First of all, Titan Books just has the best speculative fiction short story anthologies. Between this and the recent Wastelands 3: The New Apocalypse alone, I feel entirely spoiled with exposure to some of the best minds working in fantastic fiction today. Wonderland collects 20 brand new short works (18 stories, plus two poems from Jane Yolen) inspired by Lewis Carroll’s classics, that run the gamut from luminous to terrifying, with every shade of wonder in between. Whether looking at Wonderland from a historical perspective or diving into its text as presented by Mr Carroll himself or re-setting the proceedings in different times and places, these 20 inventive gems carve out new space in our collective psyches for Wonderland to inhabit.
Personal disclosure time: my first starring role as an actress was in my primary school’s adaptation of Alice In Wonderland. I was cast as the White Rabbit but wound up having that supporting role enlarged — given more lines, given more time on-stage, given more motivations and things to do — to reflect my talent, which happened a lot during my too-brief stage career. It was a bit like how Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter became so much more important in the Tim Burton film than in any other adaptation, tho I likely got better reviews for my performance than he did (seriously, a national paper said I stole every scene I was in. I’m still not sure what they were doing at my school play, but I imagine it was a slow week in the human interest pages.) Anyway, this formative experience goes a long way towards explaining why I’m so fond of this setting and of any adaptations thereof.
That said, it’s perhaps surprising that my favorites of the collection were probably the least traditional, going all out with a sci-fi bent, as M. R. Carey’s There Were No Birds To Fly and Cavan Scott’s Dream Girl did. The period pieces definitely gave them a run for their money, tho. I loved Genevieve Cogman’s The White Queen’s Pawn, as well as Juliet Marillier’s Good Dog, Alice!, both set in a post-Victorian Britain somewhat askew from the one we inhabited. I also adored the more far-flung adaptations, particularly Angela Slatter’s Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em and L. L. McKinney’s What Makes A Monster, the latter so much so that I’ve requested her full-length novel, A Blade So Black (set in the same universe as the short story,) from my local library. The hallmark of a good short story collection, after all, isn’t just to satisfy, but also to whet the readers’ appetite for more of the writers’ works.
Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane have done an amazing job curating this anthology. We at the Frumious have been given the chance to interview them about it, so look out for that in the coming weeks! In the meantime, feel free to hop over to any of the other sites featured on the Wonderland book tour, beautifully illustrated in the graphic at right.