FREE READ | Introduction: There’s No Place Like Oz — John Joseph Adams & Douglas Cohen

There’s no place like home.

The phrase has become one of the most famous in the English language, if not all of Western culture. Although first popularized by John Howard Payne (as a lyric in the song “Home! Sweet Home!” for his opera Clari, Maid of Milan), it’s safe to say that when most people hear it, they think not of the opera or the song but of L. Frank Baum’s most magical creation: Oz. It is to Dorothy Gale that most of us unconsciously attribute these words—perhaps because her innocent longing for her farm while being surrounded by such wondrous magic makes the words all the more poignant. Whatever the reason, there is no denying the resonance of the message. Yet while the words may indeed evoke thoughts of home for some, it is somewhat ironic that those words now transport most of us to that magical Land of Oz.

But if this unassuming phrase should take our thoughts someplace vastly different than Baum intended, it’s hardly surprising, because while there’s no place like home, it’s equally true that there’s no place like Oz. It has not only transcended the ranks of fantasy readers; thanks to the beloved MGM film classic, The Wizard of Oz, it has also transcended the ranks of readers, period. Indeed, Oz has woven itself into the very fabric of our culture.

While the Land of Oz has achieved a level of fame that few fantasies ever manage, and while various political allegorical meanings have been attributed to these works, at its heart Oz remains a series of fairy tales—tales written by a man who continued writing them long after he expected to because he received so many letters from children imploring him to write more Oz adventures. For many of those children—and for many of us even now—Oz became another home.

Of course, sometimes the home you remember can change. You’ll find that is the case with these stories. For this project we asked our authors to not only revisit Oz—we asked them to reimagine it.

And the results were everything we could have hoped for. Some authors chose to fill in the cracks of the existing mythology with their own unique vision. Others revised the original story, making it branch out in wildly unexpected directions. Still others took the bones of Oz and rebuilt it from the ground up, one magical limb at a time.

Characters you know and love might look different. They might act different. Their choices might shock you. They may make you laugh. They may make you cry. They may guide you down a gaily colored road to see a great and powerful wizard, but then again you might not even find yourself in Oz. (Though in spirit, all these stories take place in Oz, regardless of their actual location.)

If it seems like we’re being vague regarding how our authors have reimagined Oz…guilty as charged. We want you to experience that same delight we did the first time we read these stories, discovering what is familiar versus what is different, seeing how it all fits together. We want you to wander into old, warm dreams only to find they’ve taken a delightful right turn.

Even so, we do want to mention one important bit of information before you begin your trip to Oz. If you’re only familiar with the classic movie, you might notice certain details in some of the stories are different from what you remember. The reason for this is simple: our authors were tasked with reimagining L. Frank Baum’s books rather than the famous film based on them. (Though quite faithful, the movie version does take some liberties with the source material.) As a result, some of the little details you remember may be slightly different here— and not just because the stories have been reimagined. For example, in the movie version, Dorothy famously comes to possess a pair of magical ruby slippers; in the book, the shoes are silver instead. Another difference: thanks to the film, the Wicked Witch’s soldiers have come to be known as Flying Monkeys rather than Winged Monkeys as they were originally. And in the book Glinda is the Witch of the South rather than the North, and so on. So when you encounter these details in the anthology—things that may seem to be changed for no particular reason—rest assured there is a method to our madness. But if the movie is all you know, have no fear: the movie and the book are similar enough that you’ll have no trouble following the stories and falling into these new versions of Oz.

Reimagining a creation as enduring and seminal as Oz is no small feat—we all have our memories of it, and for many these memories are dearly cherished. Perhaps this explains why our authors embraced this project with so much enthusiasm. Oz is as special to them as it is to you; it is a land of deep imagination, part of that dreaming landscape they delve into each time they create a new work of fantasy. Most of them discovered Oz in one form or another before they even realized they wanted to write fantasy stories of their own, and so it could be said that L. Frank Baum planted some of the earliest seeds that brought them to where they find themselves today. For those of whom this is true, perhaps this anthology is their chance to say thank you…a chance to celebrate one of the great fantasies of our time…a chance to go back to Oz.

We all change as we pass out of childhood and become adults. Our perceptions of Oz may change as well. So follow the road of yellow brick when you’re ready, but prepare for a detour or two along the way. And remember: whatever version of Oz you find yourself in, there’s no place like it.