13 Sept 2019

Science Fiction and Fantasy Fridays: WILD CARDS, Volume 1 edited by George R.R. Martin

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Author: Anthology edited by George R.R. Martin
Series: Wild Cards #1
Source: Audible
Publisher: Tom Doherty
Publication Date: November 23, 2010 (originally published in 1986)

Just after World War 2 over New York City, an alien virus transforms human genetics and goes recessive to create super heroes and villains. Most victims die, others experience physical or psychic changes: aces have useful powers, deuces minor maybe entertaining abilities, jokers uglified, disabled, relegated to ghettos.
Amazon | Chapters | TBD

"Prologue" by George R.R. Martin: 4*

I liked the introduction to the world and seeing what was coming from the rest of the compilation of stories. I thought it was an interesting mix of history and fiction so I can't wait to see where it goes from here!

"Thirty Minutes Over Broadway!" by Howard Waldrop - 3.5*

I really liked the characters and the idea of how soldiers come back from war and things can be different for them. I also really liked Jet Boy and his arc. I thought he was an interesting character to start with for this anthology. I would have liked a bit less of the politics in this one (who am I???) but overall I enjoyed listening.

"The Sleeper" by Roger Zelazny - 4*

I like that this introduced the idea of "Jokers" and "Aces" into the world building. I also liked how there was a switch and seeing that there are doctors working towards assisting the people who have been affected by the virus. However, I thought the character was kinda boring and would have liked more action rather than family drama.

"Witness" by Walter Jon Williams - 3*

It's not that I didn't like this, I just don't feel comfortable reading about civil rights movements through the eyes of someone who isn't really impacted by them. I would have liked to have the story from the perspective of someone else. And I realize this story was nominated for a Nebula but that doesn't change my feelings.

"Degradation Rites" by Melinda M. Snodgrass - 4*

I like this the most so far. I like that this is starting to all tie together and feel fairly cohesive. I am glad this is an anthology that is following a series of events and characters that all come together. I think this is such an interesting and fantastic way of writing this and Blythe is my new fave. I really would like more from this story, these characters, and this specific time. I have found that a lot of the stories thus far try to tie up some loose ends so that their stories and arcs are always "complete" but I don't really like that because it feels like we are "jumping" ahead in time rather than having it play out the way it should.

"Interlude One" by George R.R. Martin - 4*

I like getting the alternative history from this that ties together the politics and the way that it interacts with the characters in the novellas.

"Captain Cathrode and the Secret Ace" by Michael Cassutt - 2.5*

I liked the noir aspects to this but that was about it. I'm over women being treated terribly in this and having Jokers be metaphors for a life that these authors will never truly understand.

"Powers" by David D. Levin - 4*

I really like Frank and his story. I thought this was the most interesting of the stories so far and maybe that's because it didn't try to tie the others together or try to sound too similar to the others. Or maybe I just really liked Frank.

I liked that this tied in the bureaucratic part of this and how the people with powers would actually be viewed and used in the United States should this ever happen. I think people forget sometimes that the US wants to protect itself AND use its assets. If you don't think they would 100% use and abuse the people that had special powers to do things for them, you are highly mistaken. And once they weren't useful anymore? Get rid of them.

I liked that this really showcased that and made it very clear how the US isn't perfect when it comes to that while also demonstrating that the Wild Card virus spread around the world and wasn't contained just in North America.

"Shell Games" by George R.R. Martin - 4.5*

From the bit of research I did to find all the stories in this, I know that the main reason this was written was to showcase Turtle and his powers. Martin wanted to basically write just a story about Turtle but thought it couldn't be done without the rest. Honestly, I think it probably could have or that he could have taken up the mantle because this is the best story so far.

You can really tell in this one that Martin cares about the character, the plot, and the setting. He honestly is a fantastic writer and storyteller which definitely comes through in this short piece of fiction. I almost wish this had been earlier in the anthology because it made me really want to listen to the rest of it. There are still a lot of stories left in this but this is by far my favourite so far.

"Interlude Two" by George R.R. Martin - 3*

I like how this, and the other Interludes so far, brings us up to speed on the history and ties in the time periods so we can understand where the stories will be going. I would like them to be a little longer though because it never feels like enough for me.

"The Long, Dark Night of Fortunato" by Lewis Shiner - 1*

Why is the only black character turned into a literal monster? Plus literal hookers and sex being a power source. I am over the treatment of anyone other than white males in this book. I have a lot of hesitations with this one, especially because it is written by a white man. I hope that some of the other volumes and anthologies have more marginalized persons writing stories about marginalized people. Because you can tell that this is written by someone who doesn't have lived experience.

"Transfigurations" by Victor Milan - 2.5*

I don't know how I feel about the continual use of other things/substances used to kick start the powers. I feel like it is too cliche and the types of substances that are being used to do this are making me feel weird about the entire situation. However, I was pretty meh about this story in general and think that the book is on a bit of a downward trend now.

"Interlude Three" by George R.R. Martin - 2*

Again, the black people in this are made out to be stereotypes and racist caricatures of what they are. The only time women are discussed is to make them overly sexual. I can't handle the depictions and it definitely takes away from how cool the powers are, the setting, and the alternative history that is taking place. I seriously hope the future volumes are better.

"Down Deep" by Edward Bryant and Leanne C. Harper - 3.5*

I feel like this is one of those novellas that should have been a full novel because there was actually a lot of good things in this one but I think it felt too ambitious because of how short it was. I would have liked so much more of this if it had felt like a complete story that also meshed with the others instead of 3/4 of a story that sorta fit into the rest of the anthology.

"Interlude Four" by George R.R. Martin - 3*

I think these interludes do a good job of tying all the stories that have just been told into the overarching world. I like how they are more of the alternative history than the rest of the stories. I also think it makes the anthology a little more cohesive to have these thrown in every so often. But they are feeling a little redundant too.

"Strings" by Stephen Leigh - 2.5*

Again, I am not comfortable with white men writing about things they do not understand or have experience in. Because it comes from a place of "we want to help" (probably) but it isn't genuine or authentic. And that bothers me so much because some of these stories could have been amazing if written by marginalized persons who could give a lived experience perspective.

And honestly, I am not here for the amount of women who have been "main characters" but then raped or killed or given no agency because Men Need To Be In Charge. It is just ridiculous and I can't deal with it. The power relations in this too between the Jokers and the Senator is just ridiculous. I need people, especially men, to realize what writing these types of power relations as "love" or even giving them a type of normalcy can do to people who have tried to escape them.

"Interlude Five" by George R.R. Martin - 2*

This is the last Interlude in the anthology. I feel like it is trying to tie things together while allowing for more stories to come, both in the anthology and in the future (and I know there are a billion more volumes after), but it feels a little hokey and not like it is coming together the same way that the other Interludes did.

"Ghost Girl Takes Manhattan" by Carrie Vaughn - 4*

I liked this story a lot but it was one of those that should have been it's own novel. It had some of the characters from before make cameos and brought together some loose threads but overall it could have easily been it's own story. I will say that the best stories in this anthology have been written by women but I'm not surprised by that at all. Here's to the last couple of stories!

"Comes a Hunter" by John J. Miller - 2*

This was meh and not a good way to basically end the anthology. I feel like I barely even listened because I was so bored during the entire thing. I am glad that I don't have too much more to listen to in this one.

"Epilogue: Third Generation" by Lewis Shiner - 2*

Wow this was way too short. The only part of this that really matters is showcasing that there is going to be another anthology which like, obviously was going to happen. I would have liked an actual Epilogue instead of basically another Interlude that didn't tie anything together.

"Appendix: The Science of the Wild Card Virus" by Victor Milan - 3*

This was interesting to learn more about the Wild Card Virus and how the "Science" (aka the mythology that backs this story) has evolved over time. I think it was a good way to end this one because you don't necessarily have to read/listen to this for the rest of the anthology to make sense but it is an interesting thing to know. Especially if you want to continue listening to the volumes.

"Appendix: Excerpts from the Minutes of the American Metabiological Society Conference on Metahuman Abilities" - 3*

This is similar to the other Appendix piece: interesting but not really necessary. It was kind of a weak way to end the anthology, even if it isn't technically a need to read aspect. I would have liked a much stronger ending than this.

Overall - 3*

I liked this overall because it is an extremely interesting world and mythology surrounding all of it. I thought the anthology had a lot of threads that tied it together to make it cohesive, which I really liked. However, like most anthologies, there were stories I enjoyed a lot more than others and some I absolutely loathed. This anthology has a lot of issues, mostly because there is a lack of diversity in the authors and the experiences they bring to the table. I would have liked to see better treatment of women and the characters who were marginalized in some way, especially the black characters, because they were used as fodder for the stories. I have higher hopes for the newest volume, which will be out in August, because it's been 30 years so they should have learned by now, right?

George R.R. Martin was born September 20, 1948 in Bayonne, New Jersey. His father was Raymond Collins Martin, a longshoreman, and his mother was Margaret Brady Martin. He has two sisters, Darleen Martin Lapinski and Janet Martin Patten.

Martin attended Mary Jane Donohoe School and Marist High School. He began writing very young, selling monster stories to other neighborhood children for pennies, dramatic readings included. Later he became a comic book fan and collector in high school, and began to write fiction for comic fanzines (amateur fan magazines). Martin’s first professional sale was made in 1970 at age 21: “The Hero,” sold to Galaxy, published in February, 1971 issue. Other sales followed.

In 1970 Martin received a B.S. in Journalism from Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, graduating summa cum laude. He went on to complete a M.S. in Journalism in 1971, also from Northwestern.

As a conscientious objector, Martin did alternative service 1972-1974 with VISTA, attached to Cook County Legal Assistance Foundation. He also directed chess tournaments for the Continental Chess Association from 1973-1976, and was a Journalism instructor at Clarke College, Dubuque, Iowa, from 1976-1978. He wrote part-time throughout the 1970s while working as a VISTA Volunteer, chess director, and teacher.

In 1975 he married Gale Burnick. They divorced in 1979, with no children. Martin became a full-time writer in 1979. He was writer-in-residence at Clarke College from 1978-79.

Moving on to Hollywood, Martin signed on as a story editor for Twilight Zone at CBS Television in 1986. In 1987 Martin became an Executive Story Consultant for Beauty and the Beast at CBS. In 1988 he became a Producer for Beauty and the Beast, then in 1989 moved up to Co-Supervising Producer. He was Executive Producer for Doorways, a pilot which he wrote for Columbia Pictures Television, which was filmed during 1992-93.

Martin’s present home is Santa Fe, New Mexico. He is a member of Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (he was South-Central Regional Director 1977-1979, and Vice President 1996-1998), and of Writers’ Guild of America, West.

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