Science Fiction Studies


#91 = Volume 30, Part 3 = November 2003


Aaron Parrett

Alternative Worlds of the Nineteenth Century

Edgar Rice Burroughs. Pellucidar. Lincoln, Nebraska: U of Nebraska P, 2002. xv +167 pp. $13.95 pbk.

C.J. Cutcliffe Hyne. The Lost Continent: The Story of Atlantis. Lincoln, Nebraska: U of Nebraska P, 2002. xiv +257 pp. $14.95 pbk.

H.G. Wells. The War in the Air. Lincoln, Nebraska: U of Nebraska P, 2002. xi + 258 pp. $16.00 pbk.

Bison Books has recently released three titles in its FRONTIERS OF IMAGINATION series that will be familiar to aficionados of the adventure novel. As many critics have observed, the adventure genre, which often features swashbuckling and ruggedly modern heroes employed in “civilizing” other worlds, may be read as a commentary on imperialism and the real-time colonization of Africa, India, and other parts of the world. This is especially true of the curious sequel to Burroughs’s At the Earth’s Core (1914) titled Pellucidar (1915). The hero, David Innes, has returned to the world of Pellucidar--a prehistoric land in the interior of the earth, teeming with exotic and wild animals and primitive quasi-human societies--dutifully sincere in his intention to take up “the White Man’s Burden.” Burroughs’s novel has all the fine markings of (if one may be permitted an oxymoron) a top-notch potboiler. The book is composed of brief, eminently readable chapters, each ending, like the Saturday afternoon serials such novels inspired, in a cliffhanger. We observe clearly demarcated forces of good and evil, and we follow a handsome and übermenschlich European hero in ardent pursuit of the local queen, who is stunning in her native beauty.

The enduring success of such novels with no pretensions to high art stems from Burroughs’s mastery of the art of tale-spinning. Perhaps the best modern analogue would be the Indiana Jones films, adventure stories whose success derives from impeccably intense pacing and panoramic action. Virtually every chapter of Pellucidar ends with our hero enmeshed in a crisis from which delivery seems all but impossible; each subsequent chapter then testifies to his ingenuity and physical strength, for each time he escapes to advance his project of subduing and civilizing the world of Pellucidar.

The subtext of such adventure stories is authentication of the real-world colonialism that the Western nations were imposing on the rest of the planet. This is especially true in the case of Burroughs, who frequently compares the savagely brutal natives of Pellucidar to Native Americans. At one point, Innes comments on the “simplified language” of the natives, which seems to his ear composed of nothing but verbs and nouns: “like our own North American Indians when questioned by a white man, they pretended not to understand me” (86).

The novel ends with the triumph of Innes. Having subjugated the native populations and singlehandedly routed the legions of his chief adversary Hooja, Innes is universally acknowledged as emperor of Pellucidar. Hence, this variation on the theme of Kipling’s darker story “The Man Who Would Be King” (1888-90) ends with Innes settling down to the business of civilizing an entire world and raising its inhabitants to the level of the surface-dwelling Europeans.

This new edition reprints the J. Allen St. John illustrations from the original and adds an introduction by Jack McDevitt and an afterword by Phillip R. Burger. Though McDevitt is a well-respected sf writer, his comments on Pellucidar are for the most part disappointing and unhelpful. He feints toward some compelling comments about Burroughs’s ambiguity about the value of civilization, but fails to draw any meaningful conclusion regarding Burroughs’s motives beyond a suspicion that “his objection to civilization was purely professional” (xiii). McDevitt does, however, identify the secret of Burroughs’s continuing success: “Burroughs does far more than simply tell a story. He creates an experience. When it rains in [the] novel, the reader gets wet” (xiv). Burger’s Afterword, by contrast, is a fascinating essay with an intriguing title: “A Railroad through the Pleistocene; or with Roosevelt in Brightest Pellucidar.” Burger explores the similarities between Innes’s adventures in the imaginary world of Pellucidar and the political enterprises of Theodore Roosevelt. “[T]he framing sequence for At the Earth’s Core and Pellucidar ... is highly reminiscent of Roosevelt’s book [African Game Trails (1910)]” (159). One Rooseveltian theme that Burroughs echoes is the rugged adventurer’s warning against powerful nations’ overcivilizing themselves into “effete” sloth. Burger also draws parallels between fantasy-world adventure stories such as Pellucidar and prototypical western novels such as Owen Wister’s The Virginian (1904). Both partake of what Frederick Turner called “the Myth of the West”-- a yearning for fresh territory in which to erect new civilizations that avoid the material excess and intellectual complacency of more established societies.

C.J. Cutcliffe Hyne’s The Lost Continent (1899) is another rip-roaring adventure. L. Sprague de Camp, who wrote Lost Continents: The Atlantis Theme in History, Science, and Literature (1954), the definitive work on the subject, called Hyne’s book “one of the best.” The pace is frenetic and the plot incidental. Like Burroughs’s book, Hyne’s is a thinly disguised valorization of British imperialism. Deucalion, native son of Atlantis, is recalled from the colonies (the Yucatan Peninsula) to restore moral order in the wake of a regime led by Phorenice, a beautiful demi-goddess. Along the way, he falls in love with Naïs, daughter of one of the high priests of the mystery cults of Atlantis. As one might expect from a Victorian novel, the tale is charged with sexual tension bubbling beneath a fragile surface of propriety--Phorenice has a healthy libido, even if Deucalion hits the stage as a forty-something virgin. Harry Turtledove wrote the introduction to this new edition; he tries to encapsulate just what it is about these fin-de-siècle adventure tales that has (after almost a century) ensured their survival. Like McDevitt, however, Turtledove remains vague in his assessment: “Cutcliffe Hyne quite simply wrote himself one hell of a book” (x). (No doubt critics one hundred years from now will be at a similar loss for words when they evaluate the enduring success of John Grisham or Stephen King.) Hyne’s writing might be stiff, his characters stock, and his jingoism hardly suppressed, but his story delivers non-stop action and excitement. Hyne, like his modern-day counterparts, understood the power of entertainment.

Gary Hoppenstand is more articulate than Turtledove in his analysis of Hyne’s success in the afterword. His catalogue of reasons for The Lost Continent’s permanence in print reads like the blurb on a Cecil B. DeMille or Stephen Spielberg DVD:

it is an entertaining and sophisticated adventure story replete with the exotic splendor of an ancient lost civilization, the barbaric decadence ... of a seductive queen, sublime battle scenes featuring the proverbial cast of thousands, deadly combat with prehistoric creatures, mysterious wizards wielding unearthly science to bring apocalyptic catastrophe to a doomed continent, a larger-than-life hero who is the embodiment of bravery and honor, and lofty romance with beautiful maidens laced with undercurrents of titillating sexual repression. (242)

Hoppenstand also points out that The Lost Continent is not entirely original, remarking that it is largely a “pastiche” of themes drawn from the immensely popular H. Rider Haggard, whose novels King Solomon’s Mines (1885) and She (1887) are seminal works in the adventure genre.

Though H.G. Wells’s The War in the Air (1908) is also a kind of action-adventure story, it belongs to the different tradition of dystopian prophetic literature. The other books under review belong more properly to the genre of fantasy, but The War in the Air corresponds closely to what the godfather of sf, Hugo Gernsback, first defined as “scientifiction”: the story takes place in the future and explores the ramifications of human nature intertwined with technology-- as Gernsback put it, Wells’s novel offers “romance intermingled with scientific fact and prophetic vision” (qtd. in Westfahl 342).

The War in the Air contains what many critics have pointed out as a major blunder: Wells predicates his entire tale on the idea that the dirigible, rather than the airplane, would be the main vehicle for airborne warfare. Nevertheless, Wells’s book is in nearly every other respect a prophetic vision of a world devastated by human mastery of the skies. The War in the Air is a precognitive glimpse of the unprecedented wholesale slaughter made possible by the rapid advances in technology during the first decades of the twentieth century. Even more striking is Wells’s description of the German air assault on New York City, which reads like a script for the terrorist attack of 9/11. The airships ram their targeted buildings, and Wells describes an aftermath that is startling in its resemblance to the post-9/11 CNN broadcasts:

a little army of volunteers with white badges entered behind the firemen, bringing out the often still living bodies ... carrying them into the big Monson building close at hand. Everywhere the busy firemen were directing their bright streams of water upon the smouldering masses. (126)

The sf writer Dave Duncan provides an informative introduction in which he argues that Wells’s power of prophecy--even though he was mistaken about the dirigible-- far surpasses that of Orwell’s 1984 (1949) or 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). The message of most of Wells’s novels (and The War in the Air is no exception) seems to be that the moral stature of human beings lags far behind their technological prowess. Needless to say, this theme has been echoed in countless later works of sf.

Wells’s novel also contrasts with Pellucidar and The Lost Continent in its contempt for the imperialistic impulse. Whereas Burroughs and Hyne romanticize and uphold a sense of European superiority to the rest of the world, Wells challenges such self-aggrandizing arrogance. Wells is critical of Eurocentrist positivism, especially as exemplified in London’s Crystal Palace, which Wells sees as representative of a pernicious barbarity lurking beneath an opulent and pretentious façade. Typical of Wells’s method is the irony oozing from the book’s opening line: “‘This here progress,’ said Mr. Tom Smallways, ‘it keeps on’” (1). Such “progress,” as we all remember from our history classes, led directly to the Battle of the Somme and thence to Auschwitz, developments that Wells all but specifically announced before the fact in novels such as The War in the Air.

Bison Books should be commended for putting together such handsome and readable editions of these classic works. Though the editions do not set themselves up as “scholarly,” they would lend themselves to use in classrooms, and for that reason, the weakness in the supporting material is disappointing. Duncan’s introduction to The War in the Air is helpful, and the afterwords by both Phillip Burger and Gary Hoppenstand make for fascinating reading, but the other prefaces fail to provide either compelling insight or basic contextual information. Neither Turtledove nor McDevitt mentions the year of publication for the book he introduces, let alone provides any larger historical context. Nonetheless, the novels themselves are welcome additions to the FRONTIERS OF IMAGINATION series, and are well worthy of perusal.

Sprague de Camp, L. Lost Continents: The Atlantis Theme in History, Science, and Literature. New York: Gnome, 1954.
Westfahl, Gary. “‘The Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and Edgar Allan Poe Type of Story’: Hugo Gernsback’s History of Science Fiction.” SFS #58, 19:3 (November 1992): 340-53.

Ruth Berman

The Wizardry of Oz

Katharine M. Rogers, L. Frank Baum: Creator of Oz. New York: St. Martin’s, 2002. xvi + 318 pp. $27.95 hc.

Michael Patrick Hearn, ed. The Annotated Wizard of Oz. Centennial Edition. New York: W.W. Norton, 2000. cii + 396 pp. $39.95 hc.

Ranjit S. Dighe. The Historian’s Wizard of Oz: Reading L. Frank Baum’s Classic as a Political and Monetary Allegory. Westport, CT: Praeger (88 Post Rd W, Westport CT 06881), 2001. 150 pp. $69.95 hc; $24.95 pbk.

Mark Evan Swartz. Oz Before the Rainbow: L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz on Stage and Screen to 1939. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins UP, 2002. xii + 291 pp. $18.95 pbk.

During its first half-century, L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900), like his other fantasy stories, was ignored by almost every critic who cared about children’s literature. For the general public, the overwhelming popularity of the 1939 MGM movie meant that the title was known, but lists of books recommended for young readers never included Baum. This neglect was due partly to many critics’ distrust of fantasy, and partly to the assumption that any long series must be worthless hack-work. (Baum wrote fourteen full-length Oz books, and the series was continued after his death by Ruth Plumly Thompson, who wrote nineteen more; there were later books by others, too, after her retirement.) No one paid any attention to Oz -- except children who liked to read, and authors of children’s fiction and fantasy, including Ray Bradbury, Carol Ryrie Brink, Edward Eager, Paul Gallico, James Thurber, and Gore Vidal. When Michael Patrick Hearn published the first edition of The Annotated Wizard of Oz in 1973, the only books on Baum were Edward Wagenknecht’s Utopia Americana (1929), The Wizard of Oz and Who He Was (1957) by Martin Gardner and Russell B. Nye (containing Baum’s text, a biographical essay by Gardner, and critical discussion by Nye), and To Please A Child (1961), a biography of Baum by his oldest son, Frank J. Baum, and Russell P. MacFall. Hearn could cite in addition many shorter studies, especially from the pages of the Baum Bugle, published since 1957 by the International Wizard of Oz Club. Although the IWOC is a group of fans rather than scholars, its newsletter regularly includes biographical and bibliographical studies, and occasionally prints critical studies as well. Baum’s hold on readers is now more than a century old, and critics no longer condemn non-realism as necessarily escapist. The centennial of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 2000 occasioned several books re-evaluating Baum’s achievement.

One of the most interesting is Katharine M. Rogers’ biography, L. Frank Baum: Creator of Oz. Frank J. Baum’s memories of his father made for a vivid portrait in To Please A Child, and many of his most striking anecdotes are included in Rogers’s biography. But the forty years intervening between the two biographies have seen the publication of a wealth of new material that Rogers draws upon: biographical studies such as Susan Ferrara’s The Family of the Wizard: The Baums of Syracuse (2000), Nancy Tystad Koupal’s Baum’s Road to Oz: The Dakota Years (2000), Douglas G. Greene and Michael Patrick Hearn’s W.W. Denslow (1976), and critical studies such as Hearn’s 1973 and 1983 annotations, Raylin Moore’s Wonderful Wizard, Marvelous Land (1974), Michael O. Riley’s Oz and Beyond: The Fantasy World of L. Frank Baum (1997), and Suzanne Rahn’s The Wizard of Oz: Shaping an Imaginary World (1998). In addition, archives of Baum family letters and papers have been established at several libraries.

L. Frank Baum’s life sprawled over the entire country, for he grew up in New York, tried to run his own businesses in the Dakota Territory, tried various sales jobs but discovered himself as a writer in Chicago, and finally moved to California. He had several failed careers (actor, general-store owner, newspaper publisher, and traveling salesman) before discovering he was a writer, and began a new career even after becoming successful: his Oz Film Manufacturing Company in California. Rogers balances this variety of place and work with interesting discussion of the ways that his work was influenced by his broad geographical and vocational background; she alternates skillfully between biography and criticism.
Her view of Baum is more nuanced than Frank J. Baum’s portrait had been. The younger Baum, understandably, idealized his father, seeing him as invariably sweet-tempered. Rogers, while generally agreeing, discusses some exceptions. She includes, for example, a brief discussion of Baum’s “truly shocking editorial” (259) written during the panic inspired by fear of Indian rebellion in the Dakota Territory in 1890, in which he advocated extermination of Indians, a position contradicting what Baum on most other occasions advocated.

Rogers has written scholarly books on feminism, and she includes thoughtful discussions of Baum’s ambivalent reaction to feminism. His wife, Maud Gage Baum, was the daughter of Matilda J. Gage, a leader in the Suffrage movement. Baum included a satire of the Suffrage movement in his second Oz book, The Marvelous Land of Oz (1904), portraying General Jinjur and her band of rebels as largely -- but not entirely foolish and misguided. At the same time, he chose at the end of that book to turn Oz from a male autocracy, headed by the Scarecrow (as appointed by the Wizard at the end of the first book), into a female autocracy, headed by Ozma, “rightful” queen of Oz, with the Good Witch Glinda as her chief advisor. (In Wizard, Glinda’s area of power was restricted to her own territory, the Quadling Country.) On the transformation of the boy Tip into the girl-queen Ozma, Rogers comments that when Ozma says that she is the same person as ever and Jack Pumpkinhead replies, “Only you’re different!,” Jack “probably speaks for Baum.... Girls are not the same as boys, but they are not inferior, and basic identity is not determined by sex” (126). Rogers’s clarity and balance make her account of Baum’s life both enjoyable and informative.

For a discussion specifically of Baum’s best-loved book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Michael Patrick Hearn’s The Annotated Wizard of Oz, Centennial Edition, is a good choice. The Wizard of Oz may seem an odd choice for annotation. It is not so old in language nor so complicated in syntax as to daunt the unassisted reader. Baum’s humor did not run to parodies of poems now little known or to concealed mathematical jokes, as Lewis Carroll’s did. But while The Wizard of Oz does not need annotations to be read comfortably, any important book can be read with more appreciation with the kinds of background knowledge annotation provides. Hearn’s notes discuss Baum’s ideas and influences and cover critics’ interpretations of Oz, its reflections of the author’s personal life and historical period, and its publishing and illustration history. It was annotations of these kinds, along with a substantial introduction and bibliography, that the 1973 Annotated Wizard offered. The revised edition adds material from the wealth of research published since. These are found not so much in new notes as in material added to the original notes (although there are some 80 annotations added to the original’s 186, most of the additions are short paragraphs dealing with small points). In the first chapter, for example, notes on Baum’s Dorothy, her location on the Kansas prairie, and cyclones as compared to tornadoes, are lengthened. The insertions add information on Baum’s niece, Dorothy Gage, who died in infancy in 1898; on possible suffragist influence on the characterization of Dorothy; on the resemblance of Baum’s fictional Kansas prairie to the actual prairie around Aberdeen in the Dakota Territory (where Baum lived from 1888-1891); on the frequency of tornadoes in South Dakota; and on Kansans’ mixed feelings about Baum’s depiction of their state. The first chapter includes substantial new notes on Uncle Henry and Aunt Em as similar to many Dakota settlers, with a comparison of their claim shanty cabin to the home (near Edgely, ND) of Baum’s sister-in-law, Julia Gage Carpenter (as she described it in her diary); and on Baum’s use of “gray” as a symbolic color.

The layout of the Centennial edition has several advantages over the earlier version. Originally, the Annotated Wizard was laid out horizontally, with a page of text and a page of annotations, or two pages of text to one page of the book. That layout resulted in narrow margins and was too small to include the full margin-areas of two pages of text, so that the edges of Denslow’s elegant drawings were truncated whenever they extended out beyond the margins of the print. A color section included reproductions of all the color plates Denslow did for the book, with a few additional color drawings showing other work by Denslow. The new volume is laid out with single pages of text, enlarged, on large vertical pages (with annotations on a facing or adjoining page), leaving room for Denslow’s full pictures, which show to advantage on the larger scale. In addition, the reproduction of black and white photos is more accurate, showing details that were invisible before. Many photos, black and white drawings, and color drawings have been added to the illustrations; and some that previously appeared in black and white, such as a handsome watercolor of the Tin Woodman drawn by Denslow as part of a flyleaf inscription on a gift copy, are now among the color pages.

Two minor drawbacks are that the new version is less careful in checking the registration of the single extra color in Denslow’s 2-color drawings. (The first edition had, besides its color plates, single-color detailing printed over the black and white illustrations, with the single color changing in the course of the story to reflect Dorothy’s location, an attractive feature now omitted.) The carefully printed full-color plates do not show this problem of registration, but the reproduction introduces an overlay of fine dots, changing whites to grays and noticeably muting the colors.

Like Rogers’s biography, The Centennial Annotated Wizard of Oz is a book that anyone interested in American fantasy writing -- even those who already own the earlier edition -- will want to own. It restores the interplay between Baum’s text and Denslow’s illustrations, and Hearn’s new annotations are valuable.

A more specialized annotation of Baum’s text is offered by Ranjit S. Dighe in The Historian’s Wizard of Oz: Reading L. Frank Baum’s Classic as a Political and Monetary Allegory. Dighe’s aim is to show elements of the story that can be read as an allegory of Populism. This work includes Dighe’s introduction and discussions of the Populist and free-silver movements; he also reprints a section from Baum’s second Oz book, The Marvelous Land of Oz (1904), in which the Scarecrow is temporarily stuffed with money, as well as the text of William Jennings Bryan’s “Cross of Gold” speech (1896). This reading of Baum was created by Henry Littlefield in “The Wizard of Oz: Parable on Populism” (American Quarterly, 16.1[1964]: 47-58) and has been widely repeated, although biographical information shows that it is unlikely that Baum had any such allegorical intention. Dighe points out that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is almost certainly not a conscious Populist allegory, and to say that it is unambiguously one is to traffic in misinformation. Nevertheless, he adds, the parallels between the book “and real-life issues in late-nineteenth-century America are striking, whether intended or not; the book works as a Populist allegory” (8).

This claim that the book works as an allegory is accurate in terms of a correspondence close enough to make The Wizard useful in teaching students about the Populist movement. Littlefield’s primary goal in inventing the reading, in fact, was its usefulness as a pedagogical tool. The allegorical reading, however, does not work well in providing plausible interpretations of the book’s wider themes. The ironies embedded in the four-fold quest for difficult external achievements (home, brains, heart, and courage) that turn out to be achievable only from within are obscured when the four questers are divided into different types of being, with Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Woodman representing groups (the American people, farmers, and factory workers), but the Cowardly Lion representing an individual (William Jennings Bryan).

Similarly, it is surprising in allegorical terms that the Wizard -- whose role as a humbug ruler does show clear politically satiric intent in Baum’s characterization of him -- should be so hard to pin down. Dighe’s annotation (106-07) points out that while Littlefield saw the Wizard as any president from Grant to McKinley, Hugh Rockoff and Neil Earle, who also have written expansions of Littlefield’s allegorical reading, identify the Wizard as, respectively, Republican kingmaker Mark Hanna and as Democrat Bryan. Dighe finds all of three of these interpretations attractive, but considers Earle’s view of Bryan as the Wizard “an even better fit” (106) than Littlefield’s and Rockoff’s. At the same time, Dighe accepts “the usual Populist interpretation of the Lion” (65) as Bryan. The multiple interpretations of the fictional Wizard as someone historicalas a generic president, or Mark Hanna, or William Jennings Bryanand the multiple interpretations of the historical Bryan as someone in the story (whether as the Wizard or the Cowardly Lion) show how poorly the events of the story and the events of the history fit together in an allegorical reading. Dighe suggests (“only half-facetiously”) that “instead of viewing The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as an allegory of 1890s political economy, we should view 1890s political economy as an allegory of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” (8). Thus, even though the story does not really work all that well as an allegory, the allegory works well as a tool for teaching the history.

Mark Evan Swartz’s Oz Before the Rainbow: L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz on Stage and Screen to 1939 also undertakes a specialized topic that may be too narrow to appeal to general readers. Half the book is devoted to the 1902 stage musical of The Wizard of Oz that Baum adapted from his book (considerably re-written by the director and producer in production). It was a smash hit, starring the comedy team of David Montgomery and Fred Stone as the Tin Woodman and the Scarecrow; they played these roles in Chicago, in New York, and on tour. The show continued on tour for another four years after they left, and subsequently there were scattered local productions. The latest known production was in 1918 in Washington DC. The musical was too lavish to be easily staged, lacked first-class music, and depended too heavily for its success on Scarecrow Fred Stone’s startling agility. (By contrast, the producer’s next venture, another fairytale-extravaganza, was Babes in Toyland [1903], with Victor Herbert’s much-loved score to keep it alive.) Nevertheless, as Swartz discusses, the stage Wizard had a considerable influence on the dramatizations that followed, including the 1939 MGM movie.

Swartz also devotes a chapter to Baum’s 1908 Fairylogue and Radio-Plays, a multi-media production of silent films, slides, live action, and Baum’s own live narration, presenting scenes from The Wizard and its first two sequels, The Marvelous Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz (1907). Further chapters describe the 1910 Selig Playscope Company’s silent film of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Selig got the rights to film the book when Baum’s expensive Fairylogue ran him into debt); the 1925 silent film starring Larry Semon as the Scarecrow, with Oliver Hardy (before his famous partnership with Stan Laurel) co-starring as the Tin Woodman; Baum’s Oz stage-plays of 1905 and 1913 (The Woggle-Bug, loosely adapted from The Marvelous Land of Oz, and The Tik-Tok Man of Oz, loosely adapted from Ozma of Oz but turned into an Oz book the following year as Tik-Tok of Oz); and Baum’s silent-film productions in 1914 of His Majesty, The Scarecrow of Oz -- elements of The Wizard combined with a new story, which became the basis for Baum’s next Oz book, The Scarecrow of Oz (1915) -- as well as The Patchwork Girl of Oz (1914) and The Magic Cloak of Oz (1914, adapted from a non-Oz fairytale, Queen Zixi of Ix [1905]).

Several articles about aspects of the 1902 Wizard stageplay have appeared in the Baum Bugle, as well as a smaller number of articles about Baum’s Fairylogue and Selig’s Wizard. (Semon’s Wizard has not previously been examined in any detail.) Besides drawing on these articles when appropriate, Swartz has amassed information from contemporary publications and collections of private papers. The book reprints a wealth of rare illustrations -- photos from the various productions, advertisements and posters, program covers, photos and drawings of Baum’s collaborators, sheet music, etc.

There is, indeed, almost too much material on the details of staging, costumes, performers’ backgrounds, and changes in the cast of the 1902 Wizard, especially considering that some of the information is repeated when the account backtracks to follow changes between drafts and productions. Concentrating on one production (either the 1902 opening in Chicago or the 1903 opening in New York), and perhaps discussing any variations in an appendix, would have given a clearer idea of what the show was like.

The discussion of Baum’s own later stage plays and silent films seems too brief. In part, Swartz ignores them to focus on adaptations of the Wizard -- but Baum’s film of His Majesty, The Scarecrow of Oz is enough an adaptation of the Wizard to deserve attention. Another problem is that the interplay of influences between Baum’s later Oz dramas and his Oz fictions would have been worth investigation. Baum was largely unsuccessful, as Swartz discusses, in repeating the success of the stage Wizard with his multi-media Fairylogue, Woggle-Bug, and Tik-Tok Man of Oz stage-plays and his Scarecrow, Patchwork Girl, and Magic Cloak films. Swartz does not discuss Baum’s success in writing new Oz narratives based on his dramas -- Tik-Tok of Oz was adopted from a stage play and The Scarecrow of Oz from a film. In following the line of Wizard dramatizations (most previous studies had focused on them separately), however, Swartz has documented the continuity of influence they had on one another, culminating in the 1939 MGM movie. Although Swartz’s book does not have the wide appeal of Rogers’s and Hearn’s studies, it will be valued by those interested in the Oz-dramas. (Dighe’s book is more a tool for the historian, using Oz as a way of teaching history.)

The centennial of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has brought welcome attention to a classic of American fantasy too often dismissed in the past. The Wizard Dorothy found behind the curtain was a bad wizard, but he considered himself a good man. The writer behind the wizard behind the curtain had a wizardry of his own.

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