Attention, all Mimsy Minions! (If Lady Gaga can dub her fans “Little Monsters” then surely Lewis Carroll’s must be called “Mimsy Minions”.) It’s a lot of work to keep up with nifty Carrollian information for our blog. Please pitch in and show your colors! Submit any blog-worthy items (with URLs where appropriate) to me at: email@example.com. Do this early and often! Let’s demonstrate just how nifty blog crowdsourcing can be. Thanks! :-)
Imagine the scene in the gallery: on a giant screen, you watch Alice leap off a book and lead you into Wonderland. Slowly you realize that the animation you are watching is somehow watching you—and copying your every move. As the artist, Ruth Sergel, describes it: “In front of the looking glass, fantasy and reality merge as Alice fluidly mirrors the viewer’s every move.” The interactive work is currently being exhibited at Multimedier Schlachthof in Berlin, Germany.
Ruth Sergel is an American artist, activist, and “interactive technology designer” whose film and performance work has appeared at MOMA in New York, and in galleries around Europe. More information about “Alice in Berlin” can be found on Sergel’s website, Street Pictures, where there is also a video showing visitors interacting with Alice.
If a ginger cat dressed as an English bobby going by the name of Cheshire, Jr. gave you a mystery to solve, could you say no? If the one thing the white rabbit feared above all was Alice’s embrace, would you help him evade it? If the answer to the first question is no, the answer to the second question is yes, and the answer to the question “do you enjoy playing games on your phone or tablet?” is also yes, please read on.
Mirrors of Albion from Game Insight, LLC
Mirrors of Albion looks pretty intriguing. For starters, it’s free. For the main course, it’s a hidden object quest game inspired by both Through the Looking-Glass and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Christine Chan in her review on AppAdvice.com has a lot of praise for the drawings and visuals and she makes the premise sound interesting too:
“Cheshire Jr. will help you in the beginning by showing you the ropes. Basically, you will navigate around the city map, and various buildings will become accessible to you as you level up and make progress through the story. The game will feature various quests and objectives, which you can access by tapping on the Quest button when there’s an exclamation mark on it.”
“Free” always comes with a hitch and it seems that your playing experience can be enhanced–or, at least, accelerated–though in-app purchases. The game can be downloaded for free from the App Store, through iTunes and Google Play, or directly through your iPhone, iPad or Android device.
A Wonderland Story from Alchemy Games
A Wonderland Story, developed by Alchemy Games, is a sliding block platform game in which you help the white rabbit to escape from “Alice’s hugs” (the horror!) to allow him to arrive on time for his date with the Queen. Harry Slater in his review on PocketGamer.co.uk explains:
Rather than controlling the rabbit, you’re in control of the terrain. Each level is made up of a series of columns of blocks and gaps, which you can slide up and down. Your bunny walks to the right automatically, and you need to clear a path for him. Stay trapped for too long and Alice will catch up. And you don’t want that to happen.
Harry concludes that, though the games suffers a little from a surfeit of good ideas, the end result is still enjoyable. A Wonderland Story can be downloaded from the Apple Store for $0.99 and is available for the iPhone or iPod, or in HD for the iPad. There’s no mention of versions for Android phones.
Now we have crossed into that magic time between Halloween and Christmas, it seems fitting to pay a visit to the latest in Alice-inspired fantasy fiction. Always a deep well (not to mention a dark and, at times, disturbing well), here are five books we haven’t mentioned before, all published within the last year.
Alice in Deadland by Mainak Dhar
The Alice in Deadland Trilogy, comprising Alice in Deadland, Through the Killing Glass and Off With Their Heads, is dark fantasy written by Mainak Dhar. Dhar’s first book was AnEconomic History of India, since then he has published books on brand management, ancient spaceships, superhuman librarians, and Taliban zombies. What next? A post-apocalyptic Alice in Wonderland, of course. Here’s the teaser:
Civilization as we know it ended more than fifteen years ago, leaving as it’s legacy barren wastelands called the Deadland and a new terror for the humans who survived- hordes of undead Biters.
Fifteen year-old Alice has spent her entire life in the Deadland, her education consisting of how best to use guns and knives in the ongoing war for survival against the Biters. One day, Alice spots a Biter disappearing into a hole in the ground and follows it, in search of fabled underground Biter bases.
RabbitHole by V. J. Waks
Rabbit Hole by V. J. Waks was published only last week. Waks is a native New Yorker and screenwriter. Her book is set in England and has a really scary dust-jacket; to know any more we will have to wait for the reviews. Any volunteers? Here’s the blurb:
In the wake of tragedy and loss, Caspian Hythe has returned to his family’s ancestral home in England. But home is not as it should be.
No longer a place of safety or of peace, home is now a place of horror and fear. For an ancient mystery has re-awakened – bloodthirsty and unimaginable – something is killing in the town of Guildford. And the trail of blood is just the beginning.
Gears of Wonderland by Jason G. Anderson
Gears of Wonderland by Jason G. Anderson, as the title suggests, is a blend of steampunk and fantasy. The book has been self-published (as has the Alice in Deadland series) but that isn’t necessarily a bad sign. One reviewer from Utah says: “For folks who may still be wary of self-published fiction, Gears of Wonderland is a good place to see that not all good books come from large publishing businesses.”
James Riggs lives a normal life with a mind-numbing job, an overbearing boss, and a demanding fiancée. Then he witnesses the murder of his best friend. Saved from the murderer by a strange man in a white suit, James is cast down a hole and into a world he always believed was a kid’s story. Wonderland. But things have changed since Alice’s visit. The Knave of Hearts has seized the Heart throne, conquered all of Wonderland with his steam-powered technological marvels, and rules the land with an iron fist. Aided by the Mad Hatter’s daughter, James journeys to discover why he has been brought to Wonderland and how the tattoo on his arm could be the key to Wonderland’s salvation—or its destruction.
Long before the world knew anything of tablet PCs and iPads, David Neal had an idea for an animated audiobook that children could watch on a screen. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was the inspiration, more specifically the many talented illustrators who had brought the story to life. Fast forward twenty years and Neal has brought the story to life in his own way. As he puts it, “to make a long story short, twenty voices, three animators, an investor and various other help and ten or so months later, we have created Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, The 150th Anniversary Edition for Tablet Computers.”
In the audiobook, classic illustrations are animated and sometimes merge into each other. Watching the preview, it is quite strange to see Bessie Pease Gutmann’s white rabbit metamorphose into Margaret Tarrant’s white rabbit and from there into Alice B. Woodward’s white rabbit—hopping all the way. Illustration afficionados might like to take the opportunity to test their knowledge as the scenes unfold!
The audiobook can be purchased via the website Alice Winks for $9.95.
Perhaps unique in the annals of Alice publishing, syndicated columnist Jon Carroll of the San Francisco Chronicle is publishing the text of Wonderland one sentence at a time at the end of his column, beginning on July 25 in one titled “Turning on to rainbows, and tuning out.” He had just finished publishing King Lear this same way. Inspiration perhaps came from a similar stunt in the New Yorker, whose editor, Gardner Botsford, got bored with seeing the same capsule review for The Fantastics, which ran for 42 years. In its place, beginning on November 23, 1968, with the copyright—or, one could argue, December 21 with the opening line—it began serializing the first chapter of Ulysses, ending in November of 1971.
If you are looking for ideas for an Alice-themed party the internet is full of suggestions. When it comes to comprehensiveness though one website in particular has come to our attention. Party Ideas by A Pro is run by an Englishman called Matt James – professional party planner to the likes of Elton John, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kevin Spacey. I’m not sure if any of them have ever requested an Alice-themed bash, but if they did it seems Matt would have plenty of advice.
His Alice in Wonderland party ideas starts with the important question of which Alice will be your inspiration (Tenniel, Disney, Tim Burton…) and goes on to provide an extensive list of ideas for invitations, decorations, food, costumes, and games. Every suggestion I have ever seen elsewhere is there, plus several that are new to me. His idea for creating a teeny tiny doorway through which your guests must crawl to enter the party particularly appealed to me for some reason. . .
Paleontologists and artists alike may be interested to hear of a new project to further our understanding of the unfortunate Raphus cucullatus, otherwise known as the dodo. Fewer that 300 years ago the bird was strutting around Mauritius, yet today only two complete skeletons are known to science. Researchers at the Massachusetts College of the Holy Cross are hoping to extend the influence of one of those skeletons by giving it new life online.
Cast of mummified dodo head (looking thoughtful) from Aves 3D
The skeleton has been scanned in 3D, digitized, and uploaded to a public website funded by the National Science Foundation. Using a Java plugin, users can manipulate 3D images of the individual bones, as well as a mummified head (left).
We first read about the story in Digging up the Dodo, an article on IOLscitech. The dodo images are found on Aves 3D. The Aves 3D database contains images of many bird species; it’s primary aim is “to allow for the rapid global dissemination of three-dimensional digital data on common as well as rare and potentially fragile species, in a format ready for a variety of quantitative and qualitative analyses, including geometric morphometric analysis and finite element analysis.”
After conducting our own research using the data, we can also report that by careful rotation of the mummified head image it is possible to produce quite convincing facial expressions including “solemn,” “offended,” and “thoughtful.” Each expression requires tiny adjustments to the image, but of course, as the most famous dodo of all once advised, “the best way to explain it is to do it.”
Before you get too worried about what else you might have missed in your studies of the great man, check out some of the other unexpected tales on the website, all purportedly the work of Dr. D. I. Kniebocker (Staten Island’s self-described “greatest historian”). The website has been created by questioning historian Ed Weiss, who also coordinated related installations and readings around Staten Island last year. And remember, as Voltaire is supposed to have said, “History can be well written only in a free country.”