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  Deuces Down

  George R. R. Martin

  Michael Cassutt

  John J. Miller

  Walton Simons

  Melinda M. Snodgrass

  Daniel Abraham

  Stephen Leigh

  Kevin Andrew Murphy

  An anthology of stories

  “Martin has assembled an impressive array of writers… Progressing through the decades, Wild Cards keeps its momentum to the end… I’m looking forward to the next episodes in this saga of mutant Americana.” – Locus

  “Well written and suspenseful and a good read… The authors had a lot of fun rewriting recent American history.” – Aboriginal Science Fiction

  “Commendable writing… a zany premise… narrated with rueful humor and intelligence.” – Publishers Weekly

  ***

  The first fifteen volumes of the Wild Cards series concerned themselves primarily with aces (those given superhuman powers by the Wild Cards virus) and jokers (those whom the virus transformed into freaks and monsters). But in this all-new collection of Wild Cards stories, Deuces Down will focus on some characters less often in the spotlight: the deuces. In Wild Card slang, a deuce is an ace whose superpower is tiny, trivial, sometimes silly.

  As with the other books in the series, Deuces Down is set in an alternate, shared-world universe. It's here that you'll find the never-before-told tales of the exciting 1969 World Series between the Baltimore Orioles and the Brooklyn Dodgers; the first moon landing, when the whole world wasn't watching; the Great New York City Blackout of 1977; and Grace Kelly's mysterious disappearance during the filming of The French Lieutenant's Woman.

  George R. R. Martin, Michael Cassutt, John J. Miller, Walton Simons, Melinda M. Snodgrass, Daniel Abraham, Stephen Leigh, Kevin Andrew Murphy

  Deuces Down

  Book 16 in the Wild Cards series, 2002

  To Len Wein and Chris Valada,

  my four color friends

  INTRODUCTION

  That the Wild Cards series is still alive and kicking after over 15 years might be a surprise to some, but not to me. Then again, I’m the creator of James Spector, aka Demise, who died from the Wild Card virus but still managed to stay alive long enough to wreak havoc through several volumes of the series. The book you’re getting ready to read, Deuces Down, is not only the first new Wild Card opus in quite some time but also proof that the story ideas and concepts nurtured by the series’ writers have a way of coming to fruition eventually.

  Let me digress for a moment to explain how I was lucky enough to become a Wild Cards author in the first place, since it bears to some degree on Deuces Down. When George R.R. Martin, Melinda Snodgrass, and the rest of the New Mexico writers and gamers were creating the foundation for the series, George cleverly decided to expand his group of participating writers beyond the borders of the Land of Enchantment. Being either incredibly insightful or a masochist, depending on how you look at it, one of the first people George turned to was his long time buddy Howard Waldrop, who wrote “Thirty Minutes Over Broadway!” the lead story in Wild Cards. To know Howard is to love him, but his artistic temperament can best be described as inflexible, so it doesn’t make him ideal for team projects. Howard’s plan was to write his one story and jump ship, which he did. Master agreements and consortium points weren’t part of his game plan.

  At that time, Howard lived in Austin (of which I’m a native and current resident) and was one of the Turkey City writers. Turkey City was, and is, a writers conference where friends sit around reading and then dismembering each other’s stories in turn. Given its Texas location, Turkey City was a bit more of a rock-em, sock-em affair than some of the more genteel writers conferences, but to date no fatalities have been reported among even the more brutalized participants. Another then-Austinite and Turkey Citizen was Lew Shiner, who George also quickly got on board for Wild Cards. Lew loved comic books and was an up-and-comer on the science fiction scene, being (with Bruce Sterling, also an Austinite and a Turkey City writer, I’m sure you’re getting the general drift of this by now) one of the core group in the newly formed cyberpunk movement. Lew’s character Fortunato, along with his antagonist, the Astronomer, was an integral part of the first Wild Cards triad. Lew, Howard, and I hung out a lot, including going on a weekly comic-buying run. Since I was also a Turkey City regular, Lew knew I could write, and sold George on giving me a shot at Wild Cards. How hard a sell he had to give George, I’m not sure. George had met me several times, read one of my early (unpublished and unpublishable) stories, and agreed to see what I could do. I wasn’t entirely without credentials, having done some work for DC Comics that eventually showed up in World’s Finest and House of Mystery as well as having a short story or two published.

  Incidentally, I did the comic book writing under the name Bud Simons, which is what everyone calls me, although I’d been using Walton Simons for my fiction. This created mistaken assumptions about my true identity later on, but how was I to know? In any case, I was completely psyched to be on the Wild Cards team. The notion of being in the same book as Roger Zelazny filled me with glee, but I was going to have to earn it. The first book Wild Cards was already full, so I went to work on a Demise story for Aces High that I cleverly tied into Lew’s Fortunato yarn. George bought it and I’ve been lucky enough to be a Wild Carder ever since.

  Now in those days, if you got a couple of Wild Cards writers together, sooner or later (usually sooner) the conversation would drift to aces, jokers, and upcoming story ideas. The exception, as always, was Howard, who was far to busy for all this folderol, other than to explain (in consummate Waldropian logic) how his piece of the Wild Cards pie would keep getting bigger over time. Lew and I, on the other hand, spent a lot of time bouncing ideas off each other. In the process, we came up with Kid Dinosaur and most of the Astronomer’s ace cronies.

  During one of the early sessions, I went off on an absurd tangent and made up characters like Sign Girl, who could stand up in front of a neon sign or billboard, look like one of the letters, and disappear, Grow-Grip Man, whose hands became enormous when he grabbed someone, and Puddle-Man. Puddle-Man looks like… well if you’ve read Bradbury’s “Skeleton” you know what he looks like. If you want to find out how that might actually be useful, read “Walking the Floor Over You” later in this book.

  Which brings us back to Deuces Down. As writers, we’ve been talking about doing this particular book in the Wild Cards canon for a long time. After all, for every alpha ace power like those of Fortunato, the Turtle, and Golden Boy, there has to be an omega. Might not the effect on those lives be as dramatic as those fortunate enough to receive more profound abilities? We always thought so, and you hold the result of that notion in your hands. Deuces Down has another advantage in that its stories aren’t all contemporary. The first book covered the history of the Wild Cards universe during its first forty years or so, but since that time the stories had remained firmly in the here and now. With Deuces Down those first four decades are opened up again to the possibilities of the storytellers herein. We hope you enjoy the results.

  Just for the record. Walton Simons is not a pseudonym for the wonderfully talented comic book artist/writer Walt Simonson. Not that I wouldn’t give a lot to be able to draw as well as he does. “A lot” doesn’t include being a Wild Cards writer, which I don’t think I’d trade for much of anything short of world peace.

  Walton Simons

  February 22, 2002

  STORMING SPACE by Michael Cassutt