So how crazy has my life been lately? I read this week's story early, planning to put the write-up here first thing when the weekend came. Then other stuff happened. I'm only now carving out the time to write this, but here it is at last. The final story in the 2009 half of this flip edition of Oziana is "The Trouble with the Magic Belt" by Steve Teller, with illustrations by John Mundt, Esq., and it starts with a conversation at an Oz convention. The veterans are discussing the Magic Belt and how powerful it is, and how it could solve just about any problem that cowes up in the Oz books. On the fringes, in more ways than one, is Sterl Nephel, and he decides to do something about it! He locates all kinds of magic artifacts, explores all kinds of arcane knowledge, and even tries the spell to go to Mudge from The Cowardly Lion of Oz, but can't get to Oz no matter what he does—until he starts making the magical sign Dorothy used in some of the early Oz books. Eventually, Ozma gets word of this, and brings Sterl to Oz out of sheer curiosity. He requests one wish from the Magic Belt, and manages to wish its influence out of existence! Sure enough, back at the convention, the conversation turns to just how powerful Ozma's wand is.
This is a fun meta-crossover between Oz fans (many of them very thinly disguised parodies of people Teller and I both know) and the rules of magic. The logic of the story is air tight, and someone probably could make the same wish on the Magic Belt and cause the same problems. This was a fun one to read.
As a bonus, there is also a puzzle. The story opens and ends with pictures of Oz fans gathered around talking, both before and after Sterl's visit to the Emerald City, with some subtle differences. The solver's goal is to find the differences.