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Baum, L Frank

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1856-1919) US author who also published as Floyd Akers, Laura Bancroft, John Estes Cooke, Hugh Fitzgerald, Suzanne Metcalf, Schuyler Staunton and Edith Van Dyne (see below). He remains most famous for his long series of tales set in the land of Oz, beginning with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900; vt The New Wizard of Oz 1903), which served as the main source for the most famous film version, The Wizard of Oz (1939). The series continues with The Marvelous Land of Oz: Being an Account of the Further Adventures of the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman (1904: vt The Land of Oz 1914), Ozma of Oz (1907; vt Princess Ozma of Oz 1942), and Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz (1908), a Hollow Earth tale. Baum's further contributions to the series [see Checklist below] ended with Glinda of Oz: In which are Related the Exciting Experiences of Princess Ozma of Oz, and Dorothy, in their Hazardous Journey to the Home of the Flatheads, and to the Magic Isle of the Skeezers, and how they were Rescued from Dire Peril by the Sorcery of Glinda the Good (1920), featuring a domed Island which can be commanded to sink beneath the waves by a word of power; later titles were from other hands, including E L Arch.

Ozma of Oz (see above) includes the first appearance of Tik-Tok, an intelligent clockwork man, one of the first Robots in fiction; the tale was reworked as The Tik-Tok Man of Oz, a 1913 musical play, itself then rewritten as a mid-volume in the series, Tik-Tok of Oz (1914); it also features a Transportation tube through the Earth. (The first book's Tin Woodman is not a robot but a kind of Cyborg, a human who has progressively replaced his lost body parts with metal; much later, in The Tin Woodman of Oz (1918), he encounters both a Doppelganger twin and a Brain in a Box which turns out to be his own original, profoundly bored head, raising but not deeply exploring questions of Identity.)

When he quartered Oz itself into quadrants, each of a different colour, Baum was almost certainly making use of his background in Theosophy, which describes each of the worlds or Ages preceding our own as having a distinct hue; and the almost pantheistic superflux of creatures and entities of every possible description which populates every conceivable nook and cranny of Oz was probably inspired by the Theosophical doctrine of Elementals. The Emerald City itself (see Cities) is an Edificial fantastication of the purpose-built White City which housed the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, a vast École des Beaux-Arts enterprise which deeply impressed Baum; the School's emphasis on architectural narratives designed to provide ceremonial transactions of public spaces seems to have inspired Dorothy's processional entry into her Utopian Urban Fantasy domain [for Colour-Coding, Edifice and Urban Fantasy see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below]. Though the Oz books are of course technically Fantasy, there runs through them a pragmatic sense – common to contemporaries of Baum from John Kendrick Bangs to Mark Twain – that to explain something is to make it work; less seriously, the Fantastic Voyages that thread through many of the tales – like those in the earlier Baron Trump stories by Ingersoll Lockwood – touch with opportunistic Equipoise on both sf and fantasy, sometimes simultaneously. The Science Fantasy stories that dominated the pages of John W Campbell Jr's Unknown owe much to Baum.

More recently, authors influenced (perhaps more comprehensively) by him include Gene Wolfe in "The Eyeflash Miracles" (in Future Power, anth 1976, ed Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois) and Free Live Free (1984); Robert A Heinlein in "The Number of the Beast" (October-November 1979 Omni; 1980), whose flitting through Parallel Worlds includes a visit to Oz; and Geoff Ryman, whose non-fantastic novel "Was ..." (1992; vt Was 1992), partly set in nineteenth-century Kansas, constitutes a thorough examination of the roots of Oz. Outright Sequels by Other Hands, besides the official Oz continuations by Ruth Plumly Thompson, include Hidden Valley of Oz (1951) by Rachel R Cosgrove (see E L Arch); The Green Dolphin of Oz (1978) by March Laumer, who wrote several further Oz books; A Barnstormer in Oz (1982) by Philip José Farmer; and Visitors from Oz (1999) by Martin Gardner.

The original The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is reworked as sf in The Wonderful Galaxy of Oz (1996), cut and dubbed from the Japanese Television series Space Oz no Bōken (1992-1993; vt The Adventures of Space Oz; vt The Galaxy Adventures of Oz). Although the earlier The Wizard of Mars (1965; vt Horrors of the Red Planet) was supposedly also inspired by The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the similarities are superficial.

Baum's juvenile sf novel, The Master Key: An Electrical Fairy Tale Founded on the Mysteries of Electricity and the Optimism of its Devotees. It was Written for Boys, but Others May Read It (1901), is an Edisonade described rather fully by its title; the child tinkerer-hero, though his electrical gun and Antigravity device are supplied magically, finds scientific explanations for everything he experiences, and therefore succeeds. A story in American Fairy Tales (coll 1901; rev with 3 more stories 1908) describes the freezing of Time in a US city. One tale in the Boy Fortune Hunters sequence – The Boy Fortune Hunters in Yucatan (1910) as by Floyd Akers – is sf, featuring the discovery of a Lost Race in Mexico descended from Atlantis. The Flying Girl sequence comprising The Flying Girl (1911) and The Flying Girl and Her Chum (1912), both as by Edith Van Dyne, hovers close to the world occupied by the Airplane Boys tales then becoming popular, being focused upon the Invention of a "Hydro-Aircraft" capable of flying across the Pacific Ocean. The Last Egyptian: A Romance of the Nile (1908), published anonymously, invokes Lost Race explanations of occult powers; a film version, The Last Egyptian (1914) was directed by the author. Some of Baum's other work, which was produced very rapidly (only a sample is listed below), was fantasy. [JC]

see also: Children's SF; Dime-Novel SF; Walter H McDougall; Machines; Oz; Relapse; SETI.

Lyman Frank Baum

born Chittenago, New York: 15 May 1856

died Los Angeles, California: 6 May 1919



The Oz Books

other titles as Baum (selected)

as Floyd Akers


The Boy Fortune Hunters

as Edith Van Dyne


Flying Girl

  • The Flying Girl (Chicago, Illinois: The Reilly and Britton Company, 1911) [Flying Girl: hb/Joseph Pierre Nuyttens]
  • The Flying Girl and Her Chum (Chicago, Illinois: The Reilly and Britton Company, 1912) [Flying Girl: hb/Joseph Pierre Nuyttens]

about the author


previous versions of this entry

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