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An Introduction to Oz

Myth:

In 1939, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer wanted to do a fantasy musical movie starring Judy Garland. So the MGM screenwriters wrote an original story called "The Wizard of Oz", which became the famous movie, and the rest is history...

Fact:

The story of Oz goes back to 1900 CE, when children's writer Lyman Frank Baum wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, followed by 13 other Oz novels by Baum, plus a smaller number of stories regarding the borderlands of Oz.

Baum always loved telling stories to the children he knew, and at the urging of his mother-in-law, Matilda Gage (who was also a famous suffragette), he started writing the stories down and getting them published. He created a wonderful array of stories and magical lands in books such as Dot and Tot of Merryland, Queen Zixi of Ix, and The Magical Monarch of Mo, but none approached the success and popularity of the Oz books.

Baum once summed up his feelings about his writing in a note to his sister, in which he said:

...I have learned to regard fame as a will-o-the-wisp which, when caught, is not worth the possession; but to please a child is a sweet and lovely thing that warms one's heart and brings its own reward.

After Baum passed away in 1919, his publisher appointed Ruth Plumly Thompson to continue the series. Oz has grown into a vivid and imaginative world much beloved by children and young-at-heart adults alike.

However times change; and the Oz series, very much a product of the late Victorian and Edwardian society in which L. Frank Baum lived, has in recent times become largely overshadowed by the timeless MGM film, as well as by subsequent fantasy series, such as Harry Potter, which often seem much more in sync with the tastes and values of modern audiences.

It is for that reason that a new generation of authors have begun a campaign to breathe new life into the Oz universe, and bring it to a wide, modern audience -- in some cases even an adult audience with a series of all-new novels and other media. Most of the attempts to do this so far, however, tend to turn the wonderful world Baum conceived upside-down. For example, Gregory Maguire's recent novel, Wicked, makes the Wicked Witch of the West into the protagonist, Glinda into an airheaded materialist, and the Wizard a fascist dictator. What I and my colleagues see a dire need for is contemporary Oz adventures with the sophistication to please a grown-up, but that preserve the basic nature of the world and characters revealed by L. Frank Baum, the Royal Historian of Oz.

Oz 2.0 is a movement by a new generation of authors to achieve this goal. As you explore this page you will discover the marvels that Oz holds in store for you, and you will come away with realization that there is much more to Oz than Judy Garland!

"Oz 2.0" web pages © 2004 by Dave Hardenbrook

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