Here in Canada, we’re a small but mighty population. We have many amazing writers, some quite famous, some not as well-known but equally amazing. We write to stave off boredom, the always encroaching cold of the north (remember the North!), wendigos, sasquatch and Ogopogo. And we write to explore and express new thoughts and worlds.
In our mighty little nation, (lots of land and the population of California) we have an active, widespread speculative community. There is written word, spoken word, podcasts, plays, music. Hawksley Workman is a musician who has clearly explored the mythic and speculative in his works (such as The God that Comes). There are numerous examples and I won’t wander down that path right now or I’ll get lost.
We also have the creator of the Just Joshing podcasts, Joshua Pantalleresco. He has spent quite a few years interviewing writers, actors and other artists and the full list of some 350 plus episodes are here. I met Josh many years ago at a local convention, When Words Collide, in Calgary. He was a veritable energizer bunny, full of enthusiasm, ideas and an inquisitive, friendly mind. Over the years we have come to know each other better and of course I’ve run into Josh interviewing this person or that for his podcasts. He even received an Aurora Award for Just Joshing. He interviewed me back when I was editing Alice Unbound. I like to think of him as Josh Pants to the Rescue, and he would have been a great sidekick for Captain Underpants.
Josh also writes, a lot. He wrote an Alice poem for Alice Unbound, but I did not accept it. Professional writers are used to rejection and even from their friends. And editors often have more good stories or poems than they can accept. I remember Josh capturing the madcap way of a Lewis Carroll world. Well, it seems that that challenge also spurred him to even greater things. Josh has now completed a book, Alice Zero. Without further ado, I’ll let Josh speak for himself about his latest project.
It’s all Colleen’s fault.
I mean it. It was her idea. Kind of. Sort of.
Colleen had this great idea for a Lewis Carroll anthology and she invited me to write for the anthology. I was flattered. I said yes. Of course I will write for you. Colleen is an awesome human being with a great gift for poetry and prose herself, and to be recognized is just awesome.
Once I said yes, I realized that I had put myself into a conundrum. What can I possibly say about Lewis Carroll that hasn’t already been said? I mean, I love Alice in Wonderland and knew that I wanted to write something about wonderland. But what exactly?
That night, I went to a bar and remembered meeting a girl with a gorgon tattoo. Now I was eventually turned down because she plays for the other team, but there was something magical about this woman. Not just the tattoo she created on her arm, but she was just an intriguing, artistic, wonderful human being. She’s still a good friend of mine to this day. We talked for a bit, and I promised I’d put her in my story.
The gorgon was something I needed to see. Medusa is a fun character. She is an interesting monster, and beautiful and deadly. In wonderland where up is down and right is wrong, perhaps, she’d be a hero? I imagined a gorgon knight protecting Princess Alice from the depths of the shadows in this weird world of wonderland.
And then I made the magical connection. What if I did a mashup of Alice in Wonderland as Greek mythology? What if Alice was Pandora? It made a lot of sense in a lot of ways and I was so happy. If it wasn’t for Colleen I truly don’t believe I would have met my friend. It wouldn’t have been a problem I needed to solve. I wouldn’t have thought to go to the bar, and I never would have had the opportunity. I would have missed so much.
So I had my story. Greek Alice. And it came to me, this asylum with the playing cards being her jailers and the warden being the Queen of Hearts. Alice is on a quest to find herself. She opened the box, and now must face the consequences of her actions.
I wrote it and had a blast and handed it to Colleen. I was so happy. Then Colleen rejected it. It was her decision, and I understood. The collection didn’t need another Alice story, but I was so happy with my Alice story that I wanted to do something. Some things, actually. Stay tuned for the following year. But I wanted to work on doing something on my own.
I have to admit I got in my own way for awhile. I’ve done the epic poetry thing with Mirror World Publishing and I loved that I got the chance to do so. But this is me again, for the first time. At least this time I got some help. Kenzie Carr is an amazing world class artist. I’m hoping we continue this collaboration as she did some killer things inside. Love her work and was pleasantly surprised how it all came about.
I had other people help out too. Vanessa Cardui did a wonderful job advising me, and I listened to a few others as well. Thank you, all.
Finally, here it is, courtesy of myself and Kenzie Carr. I never would have done it if it had not been pushed in that direction if it hadn’t been for an email from a dear friend. Colleen, it’s all your fault. But I’m so happy you were the catalyst in this. Thank you for being an amazing friend and an inspiration. Keep being you.
Perhaps, Josh gives me too much credit. Without his own imagination and talent, he would not have even created this. But it’s true that we can be inspired and spurred in new directions by others. Josh, I’m glad a tree grew from the sprout. I’ll be reading his work lately to see what crazy things Alice gets into. I hope you considering exploring his worlds as well.