Friday, July 27, 2007

Dorothy, Slave Girl of Oz

The actual title of this book was Slave Girl of Ozymandias, but I use the alternate title because it was an obvious pastiche/parody of the Wizard of Oz, with a bit of Barbarella thrown in.

By the late 1970s, John Norman was getting a little tired of being locked into the B&D sameness of the Gor series, and apparently decided that the way to break out was through a combination of whimsy and hard-core sex. So he wrote this book, hoping to broaden his audience perhaps, or maybe he was just venting.

The plot begins with space explorer Dorothy (no last name is ever given) crashing onto the planet Ozymandias, once a unified planet, but now splintered into numerous pseudo-feudal regions. Dorothy’s ship crashes into the palace of the sorceress/queen/witch/ruler of the Western Land, freeing the subjugated people, the Munchies. The Munchies, as the name implies, are basically stoners with an oral fixation, and that includes their sexual habits. The festival that follows the death of the hated ruler also marks the first orgy scene in the book.

Dorothy is accompanied by her Labrador, Whole, and the book uses the Whole/Hole pun a lot. After the orgy, the Munchies direct Dorothy to the titular city, Ozymandias, formerly the capital of the planetary government, to find a part needed to repair her spacecraft. As you might expect, (this being an Oz parody and all), she soon meets up with various others who are en route to Ozymandias, a mechanical man, Al (short for Aluminium), Leo the beast man, and Corby, a highwayman with a Secret. It is later revealed that Corby is actually one of the last of a thought-to-be-extinct species of anthropomorphic plants (shades of Ficus Padurata!).

Norman obviously couldn’t include every known sexual deviance in the book, but he certainly tried, with group sex and bestiality being the mainstays. In the case of the fields of Spanish Fly, and the orgy with the winged monkeys (they were called something else, but I forget what), he managed both at once. At one point Dorothy indulges in a three-way with Al and Corby, while pondering the evolution of vibrators and cucumbers.

Dorothy and company do reach Ozymandias, and of course are then sent out onto another quest, to meet the ruler of the Eastern Land, a lesbian with whom Dorothy quickly hooks up and conquers, as it were (“Oh, Dorothy! I’m melting!).

On returning to Ozymandia, Dorothy engages in some fairly prosaic geriatric sex with the ruler of the city, obtains her needed part (yes, Norman exploits that double entendre as well) and leaves the planet.

Whatever hopes Norman had for the success of this book were conceived without taking the awesome power of the L. Frank Baum estate into account, however. While the Baum estate is known for diligent copyright and trademark protection (and Norman may have been hoping for the loophole allowed for parody), less well-known are the connections that Baum developed with organized crime before his death. With the Oz books’ royalties swelling Mafia coffers, it isn’t very surprising that they would look unkindly on someone else’s attempts to cash in. Add that to the fact that they were still smarting from the loss of control over the pornography industry (due to the Mitchell Brothers’ lawsuit), and you had a clandestine organization that was spoiling for a fight.

Fight they did, both in court, with restraining orders, and underground, through influence in labor unions and other front organizations. Teamsters refused to deliver copies of the book to distributors, bookstore found themselves subject to vandalism and harassment, and media outlets were instructed not to review or even acknowledge the book.

As a result, only a few hundred copies of the book were ever distributed, and most of those were immediately purchased by Baum estate agents and destroyed. The copy I read was fourth generation photocopy, with the illustrations so blurred as to remind one of watching scrambled X-rated cable TV.

It would be tempting to bemoan the loss of a classic, but in truth, the controversy was probably more interesting than the book itself. The writing was clunky, most of the jokes fell flat, and the sex scenes never reached the level of eroticism or even, truth to tell, prurient interest. Still, it’s interesting to consider Norman’s career after that and wonder what he might have written had this avenue not been closed.

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