Go Down The Rabbit Hole With A Brand New Alice-Inspired Anthology

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No piece of media has caught the imagination of the masses as much as Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. With the original books, music, films and musical adaptations, it's no wonder that so many artists have been inspired by Carroll's world — including the many writers who contributed to the Mad Hatters and March Hares anthology.
 
With so many different minds coming together to celebrate such an integral piece of literature, we tried to talk to as many contributors as possible about how Alice has affected them — including the anthology's editor, Ellen Datlow!
 
RT: There are so many adaptations of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland; what was your first piece of Alice media? What significance does it hold for you?
 
Ellen Datlow: Probably the Disney movie, even more than the books. I was thrilled by the talking animals, the hookah-smoking caterpillar (although I didn’t, ahem, get the significance of it at the time). But it’s Dennis Potter’s great movie Dreamchild, about Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell, that most sticks in my mind. Every time I see it, I cry for Charles L. Dodgson and his portrayal by Ian Holmes as a lonely, melancholy misfit. 
 
Seanan McGuire: The first piece of Alice media that I can remember is the live-action musical with Carol Channing. It was just so ... bright, and so wickedly fast and witty, I think it broke me in the best of ways. I love that adaptation so very much.
 
Delia Sherman: What really made me a confirmed Alice lover was an old 78rpm record set of a 1930s British stage production of Alice in Wonderland adapted by Eva La Gallienne (who also played the White Queen) featuring the unknown Bambi Lynn as Alice. I listened to it over and over and over and over and over again, memorizing whole chunks of dialogue and a number of oddly melancholy 1930s musical settings for Carroll’s poems. 
 
Jane Yolen: I was a purist. My parents gave me a boxed edition of both Alice books (with the Tenniel illustrations) when I was about six. I have a clear memory of sitting on the window seat of our New York City apartment, overlooking Central Park West, and reading the books for the first time. Probably straight through with no breaks. NO media adaptation ever came up to that experience. (This was about 70 years ago!) I memorized most of the poems from my repeated readings of the books and recite them at the drop of a strophe. I can still do all of "Jabberwocky" and most of "You Are Old Father William." But my first piece of Alice media was the Disney version. I liked the songs, but nothing else.
 
Jeffrey Ford: I think the first Alice thing I noticed was the Disney movie. Maybe my parents took me to see it. What really struck me was a few years later when I first encountered the books and saw those incredible illustrations by John Tenniel. The book wouldn’t have had half as much impact on me without them. The Jabberwocky, Mad Hatter, White
Image courtesy of alice-in-wonderland.net
The White Rabbit by John Tenniel
Rabbit, Caterpillar, etc. were such fabulous renderings of the author’s characters. Only after focusing on the illustrations in the first copy of the book I had as a kid did I get around to reading it. I liked its strangeness, but even as young as I was I had a feeling it was allegorical in some way. As I got older, discovering the underlying ideas of the story and about Lewis Carroll and Alice made the book even more interesting.
 
Genevieve Valentine: My very first was the version with Tenniel illustrations that my mom read to me when I was, maybe, slightly too young to revel in Alice's powerful resentment of adulthood. Instead just ended up terrified that all the study of the world I'd conducted in my (very) young life could be subject to such utter upheaval at any second. I considered it a work of horror for many years — and, given my story, part of me probably still does.
 
Andy Duncan: I believe the first Alice adaptation I ever saw was the 1972 British musical, which I recall my mother taking me to see at a Columbia, S.C., movie theater that Thanksgiving when I was eight years old. I already had read the books, more than once, and remember feeling dissatisfied with the movie. Only later did I realize that I am dissatisfied with ALL the Alice adaptations; the novels may be unfilmmable, or unstageable. They're a great inspiration for visual artists, though, and I am always fascinated by what illustrators make of the characters. Which segues nicely into the next question …
 
RT: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is a favorite among readers of all ages, both for its prose and its social commentary. What about the original story most influenced your contribution?
 
Ellen Datlow: As the editor who conceived of the idea for a book of stories inspired by Alice and her companions in Wonderland, it was the challenge of commissioning stories that would bounce off and resonate and play with (not always in nice ways) with the characters and themes of the book — conscious or subconscious.
 
Seanan McGuire: Honestly, I think the idea of Nonsense as both a place and a purpose was the single greatest influence on me, and hence my story.
 
Delia Sherman: The things I love best about the Alice books is the way they reflect a child’s experience of the adult world. They're books about someone wandering through a world she doesn't understand and never really expects to be a part of, trying to get along with people who think she ought to know the rules without being told. Characters like the Queen of Hearts and the Duchess and Humpty Dumpty and the Red Queen yell at her when she gets things wrong, but other characters are kind and dim and help her as best they can, like the White Knight and the White Queen. The kindest characters, I've always felt, are melancholy, disorganized, awkward, eager to talk about their enthusiasms — a lot like a good teacher, like Dodgson, perhaps.
 
Jeffrey Ford: Well, my contribution centers on the nursery rhyme about Humpty Dumpty. I always thought it a weird little piece but never gave it much thought. My son, who’s a painter, did a piece about Humpty Dumpty — the king’s men and horses putting him back together at night by torchlight. The men are working on one side of him and the horses on the other, and the half of Dumpty on the men’s side resembles a man while on the horse’s side resembles a horse. That painting, which hung in the house for quite a while before being sold to the writer, Kelly Link, initiated my interest in Humpty Dumpty. The impetus for the story I have in the anthology comes from wondering what it would be like to be tasked with having to reassemble a giant egg after it has fallen and smashed to shards. 
 
Image courtesy of alice-in-wonderland.net
Alice by John Tenniel
Genevieve Valentine: Many of the characters in the story are meant to poke fun at adult self-seriousness (or give Alice enough friction to slowly stoke her anger into a superpower). The Duchess is no exception to this, with her many platitudes — but she's also a figure of a certain tragic horror, with occasional hints that she senses the sinister and surreal mechanisms around them. It was enough to keep her in my mind over the years. Since then, I've read enough Victorian literature that turned older women into objects of derision; a story well-known and often retold. Being caught in such a cycle was definitely the starting point. (And of course there's Mary Ann, but that comes later.)
 
Andy Duncan: It's hard to think of another set of illustrations more inextricably linked to the success of a novel than Tenniel's illustrations for the Alice books. If Tenniel had not illustrated them, we may not now be discussing them at all; they may have been forgotten like so much other Victoriana. And I am fascinated by Tenniel's artistic decisions, many of them born of desperation — having no experience illustrating children's books, and being alternately bewildered and confounded by the characters and incidents depicted by Carroll in the manuscripts. He finally put his foot down on the Wasp in a Wig, and Carroll actually heeded his suggestion to trim the section. Tenniel considered that a victory, I'm sure, but suppose the wasp had come back to haunt him? That's the train of thought that resulted in my story "Worrity, Worrity."
 
Curiouser and curiouser! To read the full collection of stories by all these wonderful authors, pre-order a copy of Mad Hatters and March Hares from one of these retailers: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo | Indiebound
 
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Published: 
December, 2017

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