okay, so my last post here was back in January… it’s been interesting, and we’ll leave it at that.
and i’m lazy, and we’ll Definitely leave it at that…
way back in the dawn of time, 1997 to be exact, i was working with my friends in a small DJ group, doing dances for science fiction conventions and such, under the name ‘Radio Free Oz’. the name originated with me doing mixtapes (really showing my age) and courtesy of Guy Brownlee, i believe, my motto (which never really carried over to the DJ group) was “coming to you live and direct from somewhere over the rainbow” – Max Headroom fans will get the joke. anyway, we were doing the dance at Stellar Occasion 4, a greatly-missed general purpose convention, and Mira Furlan of “Babylon 5” fame was the big media guest. somehow, the theme of the program book ended up being Mars, and someone had the bright idea for our group’s write-up in said program book to be a mix of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “Mars” series and Baum’s “Oz” series. i got to write it – even got Mira to autograph the page in my program book, although i’m pretty sure she had no idea why… found it today, here’s the write-up:
Radio Free Oz Dance
Theme: Surrender, Dorothy!
A Brief Look at Edgar Rice Baum’s Dorothy Gale Vs. the Disco Monarchs of Mars
– Dr. Semaj Redaer
Upon the recent release of Baum’s Dorothy Gale Vs. the Disco Monarchs of Mars, a hitherto unpublished ‘lost’ work, attention has focused once again on the works of Baum, widely regarded as one of the earliest examples of the so-called ‘pulp fantasies’, the near seamless blend of the action-adventure tales beloved by the young male, and the more imaginative fairy-tale creations almost exclusively read by young females. Baum’s peculiar gift was the combination of these two genres with the addition of more blatant sexual undercurrents and strong scientific speculation (exceedingly dated, of course).
In examining Dorothy Gale Vs. the Disco Monarchs of Mars, one encounters the full cast of characters from Baum’s earlier works: Dorothy Gale, the Kansas farm girl mystically transported to Mars, magically transformed into the almost Messianic warrior princess; The Thark Woodsman, robotic wandered from the forests of Munchana; The Scar-Crow, an undead revenant from the Dark Lands; The Cowardly Banth, ten-legged Lord of the Barsoomian jungles; Ozma Thoris, lovely and voluptuous Princess of the Emerald City of Helium; Tik-Tok, the sentient war machine, and a host of others.
Several familiar themes appear as well. The strong, implied sexual relationship between Warrior/Savior/Dominant Dorothy and Princess/Captive/Passive Ozma; the villains inevitably attempt to seduce Dorothy into debauchery (what else could you call the implied scene between the Disco Monarchs and Dorothy behind closed doors), and to bind her to their side in the conflict, realizing that with her aid their evil plot to create a slave population of mindless dancing zombies would without doubt succeed. And again, the theme of the insufficiency of innocence alone to win the day is reprised.
Several elements of this book, however, veer from Baum’s established forms, and perhaps explain the story’s lost/unpublished state: Baum’s transformation of Toto, the small Skye Terrier from his innocent, mute, natural animal form into the large, intelligent, anything-but-mute War Hound; the Emerald City Palace Garden conversation between Dorothy and Ozma that reveals their deep mutual affection for one another, their “disinterest in the attentions of men” comes closer than ever to bringing them “out of the closet”; the Scar-Crow’s revelation of his evil heart and his defection to the enemy, turning his not-inconsiderable magical powers on his former compatriots; the odd time-travel sequence back to the earlier Great Interstellar War with Mars’ bizarre bone-headed allies, in which the Moonbari aid against some dark enemy (Baum’s notes hint at a future story set in this era tentatively titled Shadow Ships Over Mars); and finally the strong subtext that leads one to wonder that, of all the would-be tyrants the Martian population has faced, perhaps the Disco Monarchs truly had the perfect solution to the planet’s problems. All this, and the reappearance of Alice from the Alice in Jungleland series.
These variations from the norm make it seem likely that Baum’s agent and publishers felt this novel might destroy the series and its continued marketability, and that therefore, yielding to their wisdom, Baum set it aside. In retrospect, however, one can see that Baum was, with Dorothy Gale Vs. the Disco Monarchs of Mars, once again on the cusp of transforming the genre he had made his own, and in so doing initiating a conceptual leap forward from ‘pulp fantasy’ to ‘science fiction/fantasy’ that would not reach this level of maturity for decades to come.
Further Suggested Reading:
Dr. Semaj Redaer, Edgar Rice Baum: Author of Dreams. E.R. Baum, A Kansas Farmgirl on Mars; The Tornado Tyrants of Mars; The Patchwork Princess of Mars, etc. and from his ‘Alice’ series, Alice in Jungleland; Down the Meercat Hole and Through the Waterfall.
currently listening to: the Goober playing “Bioshock Infinite”
current mood: overall okay…