The Fantasy Showcase Tarot

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Title: The Fantasy Showcase Tarot
Creator: Bruce Pelz
Date(s): 1980
Medium: print
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The Fantasy Showcase Tarot was organized by Bruce Pelz and the project premiered at the 1980 Worldcon.

Petz invited many science fiction and fantasy artists to create a Tarot deck. He began asking artists to participate in August of 1969; the deck was completed in 1980. Each of the 85[1] cards was drawn by a different artist, with no specific theme or art style for the deck as a whole.

During the 11 years Bruce was collecting the cards, the pool of artists involved changed, and several cards that had been submitted were re-done with improvements. Some submissions were rejected: a "female nude, surrounded by the four Signs of the Apostles, for The Hierophant; the crownless very young man, submitted as a King; two or three others, perhaps." [2]

It was a tarot deck inspired by changes in creating and distributing art, the accessibility and visibility of art available at cons, the rising popularity of fan art:

Artists have always been a prominent feature of the science fiction and fantasy milieu. In the early days-from the 1930's through the 1950's-the professionals exhibited their works on the covers of the magazines and paperback books, while the nonprofessionals had to make do with being published in the amateur journals/fanzines. A number of artists who began in the latter group eventually graduated to the former group, and there were frequent instances of fanzine art being better than that found on the professional publications. Multicolor spirit duplication and hand-drawn fine line mimeography art easily outshone hackwork in four-color process litho.

In 1960, the World Science Fiction Convention added an art show to its features, following a suggestion by the late Seth Johnson and considerable work by Bjo Trimble. The West Coast Science Fantasy Conference followed suit three years later, and other regional conventions in the field were not many years behind. At last there was a means for showing what the amateur artists could do when freed from the limitations of inexpensive reproduction methods. And as the 1960's progressed, more and more artists came to display their works at convention art shows.

The art was in every conceivable style, medium, and format, and of every degree of quality from the great to the utterly worthless. (Which was which was, of course, a variable dependent upon the viewer.) But almost all of it sold if the artists wished it sold - cartoons, portraits, horror scenes, spacescapes, fantasy scenes, and even the untold hundreds of "Star Trek" art that infested the shows of 1968 and 1969. Besides there being large number of artists in the science fiction and fantasy field, there were obviously large numbers of art appreciators, also. [3]

Some Sample Cards

Fanworks Inspired by the Deck

The cover of On the Wing #3.1 featured an illo by Randym that was inspired by Connie Faddis' card. [4]

Reactions and Reviews

David Gerrold had a review of "The Fantasy Showcase Tarot" in Starlog #46 (May 1981). In it, Gerrold described the history of the project, and described and reviewed many cards:

First of all, in its entirety, the deck represents a better collection of science-fiction and fantasy artwork than can be seen in the art shows of most conventions. Most art shows are lucky to have twenty good artists display their work. This deck represents the contributions of eighty-five artists. I think Bruce Pelz has created a true collector's item here; because it represents a cross section of contemporary science-fiction and fantasy imagery. This is an extraordinary documentation of the wide range of style and subject matter that SF artwork can encompass.

—In fact, that diversity may be the deck's single (you should pardon the expression) "flaw" — the lack of consistency in artistic viewpoint. It can be disconcerting to be subjected to such a wide range of styles in what is usually presented as a unified whole.

But that's beside the point. The real reason for the deck is the artwork itself, and each card is a new adventure in discovery, because each one is a different artist's interpretation of that part of the tarot. Many of the interpretations are stunning. Some are quietly (or outrageously) whimsical.

[much about many individual cards snipped]

Karen Kuykendall's Heirophant represents ceremony and the concentration on ritual. The painting shows an austere man in a jeweled blue robe. He is standing on a blue-cobbled floor before an odd-oval window. Beyond is a night of glimmering light. Something about this card makes me think again of the two women portrayed in the Four of Wands, and I wonder if this man is in the castle behind them; he has been studying them and making plans, and now he has just turned away to set them into motion. Why do I suspect that he is up to no good? (You see what I mean about different people seeing different things in a tarot deck?)

I also very much like Connie Faddis' interpretation of The Lovers — it is a genuinely honest eroticism without being pornographic (a difficult task that). There are hints in this painting of at least three different religions, but that again may be a personal reading.


I also want to mention the quality of the production — Pelz has honored the artists' work with a job of reproduction that slights none of the illustrations. The deck is printed on a very heavy stock; not flimsy at all, these cards are meant to be used. The printing of the illos is excellent, with near-perfect color registration and colors so intense they sometimes hurt. [5]


  1. ^ Bruce's article mentions "85 designers; 86 counting the editor," but only 6 extra cards added to the traditional 78.
  2. ^ - Bruce Pelz: The Fantasy Showcase Tarot Deck, Archived version, June 1980 accessed Apr 21 2013
  3. ^ - Bruce Pelz: The Fantasy Showcase Tarot Deck, Archived version, June 1980 accessed Apr 21 2013
  4. ^ comments in On the Wing #4.1
  5. ^ Full text of "Starlog Magazine Issue 046", Archived version