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Paradox in Oz: 10/19/18

Paradox in Oz

Paradox in Oz by Edward Einhorn and Eric Shanower is a recent edition to the Oz lore. I'm going to go as far as say that if it isn't canon, it should be. It's the most Oz like Oz book I've read outside of Baum and Thompson's works.

As the book is so closely tied to the original series I want to step back to look at The Road to Oz (1909) as it is the turning point that introduced concepts expanded upon in Paradox in Oz.

As the fifth book in the series and with Baum busy with a full writing career and slowly but surely failing health, he thought it was time to "close the door" to Oz. While the book is primarily about how Dorothy and her family come to live in Oz full time, it also introduces the word "fairyland" to situate the Kingdom of Oz in the realm of the fairies. It is also the first time that Ozma is called a fairy.

If practical but still magical Oz is to be inhabited by the fae, then the wherefore of Oz must be something more than what has been implied in the first four books. There just might be a narrative paradox here.

Enter Edward Einhorn ninety years later to retcon the paradox that separates the first four Oz books from the remaining oeuvre. Backing him up is Eric Shanower who can draw like John R. Neill when he wants to. (I should note that I adore Shanower's sassier renditions of Baum's characters in his graphic novel adaptation of the first five books).

In true Ozian fashion, if a pun is to be had, there is magic. If you look at the cover art, you'll see Ozma resplendent white flowing robes is riding atop a parrot-ox. It's a time and space traveling parrot-ox summoned at the moment when time began to flow again for Oz.

In fairyland it is fairly standard for time there to work different and separately from time here. There are numerous stories of children going there, growing up, only then to return as children after living entire lifetimes. Likewise there are stories of children who go, spending an hour or two, only to come home and find everyone else significantly older.

In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz time flows normally for Dorothy. Her time in Oz is equivalent to the time she is away (and presumed dead) from the farm. Time between that book and the third book, Ozma of Oz is also equivalent between Oz and Earth as well as between the years of publishing. Meaning, that about six years has passed between the publishing book one and three and that is reflected in Dorothy being about six years older (or roughly twelve) by this book.

Ozma has also been shown to have aged from her introduction in The Marvelous Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz. She has gone from about ten to about twelve or thirteen.

By the later books Ozma and Dorothy settle on being perpetually young women — maybe late teens or early twenties. They are drawn to look like either the Gibson Girl or as young regal flappers. But years and then decades passed especially as Thompson took over the series. (Interestingly she was about as old as Dorothy was supposed to be, assuming she was six in 1899/1900).

So at a later book (which I have yet to get to in my close re-reading of the series), time basically stops. Or at least the citizens of Oz stop aging and perhaps stop dying. I find this a rather dystopian element to the extremely upbeat 'perfect' Oz depiction.

Paradox in Oz begins with someone noticing a gray hair in their beard. Then other people start noticing that they too seem older and different. Ozma realizes that it all began when something important broke in the royal storage room. The only one who is old enough to know that that thing was is a toddler named Zoey who like Benjamin Button is aging backwards.

Ozma ends up going through time to try to find an age when Zoey is old enough to know what the thing is and be able to tell her. In doing so she learns to important aspects of time travel which Einhorn calls Oz-time and Ozma-time. These concepts I've defined and discussed in Traveling between utopia and uhoria: an introduction to the use of space and time in Oz and Night Vale.

In terms of the road narrative project, Ozma's travels through space and time put the novel solidly in the OOCC66 category: namely, a privileged traveler going off road to a place out of time.

In previous books, Ozma has counted as an orphan but at this time she is well established as the ruler of Oz, powerful in social standing and powerful in her magical abilities. Since Oz is a well established matriarchy, she is as powerful and privileged as she can be. As she is experiencing Oz and the surrounding kingdoms through time, her travels are uhoric, even though all of them are utopic destinations. From Ozma's point of view, they are all normal places for her but traveling through time is a novelty. As she is flying and teleporting with Tempus the Parrot-Ox, her method of travel is off-road.

Five stars

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