Thea of Oz, by Rebecca A. Demarest (34:59)

IOD-TheoOfOzToday we see that working in established worlds can be tricky.

What I gleaned about the story: Years after Dorothea’s departure, her young descendant finds herself back in Oz – in the vanguard of humans fleeing a ravaged Earth. But this is no longer your grandmother’s land of optimistic wonder.

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Kudos: The writing here is very solid, and I am particularly surprised at how well Oz has been updated to account for the passage of a century. Too many “borrowed world” stories are so enamoured of the original material that they treat it as inviolable and refuse to make changes, preferring instead to wallow in shallow retreads of the previous work. This is not that.

WTF #1: Time dilations

Analysis: A number of things have changed in the century since Dorothea, but I was thrown by a couple of them. The first was that Thea appears to be held to a very Victorian style of behavior, expected to serve tea, be seen and not heard, master embroidery, etc. Yet at the same time, there are references to plastic fans, F5 tornados, air conditioning, and even Ikea chairs. It later became clear that it was the Oz culture that was still Victorian, and that the modern references were recent imports from Earth, but at the time I read the references, that had not been clearly established, and I was confused enough to break the immersion.

The second time problem is more a math thing. The bad guy is grandson of the Wicked Witch of the West. He’s described as middle aged, and he says his mother only lived long enough to get pregnant and have him. But Dorothea’s story was set in 1900, and WW died at that time, so grandson must be at least 95. Other readers may be happily able to skate past this, but as a mathematician, such inconsistencies scratch at my eyes like raspberry canes behind my glasses.

Taken on their own, I might not have charged a WTF for either one, but since they both happened together, and each served to increase my overall confusion, I decided to lump them together as a single WTF.

WTF #2: The wicked witch had kids? Really?

Analysis: And they were conceived in the normal way? And delivered the normal way? I just can’t reconcile that with the evil hag of my childhood memories. Even if she did have kids, the WW I know and loathe would have conceived in some arcane ritual, and then given birth via flying monkey surrogate or something. This reference to an almost domestic mothering process just doesn’t sit well with my view of the character. And that, by the way, is one of the risks of working with established folklore. Your readers come to the table with almost sacred feelings about the world and characters you’re working with, so you aren’t as free to invent as you would be with entirely original material.

WTF #3: Uncredible character actions.

Analysis: For the first 25 minutes, Thea was being painted as a careful and intelligent young woman. Then she suddenly confronts Mr. Big, with no apparent burning need to do so. She exposes what she knows, and worse, exposes her intelligence and resourcefulness, even though she has not yet worked out Big’s plan, and does not yet know the extent of his power. This flies in the face of the cautious and intelligent girl I was picking up on earlier, and it made be jump back to re-read earlier things, to see if I’d missed any “rash and headstrong” clues. Nope. And once I start second guessing myself, immersion has definitely ended.

Note: This one almost made it, and even then, I think it’s pretty strong. If the world of Oz is your thing, this might be worth checking out.


Grounded, by Emily Matthew (8:02)
Trouble, by RJ Price (7:21)

About the author

Jefferson Smith is a Canadian fantasy author, as well as the founder, chief editor and resident proctologist of ImmerseOrDie. With a PhD in Computer Science and Creativity Systems compounded by a life spent exploring most art forms for fun and profit, he is uniquely unqualified in just about everything. That's why he writes.