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Wild Cards

Entry updated 21 November 2022. Tagged: Publication.

Original-Anthology series, edited by George R R Martin, with the initially unacknowledged collaboration of Melinda M Snodgrass, variously credited from the sixth volume on, set in a Shared World, almost every volume being a Braid of stories by various authors woven into a more-or-less integrated narrative. Martin prefers to think of these books, because their contents are planned and linked, often as "mosaic novels", though we treat them as, only technically, anthologies. The first volume, Wild Cards: A Mosaic Novel (anth 1987; vt Wildcards 1989), describes its alternate Earth's history (see Alternate History), the Jonbar Point being the release just after World War Two over New York of a virus developed by Aliens. The effect of the "Wild Card" virus Pandemic is to kill immediately and horribly one out of ten people it infects. Survivors are mutated (see Mutants), mostly in useless, often monstrously damaging ways, in which case they are called "Jokers". One in ten is mutated beneficially: these become Superpowered "Aces". The dividing line can be blurred; for example, physical deformity can be offset by an immense gain in strength.

Twenty-six volumes have been issued as of 2018 [see Checklist below]. Wild Cards X: Double Solitaire (1992) is a novel by Melinda Snodgrass, the first single-author novel in what had so far been an original-anthology series, but is copyrighted in Martin's name.

The books focus on a cast of Aces and Jokers through the decades. Some of the strongest stories are in the first volume, which deals impressively with the McCarthy era. Later volumes are more comic-bookish, and history's incredible resilience becomes irritating: when a secret Ace of enormous power runs for the presidency, events contrive to bring about a victory for George Bush. Despite this, Wild Cards is one of the better shared-worlds series, showcasing hard-edged writing by Edward Bryant, Pat Cadigan, Cherie Priest, Lewis Shiner, Carrie Vaughn, Howard Waldrop, Walter Jon Williams, Roger Zelazny and others. For a full listing of the still continuing sequence, see the Checklist below.

A companion comic-book series began with Wild Cards #1: Heart of the Matter (graph 1990), Wild Cards #2: Diamond in the Rough (graph 1990), Wild Cards #3: Welcome to the Club (graph 1990) and Wild Cards #4: Spadework (graph 1990), collected as Wild Cards (graph omni 1991). [RuB/RT/JC]

see also: GURPS; Superheroes.

Wild Cards

All edited by George R R Martin, from volume six or earlier with Melinda M Snodgrass; those titles in which she is acknowledged are so clocked below. Retroactive divisions of individual titles into subseries are so indicated. As subtitles may or may not exist, they are indicated only when confirmed.

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