“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”
This was the page, these were the words, and I was hooked. I mean, I’d been pulled eagerly into Wonderland already, but it was that moment when I knew I would love this story forever. I was a young girl, just a little older than Alice herself, and I had recently seen the Disney adaptation at a cousin’s house. I’ve never really been into fairy tales—not knocking them or anyone who is, that just wasn’t and isn’t my thing—but the wild world, the colorful characters, the topsy-turvy-not-really-a-story way everything came together, I was enraptured. And then, I found out it was based on a book! That was something of a novelty back then, at least to little me. So, in true Elle fashion, I begged my mom to stop at the library on the way home. Then I searched the aisles and shelves for Carroll’s name, grabbed a copy of the twisting tale and, fell head first down the rabbit hole.
For people who’ve gotten to know me over the years, it’s no shock that I’ve always loved Wonderland. The possibilities are endless with what can happen there. It’s a world where nothing makes sense except that nothing makes sense, which is PEAK shenanigans, and I’m here for it. I was always the kid into “that weird stuff” or whatever. There’s a near decade-long goth phase in my past, and you can catch remnants of it here and there if you know where to look.
Alice and her tale have influenced art for centuries. Many creatives, myself included, have drawn inspiration from Lewis Carroll’s works. From video games to movies to books, imaginings of the world beyond the Looking Glass are ever changing and everlasting. Here are five other sci-fi and fantasy books that take place in one version or another of Wonderland.
Wonderland: An Anthology edited by Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane
Okay, I’m cheating a little with this one, as it’s not a single story and it doesn’t necessarily take place in any version of Wonderland. Yet, simultaneously, it takes place in many versions. From horror to poetry to historic fantasy, this is a collection of stories across range of genres that interpret Carroll’s classic tale. Featured authors include Genevieve Cogman, M.R. Carey, Lilith Saintcrow, Jane Yolen, and more.
The Looking Glass Wars Series by Frank Beddor
The story of Alice in Wonderland is real, but it’s not true. Instead of a little girl falling into a fantastical world that seems like a dream, Alyss is actually the heir to the Wonderland throne, bur her aunt Redd is determined to the crown for herself. Full of political intrigue, twist, turns, and royal affairs, this is Wonderland with a touch of Game of Thrones.
Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes
In this tale, Alice hasn’t fallen down the rabbit hole, but Wonderland is still there, and Dinah is the heir to the throne. But heavy lies the crown, as betrayal and plotting threaten to bring everything down around her. The story is just beginning, and the players have started the game. Can Dinah survive to take her place on the throne?
Heartless by Marissa Meyer
This story follows the Queen of Hearts in the days before she became a plague upon the world of Wonderland. Long ago she was a young girl, a talented baker, and finding her first love. This sets the stage for events to unfold that will lead to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as we know them, and give us a glimpse into just what led to the familiar, frightening cries of “off with their heads!”
American McGee’s Alice
Okay, I’m cheating again. This isn’t a book at all, or an anthology. It’s a video game! I’m a gamer, so sue me. This game is an unofficial sequel to what happens after both of Carroll’s books. Alice returns home, only to witness the tragic death of her parents. Traumatized by the event, she ends up in a catatonic state under the care of a less than pleasant Dr. Wilson. Upon waking, she ends up traveling back to Wonderland, which now resembles her traumatized subconscious. She must navigate this new, dangerous version of the world to save it from the Queen of Hearts and possible from herself.
There you have it, five versions of Wonderland, each as fantastical as the last, and more than a little dangerous. With each new take on Carroll’s magical imaginings, the tale grows more and more fantastical. It sinks its hooks ever deeper into devoted fans and our love for the characters and the story. And with each new version, there’s little a bit more wonder unleashed upon world for future readers, or players, to discover.
’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
Originally published in September 2019.
L.L. McKinney is a writer, a poet, and an active member of the kidlit community. She’s an advocate for equality and inclusion in publishing, and the creator of the hashtag #WhatWoCWritersHear. She’s spent time in the slush by serving as a reader for agents and participating as a judge in various online writing contests. She’s also a gamer girl and an adamant Hei Hei stan. A Dream So Dark the latest installment in her Alice in Wonderland re-telling series, The Nightmare-Verse, is available now.