Name and location of repository
Level of description
Lewis Shiner Wild Cards Collection
- 1981-1998, undated (Creation)
3 boxes and 3 oversize folders
Content and structure elements
Scope and content
The materials in this collection consist of typescript pages and drafts, correspondence, and other materials related to Shiner's involvement with the Wild Cards shared universe novel project (1987-present). Most of the materials involve Shiner's direction of the comic book adaptations of the Wild Cards universe, including the 1990 Epic Comics four-part series, and subsequent unpublished stories.
System of arrangement
Conditions of access and use elements
Conditions governing access
These materials are stored offsite and require additional time for retrieval.
Conditions governing reproduction
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Languages of the material
Scripts of the material
Language and script notes
Acquisition and appraisal elements
Immediate source of acquisition
Gift from Lewis Shiner, 2021.
Related materials elements
Existence and location of originals
Existence and location of copies
Related archival materials
Wild Cards is the general title given to the shared superhuman universe of novels created and primarily edited by George R.R. Martin. The first book, Wild Cards, was released in 1987, set mostly in the early days of the wild card epidemic, and continues to run (as of this writing) through 29 subsequent books (the latest being 2022's Full House), having been brought up to the present day. The series is governed by the Wild Cards Trust, a collective of authors that share the universe not only through their own stories but with their own created recurring characters that can be used by other authors. Besides Martin, authors include or have included, among others: Melinda M. Snodgrass, Howard Waldrop, Lewis Shiner, Stephen Leigh, Walter Jon Williams, Walton Simons, John J. Miller, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Victor Milan, Carrie Vaughn, William Wu, and Caroline Spector.
Wild Cards begins in 1946, when a humanoid alien species called the Takisians releases an experimental virus upon Earth, as a test. (The entire Wild Cards series is an exploration of the subsequent wide-reaching social, political, and historical effects of this virus on humanity.) The "wild card" virus (called so by humans because its effects are unpredictable and never affect two people in the same way) rapidly disseminates across the entire planet.
People who contract the virus suffer one of three possible fates. The vast majority of victims die in horrible ways (called "drawing the Black Queen). Of those that survive, most become "jokers", developing serious, often crippling and often dramatic deformities - in many parts of the world, including the United States, jokers suffer discrimination, prejudice, and marginalization. A tiny percentage of virus victims (c. 1%) become "aces", developing powers that often rise to the level of superhuman. In the traditional comic book manner, some aces become superheroes, and others become villains.
Although stories in the series occur in various parts of the world, the primary setting, especially in the earlier books, is New York City, including its joker ghetto 'Jokertown'. The series is notable not only for its colorful fights between aces and aces (and aces and jokers), but its less dramatic but emotionally fraught explorations of how the presence of superheroes, supervillains, and a dramatically different underclass would affect the development of the "real world".
Description control element
Rules or conventions
Collection processed by Jeremy Brett, July 2021.
Finding aid: Jeremy Brett, July 2021.