with “The Hearts and Flowers of Oz”), it came off as unduly cruel, particularly since Ozma has FAR worse communities in Oz than some hungry homeless cats who were deceived and misled by a magician. Hess has said that the particular region where they come from is more cat-friendly than your usual back alley, but I have a hard time accepting that, or Ozma’s punitive nature in that story.

      • Nathan says:

        I don’t recall that happening in the version I have. Ozma removes the power of speech from the rebellious cats for two weeks, declares that they’ll be treated as inferiors during that time, and appoints Honey Cat to her council. Am I missing something, or are there different editions?

      • Yep, look at chapter 23, page 231 and 232 of the Ozmapolitan Press 2013 trade paperback version.

      • Nathan says:

        Aren’t those pages only dealing with Joom himself, not the rest of the cats?

      • Joom has his immortality taken from him, and he’s turned into an outcast, but he’s allowed to stay in Oz. As to the cats, Ozma says: “I had planned to send all the cats from America back to their own homes tomorrow evening.” Then: “One small group remained behind. These were the cats from America. They had no homes in Oz, and no idea how to find their way back to Seattle… Ozma then says: “Tomorrow night you will go to sleep in Santa’s Inn. The next morning you will wake up in your usual waterfront haunts in Seattle.”

      • Nathan says:

        Oh, okay. I had thought you meant there was something about Ozma banishing the cats who had always lived in Oz, but apparently not. Still rather harsh, though.

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