The Space Pirate’s Legacy

As of today, all rights for the so-called “Old Star/New Earth” series have been reverted to me from Lachesis Publishing. This includes my novels The Solar Sea, The Pirates of Sufiro, Children of the Old Stars, and Heirs of the New Earth. For the time being, this means that ebook editions are no longer available and the only print copies available are copies retailers have in stock, or used copies.

It’s a little sad to see these titles go out of print, but in the long run, I think this will be for the best. Also, I should mention that Lachesis did offer to renew my contracts, but I’m the one who terminated them, not because I’m unhappy with Lachesis, but because I think the time has come for new editions of these books. In fact, I still have three titles with Lachesis: The Astronomer’s Crypt, Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order, and Vampires of the Scarlet Order. I still have a good relationship with them and nothing but respect and goodwill toward the company.

To better explain the reason I terminated my contracts, I should step back and give you some history. All four of these novels were originally acquired and published by LBF Books. Lachesis Publishing acquired LBF and Lachesis itself has gone through a couple of ownership changes since then.

When I sold The Pirates of Sufiro and Children of the Old Stars to LBF, they asked me for a series title. The obvious title to me at the time was “The Cluster series” because the series is about solving the mystery of the alien known as the “the Cluster.” The problem is that a series of that title already existed and I wanted to avoid confusion. So, in a rush to come up with something, I called it “The Old Star Saga” based on the title of the second book. I never was happy with the title but LBF’s editorial team didn’t question it, so it stuck.

Another issue was that I was not satisfied with the ebook editions generated soon after ebooks started taking off in popularity. The books were converted directly from the PDF files using optical character recognition software. The work was adequate for the time, but the process introduced numerous typos and formatting errors. I spoke to the current owners a while back about correcting these editions and they decided the errors weren’t serious enough to warrant the work needed to make corrections.

Finally, The Solar Sea was never intended to be part of this series. I wrote it as a standalone novel set in the same universe, but much earlier in time. Despite that, Lachesis marketed The Solar Sea as “Book 4,” which I think created some confusion.

So, by getting the rights to these books back, I hope to correct these issues. Over the coming months, I plan to re-edit the books and put out new editions through my company, Hadrosaur Productions. Since publishing the Old Star Saga, I’ve written numerous short stories featuring Captain Firebrandt of The Pirates of Sufiro. I want to put those stories together in a standalone book. To my mind, it makes sense that this new book should be “Book 1” of the rebranded series.

The revised series will be called “The Space Pirate’s Legacy Series” because it’s about Captain Firebrandt and his descendants. There’s also a play on the fact that Firebrandt’s ship is the Legacy. My goal in the re-edit will simply be to correct faults, update the science, improve the prose a bit, and clarify some things. If you already have the original editions, I don’t want you to feel you need to buy the updates unless you just want to! And of course, there will be a whole new book 1.

I want to take a moment and thank everyone who has read these books, written reviews, and shared them. Later this year, I’ll share ways you can help with the revised series. There will be opportunities to help shape the revisions, bonus perks and more pirate loot to come! I hope you’ll join me for this exciting voyage to the galaxy’s far side and back!

Bodacious Space Pirates

Let’s just get this out of the way. When I first saw the title “Bodacious Space Pirates” and the Blu-ray cover on a website, I thought this might be the kind of anime that creepy old guys watch with the shades drawn and the lights down low. Fortunately, being a fan of space pirates, I took time to learn a little more and discovered several positive reviews of the series by women. It turns out this is actually a fun space opera about a high school girl in the future, living on a planet orbiting Tau Ceti who has inherited the captaincy of a pirate ship, the Bentenmaru, from her long lost father.

bodacious-space-pirates In this world, space pirates are a holdover from a war in the distant past. They’ve mostly been forgotten by the time our protagonist, Marika Kato, is in high school, but they still exist, largely to perform courier runs or entertain posh passenger liners with mock pirate raids. Two members of her father’s pirate crew have come to watch over her at school and begin her training as the new captain. In her life as a high school student, Marika is a member of the school yacht club, who have an old solar sailing ship they can use to travel around the Tau Ceti system. As a member of yacht club, Marika begins learning many of the skills she needs to be a ship captain.

The pirate ship Bentenmaru operates under a letter of marque that will expire if the ship doesn’t go on any missions for a period of time. Because of that, Marika’s crew guide her by the hand on her first few missions. On one of the early missions, a princess stows away and asks Marika for help tracking down an ancient ghost ship.

My only real criticism of the show is that its meticulous plotting leads to a few episodes where little happens besides Marika learning new skills. However, this also solves one of the biggest criticisms I have of the 2009 Star Trek by J.J. Abrams, which is how in the world are we expected to believe talented but inexperienced Jim Kirk is given command of the Federation’s best ship right out of the academy? In this case, we have a reason for Marika being given a command despite her inexperience and we follow her as she gains experience, knowledge and confidence.

As a science fiction fan, I’m often on the lookout for good shows to share with my daughters. Of course, one of the downsides of classic science fiction, Star Trek included, is that it’s very male-heavy in the presentation. My daughters have never seen that as implying that exploration and adventure are things only for boys, but still, it’s nice to see a space opera where most of the cast are women and girls. In fact, what this show reminds me of very much are the “Boy Scout” novels of Robert A. Heinlein, except instead of boy’s adventure, this is girl’s adventure. And there are a few cool boys along for the ride include the helmsman, mechanic, and security chief of the Bentenmaru. So boys need not feel left out of the fun! Despite the mini-skirted school uniforms, there’s nary a fanservice shot in this anime, making it appropriate for pretty much all ages.

So, I’ve been watching the series with my 14-year-old daughter who loves it. When I asked her what she thought of the title, she told me it sounded like a fun, space pirate adventure with girls and just the kind of thing she wanted to watch. So much for my first impression of the title. It seems to be just right for the series’ target audience after all. The series is free to watch on Crunchyroll and you can buy downloads of the English dub on iTunes.

Bonded Agent

The last couple of weeks, I’ve been participating in the Fall Fantasy Conclave, where I shared some great books by fellow authors. Today and Monday I’ll share work by authors I have worked with more directly. Today, I bring you David B. Riley who introduced intergalactic insurance agent Sarah Meadows in his story “The Claims Adjuster” which appeared in my anthology Space Pirates. Sarah’s adventures continued in my anthology Space Horrors and on the pages of Tales of the Talisman among other places. Now, David has just released a Sarah Meadows novel called Bonded Agent published by Wolfsinger Publishing.

Here’s what it says on the back of the book: They say graduates of the Martian School of Economics really go places. That’s certainly true for Sarah Meadows. After taking a job with the Gompers Insurance Company they send her to weapons training on her second day on the job. She’s soon parachuting out of space ships, hunting down cargo pirates and even trying to salvage a derelict vessel that may be haunted. Not to mention getting involved in a war between Earth and a reptilian race.

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With that, I’m going to turn the post over to David:

Bonded Agent features my Sarah Meadows character. Sarah has appeared in five short stories, but this is her first novel. In Sarah’s world Mars is an independent republic with an uneasy relationship with Earth. Sarah finds herself taking an insurance job with the Gompers Insurance Company just after graduating from the Martian School of Economics. On her second day they tell her to report for weapons training. She’s soon parachuting out of space ships, hunting down cargo pirates and even trying to salvage a derelict vessel that may be haunted. Not to mention getting involved in a war between Earth and a reptilian race.

I like Sarah because she’s not yet another white dude. The fact is, there are few human males in this story. This book is packed full of aliens. It’s got the Chironese, whose world is being occupied by Earth. The reptilian Tau, who are at war with Earth over a mineral-rich asteroid. And there’s also the Almerians, who are referred to as dragons. It is an Almerian who runs the Gompers Insurance Company. And in the middle of this is Sarah Meadows, a woman of average height who is a strawberry blonde. And a raging war is about to change her life forever.

Bonded Agent is available from Amazon and Smashwords.

Cowboy Bebop

A couple of weeks ago, I was browsing through the video section of a local store when I came across a recent release of the TV series Cowboy Bebop. Although I’ve been an anime fan since I first saw Gigantor in the early 1970s, I managed to miss Cowboy Bebop’s debut on the Cartoon Network circa 2001. Cowboy Bebop Disc That was right after my wife and I decided that we weren’t getting enough out of cable to keep paying an exorbitant bill every month. I’d seen two or three episodes over the years at science fiction conventions and knew that I wanted to actually watch the series, so I picked it up.

If you’re like me and late to discovering Cowboy Bebop, it’s the story of two bounty hunters: a former cop named Jet Black and a former mob enforcer named Spike Spiegel, who travel through the solar system in a space ship called the Bebop looking for criminals to nab. As the series progresses, they’re joined by Faye Valentine, a bounty hunter with a mysterious past; Ein, a Welsh Corgi with a brain implant; and Radical Edward, a teenage girl who has mad computer skills. Unlike a lot of current anime, Cowboy Bebop has less of an overarching story and is more a series of self-contained episodes.

In this world Cowboys are Bounty Hunters, but space cowboy imagery runs through the series. Spike, Faye, and Jet all have their personal fighters, which are a little like their mechanical horses. There’s a sense of the solar system colonies on Mars and Jupiter’s moons requiring a kind of wild west frontier spirit to tame. Much of the look and feel of the show is reminiscent of Joss Whedon’s Firefly and if Whedon didn’t take some inspiration from Cowboy Bebop, then the similarities are a pretty big coincidence.

One of the great elements of Cowboy Bebop is a truly remarkable jazz soundtrack by Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelts. At points, the music slips away from the jazz and adopts a little lonely guitar to enhance the wild west feel.

Another thing that strikes me as especially well done is the characterization of Radical Edward. As the father of a bright teenage girl, she hits many of the right notes. Edward can be persuaded to be useful, but most of the time is more interested in sleeping, eating, or doing her own thing, which sometimes horrifies or confuses the adults around her.

The Pirates of Sufiro

My only real issue with the series is that it’s set in 2071, and though I would love to have many well populated colonies out in the solar system by then, I’m hard pressed to believe it will happen. Despite that, I love the look of the series and have long been attracted to the idea of stories about the rugged individuals who will go out and forge new lives among the stars, such as my novel The Pirates of Sufiro. In my story, space pirates are stranded on a distant world and must make a life there in a story that took some inspiration from my great grandparents who homesteaded in New Mexico and Texas. The link in the title will take you to the free PDF edition distributed by my publisher, which is my preferred edition.

Finally, I’ll wrap up today’s post with a brief update. At this point, we’ve decided that Tales of the Talisman will remain closed through 2016. However, Hadrosaur Productions will be reading for an anthology this year tentatively on the theme of Space Cowboys. Like the space cowboys of Cowboy Bebop and The Pirates of Sufiro, these are not necessarily literal cowboys, but people who embody the frontier spirit. Some may be quick with their blaster. Some may have to use their wits to survive in a harsh environment. Some may just be the people who are happy to be alone riding the range of space when no one else wants to. I hope to have guidelines posted at the Tales of the Talisman website by April, with the reading period this summer. Till next week…see you space cowboy.

Harlock, Firebrandt, and Reynolds

During the holidays, while watching Space Battleship Yamato 2199 with my daughter, the subject of another anime icon came up—Space Pirate Captain Harlock. Harlock My daughter found some on-line references to the title character. Although I knew about him and had long ago seen him in the Galaxy Express 999 movie, my knowledge of the show was limited. After returning to college, she discovered that the original 1978 Captain Harlock series is at crunchyroll.com.

In the meantime, I had a deadline approaching for a short story. The idea that I developed seemed perfect for my own space pirate captain, Ellison Firebrandt. I spent a chunk of the last two weeks working on the story. Once I had a draft I liked, I set the story aside, as is standard practice for me before submitting it. During that time, I decided to watch a few episodes of Space Pirate Captain Harlock. The series was created by Leiji Matsumoto, the artist behind the original Space Battleship Yamato. In fact, Harlock was originally created to be a character in Yamato, but Matsumoto decided he didn’t want to give up creative control of the character, so reserved him for other projects.

As it turns out, Harlock and Firebrandt have a lot in common. Both will fight to protect Earth, even if both are often frustrated by what Earth has become. Firebrandt Both are seen as criminals, even though they are each guided by a moral compass. Both value their freedom and the freedom of those who serve under them. Many of the human colonies beyond Earth are wild, untamed places which sometimes have a distinct wild west feel.

This brings me to something else that’s a bit uncanny. While watching the 1978 Space Pirate Captain Harlock, I discovered the sequel/remake series Captain Herlock: The Endless Odyssey. Just to note, the good captain’s name is translated both as Harlock and Herlock, though it seems always to be pronounced like the former. MalReynoldsFirefly Endless Odyssey ran in 2002 and 2003, the same time as another series about space outlaws ran in the United States—Joss Whedon’s Firefly. Captain Malcolm Reynolds shares many noble and not-so-noble characteristics with Firebrandt and Harlock. Earth doesn’t really factor into the Firefly universe, but Reynolds does stand up for what he believes is right even though it routinely puts him on the wrong side of the law. Although he doesn’t call himself a pirate, he isn’t afraid to commit crime to make a living.

Endless Odyssey is a great, short series. I found the English-dubbed version on YouTube. It reminded me of Firefly many times, even down to the lonely guitar riffs. It was also very different, sometimes having an underground comic vibe. At times it even reminded me of the magazine and movie, Heavy Metal.

I gather there is little to no continuity among the different Harlock TV series. Harlock and his pirate crew are almost operatic figures, telling whatever story they need to. In fact, they were even called upon to retell the story of the opera Das Rheingold in Harlock Saga. I haven’t seen this series, but it’s definitely on my to-watch list. I suppose I see Captain Firebrandt, Roberts, Suki, and the crew of the Legacy in much the same way. They are reliable standbys and I can call upon them whenever I need to tell a good yarn. I just have to imagine what trouble they’ve gotten up to now. I do try to maintain some continuity, but especially among the short stories, I can’t promise that I haven’t shuffled it, at least a little.

Seeing that it’s Valentine’s Day, I can’t help but mention the romantic connections with these space pirates. Firefly’s Captain Malcolm Reynolds has his flirtatious relationship with the companion, Inara. Captain Ellison Firebrandt loves Suki Mori, a computer teacher he rescued from the dangerous world Prospero. Captain Harlock seems more aloof, though he clearly shared a bromance of sorts with his dear friend Tochiro. I also find myself wondering if his relationship with his blue-skinned adviser, Miime, is entirely platonic.

Speaking of “bromance” and much as I hate the term to describe a strong friendship between non-lovers, all three of these pirate stories have one of those. I’ve already mentioned the one in the Captain Harlock series. Firebrandt has a bromance with his first mate Roberts and it’s hard to describe Malcolm Reynolds’s relationship with Zoe Washburn as anything other than a bromance, despite their gender difference.

I’ve given you links to explore more about Captain Harlock. Fortunately, Browncoats have helped to assure that Firefly is readily available. If you’d like explore more about Captain Firebrandt, here’s a sampling of books in print where you can read his adventures:

And of course, when my latest Captain Firebrandt story sells, I’ll be sure to tell you about it right here. Happy Valentine’s Day!


Image notes: Captain Harlock image from Space Pirate Captain Herlock: The Endless Odyssey copyright Madhouse, Inc. Nathan Fillion as Malcolm Reynolds from Firefly copyright 20th Century Fox. Each image used under the fair use doctrine of US Copyright law in this article discussing the relevant series. Illustration of Captain Ellison Firebrandt by Laura Givens from the cover of The Pirates of Sufiro by David Lee Summers.

A Little Help From My Friends

My previous work week at the observatory got off to a “wonderful” start when, after uploading a couple of anthologies to my Kindle e-reader, I unplugged the USB cable, fumbled the reader, and slam dunked it against a counter top. I discovered that’s a great way to damage the e-ink cells and it was pretty clear that my Kindle was dead. The Kindle was used when I got it and I received it in exchange for a signed copy of my novel The Solar Sea. I was heart-broken, more because of the sentimental value than for any physical value.

The Pirates of Sufiro

As it turns out, the fellow who gave me the original Kindle, stepped forward and offered me a new Kindle in exchange for some help at his small observatory in Benson, Arizona. I can’t say how special this is, because not only do I have a new device, it also comes with a new dose of sentimental value. Back at the beginning of my writing career, my benefactor, Jeff Lewis, helped out with the first audio production of The Pirates of Sufiro. He was the voice of the Legacy’s first mate, Carter Roberts. Jeff also provided some helpful digital editing advice in the days when few people had even heard of digital editing. Remember, you can download The Pirates of Sufiro absolutely free from Lachesis Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

Perhaps befitting this gesture, this past week, I’ve taken a short break from my steampunk-novel-in-progress to work on a new short story which features Roberts along with his captain, Ellison Firebrandt, and their fellow crewmember, Suki Mori. I won’t say too much about the story at this point other than to say that it does address friendship and its benefits and challenges. It also features giant squid. I’ll be sure to keep you posted about when and where this story will be appearing. If nothing else, it serves to add another chapter to my somewhat back burner project of compiling a collection of stories about my space pirates before they were stranded on the planet Sufiro.

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Needless to say, I feel pretty blessed this week by the good things that have happened to me, but I’m also blessed by an opportunity to give back. I’ve just learned the cookbook Cauldron of Love published by Writers Unite to Fight Cancer in Arizona has just come available for pre-order. Contributors to the cookbook include Brenda Novak, Margaret Larsen Turley, Marina Martindale, and many others including myself. 100% of the proceeds from this cookbook will be donated to cancer research. This book features eighteen categories with international family favorites, remedies, delicious gluten free and dairy free cuisine, comfort food for patients battling cancer and other tantalizing morsels. Visit http://writersunitetofightcancer.org/cauldron-of-love/ to order or get more information.

Harmonizing

Two weeks ago I mentioned that my oldest daughter was performing in the New Mexico All-State Symphony Orchestra. Today, my youngest daughter is performing in the New Mexico All-State Choir here in Las Cruces. I’m looking forward to hearing her perform. She has been part of the Doña Ana Youth Choir for the last few years and I’m always amazed by the performances those kids deliver.

Dona Ana Youth Choir 2012

Talisman 9-2

Much of this past week, I’ve been focused on Tales of the Talisman Magazine. We mailed out most copies of volume 9, issue 2—the autumn issue. I sent the winter issue—volume 9, issue 3—to press and copies have been ordered. They should be here within the week. Now, I’m busy reading stories for volume 10, issues 1 and 2. I’m pleased with my short list and I’ve sent out the first acceptances. Things are going well enough that I’m planning to wrap up the reading period in about a week on February 2. If you have a story or poem that you want to get in, this is the time to send it.

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I find the process of selecting stories and poems for the magazine to be a little like gathering the voices of a choir. I look for a wide range of talent. I want stories and poems that both work well together and counterpoint each other. Every now and then, people take me very literally and decide to send me a story and a poem they wrote that they feel go together. Although that can be interesting, that’s not really what I’m looking for. I find it much more interesting when two authors who perhaps have never met send me things that address a common topic in different ways. I love it when that happens!

Of course, like any good choir, I want the final composition to be entertaining and satisfying. You can find the current issues of Tales of the Talisman at Amazon.com. The links for each issue are:

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Arguably, themed anthologies are even more like a choir than magazines are. The theme itself gives you that element that ties the stories together. When doing a themed anthology, I like to pick a theme that’s broad enough to allow a wide range of stories, while still being narrow enough to get different viewpoints on the same general topic.

Space Horrors

As January draws to an end, we approach the final days that my anthologies in the Full-Throttle Space Tales series will be in print. The first editions of Space Pirates and Space Horrors go out of print on January 31. In the former anthology, I loved how the stories looked at pirates as both anti-heroes and villains. The horrors of the latter anthology took many different forms and we saw how they could pull people together and drive them apart. I’m planning to bring both of these anthologies back later this year, but if you want the originals, now’s the time to get them! Here are the Amazon links: