12 March 2013

FWS Topics: Space Pirates!

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?
There are some words that encompass a vast array of terms, 'soldier', 'car', 'gun' for example, and 'pirate' is one of them. Simply saying that a group or individual is a pirate can cover a great deal. Attached to the term and actions of a pirate can be: marauders, raiders, privateers (when operating under authorization from a government), terrorists, smugglers, slavers, freebooter, and even the generic 'rebel' can be labeled a 'space pirate' by the organization that they rebelling against, which is a common and commonly misused label.
Here is the list of crimes that defines the space pirate:
- Boarding
- Extortion
- Hostage Taking
- Kidnapped
- Murder
- Robbery
- Sabotage
- Seizure of goods
- Shipwrecking
- Smuggling
- Trafficking
-Computer Hacking (as it relates to above items)

One Man's Pirate is another Man's Freedom Fighter

In any conflict, there are two points-of-view, and with pirates in science fiction and in the real world, that holds true. The current rash of pirates from Somali stems from coastal fishermen being put out of work by unregulated commercial fishing vessels that cut off the Somali small-time fisherman from their source of income. With the nation of Somalia like it is, massively fucking dysfunctional, it was easy for these unemployed fisherman to get an AK and take their boat out to hijack one of those fat, juicy ships. One thing to remember is that 'pirate' is often a label attached to a group by a government that wishes to suppress this group, and since pirates have a embedded preconception in society, it is an easy label to use.

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
Often played for humor, the second type of space pirate is a tired cliche of the overly-romanticized ocean-going historical pirate, even down to the puffy shirt and Fruit Loops bird. Some of these out-of-place elements of these historical pirate materialize onto space pirates. Captain Harlock is a good example, he dons the Jolly Roger flag, skulls, a laser-sword, cape, and eye patch. All of these was to tie the image of Harlock to the pirates of old without saying a word. Even his pirate space battleship had a wooden section on the rear quarter.

3. The 'Noble' Space Pirate (AKA 'the Loveable Rouge')
The good crew of the Serenity,the motley crue of the Liberator from Blake's 7, Captain Harlock, and Han Solo all fit under this grouping. These are more independent-minded space travelers that are rebelling against a corrupt government and operate in the grey area of the law to support themselves and their cause. Rarely do these noble space rebels resort to the ruthlessness of the 1st type of space pirate, but some archetypes the historical seaborne pirates make their appearance. This combination of factors allowed the third type of space pirate to be the most popular in sci-fi, and often muddies the water for the label of space pirate and even people's POV on historical piracy.

The Targets of Space Pirates

Space Shipping
The single most common target of the space pirate for their booty is the juicy nearly-unarmed freighter that is the less populated portions of commercial space. Often, the fast moving, and heavily armed space raiders lock-in, wipe out the shields, engines, and then board the vessel, take the booty, and maybe leave the ship and crew alive. How could there be space pirates without the pillaging of cargo ships?

Asteroid Mining
There is little doubt that the mining of asteroids will be reality in the future, and anything of value coming out of those cold lump rocks will be a target for piracy. It is likely that the majority of asteroid mining could be accomplished via robotic, along with shipping it back to Terra. Asteroid mining transport modules could be the target of space pirate hackers that could redirect the module towards their Port Royal, or even extort money for not crashing into the moon. The trageting of asteroid mining operations by space pirates could be a source of proxy warfare by Earth-based corporations and.or governments. Often in the back-story history of a fictional work, asteroid mining is the source of the first space wars of humanity.

Colonial Settlements
In the realm of science fiction, off-world colonies will be flung to the deepest corners of the cosmos, and the space police cannot be everywhere. The smaller, more distant colonial settlements are often targets for the pirate raiding vessels because often there is a lack of government/military support. Distance is always an ally of the pirate, and the more distant an colony is, the more desirable a pirate finds it. Colonial worlds could be a source of slaves, or looting the local population of their spare parts, coffee, and foodstuffs. It has been done before, Blackbeard blockaded Charleston in 1718, for medical supplies.

Illegal Goodies
If there is a government and/or people in the future, there will be items that are banned. Smuggling could be one of the side jobs for a space pirate, or even full-time full-on trafficking these illegal goodies. One can imagine, space pirates smuggling pornography and caffeine to Mormon space colonies, or special brownies to the college domes on Mars.

Hard Science and the Space Pirate
One of the reasons for the conventional view of space pirates of sci-fi would not work in the real-world, is that you cannot hid in space. If our space pirates were to raid a nice fat, juicy cargo hauler, then sci-fi tells us that they would turn'em and burn'em for the safety of deep space or a local asteroid belt. However, stealth does not exist in space, our pirate ship thrust would burn with several terawatts of power that could be easily detected by the space police, Consider that even the American Space Shuttle's exhaust could be detected from Pluto with today's technology. This would make life easy for the Alliance and hard for the crew of the Serenity.Then there is the matter of the ship's heat radiators, which would burn like a bonfire for anyone to detect even if the pirates are trying to use inertia to slip past the space police.Of course, the sites that state this seem to forgot that it could take hours to complete an x/y/z local space scan, then even more hours of processing the data.
One of the hallmarks of space piracy, is ship-boarding, and it is more difficult in space than on the high seas. Those that have watched a cargo module dock with the ISS, know that docking is a bitch, especially in orbit, and takes time. Any hostile ship attempting to board another could be like surviving 8 seconds on a bull. Even if the boarding shuttle docked or latched on to the prey, our space pirates would have a tough time getting access into the target and the resisting crew. Air docks can be sealed, doors jammed, and corridors can be set up with automated weapon systems. Boarding actions would just as dangerous for the pirates as the crew, and it would more effective to damage the propulsion system, heat radiators, and force the prey to give you what you want.  
Some hard-science websites have contented that the space piracy we've seen in sci-fi could only be accomplished in and near Earth orbit, and even then, it could be space hackers and not space pirates that dominate space crime. Most cargo modules buzzing around, in either Earth orbit or coming back from mining operations in the asteroids will be automated. Automation means computer control and means a skilled hacker could access the cargo module and divert these hijacked booty to another location. Let's all say it: Space Pirates hijacked my booty!

What Does a Space Pirates Need?

Intelligence Gathering Network
Even if space piracy is mostly confined to Terran/Lunar sphere, and deep space piracy is via robots and hacking, pirates will still need an intelligence network to locate targets. Cargo vessels will not be beaming out their manifests, and depending on where our space pirates decided to raid, this could mean hundreds of cargo modules. Now, that could be easy has hacking into a commercial space shipping company's network, or paying off a dock working at the space station.

Fast Ship
Science fiction mostly shows that space pirates will pilot armed raiding cruisers, however,  Rocketpunk Manifesto believes that spaceborne weaponry would be a giant tip-off to the space police that these nerf herders are up to no good. This could mean that the majority of privately-owned space craft are unarmed, and will relay on maneuverability and delta-vee to escape the space police.

Safe Port
During the heydays of the seaborne piracy and privateering, there was a safe port of these seadogs to hid, rest, and resupply...it was called Port Royal in Jamaica. Space pirates will need something similar to Port Royal or Mos Eisley to refuel, resupply, and hid from the Empire/Federation's space patrol. Given the realities of space travel, it would be a space station, or moonbase. In a soft-serve sci-fi universe, this is easy and well-documented element, however, it is not so easy in a crunchy-hard sci-fi universe. Given that there is no sheath in space and everyone can see everything, a spaceborne Port Royal would be easy to spot and throw some kinetic projectiles into...problem solved, problem staying solved. The Rocketpunk Manifesto blog begs to differ. He concluded that Space Port Royal would be more useful as an intelligence gathering location than space debris.

The Black Market
It does no good to loot the booty from a helpless cargo ship, and have no place to sell the booty. Pirates or even pirate-hackers that take control of automated cargo vehicles will have an interstellar black market. As the primary law of economics dictates, there has to be a demand to encourage supply. After all, RDA didn't mount expeditions to Alpha Centauri just to see blue people.

Bottle of Rum and an Serving Wench-Robot?
Hell yeah!

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
Among the earliest foes of our noble spacemen seen in science fiction were always the monsters, aliens, and the space pirates. From Flash Gordon to Buck Rogers and the founding writings of E.E. 'Doc' Smith, it seems space pirates and sci-fi are linked back to their earliest days, and continues on through today. What accords for the continued presence of space pirate in sci-fi works? This is mainly due to (wrong) assumption that outer space mimics Terran oceans, and if you have ocean-like outer space than you can have space pirates. Also, pirates continue to fascinate people, and have since the days of when they scoured the seas for booty. When a writer or creator mentions the word 'pirate', the reader has immediate connection and knowledge with that term allowing for easy-of-use for the writer.
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.
By the 30th century mankind has expanded out, and united under the Solar Federation, however, they are attacked by the Illumidus Empire. After years of war, the Solar Federation surrenders to the aliens, and their colonial federation is dismantled, and all Terrans are relocated by the Illumidus back to Earth. Suffering under the weight from damage done during the war, a large popular, and little supplies or hope, Terra begins to rot. Captain Harlock, commander of the Solar Federation battleship Deathshadow was on such a relocation mission when the film opens. When he returns to the broken Earth, Illumidus Occupation Forces strip him of his command, give him a few meal coupons, and send him about his way.
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)
In this side-adventure set in the Wing Commander universe, and the freelander main character can chose their own path. One of them offered was the path of being a space pirate. The life of a Wing Commander space pirate is trading in illegal or stolen goods, raiding cargo shipments, and allied to none of the factions in the game. I missed out on Wing Commander: Privateer back in the day...pity, it looks like a great deal of fun.

The Silicates from Space: Above and Beyond (1995-1996)
By the mid-21st century, humanity had developed walking computer equipped with artificial intelligence, but not programmed for independent thought. That was until a frustrated engineer, Dr. Ken Stranahan, at the company who builds the Silicates implanted a computer virus into the CPU of the A.I.s. This virus simply said 'take a chance', but sparked a revolution by the Silicates for a decade, called the AI Wars. Seeing the end near, the AI took military starships and escaped into deep space. During the Chig War, the Silicates had allied themselves with the Chigs, serving in a number of support roles, including privateers and partisans. During the opening months of the war, Silicates attempted to seize control of a Helium-3 mining complex on the asteroid of Bunuel in the Kuiper Belt to pirate the ore and sell to the Chigs.

The Starjammers from the X-Men universe
The Starjammers are a group of various aliens that were slaves to the more advanced Shi'ar Imperium, and when they escape, they took an Starjammer class Shi'ar cruiser, and became space pirates. Much like the crew of the Serenity, these space pirates are noble, and commit acts of piracy against their former masters. Using a various array of DE weapons and swords, and their captured ship, the Starjammers became a freedom force agains the Shi'ar and are a fusion of type two and three space pirate. The Starjammers would make their first appearance in 1977, which could be linked to the Star Wars crazy that hit around the same time.

Han "I fired FIRST, mutha futha" Solo from Star Wars
It seems that Han Solo was destined to be a space pirate from an early age. After being orphaned on Corellia, he was taken in by a space pirate, who treated him badly, and Han was able to runaway in his teens. He would go on to be his own smuggler before enlisting in the Imperial Academy to become a pilot. He was kicked out of Imperial military service after rescuing a Wookiee from punishment...and you can guess who that was. Some sites say that Han Solo is a space pirate of the third kind, a noble space pirate, some say that he is not a space pirate because of his experience as a child, and most sources label him a 'space cowboy'...and no, FWS will not be writing a blogpost on space cowboys.

The Space Pirate Groups from Crusher Joe (1983)
In the future, there are crushers, and no crusher is better than Joe's elite team of space-based troubleshooters that solve any problem. The origin of their label came from the early days of space exploration, when 'crusher' destroyed asteroids for terraforming. One of the isses facing the galaxy in 2161, is space piracy of the space lanes, and Joe's group was tasked with a escort mission. After a failure of their wrap drive, the clients are gone and Joe's Crushers are faced with charges of space piracy by the Planetary Union. Now, Joe and his merry band of space illegals are on a mission to find out who framed them.

The Hijackers from 'Starship Mine' Star Trek: TNG (1993)
In one of the better episodes of TNG, Captain Picard is up against a band of space pirates that are attempting to steal 'Trilithium Resin', a deadly toxic byproduct of Federation engines, and can be rigged as an explosive or bio-weapon. They pick the time correctly, when the Enterprise D was evacuated for a baryon sweep, and Picard is trapped onboard and plays a deadly game of 'Die Hard on a Starship' with these space pirates. This stands has one of my favorite episodes of the series, and it adds some interesting subtext about the society of the 24th century...it seems that not all Terrans are done with using money.

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
Holy shit! That is one scary looking space pirate...or is it a space lobster pirate? Either way, the Metroid Universe has one of the oddest space pirates in sci-fi along with one of the extremely aggressive. Much of the portrayal of Space Pirates in the games is of a group that wipes out planets and develops Bio-Weapons to destroy the Galactic Federation. Much like the Orions or the Nausicaans from Star Trek, it seems that the Space Pirate are most composed of a single alien species from a specific planet or planets, and their fearsome exterior is heightened due to specially designed exoskeleton combat armor. Later, they would biologically modify their bodies using the Phazon. Galactic conflict, the origins of Samus, the Phazon Crisis, and the formation of the Galactic Federation Police all can trace their roots back to these Space Pirates, including the wiping out of the Chizon race, and developing of the Metroid bio-weapon. While these space pirates started out much like all sci-fi pirates, they quickly morphed into a truly organized military foe for the Galactic Federation during the Metroid games. This could be due to the Space Pirate species being an insect-like race that follows the strongest of their brood, and However, this is not true 100% of the time, and alters across the games, some showing that the Space Pirates are more independent and more mercenary-like. All I have to say is, keep that claw away from my booty!

The Orions from the Star Trek Universe
"Empires may come and go, but Orion Gold is eternal" For much of the run of Trek, the green-skinned Orions have occupied an interesting role, one part Ferengi, one part slavers, and another part sex traffickers. But there doesn't seem to be any canon behavior for the race, reason for slavery, or even if the entire race is involved with the practice. The Orions from the TOS were different than the ones seen in the animated series and in the DC comics of the 1980's. In the non-canon STAR TREK: TNG: Officer's Manual, the Orion Commercial States are in a state of decline due to the alliance between the Federation and the Klingons, and the emergence of the Ferengi. Given the political landscape of the 24th century, the OCS gives up on their days of piracy in exchange for protection by Alliance warships. To me, the Orions were a species they never got off the ground in the Trek universe, and their very appearance was mired by the animated Trek series, and their original purpose was replaced by the Ferengi and the nasty  Nausicaans. The only really good appearance by the Orions was in the final season of Star Trek: Enterprise when some of the NX-01 crew are taken hostage by Orion slavers. It is not known if this alien slave market was a fringe area of Orion society or much more. We know that Orion males do sell their own females in sexually slavery.

The Blood Nation from Dynamo Joe Comics (1987)
In the distance future has set down in Doug Rice's excellent 1987 Dynamo Joe comic from 1st Comics, there only three sentient civilizations in the Milky Way: The Terrans, the Imperium based around the immortal Magna Khan, and the cat-like Tavitans. Before the invasion by the extra-galactic Mellenares and the military alliance between these three races, the Terran Confederation was involved in pirate suppression of the ruthless Blood Nation. According to the limited information presented in the comics, the Blood Nation (AKA the Slavers) were a band of space pirates that prized ruthlessness, power, and war-fighting abilities  who raided Terran Confederation colonies, but mostly, the much weaker Commonwealth. For the comics, it seems that the Commonwealth are a loose organazition of colonial worlds that are populated by those not wanting to live under the boot of the Terran Confederation (much like some colonies in the 'Verse), and it seems the majority of the population is Native American. In the comic, the Blood Nation is explored via Tannemara, a former marine and loyal member of the Blood Nation and an Native American (Cheyenne?).

The 'Verse from Firefly (2002)
The good crew of the Serenity fits into the third category of space pirates, the noble space pirate who rebels against the corrupt and evil system. In their case, the Alliance, and while Mal and company are battling for some cash and the lost cause of the Browncoats, there are darker elements lurking in the black. Firefly covers the the first and third type of space pirate. In the episodes of 'Out of Gas' 'Our Mrs. Reyniolds', we see how the realities of historical pirates could fit into a space-based environment. 

The Spice Smugglers from DUNE
Given that the spice-drug Melange is the most valuable substance in the known universe, gives it a very high value on the economic market of 10,191, would led to some spice-piracy. According to some sources, one standard suitcase of the spice-drug could be exchanged for a planet! This would tempt anyone to test their luck on illegal mining on Arrakis, but that begs the question of how spice piracy exists in the DUNE universe? We know that Gurney Halleck enlisted with some smugglers after the fall of House Atreides, but how do the smugglers manage to move spices off-world without the knowledge of CHOAM or without the aid of the Spacing Guild? I would guess, like all good pirates, that they have a market for their goods, and given the value of Melange, it would make sense that this kind of money buys all types of access. A friend of mine informed that due to the obsession relationship between the Guild Navigators and the spice, that some of them would attempt to horde their own private emergency supply.

The Ferengi from Star Trek Universe
The Ferengi have been an interesting alien species for the Star Trek universe. The Ferengi were named after the Franks that traded with the Arabs, and were originally conceived as the main foe-alien-species for the TNG 24th century universe, and to be on the level of the Klingons. However, the characters, writing, and weapon system (what the frak was up with that plasma-whip?!) didn't live up to expectations to say the least. The Ferengi were down-graded from space pirates with plasma whips to profit-driven business aliens that would charm their way into your credits. A part of the original Ferengi came back in the Enterprise episode 'Acquisition' when free-lance Ferengi pirates attempted to strip the NX-01 bare of anything of value, including T'Pol!

Captain Kidd from Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers (1987)
In the world of 2088, humanity enters into a crowned galaxy filled with aliens of all types, including an alien bird-like space pirate named Captain Kidd. During the first episode of the show, Kidd switches loyalties to save himself. Towards te end of the series, Kidd helps the Rangers leading to the near end of the Queen of the Crown's fleet that was earthbound.
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)
Gods, I HATE this fucking movie...but the crew of Betty are space pirates of the first type that did dirty off-the-book jobs for money. In the (dog shit) film, the Betty was delivering hijacked humans in hype-sleep pods that were to be used has alien breeding stock. Just reading that last part again...they took humans while they were in status to be used for the violent birthing of a dangerous and illegal alien lifeform. This easily makes the crew of the Betty some bad dudes. Man, Michael Wincott can play one bad mother fucker!
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-?)
When humanity discoveries an new element called 'dragonite', that allows for FTL travel, and opens the stars up for humanity. In this new reality, the Chinese, Triad-like space pirates are the first to travel into deep space, and develop a grapple hand attachment for their warships to seize and pillage. These Chinese pirate gangs also use magic and hordes of no-name soldiers, and often fight among themselves. The pirates seem to be trigger for the Earth to establish the four space empires.





  1. I really enjoyed this! I think I'll have to dust off my copy of Exo-Squad and give it a re-watch.

    I might have to disagree with you on Alien: Resurrection :). Although its less-than-serious mood doesn't fit well with the previous movies, if you consider it a sort of offshoot rather than a numbered sequel, it's pretty entertaining. I think everyone would feel much differently about it if it wasn't an Aliens movie.

  2. Exo-Squad is going to get a full blogpost in the future, I can remember it on TV back in the day when I was in my senior year of HS. Yes, I was a senior in 1995.
    Portions of ALIENS: Resurrection are okay, and if it had not been an ALIENS film, than it would have been better. I think they wasted the talent of actors they had, and I think elements of the plot would have worked...but, it was still a disappointment to me.

  3. You can pick up Wing Commander Privateer from GoG.com if you're so inclined:

  4. You might beat me to the Exo-Squad post :). Was just thinking of covering it myself. My biggest problem with Resurrection was the newborn. That thing was awful looking.

  5. I would cover it! I would love to see another POV on it! Yeah, that whole newborn thing...*shudder*

  6. Let me first just say I love this blog of yours, but I think you take the Human side out of it.

    One of the first things I disagree with is how the Pirates would board. Why use the airlock when you can just attach your docking port to the ship and burn your way in; No heavily defended airlock to go though. Also I think that in the future it will be alot easier to maneuver a star ship. I'm not saying that it will be easy but very doable for any Pirate pilot. Then there is using breaching pods. (See Babylon 5 episode Severed Dreams and Farscape episode Tech girl.) These things are more like guided missiles then a shuttle, all they got to do this hit their target ship at the right speed then burn their way in. Say hello to a bunch of ex military nut jobs who liked their jobs a little too much.

    Second - This is more of the Human in me, automated internal defense system. Would any like to say WORSE IDEA EVER! For example on varies episodes of Andromeda when Rommie goes nuts, she uses these defenses against her own crew. Can anyone say, saw that one coming. Also said defenses would be prime for hacking attack. Why use your own guns when you can take control of the would be cargo ships own internal defenses and kill the crew. Oh look easier money. Give me a gun, an armed crew that want to live any day.

    Third - I dough Space Pirates would care about being seen by the space cops. Most likely Pirates will be hit and run raiders. For example a cargo ship gets attacked by space Pirates and calls for help, space cops on the other side of the system respond and make full burn for the cargo ship. So what, it will take time for the cops to get to said cargo ship. By the time they arrive the Pirates will be long gone with their stolen goods. Space piratey will depend on speed and good sensors. Also most Pirate ships will have a set distance for cop ships. If the cops come within said distance, the Pirates just bug out and run with what they got.

    Forth – Ship weapons. In the future most if not all ships will have some kind of weapons. I disagree with Rocketpunk Manifesto on this one, the reason is obvious, Pirates and enemy corps and governments. On the Enterprise episode Fortunate Son, Lieutenant Reed asks what kind of weapons the Fortunate cargo ship has, to which Mayweather responds “nothing more than a low yield plasma cannon, but most freight haulers would have upgraded the first chance they got. Think about it you’re a dozen light years from home with 20 kilotons of dilithium ore in your hold, armed with nothing more than a pop gun.” Need I say more? During the age of sail most merchant ships were almost as heavy armed as war ships, most likely future merchant ships will be just as well armed, well those that want to keep their cargo any way. Which means the space cops will not really care if a ship is armed or not, if they were to question our would be space Pirates about their weapons, all they would say is that they are to defend against those bad space Pirates and other enemies out there. The only places where bans of ship weapons would really work would be in the core worlds where there are military and police patrols everywhere.
    Fifth – Hackers taking over robot cargo ships. It would work only once; once the corporation or government lost a robot cargo ship to a Pirate hacker they would take steps to make sure it never happened again, which would mean human crews. Can’t hack them, at least not with a computer.

    Sorry if my grammar sucks.

    1. On the first one wouldn't space pirates just make the own door and breach through. A random part of their ship and make their own door( like that trailer scene in the eve prophecy trailer or that clone wars episode when a detachment of the 501st legion lands on a separatist capital ship) looks easier to do that from my perspective.
      On your second one automated defence systems are used today and there not susceptible to being hacked.

      For the third one. Pirates WOULD care about space cops coming in to the rescue, however most likely it would be more like the royal space navy with their special serving of royal Marines and British sbs coming to the rescue. Back in the day pirates of old always worried about the royal navy coming to the rescue that's why they try to get out of dodge fast but sometimes they had to fight it out with the royal navy, just asked blackbeard.

      On the third one i agree for the most part but there would be limits. Granted ships susceptible to piracy would need weapons but even PMCs of today are limited to defensive weapons and ships would be limited the same way.

      On the fifth one, if theres a will there's a way. If pirates want to hak a ship they will try and try til they get it right then the hacker/counter hacker cycle begins

  7. Just read this & thought that after you're list of stuff is cleared u can do private military contractors. Wonder how they would be used in space.

  8. I am going to write an article on PMCs in the near future...should be a interesting blogpost.

  9. Pirates of all 3 kinds by your definition are present in Warhammer and Warhammer 40K.

  10. For boarding, why not look at things like boarding torpedoes? Small craft with only an engine, life-support, a few plasma cutters, and an attachable airlock. Imagine a pirate vessel coming up alongside their prey, then launch a barrage of boarding torpedoes, which create their own entrances along, hypothetically, the entire length of the cargo ship being boarded