Nathan (vovat) wrote,

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Tits and Oz

First of all, happy birthday to 3x1minus1! I'm sure she'll have no interest in the rest of this post, so I might as well say that first.

So, Dave Hardenbrook, former moderator of the Nonestica mailing list, describes his new book Jellia Jamb, Maid of Oz as a book that "introduces elements considered 'sacrilegious' in traditional Oz stories: Romance, genuine dramatic tension, science fiction elements, and tasteful nudity coupled with 'nudge-nudge, wink-wink' sexual innuendo." And I remember him saying several years ago that his stories (which involve Ozma marrying; more on that later) were going to be totally acceptable to kids. Maybe he figured that, if he was going to be accused of writing soft-core pornography (which I believe he was, by some of the more reactionary members of the Ozzy Digest), he might as well go ahead and do it. Really, though, the "naughty bits" often seem to be rather awkwardly shoehorned in. There are some topless and totally naked women, some disturbing references to Glinda's breast milk having healing powers (why she'd be lactating is never clear, since there's no mention of her having any kids), and a mention that "the people of Oz and other faerielands did not share the Outside World's cultural taboos about the unclothed human body." That would probably come as a bit of a surprise to L. Frank Baum, who was careful to have magically transformed people retain their clothes while in human form, and to have boys and girls sleep in separate tents. Not that every Oz author has to share Baum's Victorian-era American values, but can't a story include some more adult elements without having to turn the entire Land of Oz into a nudist colony?

Interestingly enough, considering how Chris Dulabone refused to publish Dave's first book (presumably due to the romance-with-Ozma elements), I think the two authors have somewhat similar styles. They both work in a lot of pop culture references and inside jokes. They're not quite as prominent here as in Dave's first book, The Unknown Witches of Oz, which featured villains based on schoolteachers, bullies, and public figures (Nancy Kerrigan, Tonya Harding, Rush Limbaugh, and Jesse Helms all showed up). Jellia has a villain obviously inspired by Bill Gates, but it seems like Dave took care not to make his personality or appearance exactly like Gates's.

The one character who's clearly based on an actual person and plays a major part in both books is Dan Maryk, a pretty blatant Mary Sue (or whatever the male equivalent is; I've heard both "Larry Stu" and "Marty Stu"). I mean, he's a shy computer programmer from California, who ends up dating the Queen of Oz. Wish fulfillment, perhaps?

For the most part, though, I thought the book was fun. I enjoyed the scene at the alien art exhibit, and while the programming references got a bit tedious at times, I did like the idea of applying computer concepts to magic. And as in Edward Einhorn's The Living House of Oz, Ozma's law against magic-working is called into question. I wouldn't say the book is as sophisticated as the author tries to make out, but it's still an interesting read for any Oz fan who doesn't mind the occasional Mary Sue or gratuitous nude scene.
Tags: books, oz

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