by Carrie Vaughn
When a series has been going on for thirty-five years, it’s inevitable: we have some questions. Just a few details left hanging here and there. Things I just can’t stop thinking about. Here are a few of them.
5. Is Blaise really gone for good? In Melinda Snodgrass’s solo novel Double Solitaire, I experienced profound catharsis and satisfaction when Blaise very much got what he deserved after his horrific behavior toward, well, everyone, when his brain was extracted from his body/the body he was occupying to serve as the disembodied supervisor for a Network irrigation project. I’m sure I’m not alone in this. But I confess: I was also just a tiny bit troubled. Blaise is still out there, theoretically. The implication is there’s not much he can do as a literal brain in a jar. But…but…if anyone could figure out a way to make trouble as a brain in a jar, it would be Blaise. I don’t trust that he’s gone. I just don’t.
4. Ditto Demise. Of course Demise died in Vol. VI, Ace in the Hole. Of course he did! He was beheaded, and when he started growing a new head Tachyon had him cremated. He’s a pile of ashes. Ain’t no coming back from that. Is there? Regeneration powers can only go so far. I mean, how long would it take to regenerate from a pile of ashes? Do we know this? He probably can’t come back. Probably. Maybe.
3. Speaking of the Network… Will the Network ever take a more serious interest in Earth? Other civilizations in the galaxy have to be keeping an eye on Earth and the unexpected directions the Takisian experiment has taken. The virus has produced some crazy super-powered people. Nigh omnipotent, even. Such powers would be an asset to anyone who could take control of them. Or present a profound risk to anyone who couldn’t…. I keep thinking the Network isn’t going to let Earth alone forever. Then what?
2. Here’s a broad philosophical question: What are the implications of functional immortality in the Wild Cards universe? On the series timeline, it’s been nearly eighty years since the first Wild Cards Day. The oldest original Wild Cards characters who are still out there—particularly Croyd Crenson and Jack Braun—are past the ends of a natural lifespan, and still going. They could presumably be murdered by the right application of force, by drowning, or any number of unpleasant accidents. But left to themselves…what? Humanity has long been fascinated by the idea of immortality, and driven by the fear of death. Now, for the first time, this alternate world has a number of people who just might live forever. It’s like they have their own club. (Wait a minute…have they formed a club? Is there, like, Immortals Anonymous? (Gets out idea notebook, scribbles a line or two.)) So…what happens next? Jack Braun still looks to be in his early 20’s, but he’s pushing a hundred these days. How does he manage? Is he able to stay current, or does he miss the old days? Maybe he gets constant requests from historians to talk about something as simple as daily life in mid-century New York. Maybe he likes the attention. Maybe he resents it and turns into a hermit. One thing—he’s outlived everyone who ever held a grudge against him for testifying during the HUAC hearings. And Croyd—might he one day draw the Black Queen, as he fears? For decades, he’s kept up his pattern of drugging himself into wakefulness until he just can’t anymore. Will he ever decide to just stop? I have so many questions.
1. And the number one unanswered question: Whatever happened to Water Lily? Whenever I start talking Wild Cards, whether to an audience or in a casual gathering, someone will ask, Where’s Water Lily? Jane Dow had the power to draw water to her, including drawing it out of her attackers to kill them. Then, during the Typhoid Croyd incident in Vol. V Down and Dirty, she was re-infected and gained the power to cure jokers (and possibly anyone else) of the wild card virus by having sex with them. She went into hiding—and who can blame her? She’s been in hiding ever since. She was a much-beloved character, a likeable innocent in the often tough and terrible world of Wild Card New York. Where is she now? I like to think she’s had a long, lovely, satisfying life, keeping to herself.
Those are my big questions. You might have different ones. (I just know someone is going to bring up Molly Bolt. Sorry, I don’t know what happened to her either.)
Now that I’ve seen how Wild Cards is made from the inside, I understand how sometimes a character, a question, or a conundrum just slips through the cracks. A storyline veers in an unexpected direction, leaving a character behind. We just don’t have time and space to cover every single moment — especially when we have new generations and new worlds to explore. Literal new worlds, in the recently released Joker Moon. The Wild Cards world is messy, just like real life, which is how it was always meant to be.