Monday, July 23, 2012

The flash of his cards was sprayed with red: Riddled Book Club

There was a phase in fantasy & science fiction when authors would invariably include the Tarot deck somewhere in their books, as a plot engine or character-generating tool, in the fond hope of thereby elevating them above the level of pulp fiction into the serene realm of Archetypes and Serious Literature. The lesser Tarot cards and the Greater Arcana were supposed to symbolise a Higher Reality -- the hidden machinery that animates the flux of the quotidian world.
A low point in Krautrock supergroups
One of the first and arguably the best in the genre* is Charles Williams' The Greater Trumps. In it we learn that the four Tarot suits Swords, Sceptres, Coins and Cups correspond to the Four Elements brass, woodwind, percussion and strings fire, wind, earth and water. Also that an Adept can command the elements by shaking the deck the right way,** creating blizzards and suchlike freak weather events:
Eventually the Tarot gimmick lost its new-book smell and authors searched for less familiar belief systems to tap into when they wanted to suggest mysterious powers behind the scenes, and invoke a sense of Otherness. For a while it was Haitian Vodou and you couldn't open a fantasy novel without tripping over a Vévé,*** or attend a Con without running into half-a-dozen Cosplayers dressed as Papa Legba and demanding rum. I hope those were costumes.

Here at the Riddled Research Laboratory and Tractor Trade-in Bargain Emporium, our collective curiosity is piqued as to where they will turn next. Santeria is a possibility but my money is on Mami Wata.

It is merely a coincidence that the Tarot deck is also used to raise the hurricane in The Face in the Frost:
The corollary follows that other freak weather events must also be the result of Tarot-card misuse. Especially global warming. All we have to do to restore the normal climate is find the right Gypsies Rmoneys Romani who are pointing cards to invoke the element of Fire, and take their deck off them.

L. Greater Trumps: The Fool

R. Lesser Trump

* Yes, The Castle of Crossed Destinies is a better book but it does not count because shut up that's why the Tarot cards serve a different narrative purpose there.

** Offer only valid if it is the Ur-Deck, of which other tarot decks are no more than copies, standing in the same relation to the original as a cargo-cult bamboo construction stands to a real cargo plane.

*** Tim Powers' main source for On Stranger Tides was Maya Deren's Divine Horsemen. Conversely, Lucius Shepard relied on Alfred Métraux's ethnological study for the voodoo aspects of Green Eyes. The proof is left as an exercise for the reader.

12 comments:

Substance McGravitas said...

All we have to do to restore the normal climate is find the right Gypsies who are pointing cards to invoke the element of Fire, and take their deck off them.

You can't just go snatch them, you might rip The Moon in two.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

1) Earth, Wind, and Fire, you say?

2) You realize that when you finish and publish old drafts rather than pasting everything into a New Post, you mess with the bubble-up blogroll system. PRIMAL FORCES, S.C.!
~

mikey said...

Not Fair!!

I wanna know more about the little army. Yeah, the one that can't go outside when it's windy. (Who IS tripping down the streets of the city smiling at everybody she sees? I suspect she's a bit of an idiot, whoever she is.)

Is this little army like eleven doods in old, tight fitting uniforms and high tops, or is it a whole bunch of little bitty soldiers who, collectively, lack the combat power to defeat anything larger than a nest of voles?

On a similar note, I think there should be a Texas Hold 'em version of the Tarot, if for no other reason than to exploit the latest hipster craze.

Also, too, I'd like to see someone go all in his cups...

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Who IS tripping down the streets of the city smiling at everybody she sees? I suspect she's a bit of an idiot, whoever she is.

She might just have a Weed Card.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Weed card you if you look like you're under 40.

- Sign at Food Lion

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Weed Card

wiley said...

Whose illustrations are those at the top of the post? Lovely and funny they are.

Substance McGravitas said...

Edward Gorey. You are in for a treat.

Another Kiwi said...

Born under the sign of the waltzing mouse: You will have a weakness for Strauss music and cheese. You will be shunned by your fellow mice but possibly kept as entertainment for cats.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Here at the Riddled Research Laboratory and Tractor Trade-in Bargain Emporium, our collective curiosity is piqued as to where they will turn next.

My guess is blood sugar sex magic.

It is merely a coincidence that the Tarot deck is also used to raise the hurricane in The Face in the Frost:

Ya never know when you'll have to break a bridge!

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

R. Lesser Trump

The Knave of Clubs.

Smut Clyde said...

Oh very good.