Conquest by Computer

The 1986 Oziana is the first issue I ever read, even though it was around 1993 when I did so. I just started out by ordering the earliest one the Oz Club was offering at the time. The cover here has a very 80s computer kind of look, with lettering and a border that remind me of the Print Shop. Maybe that’s what they were actually from. It also has a drawing by Blair Boudreau that makes Tik-Tok bigger than the Hungry Tiger. The computerized style fits in with the first story this time around.

“A Computer Wizard in Oz,” by Phyllis Ann Karr – The title to this one also has a design from the Print Shop, or some similar software, showing a row of floppy disks, even though the tale takes place in the future. It’s actually a story within a story, with an Oz fan meeting a Poe fan and convincing him to participate in a role-playing game where he’s a computer programmer who tries to conquer Oz. Using a mainframe in Colorado credited to Smith and Tinker, he transports himself to Ozma’s palace and traps the ruler in a virtual world inside a terminal. He’s eventually thwarted by Glinda, the Wizard of Oz, and other friends of Ozma’s, although it’s also implied that Dr. Poe purposely makes some mistakes for Oziah to pick up on, his character being such that he’s more interested in trying to outwit the people of Oz than in really conquering them. Karr writes the vernacular of the future to use the gender-neutral “M.” as a title. Also, within the game, Trot’s mother is living in Oz, and referred to as “Mrs. Charles Griffiths.” Melody Grandy illustrated this one, as she did with much of Karr’s Oz work. I notice she drew Jellia Jamb with curly hair.

Two more Computer Wizard stories appear in later issues.

“Much Ado About Kiki Aru,” by Sean Patrick Duffley – The author of “The Rainbow’s Daughter of Oz” returns with a coda of sorts to The Magic of Oz, which never explains what happened with Kiki‘s parents after his memory was wiped. Here, Bini Aru remembers the Magic Word and uses it to infiltrate the Emerald City, but has a run-in with the palace inhabitants. It’s eventually explained that the Word operates through a fairy named Pyrzqxgl, who was enchanted by the Wicked Witch of the East. She’s disenchanted and claims that the Word will no longer work, and it’s true that it isn’t used in the rest of the main series even when it might come in handy. It does show up in apocryphal works, however, so perhaps the Word does still work, but at the fairy’s discretion. It’s actually used in “Computer Wizard,” although I suppose that doesn’t really count. There’s also a brief scene with Ruggedo, setting up his return to villainy in Kabumpo. That book just says that “the magic of the Fountain of Oblivion had worn off,” not something that we’d previously seen happen. Duffley has him explain that he’s built up an immunity to the water. There does seem to be a bit of a temporal issue, as Bini leaves Mount Munch a week after Kiki does, but Magic has Kiki spend a few weeks in nut form before being made to drink the magic water. It doesn’t make too much sense for Bini to wait that long before looking, though.

“Santa Claus in Oz,” by Tim Hollis – The author of “Colonel Cotton” contributed this one, again pretty jokey with illustrations to match. A Christmas story is a bit out of season just now, but I’m just reading in order.

During a heat wave at the North Pole (the weather report says the temperature might get above zero), Santa moves his operations to the Emerald City. While this story acknowledges that Santa used to live in the Laughing Valley, it incorporates some more recent Christmas legends, making it a crossover of sorts. Both Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman make appearances, as does Mrs. Claus.

There’s no indication that L. Frank Baum’s Santa ever got married. There is a mention in “Little Bun Rabbit” that Mother Hubbard lives with him as his cook, so maybe their relationship developed beyond that, but that’s still kind of a stretch. The plot mostly involves Ruggedo in a role similar to that of the Grinch, trying to sabotage Santa’s operations. He even has a change of heart when he hears people singing. The Nome’s role here is kind of weird, because he’s being punished, but still allowed to live in the Emerald City without any real watch over him; he’s been made to operate a miniature golf course.

Still, there are so many different unofficial tales of Ruggedo that this can probably fit in somewhere. There’s a recurring gag about Jack Pumpkinhead mixing up Santa with the Easter Bunny, and a line by a character identified as “the [Yellow] Knight’s helper, Wilbur Canard.” I’ve never seen any mention of him elsewhere, but so I’d be interested to know if Hollis came up with anything about him beyond this identification. My story, “The Easter Bunny of Oz,” is kind of a follow-up to this one. Richard Capwell would later use the same title as this story for a book.

Next time, we’ll learn more about the Wogglebug’s tailor, Jack Frost, Peter Brown, and Mr. Smith.

This entry was posted in Animals, Art, Characters, Christmas, Games, Holidays, Humor, L. Frank Baum, Magic, Magic Items, Melody Grandy, Nursery Rhymes, Oz, Oz Authors, Phyllis Ann Karr, Relationships, Ruth Plumly Thompson and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Conquest by Computer

  1. Ethan Davis says:

    Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the 1987 Oziana Nathan. Especially since the story with Jack Frost from that issue will be canon to my Oz series.

    • Nathan says:

      I’ve referenced that story in a few things I’ve written, too.

      • Ethan Davis says:

        That’s Great. Jack Frost in my Oz series is still just as mischevious as ever. He also still has a crush on Dorothy (though it’s less creepy since she’s older). However, this puts Jack into some comedic conflicts with Ojo (who is Dorothy’s boyfriend by this point)

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