On My Shelves: The Road to Oz

The Road to Oz begins, as did the others except The Marvelous Land of Oz, in the "outside world", this time back in Kansas on Dorothy's farm. A strange, shaggy man comes wandering through, picking apples and putting them in his pocket – and when a certain black dog challenges him, he picks up the dog and puts him in the shaggy pockets, too. The Shaggy Man encounters Dorothy and asks if she would show him the road to Butterfield; she agrees and takes him to the intersection, and is then surprised when he begins to move off down a different [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz

By this point in the series, the Oz books had developed into the Harry Potter of their day. Writing an Oz novel was an assured way to mint money for L. Frank Baum, and for many years he availed himself of that mint whenever he found himself short of funds, as he invariably did since he was a terrible businessman with a fondness for putting on expensive theatrical productions. Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz is the fourth entry in the series, and the title alone shows how Baum was making sure to pay attention to his fans. Dorothy was popular, [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: Ozma of Oz

  The third book of the Oz series by L. Frank Baum sees the return of arguably the most popular character in the land – Dorothy Gale. In Ozma of Oz, her Uncle Henry has become ill and is advised by his doctor to take a trip to Australia for a sea and country cure. This was not uncommon in the era in which Baum was writing – various forms of "sea air", "desert air", etc., cures were recommended for exhaustion and for  illnesses, especially tuberculosis or "consumption" as they called it. While onboard, a powerful storm strikes the [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: The Marvelous Land of Oz

The success of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz naturally brought a demand for new Oz material; Baum obliged by producing this, the second in the series. Unlike The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Marvelous Land of Oz takes place entirely in fairyland, and all of its characters are natives of Oz itself. The main character is a boy named Tip (short for "Tippetarius") who was left with the witch Mombi as an infant, and has lived there as her ward-cum-servant for all his life. There is no love lost between the boy and the clearly wicked witch, and so [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

  I discussed Baum and his Oz books in a prior Under the Influence, but in honor of the release of Polychrome, I thought it might be appropriate to perform a review of each of the first fourteen Oz novels, including particular reference to events, characters, and my own thoughts on each book that found their way into Polychrome. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, often just called The Wizard of Oz, is the first of the Oz books, published in 1900, 115 years ago. The basic outline of the story is well-known, thought today mostly through the [ Continue reading... ]

Writing: Musings on Publishing

Having now made it through my own self-publishing saga as well as having multiple books published the traditional way, I figured I would gather my thoughts on the two approaches. I'm probably not going to say anything that others haven't said, but maybe it'll be said differently enough to make it interesting! The TL;DR version: Trad publishing is a great gig, IF (big if) you can get it, as long as you're cool with someone else running the show. Self-publishing, YOU run the show – but that word "RUN" is what you'll be doing, as in "run [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: One Piece– The Third Piece!

I continue my review of the immense and intricate shonen anime One Piece, following the sometimes "Idiot Hero" Monkey D. Luffy and his peculiar crew – swordsman Rorona Zoro, navigator Nami, combat cook Sanji, medic Chopper, sharpshooter Usopp, archaeologist Nico Robin, and musician Brook – in their united yet individual quests across the hazardous sea called the Grand Line. To recap important points about our heroes and the world of One Piece: Some years back, the so-called Pirate King, Gol D. Roger (usually called Gold Roger) was executed [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: To The Stars!

I previously discussed Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat series, and I may later talk about his Deathworld trilogy. Here I'd like to discuss one of his less well-known series, which in some ways I found a more interesting work than either of the others: To The Stars.   To The Stars is a trilogy, composed of Homeworld, Wheelworld, and Starworld; despite its title, it isn't concerned with getting people to the stars per se – that is, it isn't one of the many works in which the protagonists are part of the first journey(s) of mankind [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: The Avengers

Marvel's recent push into the systematic production of high-quality superhero movies – Captain America, Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Thor – was clearly moving towards one of the most ambitious movies ever made: The Avengers. Anyone who was a comic fan could see that this was a likely goal… and anyone who had watched the history of comic-book movies could see how that could be an incredible train-wreck.   On the positive side, Marvel had taken the time to do one of the most important things first: establish the key characters of the [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: Harry Potter

  Looking back over my prior posts, I find myself startled to discover that I have not yet discussed the single most successful and perhaps influential fantasy series written since I was born: Harry Potter, by J. K. Rowling.   The vast majority, if not all, of the people reading my columns will know the story of Harry, but just in case: the basic concept of the series is that Harry Potter was left as an orphan with his only relatives, the Dursleys, and raised (poorly) by them for eleven years; at that point he discovers [ Continue reading... ]