Tag Archive: Moby Dick

Spacers, especially in recent years, have ended up being lovable scoundrels, possibly because of latent Han Solo fantasies being brought to light. Shows like Farscape, Firefly, Babylon Five and to some extent, even Star Trek, the average professional space-farer is rugged, tough when they need to be, but all good on the inside, even when doing bad things like kicking bad guys into jet turbines. Sqooosh!

As mentioned in a previous article, my current novel in progress (still official untitled, but labelled “Karyss” or “PSA”) features, in part, the crew of a dubious freight vessel. They started out as the cliché spacer crew – tough, but good hearted – simply because in terms of the overall novel outline, they just weren’t that important.  When I finally started fleshing out that outline into a first draft, they evolved, and I needed some conflict. Don’t we all?

I began with the idea that spacers are going to be products of our environment. We do what we do because we have to and we can. Some of us have hated our jobs, but we continued to do them because we had to and because we could. The trucker of the future won’t be much different: they’ll like some aspects of the job, but hate others. That gets them into the business, but what happens when the worst of the worst happens, when the spacer’s real character comes out? Worse things happen at sea, right? So Even Worse things happen in Space!

Raft of the Medusa, Théodore_Géricault
Based on a true story (and cannibalism to boot!)

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spacer [ˈspeɪsə] n,  3. (Astronautics) a person who travels in outer space

Mechanismo Spaceport, by Jim Burns

The humble spacer. Possibly one of the most enduring of science fiction/space opera character archetypes. The Han Solos and Chewbaccas, the Malcolm Reynolds, Pyanfar Chanurs, Ace Garps, Commander Jamesons, Baltechs, Ellen Ripleys and many others while not always heroes they seem to capture the imagination more than most. Average Joes doing their average work in extraordinary ways and with exceptional skill. They know what a hydro-wrench is (and isn’t) for and won’t take shite if someone says otherwise. They can repair a hyperdrive assembly in a few minutes with paperclips, but can’t fix a coffee machine worth a damn.  They know what they know well and thanks to them, they’re responsible for many an SF novel or story.

A worn-out, semi-shady, yet good natured space freighter crew is almost a cliche to me. It occurs frequently as a plot facilitator or lynchpin of the story. There’s been as a many variations on the theme as there are authors. Out and out smugglers, like Han Solo/Chewbacca, borderline freedom fighters like the crew of the Serenity, grungy truckers like the Nostromo crew in Alien, even socially deranged peeps on Red Dwarf. For every story there is a slight variant with a schtick.   But why? You’d think that in the far future, when we have reliable and frequent space travel, there’d be far more interesting jobs out there to do. So why does it, at many times, come back to the “spacer?”

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