Images and Symbols in Dan and Dave’s “Sons of Liberty” Deck

There’s a deck of cards based on the people and images of the US Revolutionary War, and there seem to be some secrets hidden within. It’s like Christmas!

First, go get Dan and Dave’s Sons of Liberty Playing Cards, because they’re beautiful. Next, let’s take a close look and see what we can find,

The Outside

Let’s start with some of the particulars of the box.

sons-of-liberty-playing-cards-12[1]Sealed with a sticker. A variation on the Anti-Stamp Act logos.

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Upon opening, we get a hidden “Liberty Or Death”, reference to Thomas Paine.

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Also, the side tabs present a snake and a lit fuse.

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The snake in this set of images probably doesn’t connote evil, but rather refers to Franklin’s  Join Or Die image. Why Franklin chose a snake over any other animal which is dead when cut into pieces, I couldn’t say.

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The card backs present a mix of images related to the founding and icons of the Freemasons.

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Here we have the eagle, a wee Liberty Bell, and a banner displaying the motto “Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God”.  This motto comes from Franklin’s proposal for the Great Seal, and was apparently adopted by Jefferson for his personal seal. (Note: we need to bring back personal seals.) 

The Masonic Square and Compass logo, as well as everyone’s favorite pyramid-topper The Eye of Providence are featured prominently.

The Cards

Now to the best part:  the cards themselves. The general rule seems to have been to use famous figures for the kings and queens, and then more general roles as the Jacks.

Kings:

The King of Spades, with the crossing of the Delaware behind him, can only be Washington.

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The King of Hearts is Paul Revere on his midnight ride, ft. a lantern and the Old North Church.

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The King of Diamonds, backed with images similar to those in John Trumbull’s painting of the signing, I am assuming to be John Hancock. TJ’s hair is way too messy.

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The King of Clubs has some mystery to it. With the Tea Party in the background, I think we can safely say this is Samuel Adams.

Especially when we compare to his non-beer portrait. (Thank you, MFA Boston).

But what of the Masonic symbols in his hands? Why Adams and not the others? A quick googling returns citations of all of the other three kings as Masons, but not Adams. Or, in the broader sense of the imagery in the deck, are we to see Adams an an architect of the Revolution? He was certainly active in the Sons of Liberty. MYSTERIES ABOUND.

 

The Queens.

Great stuff in here.

The Queen of Spades, loading a cannon under enemy fire, is folk hero Molly Pitcher.  I had never heard of Pitcher until I started looking into this deck, and I have yet to forgive my Social Studies teachers.

Now here’s something notable; the scrollwork on her clothes has two snake-heads (just at her collar). There’s scrolly goodness on all these cards — why are we just seeing the snakes now? Hmmm….

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The Queen of Hearts is Betsy Ross. Note the inclusion of the queenly flower.

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The Queen of Diamonds, with laurel, spear, dove and Greek-looking head apparel, is the “goddess” Columbia. (Full disclosure: I always just called her “Lady Liberty” until I heard the name “Columbia” from a friend.)

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The Queen of Clubs. Let me say the thing about my Social Studies teachers again. I mean, they were all fine folks and taught a bunch of great stuff. But I never heard tell of Nancy Hart, who got a bunch of enemy soldiers drunk and killed them with their own gun. Awesome.

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The Jacks

Head-scratchers. I don’t think they’re meant to be particular people, but I’m not sure.

Jack of Spades. A naval captain. John Paul Jones?

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Jack of Hearts: A blacksmith, beating what we have to assume was once a ploughshare into a sword.

Note the snake-head at his shoulder! What the heck’s going on with those?

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Jack of Diamonds: Ah the noble aspect of the patriot soldier.

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Appears to have been influenced by this illustration by FOC Darley. (?)

 

Jack of Clubs: a drummer. Not the one from the famous painting.

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The other cards

The Ace of Spades, traditionally used for the company’s logo and other rad illustrations, features the Liberty Tree with 1776 above it. I thought it might be the Charter Oak, but the leaf shape seems elmier.

And there’s our buddy the snake again, this time in a figure-eight knot.

 

The Joker may be my favorite card in this deck. The stocks, symbol of abusive governmental punishments, now in disuse and growing ivy.

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And that’s that. If you have any clues on the images in this beautiful deck, please let me know!

So Close! – GPS Artists

Well, I almost made it. GPS art is now an app.

From Atlas Obscura:

GPS DOODLES TURN YOUR WORKOUT INTO AN ART PROJECT

 

From Glitch Rain, which comes out in two weeks:

“We currently have on board a half-dozen poets, of the ‘predictive text’ and ‘found spam’ schools mainly, as well as the current Clickbait Laureate of Scotland. A drone choreographer and an auto-tune violinist are collaborating on a new rendition of Ashton’s Ondine, and you can watch a live feed of their home workshop from any mobile device. That GPS painter who sent Uber cars all over Tijuana has been openly hiding out with us for a few years. That one who set up a Google maps overlay to draw a self-portrait from their routes.

 

News – Novella GLITCH RAIN Due out 2/16 with Apex!

Very happy to announce that I have signed a contract with Apex Publications for my cyberpunk nouveau novella GLITCH RAIN. Come February 2016, get ready for some drones, container homes, hackers, and heavy, heavy drinking*!

Apex Publications is pleased to announce that we have acquired Alex Livingston’s GLITCH RAIN.

GLITCH RAIN is a post-cyberpunk novella set in the same world as the short story “Proximity” that appeared in Apex Magazine. The novella will be the fourth book in our Apex Voices series!

Alex Livingston’s short fiction has appeared in Apex Magazine, Daily Science Fiction, Bastion Magazine, among others. He self-published the novel Rhymer, an Irish wonder myth told as an exciting sci-fi space opera.

GLITCH RAIN is set to be released in February, 2016.

http://www.apexbookcompany.com/blogs/frontpage/79933057-novella-acquisition-glitch-rain-by-alex-livingston

*By the characters. And me, let’s be honest here.

 

Black Mirror: Writing Stakes

If there’s anything cyberpunk nouveau Twilight Zone TV show Black Mirror is good for, it’s tension. I binged the first two seasons yesterday, having intended to just watch one episode. Edge of my seat, standing and shouting, creeped the hell out.

So how did they do it?

The first episode hits you with major life-and-death-and-the-crown stakes in the first minute and doesn’t let you go. Seriously tense. The conceit is so wild it’s almost gimmicky, so how to keep this going in future episodes? Raise them stakes.

[SPOILERS]

The Entire History of You: In a world where you can play back any memory, what happens when you suspect your wife of having feelings for an old friend? Higher – maybe they slept together when you stormed out for a week. Higher – And doesn’t the timing match the conception of your child?

Be Right Back: Your husband dies in a car accident. Higher – you just moved into his family’s old farmhouse, miles from anywhere. Higher – Oh, and you’re pregnant.

Brian Staveley lays out three kinds of literary tension as psychological, social, and environmental in this post (A LOVER, A PIGLET, AND A DEEP HOLE; OR, THREE TYPES OF TENSION), and they can certainly be applied to these episodes.

The Entire History of You:

Psychological: The main character has trust and jealousy issues. This has led his wife to be less than honest about her past relationships.

Environmental: And memories can be played back. Harder to lie now.

Social: Throw his wife’s rakish former lover in the mix.

Be Right Back:

Psychological: Martha is a social person. She prefers to be actually present in her life, rather than sinking into social media and her phone.

Environmental: She is utterly alone out in the countryside, and soon to be a single mum. A friendly voice in the dark sure helps….

Social: And now she can talk with an AI that talks just like her dead husband. She reminds herself he’s not real, and eventually hates “him” for it,.

These are episodes which mainly feature people sitting around and talking, and they shook the hell out of me. Every new layer of tension got a verbal “oh shit”. Good stuff.

Back to the Future II: Surprisingly Cyberpunk

12118970_1020177268026997_3376775669711255293_nLook at those kids.  Change the saturation on this pic and you’ve got yourself a cyberpunk dystopia.

The bad guys in Back to the Future II (set tomorrow) dress like the California suburb version of cyberpunks, which implies that actual cyberpunks must be around somewhere. Like, teched out clothes and circuit-board makeup are being used by the real deal in the dark corners of the cities, and some coolfinder borrowed the style to put in the malls.

So, here’s your gritty cyberpunk BttF 2015 super-flash fan fic:

Relax. Enjoy your 3D movies. Don’t pay attention. Ignore the tremor in the voice that dries your clothes. Don’t think about the freaker who can hack your kid’s hoverboard. Don’t connect the rise in certain stocks with Cubs alleged win, or the fact that no one you know actually attended the World Series. Just keep thumbing away your money, bozo. You’ve given us the whorls on your skin. What else will you give us? What else can we take?

Hacking your biometrics is easier than even the fear-mongering propagandvertisements tells you. USA Today’s not the only one with drones. The eyes that keep you safe are everywhere, which means we’re everywhere. Hi-res photo plus 3D-printed skin equals us spending your cash wherever we go.

We know where you are. We know where everyone is. And we can tell you this — there’s someone in this town that doesn’t belong.

Three people. A man and two teens. We don’t know how they got here. And we don’t like not knowing things.

I mean, come on.

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A Little Bit O’ Star Wars / Hamlet Goofiness

A buddy asked me to write something to go a long with this photo. So I did!

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Alas, poor Porkins! I knew him, dear Lando; a fellow of infinite blasters, a most excellent pilot; he hath covered Gold Team’s six a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my Jedi senses it is! E’en the rancor snorts at it. Here hung that blast shield he wore I know not how oft. Where be your s-foils now? Your torpedoes? Your shields? Your flashes of covering fire that were wont to set the TIE fighters aflame?

 

New Game Gets Post-Cyberpunk Storytelling Right – Transistor

It took me two tries to really get into Supergiant’s action RPG Transistor , and boy am I glad I did.

I wasn’t in the right mood when I first loaded it up is the thing. I wanted fast and mindless. So I dumped a bunch more hours into the hamster wheel of Destiny, then returned when I was ready for the real stuff.

I’ve written about new cyberpunk here before, so no surprise that a new and unique treatment of the genre would attract my attention. But… nowhere on the game’s site is the word ‘cyberpunk’ mentioned. Why? I mean, your powers have names like Crash() and Ping().

Here’s my guess. It’s the pantone thing. As soon as you say the ‘C’ word, it’s all twitching data junkies in alleys and wraparound sunglasses with stark color gradients. Green and black. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!) The visual aesthetic of the genre’s origins has come to define it.

And along comes Transistor, closer to noir than anything else. You play as a famous singer, not a leather-clad street samurai.  It’s fashion and high art, not jackers and addicts. But the tropes are there — AI, technology and identity, personality as software. It’s cyberpunk without the trappings. A new take.

Four story-telling elements of note:

  • Each new power is the… mind? soul? program?… of a human being involved in the back story. You want the full tale? You need to use the power in different ways to unlock it. A great way to blend a rewards system with world-building.
  • The MC’s voice has been taken, and the sword-thing she’s carrying around won’t shut up. The voice of the transistor sets the tone of each scene and drives the emotional response without ever getting annoying. It’s very well done.
  • Speaking of the transistor’s voice, on the PS4 it comes through the controller’s speaker. The guiding voice is coming from what you’re holding, just as it’s coming from what the MC is holding. It seems a small thing, but it really packs some emotional punch.
  • So how does the MC (Red) communicate? How do we get a sense of who she is? News terminals are set throughout the city (classic cyberpunk there), and Red adds comments to the public feed. You see her type something, then change her mind. What does this mean? Is she impulsive, with just enough sense to keep her from saying anything too crazy? Is she a strategist, arguing with herself over the best play?
    • One particularly fine moment is the first Red uses one of these terminals something for the transistor to read. It’s the first actual interaction we see between them, and it comes unexpectedly. A cool, surprising use of the tech — which is what cyberpunk is really about, right? The street, and the protagonist, finds its own uses for things.

Gameplay is varied and fun as well. So go play it!

‘Proximity’ in Apex

I’m proud to announce that my story Proximity is in this month’s Apex Magazine. (link) It’s one of the pieces they make available online for free, so it’s out there for all the world. Many thanks to Sigrid Ellis et al. for working with me!

This story marks my first foray into the cyberpunk-nouveau thing I’ve been riffing on for a while. It’s been about a year since I first wrote it, and I’ve used the same setting for a couple of other pieces now. One was a 3d-printing chase story for J. M. McDermott’s March Flash Madness, (which was a blast and everyone should participate in next year so get ready), and will be available in the e-book collection of the same.  The other is a novella which is currently out on the far shores of submission land. So if you dig Proximity, keep your eyes open!

Why Hillary Will Be President: Old Magicks

In 1776, the mages and augurs who oversaw the sacred rites of Founding, Declaration, and Constitution put into place a number of long-term spells (often referred to as “curses” or “boons”, depending on their intent — and interpretation) to secure the binding. One of these was translated roughly as “E Pluribus Unum”. Subtleties of language between English, Latin, and the unknowable source text* has led contemporary thinkers to read this as “Out of many, one”, but this is not entirely the case.

The E Pluribus Unum spell (hereafter referred to as “the EPU”) states that the last name of every President will be used exactly twice. Adams, Roosevelt, Bush, for example.

Does the spell require this binary relationship? Or does it create it? A matter of great debate. It the opinion of some scholars that the Kennedy “assassination” was facilitated by the spell’s requirement — a second Johnson needed to take the office. Some even go so far as to posit that the EPU has reached into the psyche of populace and can be found reflected in popular culture. Archie Bunker’s plaint that “we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again” has been read as such**.

Of particular note is Grover Cleveland, an accomplished magus in his own right, who may have used a loophole in the text of the EPU to become elected on two non-consecutive occasions. In a telegram to British spiritualist and author Sir A. C. Doyle, he states that “no-where in the Codex is it explicitly stated that the Name in question must be held by two separate men”.

There will almost certainly be another Clinton in the Oval Office, but whether or not Hillary would satisfy the EPU is unclear. Does the spell require that the incumbent’s birth name be used twice, or would a married name suffice?

A topic as dry and arcane as this may seem trivial, but it would serve to keep in mind that once every last name has been used exactly twice, the nation will fall. If this is true, and we were to assume the continuation of four-year terms, we can count on a minimum of another century or so***, but after that, what?

 

*The use of three languages is key to spellcraft. There needs be a living language (English in this case), a dead one (Latin), and a third, neither living nor dead. This is the secret language of magic, of course, and can only be understood by the initiated.

** Was J. Edgar meant to become President? Is that why his name appears in Ghostbusters as a vengeful, destructive force?

*** Though, William Henry Harrison’s brief tenure reminds us there must be some leeway. He served to fulfill the binary name requirement, certainly, but not for long.