Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

The paradigm is the Underground world in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865), closely followed by the Mirror in his Through the Looking-glass (1871). Wonderlands are worlds based on logical rules. Alice's Wonderland operates according to precepts which represent a rigorous working-out of various propositions carried to a point of absurdity. If Carroll's domain feels at times nightmarishly flimsy, it does so because its Reality is tied to propositions. A Wonderland may therefore at any point be refuted. Indeed, that is precisely how Alice escapes in the end: by drawing attention to the rules which fabricate the world, at which point the dream palaces collapse into a pack of cards.

Because the original Wonderland was generated by rules, it has proved remarkably easy to generate Parody Wonderlands through the application of modified sets of rules. Parodies and Satires abound, and Aesopian Fantasies are not infrequent. Among the many parodies of Alice in Wonderland are John Kendrick Bangs's Alice in Blunderland (1907), Huang Chun-Sin's Alice in Manialand (1959 chap), Max Kester's and James Dyrenforth's Adolf in Blunderland (1939), Sam J Lundwall's Alice's World (1971), Hercules Molloy's Oedipus in Disneyland: Queen Victoria's Reincarnation as Superman (1972) and Horace Wyatt's Malice in Kultureland (1914), while Emma Tennant's Alice Fell (1980) treats Wonderland as an askew gloss upon the Underworld with which Persephone must cope. Gilbert Adair's Alice Through the Needle's Eye (1984), a homage as much as a continuation, creates a Wonderland of its own (> Sequels by Other Hands).

Fantasies built around Quests – especially if their authors have a satirical bent – may readily incorporate Wonderland societies, rule-bound Polders visited by protagonists in their search for truth, and soon escaped from. The inhabitants of the colour-coded (> Colour-Coding) land of the Quirks, in Nancy Kress's The Prince of Morning Bells (1981), determine reality according to their Model of Forces, and literally cannot see phenomena which violate the rules. The multicoloured Liminal Beings who guide the protagonist to his quest's end in Salman Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories (1990) are Wonderland dwellers, as are the Chess figures who inhabit the Imaginary Land of Andipodes in The Chess Garden, or The Twilight Letters of Gustav Uyterhoeven (1995) by Brooks Hansen (1965-    ). The Dream-generated pocket worlds in Jonathan Lethem's Amnesia Moon (1995) are, like Kress's, colour-coded, and reality within each enclosure is determined a priori by a central dreamer, whose oneiric diktat constitutes a set of arbitrary rules for his victims. [JC]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.