Once Upon a Time Machine becomes a writer’s challenge as it is the writer’s task to create something more than just setting the fable in the future or in space. They have to figure out a way to make the story fresh, exciting, and make sense in the context of a foreign world. In each case the writers succeeded in pushing themselves far beyond the confines of the story and managed to create something entirely unexpected.
Editor Andrew Carl and Producer Chris Stevens strike a fine balance between dystopian, eccentric, fantastic, ethereal, and absurd with their story selections. Anyone familiar with many of the stories and fables of yore know that they often do not have the kind of happy endings or sanitized plots which Disney has managed to market and produce over the past half-century. But instead of filling the book with melancholy and morality, Carl and Stevens create a book where it is never clear where the stories will take you. One moment the reader is laughing at the exploits of the Turtle Clan as they race against the Hare Clan in a deranged version of Mario Kart. The next the reader is weeping with the father at the fate of one of the Five Chinese Brothers.
Each story is separated by an illustration of a story which was not included in the anthology. These single and double-page illustrations leave the viewer to create stories of their own. While some of them are a little more straight froward than the clever stories in the anthology, some of them are breathtaking and hint at some truly inspired story ideas. Check out this Brandon Graham and Marian Churchland Little Mermaid illustration and tell me you would not be all over that book!
Once Upon a Time Machine is theoretically all-ages. By that I mean that there is nothing in any of the stories which is inappropriate for youngsters (read: no boobies). However, some of the stories are fairly complex, theoretical, or downright violent (looking at you Lion and the Mouse) and therefore might be best for a slightly older audience. Anyone from about the 6th grade on up would really enjoy this book (And by “on up” I mean all the way through adulthood!). Pick up Once Upon a Time Machine for fans of science fiction, fables, or anyone looking for inspiration. There may not be any new stories in the world, bu there are plenty of stories out there just waiting for a fresh spin from a new voice!