The Martian Chronicles

Last month, I received an ad from Big Finish productions saying that their production of The Martian Chronicles would be going out of print soon. This audio production starred Derek Jacobi and Hayley Atwell whose performances I love. What’s more, Big Finish offered the production at a very nice clearance price, so I picked it up. It turns out the production was a dramatization of three stories that comprise what might be called the “Captain Wilder arc” in Bradbury’s famous collection along with one other story. The stories dramatized were “—And the Moon Be Still as Bright,” “The Off Season,” “The Long Years,” and “The Million-Year Picnic.” The production proved quite good and it made me want to go back and re-read The Martian Chronicles in its entirety. My only regret is that I discovered the production so near the end of its production run, I can’t steer you to it to listen for yourselves.

The Martian Chronicles is a classic example of a “fix-up” novel. It’s a batch of short stories, related by their setting on Mars and follow a rough narrative arc. The narrative arc describes the exploration of Mars by humans, how the Martians resisted human colonization, how humans prevailed and began to settle and ultimately how conflict back on Earth caused most humans to abandon the red planet. Unlike most novels, we don’t really follow one set of characters through these stories. Each story is its own independent narrative. The exception is the Wilder arc. Captain Wilder and members of his crew turn up in three of the stories. In the audio production, Derek Jacobi plays the good captain and we effectively see an abridged version of the full collection’s narrative arc through his eyes.

The Martian Chronicles

I first read The Martian Chronicles in high school. Soon after reading the book, I was fortunate enough to meet Ray Bradbury and he signed my copy. It was fun to look back in the book and see the chapters attributed to the distant future of 1999 and the early 2000s. When Bradbury signed my book in 1983, those years were still just enough in the future to make me wonder if the adventures could happen. When I re-read the book, I decided to get an ebook copy, so I could keep my signed copy in the best possible shape. I was surprised to learn that Bradbury and his publisher had actually revised the book after I read it. Those first missions were moved from 1999 to 2030. A story was removed and two more were added.

At first, I was disappointed that the ebook I picked up wasn’t identical to the version of The Martian Chronicles I’d first read back in the 1980s. But after a little bit, I decided to give this new version a try. After all, I’ve been working on a cycle of revising some of my first novels, some of which started life as fix-ups, to make them better. I did enjoy my read and I learned that the dramatizations weren’t slavish adaptations of Bradbury’s words. They interpreted the material and breathed new life into it, letting me see Bradbury’s words in a new light, which is something good drama can and should accomplish.

The Pirates of Sufiro

I was also surprised and delighted to discover ways The Martian Chronicles influenced my first novel, The Pirates of Sufiro. The first chapters of Pirates were written as short stories and the narrative arc I created to weave them together told the story of a colony’s rise and how human nature almost brought it crashing down again. I’ve never mastered Bradbury’s talent for beautiful prose, but I see how his love of his youth and family story helped me to take inspiration from my own youth and the stories of my own family when weaving a story set far from Earth. I learned to take the issues that concerned me and weave them into a new story. I was also fascinated to see that when Bradbury felt a part of his original vision was no longer fresh and new, he was willing to update it. If you’d like to learn more about The Pirates of Sufiro, the story I started dreaming up in the years after I met Ray Bradbury, visit http://davidleesummers.com/pirates_of_sufiro.html

Bad-Ass Women

Late August through early October 2021 has proven to be a busy convention season for me. Most of the conventions have still been virtual, but I have cautiously returned to attending some in-person events. The first virtual convention I attended during this period was Bubonicon 52 Take 2 on August 20-21. Even if you missed it, they posted all of their panels on their YouTube channel in a playlist at: https://youtu.be/eIJoVSjxmlI.

Two weeks later on Labor Day weekend, I gave a science presentation and spoke on seven panels at the virtual CoKoCon. Sessions were held on Discord and Zoom. Unfortunately, these panels don’t seem to have been posted for later viewing, but the discussions were fun and lively. We discussed such topics as writing weird western fiction, keeping classic monsters fresh and new, and the differences between publishing in the small press and larger presses.

At both conventions, I was on a panel with a similar name. At CoKoCon, the panel was called “Bad-Ass Women in Science Fiction and Fantasy.” In that panel, the emphasis was largely on our favorite characters in the genres. At Bubonicon, the title was “Writing Bad-Ass Women” and the panel focused more on the process of writing strong women. The latter panel is available to watch here:

Most of us agreed that there haven’t been enough bad-ass women in science fiction and family, but that the situation is improving. As you can see, there were more men on the Bubonicon panel than women. Still, we all agreed that the process largely involves channeling those bad-ass women we have known in our lives and the ones we do admire in fiction and adapting those traits to our characters. At CoKoCon, I was the only man on the panel. Some of the favorite characters mentioned included Lieutenant Uhura from Star Trek, Ellen Ripley in the Alien movies, and Dr. Ellie Arroway in Carl Sagan’s Contact.

I think it should be clear from the list that bad-ass doesn’t always mean “kick-ass.” These women aren’t all characters who emphasize physical prowess. They’re smart characters who think through solutions. An interesting favorite character mentioned at CoKoCon was Tank Girl from the comics and movie of the same name. Although I knew of the character, I didn’t know much about her. I’ve since read some of the comics and watched the movie and may discuss her further in a future post, but among her striking characteristics were her fearlessness and irreverence.

One of the reasons I volunteered for these panels is that I believe in writing bad-ass women into my stories. Whether it’s Marcella and Jane in the Scarlet Order Vampire series, Fatemeh Karimi and Larissa Crimson in the Clockwork Legion series, or Suki Mori and her daughter Suki Firebrandt Ellis in the Space Pirates’ Legacy series, I endeavor to model these characters on the many bad-ass women I’ve known and admired in real life. One area that was mentioned in both panels were the lack of older women mentor figures. A few were named and again, this is an area where improvement is beginning to happen. One of my favorite strong women leaders from my own fiction is Admiral Ayumba Mukombe in Firebrandt’s Legacy. After being on these panels, I’m certainly tempted to tell more of her story. You can learn more about Admiral Mukombe and the other characters from my fiction at http://davidleesummers.com/

Gaslight Expo and MileHiCon

This coming weekend, Friday, October 1 through Sunday, October 3, I’ll be a live in-person participant at Gaslight Steampunk Expo in San Diego, California and I’ll be a virtual participant at MileHiCon in Denver, Colorado. Until a few weeks ago, I wasn’t actually certain I would be able to do either event. I was scheduled to work at Kitt Peak National Observatory those nights. In 2020, during the height of the pandemic, one member of our telescope operations team left for another job. We only recently hired a new person after finding the safest way to train a new hire. Because our new operator is still training, and thus doubled up with other operators, vacation time is not being readily approved. Still, I was able to make a trade with one of the other telescope operators.

Of the two events, Gaslight Steampunk Expo asked me to be a participant first. I had told them if I was able to get the weekend off, I would be there. At the time, I thought MileHiCon would be held on the same weekend it has been the last few years, which is closer to the end of October, so I hadn’t imagined there would be a schedule conflict. When MileHiCon invited me, I was surprised to find out they had moved to the first weekend of October. Fortunately, they decided to do a virtual programming track in addition to a live programming track. Among other things, they weren’t certain who would be willing and able to travel to Denver with the pandemic. In my case travel would have been a challenge. Even though I was able to get time off, the only way I could travel to Denver from Tucson in the time allotted would be to fly and even that would assume flights at times I could make.


Gaslight Steampunk Expo will be held from September 30 through October 3 at the San Diego Mission Valley Marriott. The theme for the 2021 event will be the 1889 Universelle Exposition du Paris (World Fair) where Gustave Eiffel built the largest structure on the planet as the gateway to the Champ du Mars and dedicated it to science and the 199 workers who helped him construct this modern marvel. You can get more information about the event at https://www.gaslightexpo.org/

My schedule for the event is as follows:

Saturday, October 2, 2021

  • 4pm – 5pm – Autographing – Vendor Hall. I’ll have a selection of my novels and other writings to sign at the Vendor Hall.
  • 6:30pm – 7:30pm – From Jules Verne to Jacques Tardi: French Literature and Comics – Salon B. I will join James and Kim Keeline who collect antiquarian books to discuss how to find the best Jules Verne translations, other cool French steampunk including the comics of Jacques Tardi and some French films that may have escaped notice in the United States.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

  • 11am – noon – Victorian Astronomy – Salon C. I’ll give an overview of Victorian-era astronomy and how it changed the world.
  • 2pm -3pm – Steampunk Literature: Past, Present, and Future – Salon C. A brief look at the history of steampunk literature and where the future might lead. Madeleine Holly-Rosing and I will be presenting this panel.

For SF/F and speculative fiction lovers, MileHiCon is a weekend not to be missed. The convention will feature authors, artists, speakers and programming on every aspect of the science fiction and fantasy genres. The author guests of honor are G. Willow Wilson and Rachael Swirsky. The artist guest of honor is Rebecca Hicks and the toastmaster is Aaron Michael Ritchey. You can get more information and programming details at https://milehicon.org

I have recorded a reading of the first chapter of my novella Breaking the Code and I have also recorded the science presentation “Surveying the Universe” about Kitt Peak’s DESI project. Those should both appear on the MileHiCon YouTube channel. If you go to YouTube and search for MileHiCon during the weekend of the convention, you should be able to find the presentations. I’ll plan to share them here at the Web Journal after the convention. I’m disappointed that my schedule doesn’t allow me to attend the convention in person, but I am grateful that the organizers did create a virtual track that allows me to participate in some capacity.

Peacekeeping in Oz

The final Oz novel by L. Frank Baum, Glinda of Oz, opens with Ozma and Dorothy deciding to pay a visit to the sorceress Glinda the Good. While there, Dorothy takes a peek at Glinda’s book that provides news of everything happening everywhere in the world. We learn that the book does not provide detailed accounts, but limits itself to the headlines and a brief summary, which does seem to foreshadow the news results from modern search engines. While browsing through the book, Dorothy learns that two of Oz’s peoples, the Skeezers and the Flatheads are preparing to go to war. Ozma promptly decides to put a stop to this nonsense. After a stop by the Emerald City to put the Scarecrow in charge during her absence, Ozma and Dorothy leave on a peacekeeping mission.

Dorothy and Ozma’s first destination is the mountain home of the Flatheads. As the name implies, these people all have flattened heads. In fact, their heads are flattened just above their eyebrows, which leaves no room for brains. So, they carry their brains around in cans. The Supreme Dictator of the Flatheads claims to be the smartest of the bunch because he has more than one can of brains, all because he took brains from others of his kind. It turns out, the Supreme Dictator is none too happy with Ozma’s interference and plans to imprison her. Thanks to some quick thinking on Ozma’s part, the two princesses escape and make their way to the island home of the Skeezers.

The Skeezers’ island has a great, glass dome and can be lowered into the lake. Queen Cu-ee-oh of the Skeezers isn’t much happier about Ozma’s interference and promptly arrests Oz’s monarch and her companion. She then lowers the island below the lake’s surface and commences to launch a submarine assault on the invading Flathead army. During the melee, Queen Cu-ee-oh is transformed into a diamond swan and forgets all the magic she knew to raise and lower the island. Dorothy and Ozma end up trapped and Ozma has no way to untangle the magic that lowered the island into the lake.

Fortunately, Glinda—remember this is a book about Glinda—sees in her big book that Dorothy and Ozma have been taken prisoner. She travels to the Emerald City and meets with the Scarecrow and Ozma’s advisors. They assemble a rescue party that consists of almost every major Oz character to date. This final book of Baum’s has some interesting perspectives on the limitation of magic in Oz and shows that it can’t simply fix every problem one might encounter.

Glinda of Oz was written at the tail end of World War I and was published in 1920, about a year after Baum’s passing. It’s clear he had things he wanted to say about the nature of war and war machines that can’t always be controlled by those who create them. The domed underwater city foreshadows many similar cities in later science fiction and fantasy novels. Although there’s a large rescue party at the end, it isn’t unwieldy. You get nice moments from the characters that make you glad to get to spend a little more time with them.

Although Glinda of Oz is the last of Baum’s Oz novels, it would not be the last Oz novel by a long shot. Baum’s publisher hired a writer named Ruth Plumly Thompson to take over the series. Between her and other authors such as illustrator John R. Neill, the canonical Oz series would continue until it reached forty novels.

Still, the real delight of the Oz series is that it was a series where both girls and boys could go on adventures. What’s more, both young and old could go on adventures. Uncle Henry and Aunt Em weren’t left behind on that Kansas farm while Dorothy had all the fun in a magical country. Those of us who write science fiction and fantasy do well to pay attention to Baum’s lessons. Over these posts exploring his novels, we’ve learned that Baum wasn’t perfect, but he left a series of novels that are still well worth reading. I hope this series has encouraged you to take a look at Baum’s Oz novels. If you have a favorite, I’d love to hear about it.

Scary Oz

While I’ve been reading through L. Frank Baum’s Oz novels, Zenescope Entertainment released their 2021 Oz Annual featuring their version of the Patchwork Girl. Like Big Dog Ink’s vision of Oz which I mentioned last month, Zenescope has their own take on Baum’s most famous creation. It helps to realize that like many other comic companies Zenescope has their own “multiverse” and many of their stories fit in that world. Oz is one of the magical lands in the Zenescope multiverse. The other lands are Neverland, Wonderland, and Myst. In the center of it all is the Earth we all know and love. In this multiverse, Neverland, Wonderland, and Oz do bear a passing resemblance to their literary counterparts, but they also have distinct differences. In the Zenescope version, Dorothy travels to Oz and ultimately becomes queen of the land. Thorne, the counterpart of the Cowardly Lion, is from a race of lion men. Bartleby is a living scarecrow.

Zenescope’s Patchwork Girl Annual

The 2021 Oz Annual introduces us to the Patchwork Girl. Instead of the happy-go-lucky Scraps of Baum’s novel we meet a witch called Jenny Patch. Long ago she was put on trial for witchcraft. Found guilty, the villagers tried to drown her. Instead of dying, Jenny came back as a living doll, capable of turning others into dolls. Eventually she’s captured and placed into Oz’s Ojo prison. The name is a neat reference to Ojo the Lucky who appeared in the original Patchwork Girl novel. Once she’s in the prison, the people she turned into dolls revert to normal.

Moving forward to the present day, Jenny summons a tornado, which destroys the prison and she escapes with her sidekick, a bug. I don’t recall Zenescope introducing an analog of H.M. Wogglebug T.E. before, so wondered if this was a nod to that character. Not only does Jenny escape, she escapes to Kansas where she unleashes a reign of terror on the townspeople of an unnamed, large town. From the buildings, I’d guess the city is supposed to be Wichita or the Kansas portion of Kansas City.

Dorothy, Toto, Bartleby and Thorne make their way to Kansas and find the Patchwork Girl is creating a whole army of living dolls. So, it’s up to our heroes to stop them. In the Oz novels, it’s stated several times that Oz’s magic doesn’t work outside the fairyland. In this case, the magic has no problem operating in our world, but again, this fits the rules of Zenescope’s multiverse. Overall, I find that Zenescope does a good job with horror action and this comic fits comfortably in that niche. The comic is written by Jenna Lyn Wright, whose work I haven’t encountered before. She seemed to sneak in a few more sly Oz references than I’ve seen in earlier Oz volumes from Zenescope.

Overall, I recommend this for the Oz fan looking for a twisted, scary take on the world. This one is definitely not for younger Oz fans. For those wanting to explore the Zenescope Oz universe you can start with the graphic novels at: https://zenescope.com/collections/tales-from-oz-trade-paperbacks

A Retread in Oz

The Magic of Oz was L. Frank Baum’s penultimate Oz novel. At “lucky” number 13, I expected great things. What I got was a rehash of story elements from earlier novels in the series. Hearkening back to The Road to Oz, it’s once again Ozma’s birthday. As the novel opens, our friends in Oz are scrambling to find the best presents for their beloved ruler. In the meantime, hearkening back to The Emerald City of Oz, our favorite nemesis, the former Nome King Ruggedo, is plotting his revenge on Dorothy and the gang. To achieve his aims, he teams up with a Munchkin lad named Kiki Aru, who lives high atop Mt. Munch. Because the mountain is so steep, the people who inhabit the mountain haven’t interacted much with the other people of Oz. This brought to mind the Frogman and Cayke the Cookie Cook from The Lost Princess of Oz. Even the conflict’s resolution recalls the ending of The Emerald City of Oz.

This is not to say the book lacks fun, it’s just that the best moments are more about the way these characters who have grown to know each other over several books interact than it is about the characters being in new situations. Trot, Cap’n Bill, and the glass cat go on a quest for a magical flower that constantly changes its blooms. Along the way, Trot and Cap’n Bill get into trouble and the glass cat, known for being a self-absorbed creature, must find help and save the day. In the meantime, we get to see Dorothy and the Wizard team up to create a magical birthday present for Ozma. During their quest, they stumble upon the villains trying to stir up trouble among the jungle animals. In a book like this which revisits so many plot threads from earlier novels, one might think the relationship between Dorothy and the Wizard would be hard to distinguish from the relationship between Trot and Cap’n Bill. However, Baum shows his deftness with characters and each set has their own, distinct “uncle-niece” relationship defined by their individual histories.

The Magic of Oz feels like one of those “filler” episodes of a long-running, but popular television show. It doesn’t really do anything to forward the story, but like the best of those episodes, you’re still happy to have spent time with the characters. Sadly, L. Frank Baum suffered a stroke and died about a month before this novel was released. I couldn’t find any information about his health at the time he wrote the novel, but this does feel like the work of a person struggling to provide a satisfying tale to hungry readers. He did write one more novel in the series, which would be published about a year after his death. We’ll pay our final tribute to L. Frank Baum in that post.

The Necromancer of Oz

The twelfth Oz book seeks to answer a question that has been lingering since the series began. In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, it’s revealed that Nick Chopper became the Tin Woodsman because he had the misfortune of falling in love with Munchkin lass who happened be enslaved by the Wicked Witch of the East. The Wicked Witch didn’t like Nick distracting her servant so she enchanted his axe. Eventually, poor Nick chopped off every part of his body. As each amputation occurred, a friendly tinsmith replaced the part until he was all made of Tin. Unfortunately, he got caught in a rainstorm and rusted in place until Dorothy found him. Afterwards, he went with Dorothy in search of a heart, because he could no longer feel love. So, what happened after Nick got the heart? So far in the series, we never heard any mention that he went back to seek out the fair lass, whose mistress Dorothy dispatched when she dropped a Kansas farmhouse on her.

As The Tin Woodman of Oz opens, a munchkin named Woot the Wanderer pays a visit to the Tin Woodsman’s castle and they exchange stories. Woot asks what happened to the girl. The Tin Woodsman explains that although the Wizard of Oz gave him a kind heart, it wasn’t a loving heart, so he never felt the need to seek out the girl, who we learn is named Nimmie Amee. Woot and the Scarecrow call the Tin Woodman on this and inform him that it certainly wasn’t kind never to return to Nimmie Amee and let her know what happened. So they decide to go on a quest to find the munchkin lass. If she still wants to marry Nick, he will consent … out of kindness, of course.

As the quest proceeds, we learn a little of the history of Oz. We hear how the Fairy Queen Lurline saw Oz isolated by the deadly desert and turns it into a fairyland where no one can ever die. In this part of the novel, we learn, “…when Oz first became a fairyland, it harbored several witches and magicians and sorcerers and necromancers, who were scattered in various parts…” When I heard this part, I had to pause and consider the necromancers of Oz. In a weird way, the book doesn’t just mention this idea, it eventually explores the idea.

Over the course of their adventures, Nick, the Scarecrow, and Woot meet up with Pollychrome the Rainbow’s daughter and also find yet another tin man rusted in place in the very same woods where Dorothy had found Nick. This tin man is a soldier named Captain Fyter. It turns out that after Nick became a tin man and rusted in place, Captain Fyter came along and also fell in love with Nimmie Aimee, who was heartbroken because Nick had vanished. The Wicked Witch of the East enchanted his sword and the same fate that happened to Nick, happened to Captain Fyter. Like Nick, Captain Fyter went to a nearby tin smith and was rebuilt. The two tin men decide to visit Nimmie Aimee together to see if she will marry either of them. Nick and Fyter visit the home of Nimmie Aimee and find she’s no longer around. So they decide to visit the tinsmith who made them into tin men to see if he knows what happened to her.

Now, remember that bit about how no one can ever die in Oz? When they get to the tinsmith’s house, they find he isn’t around. Nick looks around the house, opens a cupboard and lo and behold he finds his old head! He then goes on to have a conversation with his old head and finds his old self somewhat disagreeable. What’s more, when the tinsmith returns, we learn that he used the organic or “meat” parts of Nick Chopper and Captain Fyter to create yet another creature he names Chopfyt, which we ultimately meet and find it has its own personality. In effect, we do learn that the tinsmith who made the tin woodman and tin soldier is kind of a necromancer of Oz, which leads me to ponder other story possibilities about other creatures we thought long gone.

I found this exploration of how much the tin woodman and the tin soldier are like their original human forms really fascinating because of how much the scenes anticipate science fiction of almost fifty years later where writers would contemplate what happens to consciousness when the mind is transferred into a robot or a computer. I edited one such novel called Upstart Mystique by Don Braden. You can learn more about it at: http://hadrosaur.com/UpstartMystique.php

Finally, before I sign off, the virtual CoKoCon is this coming weekend. I’ll be discussing such topics as exoplanets, the weird west, badass women of science fiction, speculative poetry and magical creatures. You can find the schedule and register to attend for free at: http://www.cokocon.org/2021/index.html. The convention is all virtual, so you just need Zoom and/or Discord to attend the events from wherever you happen to be. Hope you’ll join us!

Marvel Comics in Oz

While reading L. Frank Baum’s original Oz novels, I discovered that Marvel Comics ran an Oz series from 2009 through 2012. Written by Eric Shanower with art by Skottie Young, the series adapted the first six Oz novels into comic format. Shanower is a long-time Oz fan and knows the books and characters well. He’s also an artist in his own right and I first discovered his work by finding his illustrations of Oz characters, which are strongly inspired by John R. Neill’s illustrations for the original novels.

Skottie Young started at Marvel drawing such titles as Spider-Man: Legend of the Spider Clan, Human Torch, and Venom. He was soon tapped to take on the Oz series. I have to admit, when I first encountered these adaptations the art almost kept me from diving in. It was a little more stylized and, well, cartoonish than my taste in comic book art. However, the more I looked at the art, the more I was reminded of the surreal illustrations Tim Burton drew while imagining The Nightmare Before Christmas. There’s something about the illustrations that’s warm and loving, but just a little creepy, which actually suits the material nicely. I warmed to Young’s style even more after watching a video where he told how Oz helped him find his preferred artistic style. I really love his take on Dorothy, the Wizard, and the Tin Woodsman, along with characters like General Jinjur and Professor H.M. Wogglebug T.E. from the later books. He also does real justice to scary characters like the Wicked Witch of the West and Road to Oz’s terrifying Scoodlers.

The comics are almost word-for-word adaptations of the novels, which means the adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has many notable differences from the famous MGM movie. That said, I noticed that Eric Shanower didn’t slavishly adapt the Oz novels when writing these comics. In his adaptation of Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, Shanower actually corrects a logic problem in the novel. Where L. Frank Baum gave us a deus ex machina ending, Shanower tweaks the resolution slightly and foreshadows it giving us some plot tension along the way. Yes, Shanower changes Baum, but he shows us how someone who knows and loves an author’s work can make it better. I suspect Baum would have approved.

After reading the six adapted novels, my primary complaint is that they didn’t continue to adapt the rest of Baum’s canon. Still, if you’re looking for a way to quickly see what the larger Oz universe has to offer, the Marvel Oz comics are a good place to jump in. They helped to refresh my memory of the first three novels, which I’d read several years ago. I then had fun seeing Shanower and Skottie’s adaptation of the three novels that began my current journey through Baum’s fantasy series. In 2020, Marvel brought the series out in three digest-sized volumes under the title Oz: The Complete Collection. Copies were available at both my local comic store and my local Barnes and Noble.

The God-Machines of Oz

Over the course of the Oz series, L. Frank Baum introduced quite a few magical items that should give our heroes almost limitless power. These include the magic picture, which allows Princess Ozma, ruler of Oz, to see what’s happening at a given time anywhere in the world, and Glinda the Good’s great record book, which automatically records absolutely every event taking place in the world all the time. And here I thought Santa’s book listing all the naughty and nice children would be enormous! In Book 11 of the series, The Lost Princess of Oz, Baum asks what would happen if these items, which he’s used to create some deus ex machina endings, disappeared along with Oz’s ruler. What transpires is an entertaining quest story as Dorothy and many of her friends seek the lost Ozma.

As soon as Dorothy discovers that Ozma is missing, she gathers characters from many of the Oz books to search high and low through the land to find out who captured the Princess and absconded with the magical items. Not only is the picture gone, but so is the Wizard’s magical bag of tricks. Four parties go on the search. The book largely follows Dorothy’s party, which is the largest. Betsy Bobbin, Button-Bright and Trot join Dorothy, the Patchwork Girl, the Woozy, the Wizard, the Cowardly Lion, and the Sawhorse on a sojourn to the Winkie Country. A suddenly talkative Toto joins the party as well.

Meanwhile in a remote part of the Winkie Country, Cayke the Cookie Cook discovers that her solid gold dishpan has also disappeared. This proves a terrible tragedy, since she can no longer make the awesome cookies she’s known for. So she sets out with the wisest man … er, frog in her part of Oz, the Frogman, to go find out who stole her dishpan.

This feels like one of those books that Baum wrote to please all his fans. He tries to work in every great character from the ten books before this and he actually does a pretty respectable job. I admit, I found myself cheering a bit when Cap’n Bill appeared and was left in charge of the Emerald City while everyone was away. The only person I really missed was Pollychrome, the Rainbow’s daughter. Not only does this book give us a return of many favorite characters, the new characters are just as memorable as the old. I couldn’t help but smile every time Cayke the Cookie Cook appears. We meet a race of sentient Teddy Bears and our villain has the unfortunate name, Ugu the Shoemaker.

As the novel progresses, we learn that Ugu has gone on a mission to capture all of Oz’s magic for himself. And yes, while I think making really awesome cookies ought to be considered a God-like power in its own right, it turns out Cayke the Cookie Cook’s dishpan has powers she didn’t realize. As befits a novel about a power-hungry man trying to control all the land’s God-machines, he’s undone by one that he didn’t know about because it came from a land outside of Oz.

All in all, The Lost Princess of Oz proves to be an enjoyable tale, if a bit unwieldy at times as all the characters vie for the spotlight. This wouldn’t necessarily be a good book for a first-time reader of Oz to dive into, but it’s a great book for fans looking to spend time with old friends.

Aftershock and Awe

This has been a busy summer for my daughter. She had a remote NASA internship and took second semester physics as an intense six-week summer course. I did what I could to help with both of these areas, explaining things like orbital parameters for the internship and helping her understand physics problems. I know how intense these things are and some of what I did was simply not provide a distraction at inappropriate times by turning on the television. This caused me to turn to books and comics for more of my entertainment, which is not altogether a bad thing. In seeking things to read, I stumbled across a comic published in 2012 based on the TV series Space: 1999 called Aftershock and Awe, written by Andrew Gaska. Given my recent interest watching the show and listening to the audio re-imagining by Big Finish Productions, I thought this looked interesting. The only problem is that it had gone out of print around the time the COVID-19 pandemic began and appeared to be somewhat difficult to find. I did find some copies on eBay and most appeared to be available for a fair price, considering that it was a hardcover book. Still, I decided to ask some devoted fans whether this was worth the price.

On Facebook, there is a group devoted to a podcast hosted by Jamie Anderson, Richard James, and Chris Dale. Jamie is the son of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, the producers of Space: 1999 and the podcast is devoted to the shows. If you enjoy shows like Thunderbird, Stingray, UFO, or Space: 1999, the podcast is well worth a listen. What’s more, the Facebook group is full of fans who genuinely enjoy these shows and have fun discussing them. So, I asked about the book there. I had some nice responses, including one from Chris Dale who said the book was worthwhile. I was surprised and delighted a few days later when they read my question on the podcast itself. Jamie Anderson indicated he was familiar with the book and liked it. The upshot of all of this is that I took the plunge and picked up a copy for my collection.

Showing off Aftershock and Awe while wearing my Space: 1999 shirt.

I’ve now had a chance to read the graphic novel and I agree, it was a good choice for my collection. The first half is a retelling of the show’s first episode, “Breakaway.” It features fabulous, classic Space: 1999 comic art by Gray Morrow along with new art and colors by Miki and dialog by Andrew Gaska. Like Big Finish’s version of “Breakaway,” it expands the story. It tells more about the backstory of Commander Gorski who leaves Moonbase Alpha at the beginning. It also suggests there is more to the moon leaving orbit rapidly than simply being propelled by a nuclear explosion. It’s not quite as satisfying as the explanation in the Big Finish audio, but it’s clearly heading in that direction and dovetails with it nicely. When I do have a chance to turn on the TV for a little while, I’m watching the second season of Space: 1999 and it was nice to see second season characters Tony Verdeschi and Shermeen Williams introduced right from the outset as minor characters. The opening title pages also give nods to both the first and second season credit sequences. Like many fans, I’m not as fond of the second season as the first, but the second season has grown on me and I think for the most part, it improved toward the end. So, it was nice to see this nod to continuity.

The second half of the book is set on Earth and sets up Space: 1999 as existing in an alternate history. As someone who has written various flavors of alternate history, I really like this approach. Featuring lovely painted illustrations by David Hueso, we find out what was happening on Earth to a group of people connected to those crewmembers on Moonbase Alpha who blasted out of orbit. Of course, the moon leaving Earth’s orbit suddenly would be catastrophic and such an event would set off numerous natural disasters. The apocalyptic events are highlighted by lines of poetry and quotes from the book of Revelation. The timing was interesting, since I’m about to embark on editing my 2007 novel, Heirs of the New Earth for a new edition, and I also highlight key elements with quotes from Revelation. The other aspect both the graphic novel and my novel share is that while they both imagine great disaster befalling the Earth, they’re both ultimately hopeful stories in that they imagine the human race persevering in the wake of the disaster. First edition copies of my novel are available for half off the cover price at: https://www.hadrosaur.com/HeirsNewEarth.php or you can support me at Patreon and support the work I’m doing on the new edition. My Patreon site is: https://www.patreon.com/davidleesummers.

I was sufficiently impressed with Aftershock and Awe that I’d recommend it to any Space: 1999 fan. There was a follow up, which also featured Gray Morrow’s art, but that book, To Everything that Was, is much rarer and much more expensive. As I understand, these books were on Comixology for a time. It would be great if a new distribution deal could be made and they could return to digital format, or a new print run ordered for more fans to discover these books.