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Shuffle, cut, play, read. A story about a haunted family, published as a poker deck and written to be read an infinite* number of ways.
Shuffle, cut, play, read. A story about a haunted family, published as a poker deck and written to be read an infinite* number of ways.
1,479 backers pledged $32,050 to help bring this project to life.

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The Family Arcana: A Story-in-Cards by Jedediah Berry

$32,050

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Major Updates

♥︎ $16,000 UNLOCKED: Every backer will receive a special playing card with a download code for the instrumental soundtrack for "The Family Arcana," recorded by The Suitcase Junket. Details here.

♠︎ BONUS UNLOCKED: Every backer will receive a download code for the audio edition of "The Family Arcana." Details here.

♣︎ $23,000 UNLOCKED: Every backer pledging at the $12 level or higher will receive our first bonus pack: twelve horoscope cards written by twelve excellent writers. Details here.

♦︎ $26,000 UNLOCKED: Every backer pledging at the $12 level or higher will receive our second bonus card pack: recipes & curiosities from the world of the story and cards for a game unique to "The Family Arcana" (about twelve cards total). Details on the game are here and some of the new art is here.

The Story

The Family Arcana is a work of fiction to be published as a deck of playing cards, with each card containing a piece of the story. The cards may be read in any order: play a round of poker and read your hand aloud, pick your favorite cards and string them together, or shuffle the entire deck and see what happens.

A project years in the making, The Family Arcana is the work of author Jedediah Berry. It is the portrait of a sprawling family bound to their decaying farmhouse by a web of passions and strange obsessions. Sleepwalking Mother, heartbroken Father, bitter old Grandfather, loopy Grandmother, a jittery flock of suspicious aunts, uncles, and cousins: all their stories are told by the children of the house, who are impossibly numerous, darkly vindictive, and ever watchful.

Each shuffle of the deck reveals a new pattern of secrets, confessions, anxieties, indictments, and dreams. The family grows, shrinks, and changes, trapped forever in its haunted house of cards.

*The actual number of variations is 8.06581751709439e+67 (a number 68 digits in length).

Card Back / Three of Hearts
Card Back / Three of Hearts

So Why Playing Cards, Mr. Berry?

I'm so excited to finally be sharing this project with you.

It started about three years ago, when I woke one night with a voice in my head. Except is was more like a dozen voices, all trying to tell their stories at once. Like me, these folks were in an old farmhouse at the edge of town. They were trying to tell me about something terrible that had happened, or about something terrible that was going to happen. I got up, went to my desk, and opened a pack of index cards. I started writing. I wrote until the sun came up.

After that night, I always kept a few index cards handy. Whenever new parts of the story came to mind, I’d take out the cards and jot them down. For each new piece of the puzzle, I allowed myself only one side of a single index card, but contained in each card I'd often find the kernel of an idea for the next.

Later, I began to experiment with the story at public readings. I shuffled the cards and asked someone from the audience to cut the deck. I let the story take a new shape every time. The readings felt surprising and also collaborative. Afterwards, people would tell me which parts were their favorites, which characters they wanted to hear more about.

I kept writing. I realized that I would soon have a full deck of cards, and that the cards could be mapped to the standard suits, applying a kind of order to this chaos of voices. A lot of people asked me where they could find a deck of the cards, and for a long time, I had no answer. This campaign could change that.

I’ve grown to love this tragic family of oddballs, dreamers, and lost souls. But after years in their company, I’m finally ready to let them go. I hope others will take them in.

—Jedediah Berry

Five of Spades / Joker A
Five of Spades / Joker A

Who Are We?

Ninepin Press is a new independent publisher of innovative fiction and poetry. We are interested in bold storytelling, unusual voices, and experimental forms. We love bestiaries, old maps, board games and card games, science fiction and fantasy, mysteries, gardens of forking paths, comic books, and cabinets of curiosities. We want to publish great fiction and poetry, and we want to create beautiful objects.

By supporting our fundraiser, you will help us publish our first title in its ideal format: a deck of playing cards featuring color card backs and jokers. The illustrations are by artist Eben Kling.

The co-editors of Ninepin Press are Jedediah Berry and Emily Houk. In addition to writing The Family Arcana, Jedediah is the author of a novel, The Manual of Detection, which won some awards and was adapted for broadcast by BBC Radio. For a sample of his work, check out this story, free to read online at Tor.com, or track down a copy of The Manual of Detection at your local bookstore or library. Jedediah also has nearly twenty years of experience in independent publishing. He serves as an associate editor of Conjunctions, and he has worked as an editor for Small Beer Press and as Managing Editor of the poetry journal jubilat.

Emily Houk is a writer and librarian, and something of a secret agent in certain corners of the book world. She has held many odd jobs—fish counting, butter-cutting, cooking at a sorority—but she always gravitates back toward libraries, books, and reading. She's worked at five libraries in Western Massachusetts and currently works at one. The first card game she learned to play was Thirty-One, gambling with nickels and dimes up near the Canadian border.

We are grateful to everyone who helped make the video above. The music is by The Suitcase Junket, and the art is by Eben Kling. Readers include Bik Aulakh, Christina Barber, Cait Bliss, Emily Houk, Ish Klein, Matt Lorenz, and Greg Purcell.

Where Will the Money Go?

Into a hole in the ground. Then we'll dig it up and use it to cover the costs of printing and shipping the cards and other rewards, and to pay our illustrator. If things go very well, we'll make the cards even better. Possibilities include more art, hand-lettering, custom tuck boxes, etc. More on all that in good time.

Ace of Diamonds
Ace of Diamonds

Risks and challenges

We are familiar with the challenges that can arise in publishing. Printing delays, shipping woes, the dreaded typographical error: we’ve seen them all. That’s why we’re keeping our first publication simple. Decks of cards can be printed and shipped quickly, and they can be manufactured right here in the US.

A lot of the hard work is already done. The story is written, the art is ready, the design is underway. We’re confident that our experience in books and publishing have prepared us for this first foray, and we are dedicated to creating a fun, playful, and beautiful work of art.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 4 or more About US$ 4

    As a token of our thanks for your support, we'll send you a card drawn at random from a finished deck.

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    Pledge US$ 12 or more About US$ 12

    PLAYING WITH A FULL DECK

    One copy of The Family Arcana, all 54 cards, some of them possibly haunted.

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    995 backers
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    Pledge US$ 24 or more About US$ 24

    TWO DECKS (ONE SIGNED)

    Two copies of The Family Arcana deck, one signed by the author and illustrator. For you collectors out there who like to keep one copy handy and lock the other away in your root cellar.

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    352 backers
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    Pledge US$ 46 or more About US$ 46

    FOUR DECKS

    Four copies of The Family Arcana deck, including one copy signed by the author and illustrator. One for you, more for your friends. Or just hoard them all—we won't tell.

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    60 backers
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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 52 or more About US$ 52

    UNCUT SHEET

    All the cards on a single uncut sheet (approx. 26" x 22"), suitable for framing or—we suppose—for cutting. Also includes 2 copies of The Family Arcana deck, one copy signed by the author and illustrator.

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    Pledge US$ 68 or more About US$ 68

    SIX DECKS

    Six copies of The Family Arcana deck, including two copies signed by the author and illustrator. Hey, this is starting to look suspicious.

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    7 backers
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    Pledge US$ 100 or more About US$ 100

    BURNING HOUSE PRINT

    A giclée print on fine art paper (11" x 14") of the card back art by Eben Kling (see project description). We'll also include the uncut sheet of all the cards and 2 copies of The Family Arcana deck, one copy signed by the author and illustrator.

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    16 backers
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    Pledge US$ 132 or more About US$ 132

    TWELVE DECKS

    Twelve copies of The Family Arcana deck, including four copies signed by the author and illustrator. Say, just how many friends do you have, anyway?

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    Pledge US$ 300 or more About US$ 300

    CUSTOM CARD

    Jedediah Berry will write a new part of the story, and we'll publish it on a custom card and send it to you. The card will be part of a fifth SECRET SUIT. You can add it to your deck, keep it up your sleeve, or hide it away forever. We'll also include the giclée print, the uncut sheet, and 2 copies of The Family Arcana deck, one copy signed by the author and illustrator.

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Funding period

- (30 days)