Reflections on ‘Wild Cards’

March 14th, 2009

Originally posted September 29 2008

I’m rereading the  Wild Cards series, a shared world anthology edited by George RR Martin.  Inspired by a superhero roleplaying campaign that was gamemastered by Martin, and included Roger Zelazny, Melinda M Snodgrass, Lewis Shiner and Walter Jon Williams, amongst other luminaries who would become writers in their own right.  Wild Cards is set in an alternative history of our own world, where a virus is released that gives some people superpowers (known as ‘Aces’), and turns others into monsters (‘Jokers’).  Others are transformed into non-viable forms and die – often in agony – which is called ‘Drawing the Black Queen’.

Once again I came across the short story ‘Witness’, by Walter Jon Williams.  Which is probably my favourite of all the stories in the first book, and possibly my favourite of all the ones I have read (the first 6 I think), but it is so brutal it is always difficult on a reread.  It is one of the few first person narrations in the series, and while Jack Braun’s (Golden Boy’s) story is fiction, it is also so close to reality that it hurts.

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