Nalo Hopkinson's "The Reverse Cheshire Cat" is obviously making a reference to Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, with the Cheshire Cat. The two protagonists enter a shop named "The Reverse Cheshire Cat":

The weather-blasted chipboard sign over the diner read “The Reverse Cheshire Cat.” The barely visible image showed an alarmed-looking cat clinging upside down from — was that a surveillance camera pole? Prof chuckled. “Bet there’s a story there.”

But this is the only time in the story the name is mentioned.

Why is Alice in Wonderland being referenced here - and specifically, the Cheshire Cat - and why is this single mention important enough that it made its way to the title?

  • "But this is the only time in the story the name is mentioned." Is not the whole of the second half a telling of the tail behind the name?
    – fundagain
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 18:08
  • @fundagain "the tail behind the name" - a clever pun? Commented Aug 25, 2018 at 4:55

1 Answer 1


Based on another of her short stories, "Ally", we get some insight in Hopkinson's use of the "Cheshire Cat".

Unlike the Cheshire Cat’s, his smile became a little more real as he quoted back: “‘There’s no use trying. One can’t believe impossible things.’” His smiled cracked. “Maybe it was just the stress. Of everything. Of Iqbal . . .”

The (smile of) the Cheshire cat is less real.

In the "The Reverse Cheshire Cat", it appears that many customers of the "The Reverse Cheshire Cat" are, like the Cheshire Cat, mostly invisible, at least around cameras (possibly because of the "camera rays").

“Camera rays started making people sick. So sick they went away.”

Prof said, “They died?”

The woman shook her head. “They’re in a better place.”

“Cameras don’t have rays,” Loyola scoffed.

“You don’t know nothing. The better place is right here, only cameras make it invisible. Friendlier place.”

This Cheshire-like invisibility is not less real, rather the reverse, it is more real, a "friendlier place".

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