Barbara Moore | Aly Fell | Steampunk Tarot | Page of Swords

Published by Alison Cross on

Meet the Page of Swords from the forthcoming Steampunk Tarot by Barbara Moore with art by Aly Fell.  Barbara very kindly agreed to answer a few questions about her new deck and about this Page of Swords in particular:

inspired you to make this type of deck?

“Nearly 20 years
ago, during my role-playing game days, I discovered the concept of
steampunk (does anyone remember Castle Falkenstein?), although I
don’t think most of us regular folk called it that; literary types
most certainly were, though. For anyone who loves sci fi, from Star
Trek to Firefly to Dr. Who and anything in Victorian period clothing,
steampunk is a very happy world, indeed.

“Sometime in
2005, during a discussion about man and machine, the past and the
future, nature and technology, and, of course, fashion, a colleague
suggested that I make a steampunk-themed tarot. Knowing it was a very
niche, sub-genre, I filed the idea away, thinking I had plenty of
time before developing the idea and presenting it to my publisher.

thereafter, in 2006, I started collecting links to websites and
portfolios of artists that might be a good match for the deck.

“And then, in
2009, a great publisher of fantasy and science fiction, Tor,
proclaimed October to be Steampunk Month. That’s the day I began
writing the card descriptions that had been taking shape in my mind
for nearly four years. They must have been ready to manifest, because
once I began, they flowed almost effortlessly, as if channeled from
somewhere other than myself, as if from another time and place that
never was.

“In January 2010,
after two months of intense searching for an artist, I found
Fell’s website
…in particular, his image called Judith
(which later was modified and is now our Queen of Cups). I knew the
moment I saw that picture that I wanted Aly on this project. What did
I do? I wrote a long email to a perfect stranger asking him if he
would be interested in taking on the task of giving line, color, and
composition to my words, bringing them to life. As luck would have
it, he was interested. In addition, he did know a little something
about tarot.

“Prior to illustrating, UK-based Aly was
an animator on TV shows such as Dangermouse and Count Duckula,
eventually working for a spell in computer games. He now illustrates, particularly
enjoying creating strong female characters, and his work has been
published in Spectrum, Exotique, and Expose. He is also the co-editor
of two fantasy art collections, and his art has been featured on the
cover of magazines such as ImagineFX. He and his wife like to travel
to as many places as they can and enjoy the dark side of culture,
being fairly active on the Goth scene.

“Aly is a bit shy, but do visit his
wesite, Dark
and his blog, Port Out Starboard Home

you submit detailed briefs to the artist for the Court images you

submitted detailed briefs on every card except the courts. For the
courts, I had a more like schema…I wanted certain cards to be
certain genders and certain suits to be in certain locations. It as
all beautifully worked out and perfectly balanced. Then Aly kind of
threw all my beautiful organization out the window and sent me
individuals rather than representations of the stiff the flow chart
of whatever that I sent him.

our courts were, out of all the cards, more of a journey together
than the others. He would send ideas, I would say “yes, but” or
“no, but this…” In the end, we have peopled our deck with some
fascinating and unforgettable characters.”

Is The Steampunk Tarot an RWS style deck?

deliberately so”.

luff this Page of Swords, t
an air balloon behind her – is that common to all the Pages or to the
Swords as a symbol?

glad you like her. I think she is incredibly adorable and sassy. One
thing I’ve learned doing this deck is that the very nature of
steampunk is that of individuality rather than consistency.
Consequently, except for the suit designators, there are no
consistent symbols in the courts. The Knight of Swords has dirigibles
in the background (and if I remember correctly, I had to beg Aly to
put them in, but I cannot remember why he didn’t want them).”

love her sharp haircut – very Swords! – was that deliberate?

in that I had the cleverness to say “give her a sharp haircut” (I
wish!), but in that the description, the type of person we wanted to
show would be sharp and clear in every way.
let’s say that it is deliberate although it may not have been

the story with this Page? Why is she on the seashore for example?

“Of all the Pages, the Page of Swords is the least
patient and the most prepared, at least in her own opinion, to face
her new adventure, whatever it is. She reminds me of the young men
from landed families who went to WWI as officers. They were raised on
the ideals of Britain and completely certain of their own immortality
and destiny. They were smart (I imagine most of them were well
educated). They believed in themselves and were believed in by
others. So much was placed on them. But as it turns out, they were
not really prepared for what they had to face and afterwards returned
damaged and no one knew how to help them. If this Page reaches out to
you, try to scratch below the bravado and see if she really is ready
for what she is about to take on. 
Maybe stick close to her and lend a
hand whenever she lands.

“In terms of symbolism here, the
military outfit represents a logical and regimented attitude. It is
freshly pressed, clean, and shiny. It is still theoretical and she
has not been able to apply it “in real life” yet. The hot air
balloon…well, obviously it represents air. And being a balloon
rather than a plane or even a dirigible, it seems younger, more
childish in a way. Also, something that I think someone with less
experience would start with. Plus, there would be less people in it,
so less responsibility, which is only right at this stage in her
career. Why is she on the shore? It’s a good way to represent
starting out on a long journey to new places. Plus water, especially
large bodies of water, represent the soul, so it is a nod to the idea
that she’ll be learning about herself as she learns about the
world. That in fact, what she know about life, herself, and her ideas
of how life is supposed to work will all be affected by her
experiences “out there.”

you joogled around the Court sexes a little?!

sure. In some ways, but not as much as you’d think. The pages are
all female except on looks androgynous (I call her female, but he
could be a pretty male). The knights are also all female save the
Knight of Pentacles. The queens are all female and kings are all male
(how dull of me, right?).”

you have the LWB definition for the Page of Swords that you could
share with me for the blog?

nothing so pithy as that. I see the courts a bit different than other
people, but without explaining the whole system, I see the pages as
having the least sphere of influence but being the easiest to manage.
If you need a warm body or an assistant, look for a page. For this
page in particular, I say:

“When the Page of Swords is involved in
your situation, you may either have your hands full or have a helpful
ally…or both! She will bring clarity and insight that you may not
expect from one with her lack of experience. Of course, she will
question everything and demand clear and complete explanations and
then explain to you all the weaknesses therein. If you are looking
for someone to help you analyze a plan of any sort, proof read any
communication, or test an organizational system, this Page will be
invaluable. She is ready to see how she can apply her natural talents
to world at large.”

Many thanks to Barbara for talking with me about this new and beautiful deck!

The Steampunk Tarot will be available in May 2012, but you can pre-book on Amazon here: 

Alison Cross

The Tarot's Court Cards are my specialist area.  They talk to me. Not LITERALLY though ....


alisoncross · 21st February 2012 at 3:32 pm

And I hope that I'll be able to ask you back at a later date, Barbara. Thank you for taking part – I appreciate it 🙂

Ali x

Barbara · 21st February 2012 at 12:47 pm

Thanks, Alison, for inviting me to participate. The Page of Swords and I had a lovely time!

Inner Whispers · 21st February 2012 at 10:38 am

Hi Ali,

It's fascinating to read about the creation process behind a deck, and especially behind these subtle courts. Makes me all the keener to get my hands on this beauty! Thanks to you and Barbara for this insight.

    alisoncross · 21st February 2012 at 3:32 pm

    I love finding out about the creative process too! Still too long to wait now before you get your mits on them!

    Ali x

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