Alternate Oz is a term that has been widely applied to modern Oz fiction that departs in significant ways from the pattern set by the works of L. Frank Baum and his successors as Royal Historians of Oz. The term Dark Oz has also been applied to some of these works.
In his influential critical essay "The Other Oz," Stephen Teller proposed a fourfold division of the total Oz literature.
The divisions are listed as "The Canon", the "Famous Forty" books written by L. Frank Baum and other "Royal Historians" and published by the George M. Hill Co., Reilly & Britton, and Reilly & Lee.; Deutero-Canonical Works, the Oz-related works written by those same authors (including unpublished material); Orthodox Apocrypha, books by other writers that are "consistent with the spirit," tone, and narrative of the first category; and Heretical Apocrypha, consisting of Oz fiction that depart from the established Oz narrative, or are inconsistent with, of overtly contradict, its spirit and tone.
This category of Oz works shows a continuous growth and divergence. At one extreme can be placed the "Magic Land" books of Alexander Volkov. These were written for children and preserve the general values and outlook of the Oz literature, though they depart from the Oz narrative to extreme degrees. Volkov's followers and imitators, including Sergei Sukhinov, Yuri Kuznetzov, Leonid Vladimirsky, and Nikolai Bachnow among others, have all contributed to this large and growing alternate Oz literature. At the other end of the extreme are Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West and Bloodstained Oz with it's violent and sexual themes, "The Dark Oz" These are not suppose to be read by children.
Alternate Oz books tend to be published with a basic understanding of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz but may incorporate details from later Oz books as in those written by L. Frank Baum's great-grandson Roger S. Baum and Joshua Dudley's Lost in Oz series.
A notable sub-genre appears to deal with Dorothy returning to Oz in ways and plots contrary to Ozma of Oz which includes Return to Oz (film), Return to Oz (cartoon), Dorothy in the Land of Oz, Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return, Journey Back to Oz, Halloween in Oz: Dorothy Returns, and others.
A different type of work can be exemplified by Jane Mailander's story "Buffalo Dreams," which adheres closely to the established Oz narrative, but is written in a grittier and darker tone than most children's literature — it is a story more for a general readership than for children per se. And many other works share these characteristics to greater or lesser degrees. The books of March Laumer provide obvious examples.
Some recent works deliberately depart in radical ways from the traditional Oz canon. They include adult themes (like sex and violence) and are clearly written for adult readers; they incorporate influences from the genres of horror and erotica and satire and parody. A sampling of such works could include:
- Philip Jose Farmer's A Barnstormer in Oz
- Gregory Maguire's The Wicked Years series
- Danielle Paige's Dorothy Must Die series
- Geoff Ryman's Was
- Martin Gardner's Visitors from Oz
- Charles Phipps's The Umbrella Man of Oz books
- Skipp and Levinthal's The Emerald Burrito of Oz
- The Oz Squad comic books
- The Dark Oz comic books
- Bloodstained Oz
- Liatanah Johanna Briggs's Ozma Gets Really Pissed Off and Cusses and Totally Offends (Almost) Everyone in Oz.
Also some original short stories with some darker tones appear in paperback compilations such as I Should Have Stayed in Oz, Shadows of The Emerald City , and Oz Reimagined: New Tales from the Emerald City and Beyond written by various authors.
Stephen J. Teller. "The Other Oz: Apocrypha Beyond the Forty Books." The Baum Bugle Vol. 33 No. 1 (Spring 1989).
For an obvious example of Dark Oz, see:
- The Dark Side of Oz
- A World of Darkness: Oz, a roleplay game
- For an example of Alternate Oz stories, see:
- Beyond the Deadly Desert: Oz Outside the Sovereign Sixty
- Other Histories of Oz: The Parallel Ozziverse