Rachel Pollack

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Rachel Pollack
Born(1945-08-17)August 17, 1945
New York City, New York, U.S.
DiedApril 7, 2023(2023-04-07) (aged 77)
Alma materNew York University, Claremont Graduate University
Notable workUnquenchable Fire
Doom Patrol (issues 64–87)
StyleMagical realism
Zoe Matoff
(m. 2022)

Rachel Grace Pollack was an American science fiction author, comic book writer, and expert on divinatory tarot.

Early life and education[edit]

Pollack was born on August 17, 1945, in Brooklyn, New York.[2] She earned an honours degree in English from New York University and a master's in English from Claremont Graduate University.[3]


Tarot reading[edit]

Pollack wrote the 1985 book Salvador Dali's Tarot, an exposition of Salvador Dalí's Tarot deck, comprising a full-page color plate for each card, with her commentary on the facing page.[4] Her work 78 Degrees of Wisdom on Tarot reading is commonly referenced by Tarot readers.[5] She created her own Tarot deck, Shining Woman Tarot (later Shining Tribe Tarot).[6] She also aided in the creation of the Vertigo Tarot Deck with illustrator Dave McKean and author Neil Gaiman, and she wrote a book to accompany it.[7] Gaiman sometimes consulted Pollack on the tarot for his stories.[8]


Pollack wrote for the comic book Doom Patrol, on DC Comics' Vertigo imprint, from 1993 to 1995. Her run of issues (64–87)[9] was a continuation of a 1960s comic which had recently become a cult favorite under Grant Morrison. Pollack took over the series in 1993 after meeting editor Tom Peyer at a party, telling him it was the only monthly comic book she would want to write at the time, and sending him a sample script. Towards the end of Morrison's run, Pollack began writing monthly "letters to the editor" in what she describes as a "gee-whiz fangirl" voice asking to take over the book when Morrison was finished. In the final letter, she claims that she had already told her mother that she had been given the job. Peyer then used that response to that letter to officially announce that Pollack was, in fact, taking over the book. As a result of these letters being printed in the letter column of Doom Patrol issues, some people seem to believe that the letters are the way she actually got the job.[10]

During her tenure, Pollack dealt with such rarely addressed comic book topics as menstruation, sexual identity, and transsexuality. Her run ended two years later, with the book's cancellation.[11]

In addition to Doom Patrol, Pollack wrote issues of the Vertigo Visions anthology featuring Brother Power the Geek (1993) and Tomahawk (1998), the first 11 issues of the fourth volume of New Gods (1995), and the five-issue limited series Time Breakers (1996) for the short lived Helix imprint.[12]

In 2019, it was announced that Pollack was reuniting with Doom Patrol artist Richard Case and letterer John Workman to create a short story—titled "Snake Song"—for the Kickstarter funded "music-themed horror anthology" Dead Beats.[13][14]


Three of Pollack's novels won or were nominated for major awards in the science fiction and fantasy field: Unquenchable Fire won the 1989 Arthur C. Clarke Award; Godmother Night won the 1997 World Fantasy Award, was shortlisted for the James Tiptree Jr. Award, and was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Literature; while Temporary Agency was nominated for the 1995 Nebula Award and the Mythopoeic Award, and shortlisted for the Tiptree.[15]

Her magical realism[16] novels explore worlds imbued with elements pulled from a number of traditions, faiths, and religions. Several of her novels are set in an alternative reality that resembles modern America, but an America of Bright Beings, where magic and ritual, religion and thaumaturgy are the norms.[17]

Her short work "Burning Beard: The Dreams and Visions of Joseph ben Jacob, Lord Viceroy of Egypt" was published in 2007 in the anthology Interfictions: An Anthology of Interstitial Writing, edited by Theodora Goss and Delia Sherman.[18] It was reprinted online in Lightspeed Magazine in May 2014.[19]


Pollack's book The Body of the Goddess is an exploration of the history of the Goddess and her relation to locality and landscape.[20] Pollack uses the image of the Goddess in many of her works.[21]


For 32 years, Pollack taught seminars with tarot author Mary K. Greer at the Omega Institute, in Rhinebeck, New York.[22] She also did seminars for several years in California in conjunction with Greer, and she co-presented a breakthrough seminar with author Johanna Gargiulo-Sherman on tarot and psychic ability, using her own Shining Tribe Tarot and Gargiulo-Sherman's Sacred Rose Tarot.[22] Pollack was also a popular lecturer at tarot seminars and symposiums such as Los Angeles Tarot Symposium, Bay Area Tarot Symposium, and the Readers Studio.[22]

She was a professor of creative writing in the Masters of Fine Arts program of Goddard College.[23] She taught English at State University of New York.[24]


Pollack was Jewish,[25] and frequently wrote about the Kabbalah, most notably in The Kabbalah Tree.[26]

She was a trans woman and wrote frequently on transgender issues.[27][28] In Doom Patrol she introduced Coagula, a transsexual character. She also wrote several essays on transsexualism, attacking the notion that it is a "sickness", instead saying that it is a passion.[29] She emphasized the revelatory aspects of transsexualism, saying that "the trance-sexual [sic] woman sacrifices her social identity as a male, her personal history, and finally the very shape of her body to a knowledge, a desire, which overpowers all rational understanding and proof."[30]

A Secret Woman features a police detective who is transgender and Jewish. The detective utters the prayer, "Blessed art thou oh G-d who made me not a woman. Double blessed is Doctor Green who has."[31] Pollack created the characters known as 'the bandage people' for her Doom Patrol run.[12] The bandage people are 'sexually remaindered spirits' who died in sexual accidents. The initials SRS came from the medical term 'sex reassignment surgery'. Pollack's essay "The Transsexual Book of The Dead", written for the anthology Phallus Palace, addresses the Osiris myth and "reconfigures Egyptian mythology into a multi-layered map for transsexual experience."[32]

Fairy tales such as the Brothers Grimm influenced many of Pollack's writings. Her book Tarot of Perfection is a book of fairy tales based on the tarot.[33]

Personal life[edit]

In July 2022, Pollack revealed via Facebook that, after seemingly overcoming Hodgkin lymphoma several years earlier, she had been diagnosed with a different variant of lymphoma and would be undergoing chemotherapy.[34] In August, Pollack's wife Zoe Matoff and Patricia Nolan announced that Pollack was in an intensive care unit and started a GoFundMe fundraiser for her medical expenses.[35][36] Those who shared the fundraiser on Twitter included Neil Gaiman, Shelly Bond, Gail Simone, and DC Comics editors Chris Conroy and Andrea Shay, while prominent donors included Rachel Gold, Al Ewing, Kieron Gillen, Kim Newman, Brett Booth, and Cliff Chiang, ultimately raising over $28,000 against a $15,000 goal by September.[34]

On March 12, 2023, Gaiman announced via Mastodon, at the behest of Pollack's wife, that Pollack was in hospice care and nearing the end of her life. This led some outlets to mistakenly report that Pollack had already died. She was 77 years old.[37][38]

Pollack died from Non-Hodgkin lymphoma on April 7, 2023, at the age of 77.[1][39]

Awards and memberships[edit]

Published works[edit]

Non-fiction books[edit]

  • Anderson, Hilary (1989). New Thoughts on Tarot. North Hollywood: Newcastle Pub. Co. ISBN 0-87877-139-5.[26]
  • Hillman, James (1997). Marriages: Spring 60, a Journal of Archetype and Culture. City: Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 1-882670-09-4.[26]
  • Livernois, Jay (1996). Archetypal Sex: Spring : a Journal of Archetype and Culture. Irving: Spring Publications. ISBN 1-882670-05-1.[26]
  • Mckean, Dave (2001). Bento. Pacific Grove: Allen Spiegel Fine Arts. ISBN 0-9642069-4-3.[26]
  • Pollack, Rachel (1985). Salvador Dali's Tarot. Salem, New Hampshire: Salem House. ISBN 0-88162-076-9.
  • Pollack, Rachel (1986). Tarot. Wellingborough: Aquarian Press. ISBN 0-85030-465-2.[26]
  • Pollack, Rachel (1986). Teach Yourself Fortune Telling. New York: Henry Holt & Company. ISBN 0-8050-0125-5.[26]
  • Pollack, Rachel (1990). The Haindl Tarot. City: Newcastle Publishing Company. ISBN 0-87877-156-5.[26]
  • Pollack, Rachel (1990). The Haindl Tarot: the Major Arcana. City: Newcastle Publishing Company. ISBN 0-87877-155-7.[26]
  • Pollack, Rachel (1990). The New Tarot. City: Overlook Hardcover. ISBN 0-87951-395-0.[26]
  • Pollack, Rachel (1991). Tarot Readings and Meditations. London: Thorsons Pub. ISBN 1-85538-049-8.[26]
  • Pollack, Rachel (1995). The Journey out. New York: Viking. ISBN 0-14-037254-7.[26]
  • Pollack, Rachel (1997). The Body of the Goddess. Tisbury: Element Books. ISBN 1-85230-871-0.[26]
  • Pollack, Rachel (1998). Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom. New York: Thorsons Publishers. ISBN 0-7225-3572-4.
  • Pollack, Rachel (2000). The Power of Ritual. New York: Dell. ISBN 0-440-50872-X.[26]
  • Pollack, Rachel (2001). The Shining Tribe Tarot. Saint Paul: Llewellyn Publications. ISBN 1-56718-514-2.[26]
  • Pollack, Rachel (2001). The Shining Tribe Tarot, Revised and Expanded. Saint Paul: Llewellyn Publications. ISBN 1-56718-532-0.[26]
  • Pollack, Rachel (2002). Complete Illustrated Guide to Tarot. City: Element Books Ltd. ISBN 0-00-713115-1.[26]
  • Pollack, Rachel (2002). The Forest Of Souls: A Walk Through The Tarot. Saint Paul, Minnesota: Llewellyn Publications. ISBN 1567185339.[26]
  • Pollack, Rachel (2004). The Kabbalah Tree. Saint Paul: Llewellyn Publications. ISBN 0-7387-0507-1.[26]
  • Pollack, Rachel (2005). Seeker. Saint Paul: Llewellyn Publications. ISBN 0-7387-0521-7.[26]
  • Robbins, Trina (2002). Eternally Bad. City: Book Sales. ISBN 0-7858-1565-1.[26]




Short fiction[edit]

  • Pollack, Rachel (1971). Pandora's Bust.[43]
  • Pollack, Rachel (1973). Tubs of Slaw.[43]
  • Pollack, Rachel (1975). Black Rose and White Rose.[43]
  • Pollack, Rachel (1976). Is Your Child Using Drugs? Seven Ways to Recognize a Drug Addict.[43]
  • Pollack, Rachel (1982). Angel Baby.[43]
  • Pollack, Rachel (1984). The Malignant One.[43]
  • Pollack, Rachel (1984). The Girl Who Went to the Rich Neighbourhood.[43]
  • Pollack, Rachel (1984). Tree House.[43]
  • Pollack, Rachel (1984). Lands of Stone.[43]
  • Pollack, Rachel (1986). The Protector.[43]
  • Pollack, Rachel (1989). The Bead Woman.[43]
  • Pollack, Rachel (1989). Knower of Birds.[43]
  • Pollack, Rachel (1989). Burning Sky.[43]
  • Pollack, Rachel (1990). The Woman Who Didn't Come Back.[43]
  • Pollack, Rachel (1990). General All-Purpose Fairy Tale.[43]
  • Pollack, Rachel; James Patrick Kelly; Pat Cadigan; Nancy Kress (1997). Making Good Time.[43]
  • Pollack, Rachel (1998). The Fool, the Stick, and the Princess.[43]
  • Pollack, Rachel (2001). The Younger Brother.[43]
  • Pollack, Rachel (2003). Delusions of Universal Grandeur.[43]
  • Pollack, Rachel; Michael Cisco; Jeffrey Thomas; Eric G. Schaller; K. J. Bishop; Stepan Chapman; Richard Calder; R. F. Wexler (2003). Reminiscences.[43]
  • Pollack, Rachel (2008). Immortal Snake.[43]
  • Pollack, Rachel (May 2010). "Forever". Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.[43]


  • The Wild Cows (1993)[43]


  • "Introduction: A Machine for Constructing Stories" (1989)[43]
  • Read This (The New York Review of Science Fiction, October 1991) (1991)[43]
  • Read This (The New York Review of Science Fiction, July 1995) (1995)[43]
  • Read This (The New York Review of Science Fiction, August 1996) (1996)[43]
  • Pollack, Rachel. "Death and Its Afterlives In the Tarot". Parabola.[43]




  1. ^ a b Gustines, George Gene (April 13, 2023). "Rachel Pollack, Transgender Activist and Authority on Tarot, Dies at 77". The New York Times. Retrieved April 13, 2023.
  2. ^ Barnett, David (April 8, 2023). "Rachel Pollack, trans activist and comic book writer, dies aged 77". The Observer.
  3. ^ a b c "The Shining Tribe". Retrieved November 19, 2008.
  4. ^ Pollack, Rachel (1985). Salvador Dali's Tarot. Salem, New Hampshire: Salem House. ISBN 0-88162-076-9.
  5. ^ "Llewellyn.com". Archived from the original on September 23, 2007. Retrieved April 8, 2008.
  6. ^ "Shining Tribe Tarot". Retrieved April 15, 2008.
  7. ^ "Vertigo Tarot". Retrieved April 15, 2008.
  8. ^ Davis, Erik (1994). "The Gods of the Funny Books: An Interview with Neil Gaiman and Rachel Pollack". Gnosis. Archived from the original on May 29, 2012. Retrieved November 22, 2012.
  9. ^ "Doom Patrol". Retrieved April 15, 2008.
  10. ^ Pollack, Rachel (2019). ""Radical, Sacred, Hopefully Magical" Outspoken Interview with Rachel Pollack". The Beatrix Gates Plus... PM Press. pp. 99–100. ISBN 978-1-62963-578-1.
  11. ^ Williamson, Harriet (April 8, 2023). "Trailblazing trans DC Comics writer Rachel Pollack dies aged 77". PinkNews.
  12. ^ a b Cronin, Brian (April 7, 2023). "Rachel Pollack, Trailblazing Doom Patrol Writer, Dies at 77". CBR.
  13. ^ "Dead Beats By Tyler & Wendy Chin-Tanner". Kickstarter. April 9, 2019. Retrieved April 23, 2019. Notably, the book includes a reunion of Doom Patrol alums Rachel Pollack and Richard Case, working together for the first time in more than 25 years!
  14. ^ Corallo, Joe (April 19, 2019). "Rachel Pollack Signed Bookplates, Bigger Doom Patrol Reunion, and New Artwork!". Kickstarter. Retrieved April 23, 2019. We are also absolutely thrilled to announce that our Doom Patrol reunion just got even bigger! Legendary and award winning comics letterer John Workman, whose work includes having lettered Doom Patrol for all of Grant Morrison and Rachel Pollack's runs, will be lettering Rachel Pollack and Richard Case's story in Dead Beats, Snake Song! He's excited to be part of this reunion and we hope you're excited he's on board too!
  15. ^ "Rachel Pollack Awards". Science Fiction Awards Database. Retrieved April 9, 2023.
  16. ^ "GLBT Fantasy review of Godmother Night". Retrieved September 19, 2008.
  17. ^ "Temporary Agency". Archived from the original on May 9, 2008. Retrieved September 6, 2008.
  18. ^ Sherman, Delia; Goss, Theodora (2007). Interfictions: An Anthology of Interstitial Writing. ISBN 9781931520249. Retrieved April 14, 2023.
  19. ^ "Burning Beard: The Dreams and Visions of Joseph ben Jacob, Lord Viceroy of Egypt". Lightspeed Magazine. May 6, 2014. Retrieved April 14, 2023.
  20. ^ Reid-Bowen, Paul (2016). Goddess as Nature: Towards a Philosophical Thealogy. Routledge. p. 109. ISBN 978-1-317-12634-8.
  21. ^ Chase, Christopher W. (2009). "Paul Reid-Bowen, Goddess As Nature: Towards a Philosophical Theaiogy (Burlington, Vt. : Ashgate, 2007)". The Pomegranate. 11 (2).
  22. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Women In Tarot".
  23. ^ Hoffman, Cara (2009). "Rachel Pollack is Willing to Change Everything - Issue 380 - Fifth Estate Magazine". Fifth Estate (380).
  24. ^ Chiu-Tabet, Christopher (April 7, 2023). "Rachel Pollack, "Doom Patrol" Writer, Dead at 77". Multiversity Comics.
  25. ^ "New Worlds Article". Archived from the original on July 4, 2007. Retrieved September 6, 2008.
  26. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac "biblio.com". Archived from the original on January 18, 2013. Retrieved April 15, 2008.
  27. ^ Valerio, Max Wolf (2006). The Testosterone Files: My Hormonal and Social Transformation from Female to Male. Berkeley: Seal Press. p. 147. ISBN 1-58005-173-1.
  28. ^ Israel, Gianna E.; Tarver II; Donald E. (2001). Transgender Care: Recommended Guidelines, Practical Information & Personal Accounts. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. p. 269. ISBN 1-56639-852-5.
  29. ^ Pollack, Rachel. "Archetypal Transsexuality." Retrieved October 20, 2008.
  30. ^ Pollack, Rachel. "Abandonment to the Body's Desire." In: 'Balancing on the Mechitza: Transgender in Jewish Community.' Retrieved April 6, 2020.
  31. ^ Pollack, Rachel. A Secret Woman: A Mystery. New York: St. Martin's Minotaur, 2002.
  32. ^ Valerio, Max Wolf (2002). "Peering Inside the Phallus Palace". FTMi Newsletter (52): 15.
  33. ^ Jensen, Marjorie (November 29, 2017). "Five essential books of tarot fiction". Spiral Nature Magazine.
  34. ^ a b Johnston, Rich (September 1, 2022). "Rachel Pollack Appeal By Neil Gaiman, Gail Simone, Shelly Bond & More". Bleeding Cool. Retrieved March 17, 2023.
  35. ^ Schreur, Brandon (August 26, 2022). "Doom Patrol Writer Rachel Pollack in ICU, GoFundMe Launched for Medical Bill Help". CBR. Retrieved March 17, 2023.
  36. ^ Anderson, Jenna (August 26, 2022). "Doom Patrol and New Gods Writer Rachel Pollack Hospitalized". ComicBook.com. Retrieved March 17, 2023.
  37. ^ Stratis, Niko (March 16, 2023). "Gutter Talk: Portents of Doom Patrol". Autostraddle. Retrieved March 17, 2023.
  38. ^ Coke, Travis Hedge (March 16, 2023). "The Transcendental Love of Rachel Pollack". Comic Watch. Retrieved March 17, 2023.
  39. ^ Marston, George (April 7, 2023). "Comic and Tarot icon Rachel Pollack dies". GamesRadar.
  40. ^ World Fantasy Convention (2010). "Award Winners and Nominees". Archived from the original on December 1, 2010. Retrieved February 4, 2011.
  41. ^ "Rachel Pollack: Past Nominations and Wins". The Nebula Awards. Science Fictions & Fantasy Writers of America. Retrieved April 9, 2023.
  42. ^ "Winners and Shortlists". The Arthur C. Clarke Award. Retrieved April 9, 2023.
  43. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af "Internet Science Fiction Data Base". isfdb.org. Retrieved April 15, 2008.

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