Skip to main content

Mad Hatters and March Hares: All-New Stories from the World of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland

Review

Mad Hatters and March Hares: All-New Stories from the World of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland

edited by Ellen Datlow

’Twas brillig, and the writers outgrabe.

I am a longtime fan of ALICE IN WONDERLAND. I’ve spent spring evenings reading by her statue in Central Park, I’ve celebrated my birthday at Alice’s Tea Cup, and I’ve even written my own Alice-inspired stories. This puts me squarely in the target audience for Ellen Datlow’s anthology, MAD HATTERS AND MARCH HARES: All-New Stories from the World of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Here, 17 authors provide their own takes on Wonderland and its characters.

If you, like me, are an Alice super-fan, you’re in for quite a treat. If you’re a more moderate fan of Carroll’s work and happen to have a taste for the more macabre, historical and bizarre aspects of the tale, you’re likely to enjoy this anthology. If, though, you’re not very well-versed in Alice and you prefer more straightforward writing, this may not be the pick for you.

Datlow selected stories that deeply understand Carroll’s themes and choose to interpret them in new ways. These tales, like the original, often veer towards the strange and unfathomable. Here, they’re peppered with elements of more modern mischief --- such as drugs and sexuality. If that’s not your cup of tea, or if you like your Alice unmarred, best stick with the original. If you’re willing to go a bit further down the rabbit hole, these authors have some wondrous lands in store.

"These writers been given a prompt, and they build upon a familiar universe to take it to new and individual heights. The results are satisfyingly indulgent and bizarre."

In Matthew Kressel’s “In Memory of a Summer’s Day,” Wonderland is a popular tourist attraction. Visitors of all ages around the world pay to down Drink Mes, watch the White Rabbit and swim through the Pool of Tears, led by beleaguered tour guides --- but of course, once you enter Wonderland, there’s no real guarantee you come back the same.

A number of these tales envision new stories for iconic characters. Perhaps one of the most notable is “Conjoined” by Jane Yolen, which imagines the Tweedles as separated conjoined twins from a freak show. In “Some Kind of Wonderland,” Richard Bowes explores the performativity and flexibility of identity, with stage and drag performances of Wonderland.

In Delia Sherman’s “My Own Invention,” one of the most underappreciated and underdiscussed Looking Glass characters pairs with one of the most complex and compelling themes of the original story --- the White Knight and identity. Sherman plays with concepts of authority and gender by weaving together Alice’s central question of “Who am I?” and the White Knight’s unique penchant for surprising inventions. The creative exploration of liminality and potential feels fresh while being very true to the original text, and this was one of my favorite stories in the anthology.

“You’re making them real by addressing them,” says a character in Stephen Graham Jones’ “Alis.” And that’s just what these tales do, breathing new life into an old story --- one that’s been reinvented many times before, but that doesn’t weaken any element of this anthology. Each of these works takes strands from the original and innovates from it. They follow Carroll’s throughlines into new stories, leaning into concepts of identity, growing up, madness and more. They understand Alice, and are in conversation with the original text.

I would recommend not trying to consume the book in one sitting, as the characters and interpretations blur a bit, but rather to read the stories separately. Each stands on its own; let them. These writers been given a prompt, and they build upon a familiar universe to take it to new and individual heights. The results are satisfyingly indulgent and bizarre. MAD HATTERS AND MARCH HARES makes an excellent addition to an Alice-lover’s shelf.

Reviewed by on January 12, 2018

Mad Hatters and March Hares: All-New Stories from the World of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland
edited by Ellen Datlow