Some time ago I had the opportunity to read Ryk Spoor's Polychrome in Oz in manuscript. I sent him my comments, some of which you can see in that link. What I didn't tell him was that both midway through and at the end I kept having the same nagging thought: wow, I can see that this might be a tough sell to publishers.

Here's why - the tough sell, that is, not why I didn't tell him.

By this point, if you haven't been able to tell, I have read a lot of Oz books. And I do mean a lot. (Beyond the posts, I also continue to review Oz books for the Baum Bugle.) They tend to fall into two different categories:

1. Happy, cheerful kids books focused on adventure and fun, with a few - very few - attempting to make sense of some of the inconsistencies in Oz along the way (Paul Dana's The Law of Oz, for instance.) Sometimes these books focus on Oz characters; sometimes these books focus on kids from our world getting to go to Oz - either temporarily or permanently. (Loosen those immigration standards, Ozma!)

2. Serious and often, frankly, depressing as hell adult takes on Oz, that Examine All of the Ramifications of This Fairyland and Insert Clever References to the Movies. Interestingly these tend to outsell the cheerful kids books, and I have thoughts on that, but more later.

What's been, for the most part, completely missing is anything between these two extremes: a fantasy adventure set in Oz written for adults.

And that's what Ryk has provided here. And since it doesn't easily fit into those categories, it was, as I feared, a tough sell - so he's turning to Kickstarter to get it into print.

Full disclosure: Ryk and I follow each other on Lj, but I'm linking here not because of that, but because I'm hoping this is the start of a new trend for Oz books.
ABC's Once Upon a Time finally went to Oz this last Sunday. I had FEELINGS, which was gracious enough to post.

Speaking of, the Lloyd Alexander reread finally came to a conclusion with The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio.

I'm finding, by the way, that going through this many books by a single author at once is getting slightly mind numbing - not to mention that I think it's making me less appreciative of these authors. So I may be altering my approach a bit - starting with choosing a less prolific author to reread this week. Keep an eye out for magical nannies.

(The Disney focus of this week was entirely unintentional, I promise.)
Citibank's chief economist, on today's government shutdown:

"The world's largest economy looks like the Land of Oz run by munchkins," Willem Buiter, Citigroup's global chief economist, told CNBC after the U.S. government shutdown began.

Allow me to say, alas, if only.

I have, of course, been one of the loudest and fiercest critics of Ozma, the girl Ruler of Oz, carefully documenting all of the numerous historically attested examples of what I have termed "Ozma fail," including, but not limited to, actions leading to gross injustice, kidnapping, an attack on the Emerald City, war or genocide. So I think I cannot be accused of bias when I say both "if only" and "how unfair," or of gross partisanship if I take up cudgels in her defense.

Oz, after all, is arguably one of the most successful economies in the known or unknown universe, so wealthy that it can even offer a free suite of rooms, elegant food, and free jewels to American hobos who just happen to be passing by. The Emerald City also provides lavish parties and entertainment at no cost to the local population. Areas of the kingdom suffering economic distress can apply for and receive economic assistance from the central government in the Emerald City. The result is an economy that is the marvel of the magical world. I can think of only one negative: the country has been so successful that it has embarked on an ethically questionable colonization program, though Oz's ambassadors assure the Royal Historians of Oz that the several countries of the Nonestic Ocean are eager to join in the economic benefits of Oz's planned, centralized economy.

Mind you, by the standards of Citibank's chief economist, some aspects of the Oz economy may seem a bit alarming. Oz, after all, is a centralized, planned economy offering free universal health care (provided by magic wand and natural, genetic immortality) and education -- an education which children and college students are literally forced to swallow down. Farmers are forced to turn over all agricultural surpluses to the Emerald City to be stored in giant warehouses to be distributed for the common good; products are evenly distributed, with no profit margin. To quote from the greatest of the Royal Historians:

Some tilled the lands and raised great crops of grain, which was divided equally among the entire population, so that all had enough. There were many tailors and dressmakers and shoemakers and the like, who made things that any who desired them might wear. Likewise there were jewelers who made ornaments for the person, which pleased and beautified the people, and these ornaments also were free to those who asked for them. Each man and woman, no matter what he or she produced for the good of the community, was supplied by the neighbors with food and clothing and a house and furniture and ornaments and games.

The Emerald City has also eliminated all overtime:

Every one worked half the time and played half the time...

and executive management:

There were no cruel overseers set to watch them, and no one to rebuke them or to find fault with them.

and, at least in theory, restricts the practice of magic to only three individuals in the country, stifling magical innovation, although in practice this rule is widely circumvented and appears to be a lot less popular than the "no overtime" rule.

To be fair, this economy is run by Ozma, not Munchkins. Point to Citibank.
I present you, oh readers, with choices: you can read my nice serious discussion of Oz the Great and Powerful over at, or you can just head straight for the snark:

Aggressively spoilery snark ahead! )
Sometime ago I made what seemed to be a miraculous find in the nearby Here Be Dragons used bookstore: a copy of Rachel Cosgrove Payes' The House of Tarot. Even better, I got it for free, which seemed really miraculous until I started reading it and discovered that once again the bookstore owner really knew her used books.

For those who have forgotten, Rachel Cosgrove Payes wrote The Hidden Valley in Oz, the serviceable but not great 39th book in the original Famous Forty Oz books. For whatever reason -- possibly the terrible illustrations -- the book didn't sell well, and the publishers turned to Eloise Jarvis McGraw and Lauren McGraw for the next book in the series. Cosgrove moved to writing romances, science fiction, and Gothic romances. The House of Tarot is a 1975 Gothic romance, and oh, it's terrible.

A few words about Gothic romances: the idea is pretty much standard: Girl arrives at old house which is sometimes crumbling, sometimes not, and finds herself wildly attracted to a Man with a mysterious past or a Man with a Strangely Compelling Personality. Mystery Ensues, usually combined with possible Very Real Ghosts and Insanity. The books have multiple variations -- Victoria Holt, a leader of the genre, sometimes said "oh, screw this" and refused to give her readers the expected happy ending (especially once she'd reached the level where she could do so and remain financially comfortable); Elizabeth Peters typically made fun of the entire genre (while milking it under her other pseudonym of Barbara Michaels); Mary Stewart played with the personalities of her male leads, and so on.

Payes flops on nearly every level.

Oh, she has the naive heroine (Amanda) and the Rival Woman with Questionable Motives (Toni) and the Mysterious House and Things That Go Bump in the Night. So far, so good. She's killed off the Man with the Brutal Personality early on in the novel (also good) replacing him in a sorta romantic role with the Man Who Is Just Really Boring (less good) and who May Or May Not Have Mysterious Motives But We Are All Yawning Too Much To Tell. Since Boring Man shows up early on I was expecting another Mysterious Stranger to show up, and he does, taking up the role of Surprisingly Boring Mysterious Stranger. And then not much happens apart from Thumping Things until The End when Amanda Must Escape.

It's the end where things really fail: Payes fails to provide the expected romance, or a reason for not having the expected romance, instead leaving something that's both vaguely dissatisfying and incoherent.

Nonetheless, I'm glad I read this -- it answered a nagging question I've had since doing my read through the Oz series -- which is, what could Payes have done with the series had she been allowed to continue? And alas, the answer seems to be, not much.
1. Starting with the tiniest of updates: a little and completely untitled twitter story of mine popped up at Nanoism. You will note that it focuses on two of my obsessions: Oz and Twitter.

2. On a considerably larger note, I note that Beast Within 3: Oceans Unleashed has popped up at Amazon and Barnes and Noble a few days before the official publication date, as these things do.

Beast Within 3 includes my short story, "Safe," very loosely based on a few dolphin legends; to say more would kinda ruin the story, so I'll leave it there. It also includes stories from Jennifer Pelland, Mae Empson, Amanda Davis, and Nisi Shawl, among many others. I think this is the first time Nisi Shawl and I have shared a table of contents, so that's pretty cool.

3. I was going to discuss Duotrope's decision to go paid (for those unaware, Duotrope is an online database of multiple publications that offers a submissions tracking system and various submission/rejection statistics for writers) and then realized that a) I didn't care that much, and b) Alex Shvartsman had already summed it up for me.

More blogging coming up in theory if this coffee ever works its way through my system.
...but I just haven't been in a blogging mood. Again. But a few things I ought to mention:

1) The weekly post, about the next book in the Freddy series, The Story of Freginald, has popped up on

2) And as long as I'm chatting about, also appearing on the site today is a preview of the cover for A Memory of Light, the last of the Wheel of Time books The double decade tradition of "And this is showing us what, exactly" continues apace!

3) My contributor's copy of The Baum Bugle also arrived today, along with the notice that The Baum Bugle is looking for a new editor. That editor will not be me, nor will I have any involvement in the hiring process, but if you are interested in Oz and editing stuff, I have the contact info.

4) After giving us one final delightful taste of coolness in April, the summer heat appears to be marching in, alas without the summer rain. Sigh.
Apparently this comic is, and I quote, "an homage to Mari Ness and her hatred of Oz-related clowns."

In fairness, I don't hate ALL Oz clowns. Just this one. I quite liked the little clown in The Shaggy Man of Oz.

And speaking of that book, I just got a copy of The Shaggy Man of Oz: Empty-Grave Retrofit Edition. I haven't had the time to give it a close look yet, but this is basically a reprint of the original, with some restored illustrations, plus an added novella from Adam Nicolai. More once I get a chance to peruse it.

Alas, head is KILLING me right now, so need to head to bed. Later, everyone.
Thanks to ICFA, golf, ICFA, more golf, and recovering from ICFA and golf, I've been pretty much out of it (and mostly offline) for the last week or so, but not so out of it that I have not been kept abreast of the latest developments in modern culture:

Thanks – I think thanks, anyway – are due to the BBC for recording this in the first place and Eric Gjovaag of the Blog of Oz for directing my attention to it, and also reminding me of a similar glorious moment of human achievement:

to cleanse your ears, as it were.

Or if you really need to cleanse your ears, this clip sent my way by various people. (YouTube won't let me embed that one.) [personal profile] akashiver is right to note that the editing on this, like every other Britain's Got Talent clip, is blatantly manipulative, but...I sniffled. And then headed back to the Muppets.
1. The latest Madeleine L'Engle reread, about Many Waters, is up at Bonus! No inappropriate sex, homophobia or racism issues in this post or the comments. Yet.

2. Speaking of this sort of thing and, since I know none of you are popping back to look at my old posts, I thought I'd alert you to a comment left by a publisher on my post about The Silver Princess in Oz, to let me know that they are reprinting Silver Princess with the racist content removed.

I haven't taken a look at this revised Silver Princess, although it's available in ebook format for the Nook and iPad, largely because my ongoing response to Silver Princess is that I never need to read it again. I am also dubious about the value of changing texts: true, I hated, but hated, the ending of Silver Princess and I wish it had never been written, but I do think there's some value in remembering that publishers once found it completely acceptable to print stuff like that.

But that disclaimer aside, there's another bit, the bit of me that loves Oz and loves the way that 38 of the 40 Oz books welcomed and accepted everyone, no matter how different or strange, that wants other Oz readers to be able to experience that warm welcome in every Oz book, including this one. So part of me welcomes this change.

3. In completely unrelated news, I have just discovered that the only two things I planned to do in March -- The Arnold Palmer Invitational, which I have tickets for (birthday gift), and the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts, which I've already signed up for, are taking place on the same days. Grr.

I'm not really sure how I'm going to be working this out. My initial thought of going to the Arnold Palmer on Sunday probably won't work since I've promised to meet with an old college friend on Sunday, who last I heard wasn't a golf fan, and since I want to give the extra ticket to my brother. More probably, I'll see if I can work something out with him where we go to the Invite on either Wednesday or Thursday (preferably Thursday) during the day, I collapse for a bit, and then show up at IAFA in the evening. I'll check and see when registration is open.

4. Finally, apologies for the lack of blog posts recently; I have been unbelievably exhausted. Which is one worry about the combined IAFA/Arnold Palmer thing.
So this is the part where a tactful, friendly person would say that the best part of the con was getting to meet and hang out with friends. But as I think we've well established by now, I am not a tactful, friendly person. So let me be honest: the marvelous conversations and meetups with friends and writers were only the second best part of the con*.

This was the best:

Cut for large images. ) has just published the most recent Edith Nesbit post on The Wonderful Garden. Which reminded me that while I was off in California published two other posts, about The Magic City, which turned out to be one of my favorite Nesbit books and a genuine delight, and Gregory Maguire's Out of Oz, which is not going to be one of my favorite Oz books.

Speaking of Oz books....the subject of the Oz books written by Edward Einhorn, Geoff Ryman, Eric Shanower and Sherwood Smith came up at WFC more than once, and to answer everyone, yes, the possibility of reviewing these books did come up with Tor as well, did not happen for various reasons, but may happen later. We shall see. And I just may have a little Oz thing pop up on this blog later today (assuming I can make the camera work. Let us not trust in this.)

Speaking of, the next major reread is Madeleine L'Engle, coming, soon. I am not sure. But before that, one more Nesbit post!
Illustrator Ben Wood, who calls himself "crazy," has set himself to doing one new Oz illustration per day for the entire month of October.. Some of the pictures are inspired by the work of John R. Neill, some by the MGM movie, and some by his own ideas, but it's an impressive project -- and if you click back far enough you might just see some Muppet pictures.
This is the movie that Russell Crowe reportedly walked out on, and honestly, after seeing it, who can blame him? I am imagining the meeting between the producers and script writers now:

Script writer 1: We've got a wildly expensive idea for a movie for you. It's set in Australia!

Producer 1: Ok, cue the budget for kangaroos. What's the story?

Script writer 2: A prim young British aristocrat arrives in Australia and realizes that to avenge her husband's murder, she has to take part in a cattle drive across the Badlands of Australia as the kangaroos look on HELPLESSLY in the background! Fortunately, a hot cattle drover is THERE to help her. We're calling him Drover for the laughs. (Really. Everyone calls him Drover. I was assuming for the laughs.) They can even kiss in the rain.

Producer 2: Hmm. Not sure that's enough story.

Script writer 1: Fortunately, the Japanese are invading!

Producer 1: During the cattle drive?

Script writer 2: No, after. Because, you know, bombing runs are tough on the cows, and we want to use Real Cows. For realism. To go along with the Fake Japanese Airplanes and British Warships we'll be using later.

Producer 2: I dunno. See, I don't think Australia, in World War II, had enough going on, what with Japanese bombings and so on. People need something big.

Script writer 1: Well, I suppose we could throw in a third plot, touchingly and respectfully showing the tragedy of the aboriginal Australian population and their forced cultural assimilation as the Japanese approach, complete with bar fights!

Producer 1: Sounds like a bit of a downer.

Script writer 2: What if, while all the evil characters are happily comparing the aboriginal Australians to children, we, you know, go deep and cast the main aboriginal Australian as a child? With a nice added primitive aboriginal Australian in the background chatting at the wind and lugging a spear around. We can even throw in a nice lesson about racism!

Producer 2: Which is?

Script writer 1: If white people mistreat aboriginal Australians, the aborigines will get shot by Japanese!

Producer 1: That's nice.

Script writer 2: Plus, this will give us the chance to have the adorable aboriginal kid stop a cattle stampede by wiggling his fingers.

Producer 2: I dunno. I'm just not feeling it yet. Got any villains?

Script writer 1: Apart from, you know, the Japanese invaders and the hellish, hellish Australian weather that we'll be depicting through careful CGI imagery?

Producer 1: Yeah. We just don't think that's enough.

Script writer 2: How about an over-the-top villain who for some reason wants to take on still more cattle on the eve of a freaking invasion AND is racist AND also fathered the cute little aboriginal kid?

Producer 1: Wait, so the aboriginal kid –

Script writer 1: Is actually half-caste, yes! Just ADDS TO THE DRAMA.

Producer 1: Or...not.

Script writer 2: We can have the villain twirl his moustache!

Producer 1: Or...not.

Script writer 1: Ok, we'll lose the moustache. But I guarantee you'll want it back later, when the villain gets ready to kill all of the cute little orphans that inexplicably survived the Japanese bombing attack.

Producer 2: But SOMEONE dies, right?

Script writer 2: A couple minor characters, sure. And to add more tension, we can even pretend to kill one of the leads off at one point, leading to a TOUCHING MOMENT against a SMOKE FILLED SCREEN.

Script writer 1: Plus, we've filled in any potential dull moments with Amusing Stock Characters, including the Well-Meaning Drunk Guy Who Gets Run Over By Cows; the Chinese Guy With Amusing Mispronunciations of Words; the Other Wise Black Guy; the Sassy Black Woman; the Black Woman Who Dies For a Poignant Moment; the Mean Bartender; and some Disapproving Stuck Up British Socialites In Australia For Unexplained Reasons.

Producer 1: Hmm. I'm just not sure -- cattle stampede, World War II, adorable children, drinking, vengeance for a husband's murder, a mysterious Australian bushman, various spear throwing and excessively fake looking bombing -– do you really think you'll be able to fill an entire move with just this?

Script writer 2: Well, we've thrown in Hugh Jackman's naked chest.

Producer 3: And Nicole Kidman?

Script writer 1: She's promised to look into the camera without blinking a lot.

Script writer 2: And everybody will sing from The Wizard of Oz. A lot.*

Producer 1: Well. I'm sold.

To be fair, when the film isn't focused on little CGI boats and planes, it looks magnificent. And the actors do what they can with the very limited script and dialogue (although you get the distinct impression that Jackman wanted huge changes to the script). Kidman and Jackman even manage chemistry together. The actor playing the aboriginal kid is cute and will hopefully manage to have a career beyond this. And I have to admit that I fell over laughing when the response to the Japanese bombing was to play "Somewhere – OVER THE RAINBOW!" On a little harmonica. It is a moment of utter if unintentional awesomeness.

And to be further fair, had the film focused on just one storyline – the cattle drive, World War II, or aboriginal assimilation, combining any of these with the epic romance, it might have worked. As it was –

Well. It had a cute kid playing "Over the Rainbow" on the harmonica as the Japanese were bombing everything. Great stuff. Plus, you know, Hugh Jackman's chest. There's something to be said for that.

*Er, not that they could. A tiny, tiny bit of research would have shown that The Wizard of Oz film had not, in fact, been shown in Australia by the events depicted in this movie. But as I've always tried to say, Oz is magical and even defies time and geography, so I'm willing to let this one go.
Two tidbits: First, I've been informed that the latest issue of The Baum Bugle is at the printer and copies shall be speeding their way to the appropriate parties speedily. Why is this exciting? Because, starting with this issue, I shall be doing occasional reviews for it. Yay Oz! I figure that if I spend enough time at The Baum Bugle, Ozma might actually notice and decide to develop a more mature governing style. (On the other hand she's been on the throne for more than a century now, so, maybe she's changed a bit.)

Second, over at, I chat about Treasures of Morrow, the sequel to Children of Morrow. Which comes close to ending my little sidetrack into children's dystopia fiction.


Apr. 11th, 2011 04:10 pm
Thanks to the small fact that the email alerting to this ended up in my spam filter, rather than my regular email, a filter I rarely bother to check often, I failed to inform you all that for the low, low price of several thousand dollars Sotheby's was auctioning off various original watercolor and other paintings from classic children's illustrators, including Arthur Ransom, Beatrix Potter, Kate Greenaway, and (the reason I was emailed about this) Oz illustrators W.W. Denslow and John R. Neill, incidentally proving that I will never have enough money to own an original Neill, ever.

Anyway, some of the illustrations in the e-catalogue are lovely, so I thought I'd pass along the link for everyone to meander through even if it's too late for any of us to bid.

And while searching, I found something of potential interest to my mother and [personal profile] fbhjr: illustrations by a certain George Henry Boughton. (The collection has several more images.)


Jan. 24th, 2011 09:12 am
So, the quest to save Fringe now that it's been moved to Friday nights is on! It might have gone better if I'd actually remembered that it was on Friday nights, but, er, whatever. I don't have one of those awesome boxes that control ratings in any case.

Anyway! Three small and spoilery comments about Friday's episode. )
The most recent Oz post, on A Lion Among Men, just popped up on

This will be the last of the Oz posts for a few weeks, at least, since I'm moving on to Narnia. I'd say, the last, except that every time I say that, it hasn't been the last Oz post at all, and I do have tickets for Wicked. So. Expect at least one more Oz post, assuming I'm not too dazzled to say anything at all...


In other news, I finally got around to joining as a fully active member. I was technically eligible last year, but I'm very superstitious about publications after some bad luck years back, so I decided to wait until my third eligible publication actually appeared....only to be caught up with house stuff, holiday stuff, and, well, imposter syndrome and reluctance to join any of these group things.

Filling out the paperwork was a pointed reminder that I need to do some serious work on short fiction and novels. Last year was not good as far as word count and actually finishing stuff went. Better go start working on that now.
Sorry for the lack of blogging on here: partly exhaustion, partly a lack of words, partly doing some thinking, some readjusting, but not entirely of the blogging type.

In the meantime, to tide you over, the latest post: Gregory Maguire's Son of a Witch.

Only one more (immediate) Oz post to go before I flip over to Narnia.


Dec. 16th, 2010 04:13 pm
My latest post, chatting about Gregory Maguire's Wicked, is up at

In related news, apparently my new title is Tor dot goddess of all things Oz. I like it.


To answer the question already instant messaged my way, I have not seen the musical because every time Wicked came my way I was either broke or busy or both.

However, I have been made aware of my dereliction of duty here, and, no real thanks to Ticketmaster, this should be changing quite, quite soon.

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