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May 20, 2013 11:22 AM   Subscribe

George RR Martin created the series, then let it hang around for decades without resolution. In the last couple of years however, there's been renewed interest, new novels and a screen adaption in the works. No, not Game of Thrones: Wild Cards!

Martin tells the story in five parts (5) about how he came to collaborate with authors like Walter Jon Williams, Roger Zelazny, and Pat Cadigan to create a shared world that presaged grimmer superhero stories like the Dark Knight and Watchmen.

Read lots of excerpts from the 00s Novels online.

Bonus: in case you missed role playing as Dr. Tachyon, or Kid Dinosaur, or the beloved Croyd, in the GURPS system from the 90s, a new Wild Cards game was released a few years back.
posted by Potomac Avenue (27 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wild Cards is the foundation of everything I understand about superheroes. I remember tearing through the series one summer at my local library.

ALL HAIL THE GREAT AND POWERFUL TURTLE
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:27 AM on May 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


Ahem, George, but Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns first began serialization in 1986, so they crossed the publication finish line ahead of the first Wild Cards anthology in 1987.

Although Martin was keen on recruiting Alan Moore in the project (Moore turned him down), Martin snubbed an unsolicited pitch from "a skinny British kid dressed all in black"—Neil Gaiman.
posted by Doktor Zed at 11:40 AM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


It all went downhill after Jetboy died.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:41 AM on May 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, The Jolson Story wasn't worth the hype.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:47 AM on May 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've never read a word of Game of Thrones, but I've read every Wild Cards book at least twice. I have, though, gotten sick of the multiple revisions of the first anthology. I think there have been three editions now, each with new or revised stories.

Several of the same authors who were in Wild Cards also contributed to another shared world from roughly the same time period, Liavek, which I always wanted more of.
posted by raincrow at 11:57 AM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


With the re-release (and I feel weird calling it a re-release when it's been 20+ years) of Chaosium's Basic Roleplaying system, there's been talk about publishing a new edition of 'Superworld' the game that Wild Cards was based on.
posted by Myca at 12:08 PM on May 20, 2013


GREAT! Not only do I have to dig out Wild Cards now, I'll also have to revisit Thieves' World and Heroes in Hell.
posted by detachd at 12:09 PM on May 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I remember avidly gobbling this series up. I was especially thrilled to see Roger Zelazny contribute The Sleeper. In typical creative Zelazny fashion, his superpowers were not limited to a mere one skill, but rather cycled through many. Only Zelazny could take a wild idea like Wild Cards and make it even wilder.
posted by sidereal at 12:10 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Several of the same authors who were in Wild Cards also contributed to another shared world from roughly the same time period, Liavek, which I always wanted more of.

Holy shit, I just realized that Emma Bull and Will Shetterly's Liavek and Sharon Lee and Steve Miller's Liaden are two different series. The items on my heard-it's-good-should-probably-read list are breeding!
posted by The Tensor at 12:26 PM on May 20, 2013


sidereal speaks for me. Except I stopped after the second installment because it felt like it had been sufficiently developed and would only enrut itself as it went on. Also I'm pretty sure I stopped seeing Zelazny in the table of contents. Sometimes enough of a good thing is the perfect place to stop.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:37 PM on May 20, 2013


we needed a single plausible cause for all these superpowers.

This, and the fact that they followed through with all the corollaries and consequences, is what really made it work for me. Speculative Fiction is only worth reading if it understands -- and is indeed about -- its own implications. Wild Cards isn't about superheroes. It's about what would necessarily happen if there were superheroes.

Marvel and DC want to have it both ways -- a world that is stiff with supers but is otherwise very much like our own. The Wild Cards Earth rapidly diverges from our own. It would have to.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:46 PM on May 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


George_Spiggott: "sidereal speaks for me. Except I stopped after the second installment because it felt like it had been sufficiently developed and would only enrut itself as it went on. Also I'm pretty sure I stopped seeing Zelazny in the table of contents. Sometimes enough of a good thing is the perfect place to stop."

Well, it pretty much hurtles right down the gritty grimdark hole as the series goes on, and a fair number of what to me were some of the most interesting characters end up dead. And right about the time of the Rox is when GRRM starts turning his grimdark up to 11.
posted by Samizdata at 12:49 PM on May 20, 2013


Geez, jerks. I had to go click on the Sleeper Wikipedia link, then I had to go fix stuff on the durn page.
posted by Samizdata at 1:05 PM on May 20, 2013


And Liavek did have an Alan Moore story!
posted by Zed at 1:28 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Think maybe he can talk to David Gerrold about another long abandoned series?
posted by bartonlong at 1:29 PM on May 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Aw, I played the Wild Cards RPG. My character was basically Amelia Earhart with superpowers. It was fun.
posted by emjaybee at 1:31 PM on May 20, 2013


bartonlong: "Think maybe he can talk to David Gerrold about another long abandoned series?"

Yeah, there's optimism and there's forlorn hope beyond hope.
posted by Samizdata at 1:31 PM on May 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Light reading (and my introduction to the series) can be found in the write-ups of the in-universe reality TV show here.
posted by Hactar at 2:19 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I haven't read any Wild Cards books but found this article. Seems pretty informative.
posted by zardoz at 2:40 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


SQUEEEEEEEE
posted by mrbill at 3:08 PM on May 20, 2013


Well played, PA, well played.

I loved these books back in the day, along with the first few Theives' World shared-world anthologies. The competitive undercurrent in the authors' uses and abuses of one another's characters made for absolutely pryotechnical plot twists. Good to hear more may be on the way.
posted by mwhybark at 3:19 PM on May 20, 2013


I didn't mind the grimdark so much, but it turns out I like Dr Tachyon more when he's written by anyone other than Snodgrass. She must really hate that character. Did she stop writing him as a sobbing, whiny mess all the time after book ... 11 or so? I think that's where I stopped reading.
posted by hades at 3:23 PM on May 20, 2013


The wildcard books work best if you figure out which characters/authors you like and skip judiciously. I'm a Fortunato man myself.
posted by Bookhouse at 3:27 PM on May 20, 2013


The "Wild Cards" books were good fun, though the later ones did get uneven when they started trying to get too grim & gritty. Still, I'd definitely watch a "Wild Cards" movie or TV series.

I also enjoyed David Gerrold's "War Against The Chtorr" series, but long ago gave up any hope of that ever getting finished...
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 4:06 PM on May 20, 2013


Whoa, the Wild Cards guy is the Game of Thrones guy? I really got to read GoT now.
posted by Mitheral at 4:51 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was pretty obsessed by that series from the second half of the eighties through to the middle of the nineties (basically, through the end of the Baen books, Black Trump), and still have all of those, but, frankly, even when I was really into them, the stories struck me as wildly uneven in quality, and some of them definitely haven't aged well. The worst of them were done by Melinda Snodgrass, who is probably best known for working on Star Trek: TNG (she was a story editor, and wrote several episodes, including "The Measure of a Man"), and for having some very bitter things to say about Gene Roddenberry afterward. Her Wild Cards work tends toward the quality of average fanfic; in her full-length WC book, Dr. Tachyon, the central figure of the series, who has had his mind transferred into a woman's body by his sociopathic grandson, following which said grandson repeatedly raped him until he was pregnant with his own great-granddaughter, is seduced by Tachyon's also-kind-of-sociopathic cousin, who has previously tried to destroy Earth. Uh... yeah.

There are still plenty of good parts to the series; Walter Jon Williams, whose non-WC work I've also greatly enjoyed, did several excellent chapters, and the aforementioned Zelazny, and GRRM's own contributions, particularly the Great and Powerful Turtle, a very powerful telekinetic who has even less of a life than Peter Parker. But some of the longer story arcs end up being written into such tight corners that they can (and do) only end in a big fight/massacre where some of the more interesting characters die, and I lost interest around the time that the books started coming out in hardcover instead of being paperback originals, and they just weren't worth that much to me any more.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:47 PM on May 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I found a few early volumes in junior high - I think there was a nascent sex scene in one story that left me suitably shocked. Very well, Kindle edition, very well.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 8:40 PM on May 20, 2013


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