Wild Cards

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This article is about the series of books. For other uses, see wild card.
Wild Cards
  • Wild Cards (1987) (first)
  • High Stakes (2016) (most recent)
Edited by
Country United States
Language English
Genre Superhero, Science fiction
Publisher
Published January 1987 – present
Media type
No. of books 23 (as of 2016)

Wild Cards is a series of science fiction superhero shared universe anthologies, mosaic novels, and solo novels written by a collection of thirty authors referred to as the Wild Cards Trust and edited by George R. R. Martin and Melinda M. Snodgrass. Set largely during an alternate history of post-World War II United States, the series follows humans who contracted the Wild Card virus, an alien virus that rewrites DNA and mutates survivors; those who acquire minor or crippling physical conditions are known as Jokers, and those who acquire superhuman abilities are known as Aces.

The series originated from a long-running campaign of the Superworld role-playing game, gamemastered by Martin and involving many of the original authors. The framework of the series was developed by Martin and Snodgrass, including the origin of the characters' superhuman abilities and the card-based terminology.

The first installment, Wild Cards, was released in January 1987 by Bantam Books, and as of August 2016, twenty-three books have been released through four publishers; a future triad of books is being written for release through Tor Books. The series has also been adapted to comics and role-playing games.

Premise[edit]

Set during an alternate history of post-World War II United States, the series follows events after an airborne alien virus is released over New York City in 1946 and eventually infects tens of thousands globally. The virus, designed to rewrite DNA, was developed as a bioweapon by a noble family on the planet Takis, and it is taken to Earth to test on humans, who are genetically identical to the people of Takis. Dr. Tachyon, a member of this family, objects and attempts to stop them. However, his attempt crashes their ship, releasing the virus.

The virus affects each individual differently, and it becomes known as the Wild Card virus because of these "random and unpredictable" symptoms. It kills 90% of those who contract it and mutates the remaining percentage. Of that remainder, 9% are Jokers, who develop minor or crippling physical conditions. 1% are Aces, who remain human or mostly human in appearance but develop superhuman abilities; Aces whose abilities are too trivial or specific to be generally valuable are called Deuces.

Origin[edit]

Wild Cards began as a two-year-long[1] campaign of the Superworld role-playing game, gifted to George R. R. Martin by Victor Milan,[1] in Albuquerque, New Mexico; the players were science fiction writers, including Gail Gerstner-Miller, Milan, John J. Miller, Melinda M. Snodgrass, and Walter Jon Williams, and Martin served as gamemaster.[2] Because of the amount of time and creative energy put into the campaign, Martin initially thought to write a novel on his character Turtle.[1] However, he realized this would have "rescued one character from [the] SuperWorld campaign, but would have meant discarding all the rest". Since the game had been built by a group, he felt it should be a shared universe anthology, which were popular at the time.[1][2] Martin invited other writers he believed would be interested in the universe, including Roger Zelazny, Lewis Shiner, Pat Cadigan, Howard Waldrop, Edward Bryant, and Stephen Leigh.[2]

Martin said that the group loved comic books and superheroes but wanted to approach the material in a "grittier, more adult manner than what we were seeing in the '80s". He cited the series' "sense of history" as a strength and expressed frustration with the retroactive continuity of mainstream comics.[3] Martin also felt that the multitude of sources for superpowers in comics strained suspension of disbelief when taken together, and he believed a single plausible source was needed. Snodgrass suggested a virus, which allowed for the superpowered Aces, the "monsters and freaks" Jokers, and a high death toll.[1] Snodgrass and Martin also developed the card based terminology,[2] and Milan developed the pseudoscience of the series.[1]

The series was originally meant to be set in a then contemporary 1985, but Waldrop, who was to write the first story, insisted that his story take place right after World War II. This created a forty-year gap between the first chapter and the remaining stories, pushing later contributions to fill in the intervening decades. Martin noted that this forced the authors to write about events they would have otherwise ignored, particularly the House Un-American Activities Committee and the McCarthy hearings which gave rise to characters and plot points that "added immeasurable richness to our world and depth of our characters". Waldrop's story also forced Williams to rewrite a new story, "Witness", which became the only shared world story to appear on the final ballot for a Nebula Award.[1]

British writer Neil Gaiman met with Martin in 1987 and pitched a Wild Cards story about a character who lives in a world of dreams. Martin declined due to Gaiman's lack of prior credits at the time. Gaiman went on to publish his story as The Sandman.[4]

Publishing history[edit]

Bantam Books (1987 – 1993)[edit]

Bantam Books, under its Spectra imprint, published twelve books between 1987 and 1993, including two solo novels written by Melinda M. Snodgrass and Victor Milan.

Baen Books (1993 – 1995)[edit]

Baen Books published a new triad between 1993 and 1995 subtitled of a New Cycle. In 2002, Martin commented that he felt the triad was creatively "three of the strongest volumes Wild Cards ever had" and that the series "came back strong" after stumbling with a previous storyline; however, he conceded that the triad was "very dark", acknowledging it was commonly voiced complaint, and that he felt switching publishers was a mistake.[17]

  • 1993 Card Sharks[18]
  • 1994 Marked Cards[19]
  • 1995 Black Trump[20]

ibooks Inc. (2002 – 2006)[edit]

In 2000, ibooks Inc. purchased two new installments and the rights to reprint the first eight books of the series; the two new books were published between 2002 and 2006, including a solo novel by John J. Miller, and reprints for six of the first eight books were issued.[21] The company filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in July 2005, shortly after the death of founder Byron Preiss.[22] In December 2006, J. Bolyston & Co. Publishers, parent company of the Brick Tower Press imprint, acquired all of Preiss' assets, including those of ibooks, for $125,000.[21][23] Brick Tower Press offered e-book versions of its titles, including Deuces Down and Death Draws Five, via Humble Bundle in February 2016.[24]

  • 2002 Deuces Down[25]
  • 2006 Death Draws Five (novel by Miller)[26]

Tor Books (2008 – present)[edit]

Tor Books, an imprint under Macmillan Publishers, currently publishes the series in both print and e-book format. It released six new installments from November 2008 to August 2016. Tor Books also reprinted the first five novels from November 2010 to October 2015,[27][28] and it expects to issue a reprint of the sixth novel in October 2016.[29]

  • 2008 Inside Straight[30]
  • 2008 Busted Flush[31]
  • 2009 Suicide Kings[32]
  • 2011 Fort Freak[33]
  • 2014 Lowball[34]
  • 2016 High Stakes[35]

On his blog in March 2016, Martin stated that Tor Books acquired three installments after High Stakes. Working titles for the books are Texas Hold 'Em, Mississippi Roll, and Low Chicago. He also announced that Saladin Ahmed, Max Gladstone, Marko Kloos, and Diana Rowland will contribute to the triad.[36]

Tor Books also published online supplementary material. A multi-author blog supporting Inside Straight opened in February 2008. The blog followed American Hero, the fictional reality television show in the book, and posted in-character "confessionals" from the twenty-eight characters competing on the show.[37] Six short stories were published through the Tor Books website from January 2013 to March 2016.

One additional short story, "Lies My Mother Told Me" by Caroline Spector, was published in the Dangerous Women anthology, also edited by Martin. The anthology was released December 2013.[44]

Contributors[edit]

The Wild Cards Trust refers to the collection of authors who have contributed to the Wild Card series.[45] As of Lowball, published November 2014, thirty-one authors have written for the series. Five authors have written for at least one novel released by each publisher of the series: Michael Cassutt, Stephen Leigh (often writing as S. L. Farrell), John J. Miller, Walton Simons, and Snodgrass. Every installment was edited by Martin, who has also contributed as an author to nine books; later installments were co-edited by Snodgrass.

Authors by publishing era
Author Bantam Books (1987 – 1993) Baen Books (1993 – 1995) ibooks Inc. (2002 – 2006) Tor Books (2008 – present)
Daniel Abraham Deuces Down Inside Straight, Suicide Kings
Edward Bryant Wild Cards, Jokers Wild, Aces Abroad, Down and Dirty, Dealer's Choice
Pat Cadigan Aces High, Down and Dirty
Michael Cassutt[a] Aces Abroad Card Sharks Deuces Down Inside Straight, Lowball
Chris Claremont One-Eyed Jacks
Paul Cornell Fort Freak
Arthur Byron Cover Down and Dirty
David Anthony Durham Fort Freak, Lowball, High Stakes[35]
Ty Franck Fort Freak
Gail Gerstner-Miller Aces Abroad
Leanne C. Harper Wild Cards, Jokers Wild, Aces Abroad, Down and Dirty Marked Cards
Stephen Leigh

(often as S. L. Farrell)

Wild Cards, Aces Abroad, Down and Dirty, Ace in the Hole, One-Eyed Jacks, Jokertown Shuffle, Dealer's Choice Card Sharks, Marked Cards, Black Trump Deuces Down Inside Straight, Busted Flush, Suicide Kings, Fort Freak, High Stakes[35]
David D. Levine[a] Lowball
George R. R. Martin (editor) Wild Cards, Aces High, Jokers Wild, Aces Abroad, Down and Dirty, Dead Man's Hand, Dealer's Choice Black Trump Inside Straight
Victor Milán Wild Cards, Aces High, Aces Abroad, Ace in the Hole, One-Eyed Jacks, Jokertown Shuffle, Turn of the Cards Card Sharks, Marked Cards, Black Trump Busted Flush, Suicide Kings, Fort Freak
John J. Miller Wild Cards, Aces High, Jokers Wild, Aces Abroad, Down and Dirty, Dead Man's Hand, One-Eyed Jacks, Jokertown Shuffle, Dealer's Choice Black Trump Deuces Down, Death Draws Five Inside Straight, Busted Flush, Fort Freak, High Stakes[35]
Laura J. Mixon Card Sharks, Marked Cards
Mary Anne Mohanraj Fort Freak, Lowball
Kevin Andrew Murphy[b] Card Sharks Deuces Down Busted Flush, Fort Freak
Cherie Priest Fort Freak
Lewis Shiner Wild Cards, Aces High, Jokers Wild, Aces Abroad, One-Eyed Jacks, Jokertown Shuffle
Walton Simons Aces High, Jokers Wild, Aces Abroad, Ace in the Hole, One-Eyed Jacks, Jokertown Shuffle Marked Cards Deuces Down Busted Flush
Melinda M. Snodgrass (editor) Wild Cards, Aces High, Jokers Wild, Aces Abroad, Down and Dirty, Ace in the Hole, One-Eyed Jacks, Jokertown Shuffle, Double Solitaire Card Sharks, Marked Cards Deuces Down Inside Straight, Busted Flush, Suicide Kings, Fort Freak, Lowball, High Stakes[35]
Caroline Spector Inside Straight, Busted Flush, Suicide Kings, High Stakes[35]
Ian Tregillis Inside Straight, Busted Flush, Suicide Kings, Lowball, High Stakes[35]
Carrie Vaughn[a][b] Inside Straight, Busted Flush, Lowball
Howard Waldrop Wild Cards
Sage Walker Marked Cards, Black Trump
Walter Jon Williams Wild Cards, Aces High, Down and Dirty, Ace in the Hole, Jokertown Shuffle, Dealer's Choice Marked Cards Lowball
William F. Wu One-Eyed Jacks Card Sharks
Roger Zelazny Wild Cards, Aces High, Down and Dirty Card Sharks

Adaptations[edit]

Comics[edit]

A four-issue Wild Cards limited series was released in 1990 by Epic Comics, an imprint of Marvel Comics.[47][48] The issues were published as a trade paperback in October 1991.[49] They were also included in Epic: An Anthology, released in 1992.[50] A second limited series titled Wild Cards: The Hard Call, written by Daniel Abraham and illustrated by Eric Battle, was published in six issues from April 2008 to September 2008 by Dabel Brothers Productions.[51][52][53] Dabel Brothers partnered with Del Rey in July 2008 to collect titles including Wild Cards: The Hard Call as graphic novels beginning in fall 2008.[54] The issues were collected in a hardcover edition published by Dynamite Entertainment in February 2011.[55]

Role-playing games[edit]

Main article: GURPS Wild Cards

Wild Cards was adapted into a role-playing game format by Steve Jackson Games. Written by John J. Miller and published in June 1989, the sourcebook used GURPS Supers rules and contained descriptions of sixty of the characters.[56][57] A supplement titled Aces Abroad, written by Kevin Andrew Murphy, was released in 1991.[58][59] Green Ronin Publishing published Wild Cards Campaign Setting, written by Miller, for its Mutants & Masterminds RPG in August 2008; the game debuted at Gen Con that year. Two supplements were released: an adventure anthology titled All-in and a character book titled Aces & Jokers.[60]

Audiobooks[edit]

Unabridged audiobook versions of the first five novels have been released. Audiobooks of the first two novels were released by Brilliance Audio in November and December 2011.[61][62] Versions of the third, fourth, and fifth novels were released by Penguin Random House from February to March 2016, featuring voice talents for each character.[63][64][65] The sixth and seventh installments are expecting release in October and November 2016.[66][67]

Live action adaptations[edit]

In October 2011, Syfy Films, a joint venture between Syfy Channel and Universal Studios, acquired screen rights to Wild Cards under the direction of Gregory Noveck, senior vice president of production. Snodgrass was asked to write the screenplay, and she and Martin were to serve as executive producers. At the time of announcement, the film was intended to have a contemporary setting and the Sleeper among its characters. This was the second time the series was optioned.[3]

In August 2016, it was announced that Universal Cable Productions acquired the rights to create a television series. Martin stated that the development was in early stages and that the production was working on choosing characters and stories to adapt. Because of his exclusivity contract with HBO, which airs Game of Thrones based on Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, Martin stated he will not be involved in the adaptation. Snodgrass is to serve as an executive producer.[68] In a blog post, Martin stated that Noveck is also to serve as an executive producer.[69][70][71]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c The 2010 Tor Books reprint of Wild Cards, originally published in 1987 by Bantam Books, added stories by Michael Cassut, David D. Levine, and Carrie Vaughn.[27]
  2. ^ a b The 2015 Tor Books reprint of Aces Abroad, originally published in 1988 by Bantam Books, added stories by Kevin Andrew Murphy and Carrie Vaughn.[46]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Martin, George R. R. (June 6, 2011). "From Game to Book or, the Birth of a Shared World". Tor Books. Retrieved August 11, 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c d Miller, John J. (October 1989). "Playing With a Full Deck". Roleplayer. Steve Jackson Games. Retrieved July 11, 2016. 
  3. ^ a b Kit, Borys (October 28, 2011). "'Game of Thrones' Author's Superhero Anthology 'Wild Cards' Headed to Big Screen (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 9, 2016. 
  4. ^ "Which Iconic DC Character Was Almost A Part Of George R.R. Martin's 'Wildcards'?". MTV. October 3, 2012. Retrieved July 11, 2016. 
  5. ^ Reilly, Robert. "Martin, George R.R., ed. Wild Cards: A Mosaic Novel.". In Collins, Robert; Lantham, Robert. Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Review Annual 1988. Meckler. p. 249. ISBN 978-0-88736-249-1. 
  6. ^ de Lint, Charles. "Martin, George R.R., ed. Wild Cards II: Aces High.". In Collins, Robert; Lantham, Robert. Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Review Annual 1988. Meckler. pp. 249–250. ISBN 978-0-88736-249-1. 
  7. ^ "Jokers Wild (Wild Cards, Book 3)". Amazon.com. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  8. ^ "Aces Abroad (Wild Cards, Book 4)". Amazon.com. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  9. ^ "Down and Dirty (Wild Cards, Book 5)". Amazon.com. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  10. ^ "Ace in the Hole (Wild Cards)". Amazon.com. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  11. ^ "Dead Man's Hand (Wild Cards, Book 7)". Amazon.com. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  12. ^ "One-Eyed Jacks (Wild Cards, Book 8)". Amazon.com. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  13. ^ "Jokertown Shuffle (Wild Cards)". Amazon.com. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  14. ^ "Double Solitaire (Wild Cards, No. 10)". Amazon.com. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  15. ^ "Dealer's Choice (Wild Cards XI)". Amazon.com. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  16. ^ "Turn of the Cards (Wild Cards, Book 12)". Amazon.com. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  17. ^ "About Wild Cards". So Spake Martin. Westeros.org. December 15, 2002. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  18. ^ "Card Sharks (Wild Cards: New Cycle, Book 1)". Amazon.com. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  19. ^ "Marked Cards (Wild Cards: A New Cycle, Book 2)". Amazon.com. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  20. ^ "Black Trump (Wild Cards: A New Cycle, Book 3) (Wild Cards: New Cycle)". Amazon.com. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  21. ^ a b Rambraut, Dag (November 18, 2007). "Interview with George R.R. Martin". SFFWorld.com. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  22. ^ "ibooks & Byron Preiss Visual Publications File Chapter 7". ICv2. February 23, 2006. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  23. ^ "News Briefs". Publishers Weekly. December 18, 2006. Retrieved July 10, 2016 – via EBSCO Information Services.  (subscription required)
  24. ^ "Humble Bundle: Sci-fi Classics". Humble Bundle. Archived from the original on February 18, 2016. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  25. ^ "Wild Cards XVI - Deuces Down (Vol 5)". Amazon.com. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  26. ^ "George R.R. Martin's Wild Cards XVII: Death Draws Five". Amazon.com. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  27. ^ a b "Wild Cards I". Macmillan Publishers. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  28. ^ "Wild Cards V: Down and Dirty". Macmillan Publishers. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  29. ^ "Wild Cards VI: Ace in the Hole". Macmillan Publishers. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  30. ^ "Inside Straight". Amazon.com. Retrieved July 11, 2016. 
  31. ^ "Busted Flush (Wild Cards)". Amazon.com. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  32. ^ "Suicide Kings (Wild Cards)". Amazon.com. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  33. ^ "Suicide Kings". Macmillan Publishers. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  34. ^ "Suicide Kings". Macmillan Publishers. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  35. ^ a b c d e f g "High Stakes". Macmillan Publishers. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  36. ^ "Wild Cards Times Three". Not A Blog. Livejournal.com. March 16, 2016. Retrieved July 11, 2016. 
  37. ^ Price, Matthew (February 4, 2008). ""Wild Cards" gets spinoff site – "American Hero"". Nerdage. The Oklahoman. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  38. ^ Abraham, Daniel (January 16, 2013). "When We Were Heroes". Original Fiction. Tor Books. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  39. ^ Priest, Cherie (May 15, 2013). "The Button Man and the Murder Tree". Original Fiction. Tor Books. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  40. ^ Cornell, Paul (May 29, 2013). "The Elephant in the Room". Original Fiction. Tor Books. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  41. ^ Vaughn, Carrie (October 15, 2014). "Nuestra Señora de la Esperanza". Original Fiction. Tor Books. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  42. ^ Williams, Walter Jon (November 21, 2014). "Prompt. Professional. Pop!". Original Fiction. Tor Books. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  43. ^ Levine, David D. (March 30, 2016). "Discards". Original Fiction. Tor Books. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  44. ^ "Dangerous Women Arrives on Tor.com: Featuring a New Song of Ice and Fire Story". Tor Books. July 24, 2013. Retrieved July 11, 2016. 
  45. ^ "Wild Cards Trust". Macmillan Publishers. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  46. ^ "Wild Cards IV: Aces Abroad". Macmillan Publishers. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  47. ^ "Wildcards - Heart Of The Matter". Amazon.com. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  48. ^ "Wild Cards IV". Amazon.com. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  49. ^ "Wild Cards (Graphic Novel)". Amazon.com. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  50. ^ "Epic: An Anthology [Book 1]". Amazon.com. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  51. ^ "The world of Wild Cards returns to comics with a brand new adventure... and appearances from some old favorite characters.". Dabel Brothers Productions. January 17, 2008. Archived from the original on January 22, 2008. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  52. ^ "George R. R. Martin's Wild Cards: The Hard Call #1 (of 6)". ComiXology. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  53. ^ "George R. R. Martin's Wild Cards: The Hard Call #6 (of 6)". ComiXology. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  54. ^ Reid, Calvin (July 2, 2008). "Dabel Bros, Del Rey Turn 'Wheel of Time' into Comics". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  55. ^ "George RR Martin's Wild Cards: The Hard Call". Amazon.com. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  56. ^ "Wild Cards". Steve Jackson Games. Retrieved July 11, 2016. 
  57. ^ "Grups Supers Wild Cards". Amazon.com. Retrieved July 11, 2016. 
  58. ^ "Aces Abroad". Steve Jackson Games. Retrieved July 11, 2016. 
  59. ^ "Aces Abroad (GURPS Wild Cards RPG)". Amazon.com. Retrieved July 11, 2016. 
  60. ^ "Wild Cards Returns to Roleplaying". Green Ronin Publishing. August 29, 2008. Archived from the original on November 20, 2008. Retrieved July 11, 2016. 
  61. ^ "Wild Cards I". Amazon.com. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  62. ^ "Wild Cards II: Aces High". Amazon.com. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  63. ^ "Wild Cards III: Jokers Wild". Penguin Random House. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  64. ^ "Wild Cards IV: Aces Abroad". Penguin Random House. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  65. ^ "Wild Cards V: Down and Dirty". Penguin Random House. Retrieved July 10, 2016. 
  66. ^ "Wild Cards VI: Ace in the Hole". Penguin Random House. Retrieved July 11, 2016. 
  67. ^ "Wild Cards VII: Dead Man's Hand". Penguin Random House. Retrieved July 11, 2016. 
  68. ^ Liptak, Andrew (August 6, 2016). "Another world from George R.R. Martin might be coming to television". The Verge. Retrieved August 6, 2016. 
  69. ^ Martin, George R. R. (August 6, 2016). "The Wild Cards Are Coming... to Television". Not a Blog. Livejournal. Retrieved August 6, 2016. 
  70. ^ "George RR Martin's Wild Cards: what is it, when will we see it on TV and will it be like Game of Thrones?". The Daily Telegraph. August 9, 2016. Retrieved August 9, 2016. 
  71. ^ Barnett, David (August 8, 2016). "George RR Martin's Wild Cards TV show is a safe bet for success". The Guardian. Retrieved August 9, 2016. 

External links[edit]