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A story in a deck of cards, 'The Family Arcana,' takes off at Kickstarter

"The Family Arcana" goals were modest: $2,800 to create and print decks of cards that would tell multiple variations of a strange story. It's a classic deck -- four suits, deuce through ace -- that includes several sentences of the surreal, slightly creepy story on each card. Play a card game, hold a story in your hand.

This week, when it was featured as a pick on Kickstarter, "The Family Arcana" took off. Almost 1,000 donors have pledged a total of more than $22,000 to the project. 

Penned by Jedediah Berry, "The Family Arcana" is, they explain on Kickstarter, "the portrait of a sprawling family bound to their decaying farmhouse by a web of passions and strange obsessions." Watch the video and you'll learn that men from the bank come to take the house, and they don't always get away.

The characters include: Sleepwalking Mother, heartbroken Father, bitter old Grandfather, loopy Grandmother, suspicious aunts, uncles and children "who are impossibly numerous, darkly vindictive, and ever watchful." The art is by Eben Kling.

On the Kickstarter page, Berry explains that he woke up one night and began writing the story, which has multiple voices, on individual index cards. "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," he writes.

Taking the index cards to readings, he started treating them like playing cards, shuffling and cutting. The order of a standard playing card deck emerged, matched by the chaos of an almost infinite combination of the stories being ordered and reordered and ordered again (technically, it's not quite infinite, but 8.06581751709439e+67).

Donors who give $12 to the Kickstarter campaign will get a deck of cards; donors who give more can get more sets, a glicee print and signed decks. Donors who give $300 or more will get a card in a secret fifth suit with a new part of the story (only 9 of those remain).

Because the campaign has surpassed its original goal, it has added stretch goals. One is for a soundtrack; another, for an audiobook edition. A third, which has not quite been reached, is for a bonus pack of cards -- horoscopes penned by writers Kelly Link, Holly Black, Mira Bartok, Gwenda Bond, Alexander Chee, Jeffrey Ford and more.

"The Family Arcana" is the debut project from Ninepin Press, an independent publisher created by Berry and Emily Houk.

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