Saturday, August 24, 2019

This Week's Oz Short Story

Running across an old story in last year's OzCon International program book, I realized that the International Wizard of Oz Club published short stories before Oziana started publication in 1971. So I thought I'd go back in time and revisit some of those old stories, published in the Club's journal, The Baum Bugle, in the 1950s and '60s. (Unlike my Oziana rereads, I will be skipping poems also published in the Bugle during this time. I'm also passing over short stories by L. Frank Baum, as I have future plans for those.) And what a way to start, with "A Murder in Oz" by Jack Snow, first serialized over five issues from 1958 to 1960, and now collected in The Best of The Baum Bugle 1957-1961, which appears to be out of print now. (If you can find the Jack Snow anthology Spectral Snow, it's in there as well.) It's late at night, the kids have gone to bed, and several of the adult Oz characters are enjoying more grown-up pleasures (alcohol, the Shaggy Man smokes a cigar) in Glinda's library when the topic of conversation turns to whether or not someone can be murdered in Oz, especially those who came to Oz from the outside world. Their meditations are interrupted when Dorothy runs in about Ozma—she's dead! The Great Book of Records has only one cryptic entry, but from that the Wizard is able to deduce the identity of Ozma's killer. Sure enough, a search turns up a small boy: Tip! It seems he had enough identity that he didn't entirely vanish when he was transformed back into Ozma, so he decided to take his life back. The Wizard and Glinda, however, are confident that they can restore Ozma without sacrificing Tip again, essentially giving Ozma a twin brother.

It has clearly been some time since I read this, because I remember there being a lot more happening between the discovery of Ozma's body and finding Tip. But no, the Wizard manages to figure it out pretty quickly, but doesn't let on to the other characters (nor, it turns out, the reader) until his suspicion is confirmed. It is, however, a satisfyingly Ozzy ending, and it would have been fun to see Snow writing more stories with both Ozma and Tip. The idea of Tip having a separate identity from Ozma has been more thoroughly explored in the Seven Blue Mountains of Oz trilogy, but this is probably where the whole idea originated.

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