RPG Blog Carnival: Literary Inspiration
Today I have this month’s entry into the Blog Carnival. December’s topic is literature and is being hosted by Pitfalls and Pixies! I wasn’t sure what to discuss as this topic is even more open ended than some others. After a bit of thought I decided I wanted to cover two topics I hold dear, one of which sort of segues into another. So let’s take a quick trip down the rabbit hole shall we?
Wonders Of Wonderland
Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland is one of my favorite stories of all time. Sure, I love sci-fi and horror and fantasy and so many novels and series, but Wonderland holds a special place in my heart. There is no particular reason for this. No event or person that this love centers around. Simply put, Wonderland fills me with wonder. There is so much to Alice’s trip through a realm of talking flowers, hookah smoking caterpillars, flamingo croquet, and a strange chessboard landscape. The list of images, large and small, that are instantly recognizable as Wonderlandian is huge. And yet, there is nothing else that really connects them. Take a walrus and a carpenter next to each other. Then take a hedgehog rolled up and being hit through little loops on the ground. Now take a white rose dripping with red paint. None of those have anything in common, except Wonderland. That is what I love about it. There is so little sense to the world that it begins to make sense. There is no one way to interpret things and no single meaning to anything anyways. From the original tales to the Disney movie to other forms of the tale, I just love Wonderland.
Now we can segue into our other topic by talking about all the places you might see Wonderland. Many people, especially those my age, we probably first introduced to it with the Disney animated movie. This is only a loose form of what we see in the Lewis Carroll stories. Still, either version is just a mad dash for a poor girl following her curiosity and just trying to make her way out of Wonderland. During the journey are many existential and odd questions from even stranger creatures. Insight to life and ourselves might be plucked from them and Alice’s young but insightful comments. Equally, the take is one of madness and confusion that might leave you not knowing what to take from it. This is true for many of the versions of Wonderland you might find and there are quite a few of them. My favorites include the newer live action film, Frank Beddor’s Looking Glass Wars, Gregory Maguire’s After Alice, and Christina Henry’s Alice. This doesn’t even consider comic book interpretations or video game series. There are just so many tales that stem from Alice and her trip through Wonderland, bringing me to my other topic for today: AU’s.
Fandoms have popular ways to express ways might have been if something was different about the tales they love. Cross gendered scenarios, ones where different people end up coupling, what happens if this character survived, or what happened if this event went different. These are the basic forms of the alternate universe, but there are many and they have been around for a long time. Back in the 60’s Star Trek made popular an idea that is now a trope with the start of the Mirror Universe: evil twins have goatees. Many of the tales i listed above are alternate universes, entirely different takes on the Wonderland universe that pull from the original tale and forms it into something that fits a slightly different box. For American McGee it was pulled, stretched, and made dark, twisted into a terrifying land of mostly despair. For Frank Beddor it was the tale of a great, good land once utilizing imagination for greatness but taken over by a tyrant.
If you ask me different versions of Wonderland is one of the best literary explorations of how to make alternate universe or how to take something and use it as a foundation to make your own thing. Wonderland is singular and recognizable, but can, obviously, be represented in dozens of ways. Another world that is probably as exemplary (though I obviously prefer Wonderland) is Oz. Frank Baum created another strange and unique world which has also seen its fair share of re-telling and re-building. One of my favorite versions is one many are likely familiar with and comes from an author I mentioned earlier. Wicked and the other tales by Gregory Maguire are an amazing and in depth treatment of Oz, what happened, and how things were. More-so, they are told from the perspective of who was considered a villain, and wasn’t so much.
If you want a TL;DR version of this brief entry into the Blog Carnival it amounts to this. Read Lewis Carol, watch Disney’s Alice In Wonderland, and then consume all the alternate universe style literature you can. It is great inspiration and provides great examples of making things of your own, especially if you think all you do is just copy others.