This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.
Gregory Maguire didn’t invent the game of re-imagining The Wonderful Wizard of Oz with Wicked; John Boorman’s Zardoz aside, Geoff Ryman beat him to the bunch with Was, a fantasy novel masquerading as a realist dirge.
For the first few hundred pages of Was I was wondering why it was included in the Fantasy Masterworks series. The book opens with Jonathan, an actor struggling with AIDS and the role of the Scarecrow in a 1980s stage production of The Wizard of Oz and his obsessive researching of the history behind the play. It spends a little time following the career of Judy Garland from various perspectives. Most of the time, however, it focuses on the story of Dorothy Gael, a young girl sent to Kansas in the 1870s after her father abandons her and her mother dies of diptheria.