Was cover

WAS is a 1992 adult parallel Oz novel by author Geoff Ryman, in which the magical Land of Oz never existed as a real place. Instead, the novel explores the tragic, but very moving life of "Dorothy Gael" (in this version her last name really is spelled Gael), in 1800's Kansas, whose traumatic experiences with Aunt Emily and Uncle Henry after her mother's death lead her to create an imaginary and idealized world in her mind based on some of her real-life experiences as a way of coping with her harsh reality.

The book also goes into depth about the importance of a healthy, stable childhood and explores the life of Judy Garland as she plays Dorothy in the 1939 movie, and others who are affected indirectly somehow by the book or the movie version of The Wizard of Oz. The novel tells the stories of the characters and how they are all intertwined and connected to one another, without the characters themselves actually knowing it.


  • Dorothy Gael - Dorothy is a little girl who loses her family in St. Louis due to Diphtheria. She is sent to live on a Kansas farm with relatives who are not the affectionate ones Dorothy has in The Wizard of Oz, but quite the opposite. These traumatic experiences transform sweet little innocent Dorothy, into a vile, wicked and down right evil girl who is unable to be saved. In this story Dorothy does not have a happy ending.
  • Toto - Dorothy's little pet dog, who she brought with her from her mother's house. Though Dorothy loves her dog dearly, Aunt Em despises him and fears him. As a result Toto runs away from the farm and never comes back. (It is hinted that Uncle Henry or Aunt Em may have killed him)
  • Aunt Em - Aunt Em in this novel seemingly means well, but overall she truly has no clue how to properly raise a small child. As a result she doesn't realize the damage she does to Dorothy. She's often strict, paranoid, unreasonable and turns a blind eye when Uncle Henry becomes far too fond. Occasionally, Aunt Em bears a striking resemblance to the Wicked Witch of the West. But Dorothy must accept her to survive.
  • Uncle Henry- the husband of Aunt Em. Henry is a smelly old farmer who completely neglects Dorothy until she begins to blossom into womanhood. Then Uncle Henry begins to molest her behind close doors. Henry's heartless actions cause a domino effect of negative outcomes for Dorothy later on in her life.
  • Wilbur - an awkwardly-shaped young man, who dreams of life beyond the Kansas prairies. Wilbur's peculiar movements and appearance remind Dorothy of a scarecrow and he befriends Dorothy despite the age difference.
  • Lyman Frank Baum - A substitute teacher who visits Dorothy's Kansas town. He is a childlike, bookish and playful sort of man who smokes in the classroom and tells his students that in Turkish, Oz means "home". He also briefly teaches at the same schoolhouse Dorothy attends. He is so touched by the young girl's sad life that he goes on to write a bestselling children's book, making Dorothy the main character and giving her the life she should've had in a fantasy novel about going back home to loved ones.
  • Judy Garland - Another little girl who grows up with a complicated childhood. She begins singing with her older sisters and is thrown into show business by her demeaning, pushy mother. She will become the actress to play Dorothy in the imaginary, sugar coated version of her life which will lead her down an endless path of drug and alcohol abuse. "Millie", a makeup girl on the set of the film production narrates an encounter with Garland.
  • Jonathan - A gay and briefly famous actor dying of AIDS in the 1980's. Jonathan has been obsessed with The Wizard of Oz his entire life and sets out to find the real Dorothy who inspired the novel before he dies. Jonathan tracks down her Kansas home on a mission to disappear into his own imaginative fantasy before the "cyclone" of AIDS whisks him away.
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