Thursday, October 20, 2011

Occupy Emerald City

Not Seattle, of course, but the Emerald City of Oz.

That's the premise of a rather interesting story I read some time ago called Up The Rainbow by Susan Casper. It was published in the December 1994 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction magazine (which is the form I have it in). A quick Google search reveals that it was once available as an e-book, but none of the listed sellers are selling it any more. (If anyone can find a legal download link for this story, please let me know. It's a good story and I'd like to share it with you)

When the story opens, Dorothy Gale has died at the ripe old age of 93. Her granddaughter, Gale Osterman is therefore all alone, having separated from her husband earlier in the year and left her job behind to care for her grandmother in her final days. While it was generally acknowledged that Grandma Dorothy was THE Dorothy from the Oz stories, everyone thinks that she was merely the inspiration for the stories rather than the actual heroine.

As she's going through her grandmother's personal things along with her cat Spooky, she discovers a small stone with the letters OZ etched into it. A few moments later, they find themselves magically transported to Oz, where they discover that Spooky can now talk (and has a bit of a pottymouth).

After a bit of confusion, Gale is accepted as Dorothy's granddaughter and made a Princess of Oz. Preparations are made for a great feast to be held to mark the occasion. In the meanwhile, it's time for the Scarecrow to get his eyes repainted by Jinjur and Gale is sent along to give her something to do.

Gale and the Scarecrow are separated, leaving Gale to wander around Munchkinland on her own. While trying to find the Scarecrow and Jinjur, she winds up meeting some of the normal citizens of Oz who ask her to intercede on their behalf with Ozma. As she listens to these stories, she realizes that Oz isn't the perfect world Baum presented it as.Link
Although her passion for social justice faded when her marriage collapsed (her and her husband were both devoted activists), she finds it rekindled and helps organize the people of Oz into a protest movement. She even helps them paint signs with such clever mottoes as "Ban The Baum" and "Magic Is A Rite."

The land of Oz had never seen non-violent resistance. Glinda's girl army had no one to fight, even though the mob refused to disperse at Ozma's command. So they had nothing left to do but negotiate.

Now, many of you Oz fans are reading this and shaking your heads. Because you've all read stories exactly like this and they all suck. But this story showed no signs of being a Fix Fic or Author Tract, and Gale is definitely not a Mary Sue. Rather, the story focuses on Gale and how these events reignite her activist spirit. I found the main idea of the story rather close to an idea that was originally presented in Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The idea that "Whatever it is you want or think you need, you already have it."

Also, the complaints that the people of Oz have could present some interesting scenarios for adventures.

In the story, there's a little boy who would very much like to grow up, even though it means that he'll eventually grow old and die. Perhaps your players could encounter an Ozite looking to die by seeking out all of the dangers of Oz. Or a boy who wishes to undergo a Rite of Passage so that he may become a man. This is, of course, a magical rite that will transform him into an adult.

The story also challenges the ban on magic in Oz. Dr. Pipt may no longer be crooked, but all of the time and energy he spent learning his magic is now wasted without his ability to use it. Another character is a seamstress who could make magical clothing before the ban went into effect.

So what if your game includes a helpful sorcerer who is nevertheless persecuted because of his magical practice? Heck, what about Red Reera, who pretty much ended the Flathead/Skeezer War from her cottage? Although she chooses to remain hidden at the end of the story, what about later? What's going to happen when Ozma discovers her? Will her power be taken away, or will she be allowed to keep it in gratitude for her service?


Orion said...

Up The Rainbow by Susan Casper appears to be available from FictionWise:

Doug Wall said...

Thank you very much for the link!

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