By Jackson DeMos
Graduate student Brandon Reynolds (pictured, M.A. Specialized Journalism '10) won first place in USC Libraries' sixth-annual Wonderland Award competition for Wonderland at Sunset: A Case of Vanishing, a creative modern-day Wonderland script by way of a police report transcript about a starlet who disappears from a nightclub.
Almost 50 students entered the contest, an annual multidisciplinary competition that encourages new scholarship and creative work related to Lewis Carroll, the logician, mathematician, photographer and poet especially remembered for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Other winning entries included a poetry book and oil painting of Carroll.
"Brandon's piece is brilliant," said journalism professor K.C. Cole, who taught Reynolds in her science writing class. "He’s got his own voice and his own way. He’s deeply thoughtful and he takes risks, which is really important. He comes up with original ideas and original ways of communicating. He’s not your normal student."
Reynolds spent two full nights working on the Wonderland script.
"It was fun to write, which isn’t always the case," Reynolds said. "It was something I didn’t have to do but I spent two full total nights working on it. It was nice to disappear into it. That's the best way to write."
Excerpt from the script: "The investigation has already inspected the various cameras and all seem to be in working order, and so this detective inspected the nightclub to see if perhaps Alice yet remained in the place, which returned a negative. Her associates have stated on the record that it is very unlike Alice to do something that goes unrecorded, as that would run counter to Fame itself, without which attention she would be Not-Famous, attention being the thing which separates the Famous from the Not-Famous. If she is not photographed, she is like the Not-Famous who are also not photographed, and so, like them, not eligible for the very photography that was not-taken of her. Perhaps. Which raises these questions: If the photographers cannot see her to take pictures of her, is she then Not-Famous, because she has no pictures taken? If no pictures are taken of her, she must be Not-Famous, which then justifies the photographers taking no pictures of her. But then why were they trying to in the first place?"
Reynolds said Carroll reported on his world, brought knowledge back from the various alleys of his imagination, and told us as much about the time as he did about his own curious mind.
"My own writing has attempted similar things -- a blend of styles and approaches so that a piece is not just story or essay or reportorial effort, but something between all," he wrote. "It offers a freedom for both writer and reader from the prudishness of the single genre, which I think most audiences are tired of trying to limit these days anyway. So why not get a science lesson with a story of heartbreak? Something that doesn’t fit existing categories and so has to go out and find new ones?"
Reynolds, who studied English and Communication as an undergraduate at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, has taken journalism classes as well as courses in brain architecture and evolutionary biology during his time in USC Annenberg's Specialized Journalism program. He said the $2,000 Wonderland Award comes at a great time because he is starting a new career as a freelance writer after graduating on May 14.
"I could spend an entire career writing about how and why we do and think about things," he said. "I'm interested in knowing more about how people work the way they do, how we got here and how and why the brain works."
Cole said a big reason Reynolds has been and will continue to be successful is his willingness to take risks.
"He’s exactly the kind of person we want in the Specialized Journalism program, and a really good example of what that program can do," Cole said. "It can take someone who had the start of a career, and take it in another direction. It’s an amazing group we have in Specialized Journalism."