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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Follow the Yellow Brick Road Down the Rabbit-Hole

Though I am still writing Halcyon House and am quite determined to finish it, I am also busy with a new idea, a side project if you will, that is rapidly getting out of hand. All of my side projects get rapidly out of hand, I find.

Anyways, it's brought on a culmination of things, most specifically, re-tellings.

And The Wizard of Oz. 

I love the Wizard of Oz, book and movie. It's a classic and it's woven it's way into my every day language. As a little girl, I found myself reading it and putting myself right alongside Dorothy and her stalwart companions. I wanted to throw the bucket of water, outsmart the Witch and wear the Silver Slippers (not Ruby. That was on the part of the movie, because red showed up better on film). I haven't read the other books in L. Frank Baum's Oz series, but I may have to, if this project of mine keeps going.

I'm re-telling the Wizard of Oz. 

As aforesaid, this was brought on a few things. Watching Disney's Oz, the Great and Powerful earlier this year was one of those. While visually speaking it was stunning, plot wise...could've been better. I shall be forever bitter about Mila Kunis not being sassy. She deserved to be sassy. And even before that, the SyFy channel did the mini-series Tin Man, another lackluster re-telling that had some really great ideas...but less than stellar execution. Even with Zooey Deschanel as the heroine.

But beyond all those things, it was mostly brought on by the simple question: Why aren't there any good Oz re-tellings?

I mean, you get Alice in Wonderland reimaginings by the boatload. Books, TV series, movies. Oz got The Wiz, starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. And that slightly creepy made-for-TV movie back in the nineties, Return to Oz. I mean, electric shock therapy? The Wheelers? The switching of heads, for crying out loud. I wouldn't let the kids I looked after watch that movie.

And then I started thinking. Why do people love Alice so much? We understand her. We sympathize with her. She's thrown into the slightly scary, more than crazy, completely backwards (literally) world of Wonderland. She is, quite literally, the only sane person in the room and sometimes they question even that. She's all of us asking that universal question: What the heck is going on? 
we're all mad here.

But Dorothy? In the book, she's a little girl. In the movie, she's Judy Garland. She's sweet. She's kind. She's innocent and totally credulous. In Dorothy, we're not asking what's going on, we're asking, How do we get home? 

As a little girl, I read The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland. I liked Oz better because there was a very definite story. Dorothy wants to get home. Simple as that. She meets a broad cast of characters who aid her or try to thwart her. All in all, it's more like a traditional fairy-tale than Alice. Alice is thinly veiled social commentary hiding behind a children's nonsense story. But I liked the character of Alice better than the character of Dorothy. Alice is sharp-tongued. She is impertinent, while trying to cling to the quintessential British decorum and courtesy, amid the lunatics of Wonderland. She is smart-aleck and sassy, much more like me rather than the sweet, good, kind Dorothy.

off to see the Wizard

But now I realize, Dorothy is grace under pressure. She is Vasilisa the Brave of Russian folklore, outwitting the iron-toothed Baba Yaga with kindness and integrity and good deeds. The kindness she shows to the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodsman and the Cowardly Lion inspire them to be heroes for her. Alice, in contrast, is an Appalachian Jack or Puss-in-Boots, who wins through cleverness and wit. What are Alice and Dorothy's flaws, my mother asked me, as I tried to explain all these feelings to her. Dorothy is too credulous, I said. And Alice is impertinent.

And then I asked myself, What would you do if you could re-tell Oz?

I'd make Dorothy older. Bitter. Jaded and cynical and would never wear a pair of sparkly shoes, regardless of the color. I'd make Oz into a place of decaying beauty and terror and treachery. I'd make the Wizard more than a humbug hiding behind a curtain. I'd make him subtle and scheming and smiling to your face while he reached for a knife to stab you in the back with. I'd make the Wicked Witch of the West more of an Elphaba of Wicked than an angry hag ready to kill for a pair of shoes. I'd make her a revolutionary, a firebrand, an oracle. I'd make Glinda the Good more than a smiling woman sitting on a throne, traveling by bubble, ready to wave a magic wand that makes everything better. She'd be a social reformer, a lady to her core, whose armor is courtesy and still carrying a knife.

I'd make Oz home to nomads and heretics and the desperate populace. Women with guns and itchy trigger fingers, men with swords and desperate hopes. Nomads who pray for a savior. I'd make it full of smoke and steam from broken down train stations and the shining City of Emeralds above it all, sitting on an ugly underbelly of grease and gears and wheels.

That's when I created my board, Outer Zone. 

Unlike Ayden, my other heroine, Dor Gale (as I've taken to calling her) is younger. Angrier. A survivor of the streets and group homes. She's no one's hero or savior and she hates taking orders. She doesn't want to be in what I've taken calling the O.Z. but returning to our world isn't an option either. I wanted her to be hidden under sarcasm and leather and a chip on her shoulder, only to have something great and good and blazing hiding underneath. To watch the Queen conquer. I wanted to disrupt the smiling world of Munchkins and Winkies and set it on fire, making it blaze with revolution. I wanted the yellow brick road to be overgrown and hidden, for sorry is the fool who underestimates the power of things long buried.

I look forward to exploring the O.Z.

Over & Out,


  1. Hi!
    been on your OZ board and I got to say I like what you have there so I came by to take a look on your blog. I'm really excited for this project of yours, I can totally see a not very happy Dorothy (Dor is a cool name by the way) fighting her way through a destructed world of OZ, good luck with your writhing and with collage.

  2. Thanks, Haneen! It's nice to see a fellow Pinner elsewhere :)

    I have no idea when I actually start buckling down and writing Outer Zone; all I have right now are quick character studies and notes. But I'm looking forward to it.

  3. Hello again ^_^ I just wanted to tell you I wrote a thing or two about this O.Z project of yours on one of my posts, hope you like it :)

    1. I am legitimately freaking out right now.

      That has to be the nicest thing anyone's ever done for me on this blog. Thank you a million times for your recommendation and kind words. ^__^

  4. I've been looking at your board for awhile now, and getting more and more interested in this story. It is fun to get some of the background behind it, and some of what you have planned for it. I think it is going to turn out very well.

    1. Hi Jack! *waves*

      Dor (and the other denizens of the O.Z.) thank you for your support and are impatiently waiting for me to start telling their story! For now, Pinterest keeps them pretty satisfied. :)

    2. Pintrest is a fun way to learn about their story. I love going to the page and looking around and reading all the little snippet type things.