Since the 14th century BCE, there have pirates, looting cargo ships, and striking fear in the shipping lanes of today. While the golden age of piracy has long since past, contemporary society continues to be fascinated with the deeds of pirates, but will they be issue when we push out? According to science fiction, our future in space travel will include the continuing plague of piracy, where the sea of stars has replaced the high seas. The idea of space piracy has been around nearly as long as science fiction, with 1930's E.E. 'Doc' Smith's Lensman series, Flash Gordon, and continues today with Honor Harrington and spans all types of media, because, space piracy continues to be a theme that will not die in sci-fi. This was not an easy blogpost to write, there was tons of information to sort, tons of examples, and many factors to consider. At this moment, this could be one of the largest blogpost on FWS. For the next few weeks, there will be some lighter posts...damned space pirates!
Defining The Space Pirate...What's in a Name?
Here is the list of crimes that defines the space pirate:
- Hostage Taking
- Seizure of goods
-Computer Hacking (as it relates to above items)
One Man's Pirate is another Man's Freedom Fighter
The Three Types of Science Fiction Space Pirate
1.The Pirate in Space
These type are based around the actually real-world reality of piracy, where they seize your ship, take your cargo, enslave the crew, and rape your pleasure models. These are bad, lawless mother fuckers that are only out for themselves and their own sense of reality These are not the romanticized Michael Bay Captain John Sparrow type. These are more the type that would cut your hull open with a laser beam or blow off your heat radiators, and then take what they want. There hijackers would not be the subject of a Disney movie nor have a MacDonald's Happy Meal tie-in toy.
2. Historical and/or Silly Pirates in Space
3. The 'Noble' Space Pirate (AKA 'the Loveable Rouge')
The Targets of Space Pirates
Hard Science and the Space Pirate
What Does a Space Pirates Need?
Intelligence Gathering Network
The Black Market
Bottle of Rum and an Serving Wench-Robot?
Could Space Piracy Led to Space Wars?
In the back-story of many a science fiction history, is how space piracy was the genesis of space wars. In the Babylon 5 fictional Earth history, wars over ownership of the asteroid and piracy of the minerals led to the first generation of armed spaceships. In Dynamo Joe comic, the Terran Confederation was heavily involved in pirate suppression campaigns prior to the alien invasion. Could this be the true? Could space piracy, led to the development of a spaceborne military and the first spaceborne conflicts?
In a soft-serve science fiction universe, that is a given, but in a hard science universe, that is a different story. Space piracy could be akin to spaceborne terrorism, with an similar war effort to match, or even a cyber-war. These would be waged near or in Earth orbit, most likely. How space piracy would spark a out-and-out space conflict would be if these space pirates were actually privateers working for another government or corporation.
Science Fiction and the Space Pirate
Another element is that piracy continues even onward into the 21st century, allowing most to believe that piracy will continue even when we push out into space. Of course, there is no doubt, that pirates are cool, and make for cool don't-give-a-shit-independent-thinker-characters-that-have cool-spaceships.
Examples of Space Pirates in Sci-Fi
Captain Harlock from the Leijiverse
For some members of my generation, Han Solo was the introduction to the noble space pirate, but for people like me, the term space pirate will always be linked to Leiji Matsumoto's Captain Harlock! He is one of the great characters of 1970's Anime, and continues to be a fan favorite, but our good space pirate captain has a confusing and muddy history in the Leijiverse. There are no less than six different anime with Captain Harlock as the main character, and made numerous appearance in other works, including Matsumoto's own Galaxy Express 999. What complicates matter about Harlock is that most works alter his backstory and current situation that fuels his space piracy. Of his main series, the one I chose to identify with the Captain Harlock laid down in his 1982 OVA My Youth in Arcadia (AKA Arcadia of my Youth) and the followup TV series SSX (never dubbed into English), and the Eternity Comic book series.
During his adventures on the ruined Earth, Harlock would rekindle a relationship with his ex-girlfirend Maya that works for the Terran resistance, an odd Solar Federation engineer named Tochiro, an Free Space Trader named Emeraldas, and Zoll, the Tokargens' commander office.
By the end of the OVA, Harlock is exiled off of Earth with his new pals, the Illumidus is nearly destroyed, and Harlock is declared a criminal of Earth by the Vichy French-like Terran Government . From 1982-1983, over the course of 22 episodes, there was a continuation of that storyline in the Arcadia of My Youth: Endless Orbit SSX. It's timing was poor, has the 'big robot' trend exploded in Japan, and no one cared about a space pirate. This marked the end of Matsumoto's fame until the 1990's.
In America, where Captain Harlock was know by only by a few, Eternity Comics released an Americanized series that took place after the My Youth in Arcadia OVA, but did recycle the SSX storyline, instead forging their own lore.Only after a few years (1989-1992) of comic publishing did Eternity Comics realize that we the victims of being scammed by a Japanese party that no rights over the sale of the Harlock licence. The name Harlock came to Matsumoto when he was in grade school, and he would match around saying the name over and over, as a rhythmic accompaniment to his footsteps. At the say time, the young Matsumoto had created an English pirate character that was in the service of the Queen of Spain.For course, Harlock is not a 'real' pirate, according to modern definitions, he is more of a space rebel that operations according to his own morals and sense of purpose/duty. Recently, Toei Amination has ordered a big-budget CGI Harlock movie and remake of the TV series...no word if it is going to be a ground up restoration or complete re-imagination
The Space Pirates from the classic Dr.Who (1969)
Originally conceived as a 'Space Western', these 1969 classic Dr. Who episodes with Patrick Troughton as the second Doctor, should us a world of space pirates, space patrol officers, and colorful wildcatters. Some of that original favor is retained in some story elements, especially with the wildcat prospector Milo Clancey, and how the pirates are claim-jumping on a nearly lawless frontier However, much like the Old West, the government, the Interstellar Space Corps, is making their way out. These space pirates are raiding Terran government space beacons for the valuable mined, but not refined argonite ore. To stop this, the Terran government, Space Corps, deploys a space cruiser and troops to quell the pirates and their fashionable helmets. The pirates seen in this episode are a familiar lot, after minerals for money, and are operating ina region of space that is light with ISC presences. The Space Pirates is one of the nearly completely lost early Doctor Who serials. Only a single full episode out of six is known to exist and only the audio tracks, stills, and fragments of footage exist for the others. However, it seems that episode six of the Space Pirates is completely wiped out.
Free Space Trader Emeraldas from the Leijiverse
First off, Emeraldas and Maetal from Galaxy Express 999 are sisters in Leijiverse, and much like Harlock, our female pirate suffers from a confused and muddy identity. In the My Youth in Arcadia stoyline, Emeraldas has a zeppelin-shaped vessel that is named the Queen Emeraldas and states a few times that she is a 'free space trader', just with a healthy wardrobe of skull-and-crossbones attire. Unlike her sister, Emeraldas is not a symbol love, especially motherly love, this female pirate is known in a few sources as a 'witch', 'a killer', and is more of the Yin to Maetal's Yang. Much like Harlock, Emeraldas is pirate-rebel type that often fights for her own purpose and motivation. No word if she drinks rum...
'The Outriders' from Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs (1987)
I was lucky to live near a independent TV station in Tulsa, Oklahoma that aired Anime in the 1980's, and one of these rare gems was Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs. In this Space Western, mankind's expansion to new and dusty worlds is halted by raiders from another dimension...the Vapor Zone These aliens, known as Outriders in the series, were more advanced, but could be stopped with the Terran DE weapons of the time. The trick was that these aliens would just re-materialization in their own realm without injury and return for another go in our dimensional realm. The goal of the Vapor Beings was take slaves for mining and since their own dimensional is such a bore (seriously), the Outriders get a kick out of tooling around in our dimensional.
The universe seen in Wing Commander: Privateer (1993)
The Silicates from Space: Above and Beyond (1995-1996)
The Starjammers from the X-Men universe
Han "I fired FIRST, mutha futha" Solo from Star Wars
The Space Pirate Groups from Crusher Joe (1983)
The Hijackers from 'Starship Mine' Star Trek: TNG (1993)
Space Pirates from the Star Frontiers Universe (1983)
When I was young in the 1980's, chose your own adventure books were huge, and one of my favorites was the TSR Star Frontiers based 'Villans of Volturnus', where featured groups of nasty humans and alien space pirates there were aimed at capturing you. It was your job to avoid them, and discoveries the mysteries of this strangle world. There is very little information on the book itself online, and my copy is long since gone. Space pirates in the Star Frontiers universe much composed of all four sentient races, and did the normal space pirates business and even run some worlds. They prefer the fast space vessels, a corvette or assault craft and to hid out on moons and asteroids in the backwater of space.
Space Adventure Cobra (1978)
In the far-future, there is a man named Cobra with a psycho-gun hand, and a taste for adventure. He battles space pirate guilds, but avoids the law, because he is also regarded as a space pirate himself. He travels the galaxy looking for trouble, booty, and good cigars with his ship, the Tortuga and his partner-in-crime, Lady Armaroid. This character enjoyed years of popularity and works that covered anime movies and TV series, manga, and video games. While I didn't watch Space Adventure Cobra, I was fully aware of it via some manga I had, and it is mentioned in the ROBOTECH: ART 1 book. For some of us, Space Adenture Cobra will always be linked to the uber-fucking-cool video for the kick ass Matthew Sweet song, 'Girlfriend'.
The Space Pirates from the Metroid Universe
The Orions from the Star Trek Universe
The Blood Nation from Dynamo Joe Comics (1987)
The 'Verse from Firefly (2002)
The Spice Smugglers from DUNE
The Ferengi from Star Trek Universe
Captain Kidd from Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers (1987)
The series creator, Robert Mandell told Starlog Magazine in 1987 that he was never was satisfied with Kidd, and couldn't find a place for him in the series. That is why he is mostly played for comedy in the series and Mandell connected the bird-like space pirate to Star Trek's Henry Mudd.
BTW: There was Captain Kidd action figure produced by Galoob in 1987 complete with blaster and faux-fur cape, along with a limited number of other Galaxy Rangers characters, but the toy-line was only released in Europe and died quickly. FWS will be covering Galaxy Rangers in a full-on MSF Oddites blogpost in the near future. I also wonder if the Jackals from the HALO universe are somehow connected to Captain Kidd, both are bird-like and both are space pirates.
The Ice Pirates! (1984)
Instead of spice being the most valuable substance, it's water. After a nasty intergalactic war, where humanity and other alien races have mastered travel between the stars, but not to create water. Naturally, the main stars (and I use the term loosely) here are playing it for humor and they are two type space pirates. Oh, and something I learned from watching parts of this...laser blasters are fine, but a sword is still cool.
Here is the badmovie.org review of the film:
The Crew of the Betty from ALIEN Resurrection (1997)
The Pirate Clans from Exo-Squad (1993-1994)
Before the creation of the Neosapians, space was conquered with the use of convicts. The majority of these forced laborers were used for mining in the rings and moons of Saturn. Freedom among the stars was to be their reward if they survived the labor. When he Neosapians were created, the government abandoned these convicts, and this forged these convicts to aggressive, larger, stronger breed of man that naturally hated Terrans and their new puppets, the Neosapians. The mining of Saturn allowed the Pirate Clans to construct warships that were used to raid Terran vessels. Their home base of operations is the tenth planet in the Sol System, the dark matter world of chaos. These Pirates Clans are closer to type one space pirate, and pretty gritty for a 'kids' cartoon show.
Outlaw Star (1996-?)