Yesterday was L. Frank Baum’s birthday, and the day before that, Michael Booth set up a virtual event to celebrate. There weren’t that many attendees, but it included presentations, and I’m too disorganized and socially awkward to arrange something like that. The first presentation was by J.L. Bell, who talked about the significance of the Little Wizard Stories. Even though they were written by Baum and published in book form within his lifetime, the collected volume doesn’t generally make the cut as far as official Oz books go. They were slight, and largely promotional material for Baum’s return to the series with The Patchwork Girl of Oz. Still, everyone was in character and Oz still worked the same way as in the books, unlike the earlier Queer Visitors from the Marvelous Land of Oz comic stories. They also demonstrated some development in how Baum wrote about Oz. Some fan-written works used ideas introduced in these stories. Chris Dulabone wrote a book about the Imps from “Ozma and the Little Wizard,” and the Squirrel King from “Jack Pumpkinhead and the Sawhorse” is a villain in Bill Campbell and Irwin Terry’s Lavender Bear.
John wrote his own story, “Ojo and the Woozy,” in sort of the same style; and even before that, there was Robert Pattrick’s “Hank and the Scarecrow of Oz.” I jokingly asked if there were any Big Wizard Stories, and the answer was that “Little Dorothy and Toto” has a big Wizard.
The next presentation was mine. So many people I know hate public speaking, but I generally like it. Sure, I’m nervous, but it’s the kind of nervousness that gives me adrenaline rather than the kind that makes me want to hide. I made a PowerPoint for it, and that’s the first time I’ve made one of those in years. It was on death and aging in Oz, something I’ve discussed before and other fans have as well, but I thought it somewhat related to birthdays.
I mentioned how I’ve seen the idea a few times that Ruth Plumly Thompson came up with the idea of wishing on your birthday to control aging, but I don’t recall this actually being mentioned in any of her books. Two of the main things I thought of that maybe haven’t been discussed quite as much as others were how Oz wasn’t initially said to be deathless, and it might have been an idea Baum carried over from The Magical Monarch of Mo; and whether there’s a recovery period when Ozites’ bodies are cut apart. There are cases of heads and other body parts operating on their own, but it also seems like Ozites still need to eat, drink, and breathe, which would be impossible if the head isn’t attached to the body. Maybe there’s a certain amount of adjustment there. I inadvertently skipped over a few things that were on my slides, like John R. Neill’s stop-growing age and the odd way death works in the Blue Country of Sky Island, but they wouldn’t have added that much. I didn’t think to look at audience reactions when I was talking, but maybe that’s for the best.
The next speaker was Philip Lewin, who discussed how magic works in his version of Oz, and how some darker aspects worked their way into the land when Lurline’s enchantment was beneficial. After all, some of the beings in the series are kind of horrific in certain ways, but they’re generally used to it. Phil’s idea is that, after Lurline’s sister Enilrul cursed the place, she mitigated the effects somewhat.
Then Michael talked about the history of the Oz Film Manufacturing Company, and we saw some trailers for new edits of the silent films. Finally, Tim Tucker gave a quiz on Kahoot, which is pretty standard for these Zoom meetings. It’s a very different experience from taking a quiz at a convention, as it’s all multiple choice, and you get a better score if you answer very quickly. The choices are represented by colors, which is confusing when the answers are DIFFERENT colors. Some of the questions were pretty hard, delving into obscure details. I ended up winning that. Anyway, it was fun, and Michael has said he wants to do another one sometime.