Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Latest Oz Short Story

Yup, another one from Oz Reimagined. This one was "Off to See the Emperor" by Orson Scott Card. Yes, that Orson Scott Card. He may have been in the news not so long ago for some of his current sociopolitical views in the shadow of the movie version of Ender's Game, but the man can write! This is a story about an adventure Frank Joslyn Baum, L. Frank Baum's oldest son, had while the Baums were living in Aberdeen, then part of the Dakota Territory, in the 1890s. Frank has just started first grade, and one of the older girls takes a shine to him because L. Frank Baum, when he ran Baum's Bazaar, extended credit to her aunt, keeping the family going through the winter. She also likes the "Our Landlady" column. (Clearly, Card has done his research!) Oh, and Frank's classmate's name? Dotty. Well, actually, it's Theodora (which makes me wonder if Card was tapping into the pre-production publicity about Oz the Great and Powerful), but because she's poor and has her own ways of looking at things, folks call her Dotty. Anyway, Dotty ends up taking Frank on a trip to the Empire of the Air, which is a fantastic land sort of occupying the same space as Aberdeen, but totally different. There are yellow brick roads, a scarecrow, a mechanical man whose mouth Dotty has to oil so he can talk, a cowardly lion, a beautiful city, and the Emperor who helps Dotty find what she's looking for. Sound familiar? Normally I wouldn't give away the ending, but you can probably figure out that, once he got back to Aberdeen, Frank told the story to his family, which passed into family lore, and a few years later Frank's father eventually wrote down a version of it, corrupted by time and no firsthand knowledge. No, the surprising bits that I'm leaving out are all the bits in the middle, about Frank and Dotty and what happens to them. This is a great story, even if it turns out that the Oz of the books isn't real. But for this one adventure, this place was certainly real to Frank!

No comments: