Pirate Songs

*This novelette was originally published in the anthology Accessing the Future, from The Future Fire, June 2015*

Pirate Songs

by Nicolette Barischoff

 

The floater turned out to be one of those shiny, sky island multi-deck passenger deals that would occasionally completely lose its shit in the middle of a jump.

This one would have been alright–various backup systems humming away, fifty or sixty first-colony licensed pilots determined to discover just what went wrong–had it not jumped straight into something else. Probably a garbage scow; there were a lot of garbage scows this far out. Now, the ship just drifted, listing and rolling like a fat, pretty corpse.

The Dustpan’s crew all had their faces flat against the port windows, eyeing it like a bunch of dogs with tongues out. That was the only reason Rumer had let them go salvage. You pass up a big, beautiful floater like that, you never get your men to do anything useful ever again.

We don’t got the time or space to pull her apart, he’d told them. No scrapping. Get yourselves something small and shiny and get back.

For the most part, they’d listened, filling up their suit-packs with the sorts of little things you always find on a floating hotel like that; alcohol in expensive-looking bottles, VR games with an obscene number of attachments, the palm and wrist PCs that were only considered valuable out here where nobody could afford them. Bottles and needles from a well-stocked sick bay, cards, cash, the turtles out of an elaborate terrarium… Kell, the mutinous asshole, had tried to haul back two of those sultry-voiced concierge kiosks, and a broken servitor droid.

Rumer wasn’t sure which of them had brought back the girl.

She looked to be about fifteen, but to Rumer Pilgrim, anybody not born and raised out of New Pelican looked young.

She didn’t have to be conscious to tell you she was far from home, either Earth or first colonies… German, Canadian, American, some single-nation settlement; she was that same kind of glass-house pretty. Well fed, with pale, untouched, swany skin, and a long, long waterfall of hair that somebody brushed out for her every morning, and a pale pink mouth that looked like it was used to pouting. When her eyes did flicker open for a split-second at a time, he could see they were a pale and brittle green.

The crew crowded around that narrow infirmary bunk for a full day and a half. Diallo, a skinny kid from the pan-Africas with half a field medic’s education and a permanent shit-eating grin, actually left the pilot’s chair to bandage her head wound. And Kell, his lecherous one-eyed bulldog of a first mate, seemed to think he was going to wake her by flicking her nipples.

“Haven’t even seen one like her in a while,” he said, rubbing his scrap glass eye, a sort of endearing nervous tick once you got to know him. “Kind of forgot they made ‘em like this.”

“With two eyes and two whole titties?” said Diallo. “Not every woman’s like your New Pelican dock-workers, Kell. Back up, man, an’ stop gettin’ in the light. This one’s never seen anything ugly as you.”

Kell grinned. “I’m sure she’ll just love that child-fucker smile you got.”

Rumer ignored their dick-swinging. “Who brought her?” he asked.

Diallo shrugged. “She was the only thing alive on that boat, Captain, her and that mess o’ turtles.”

Rumer frowned. “Bad time to have a hitchhiker, you forget that already? What’re you thinking we’re gonna do with her when we have to make our drop?”

“Don’t ask me,” said Kell, “you ask me, we shouldn’t have the stuff in the first place.”

“Right. But I didn’t ask you, and we do have the stuff, and we’re going to have to make a drop before much else happens.”

“You mean before the shit’s no damn good to anybody, or before big Papa Kang figures out who took it and sends a team after us? Because I can guarantee you that second thing’s already happened.”

“I’m thinking, Captain,” said Diallo, making the sort of diplomatic silencing gesture that made Rumer like him, “she is very far from home. She might help. With carrying, with distribution. In exchange for passage, you know.”

Rumer cocked his head. Nodded.

“It’s useful to have someone who looks like her, where we are going, what we are doing. People trust someone who looks like that. Nice pretty white face. They’ll take it from her. No need to tell her where it comes from.”

“So she plays little White Mother for us, we put her down wherever she wants, she goes on home having gratefully agreed to tell nobody, and everybody’s happy and still alive, is that it?”

Diallo grinned wide and white. “She won’t even have a ship’s name to tell her mother.”

“It might work,” said Rumer. “If we don’t run into any transit police or any Peacekeeping Officers she feels like chatting to.”

“Why would she talk to any Blueberries?” asked Diallo. “Why leave the ship at all? We are just some nice men of varying degrees of handsomeness taking her to port.”

Kell laughed at that, his loud bulldog bark. “I’ll agree with that! Why leave the ship at all? Hell, I’ll teach her to have fun sittin’ in one spot.”

“You’ll wait ‘til she’s awake, you ugly fuck,” said Rumer. “If she don’t immediately bite your balls off and run screaming from your very presence.”

Kell laughed again, louder and longer. Rumer turned to Diallo.

“She’ll get her ride, but she’ll have to work. You think you can get her to work?”

Diallo paused. The girl’s green eyes flickered open. And she sat up.

Or rather, she tried to sit up, squirming strangely for several minutes before going limp, and saying, in a slightly strained voice: “Could one of you please help me up?”

Nobody moved for a second. Diallo took her by the arm, and when that proved insufficient, grabbed her by the armpits, and propped her against the corner. Her feet were bare, and her legs dangled off the edge of the bunk, limp and pale. “Thank you,” she said.

Diallo answered with a nod.

The girl looked around her, not exactly frightened. Not exactly. But looking a little like she’d been thrown into an icy gray lake, and was just now bringing her head up out of the water to discover which of them had done it to her. “Who… What… happened? Where is this?”

Rumer thought it best to let her have it all at once. “I am the more-or-less captain, Rumer Pilgrim, and you are currently a passenger aboard my ship, this streamlined and classically engineered cargo vessel you see before you.”

“Why…?”

“Well, young lady, because your own is presently floating through deep space like a chunk of particularly metal-rich frozen shit. Now, I don’t know who you are, and I don’t really care to. But you’ve got to know that we’ve gone pretty well out of our way to pick you up. Now, I didn’t mind doing it, and you’re welcome. We’ll drop you off soon as we’re able, anyplace you want to be, so long as it’s not a place where people are likely to get up in our business. But before that happens… what?”

The girl was shaking her head, green eyes dry. “The ship, I was just… how did…?” She blinked, touched her head bandage, and suddenly settled on a question. “Your name’s Rumer Pilgrim?”

“That’s right.”

“That’s your real name?”

Rumer frowned. “Never had another.”

There was the smallest flick of a smile on that pink mouth. “So your name is actually ‘Pilgrim, Pilgrim’.”

“No.” Rumer Pilgrim looked at her with narrower eyes than he intended. “No, and I can’t say I know what you’re playing at.”

The girl’s smile widened the littlest bit. “Nothing. Never mind.”

“Young lady, if you’d rather not ride with us…”

“No, no. It’s fine. Thank you… Thank you.”

Rumer nodded.

She let out a somewhat shuddering breath of air. She looked around. “Sorry… can I have my chair, please? Where did you put my chair?”

Rumer blinked. Blinked again. “What chair?”

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Accessing the Future: The Pirates Have Landed

Accessing the Future is here! The battle robots, holograms, generation ships,  genetically modified creatures, not to mention some tough-talking space pirates, are all on Amazon, just waiting for  your eyeballs! (you can also find it on Powell’s Books, B&N, and, I suspect, just about any other large, online book-seller).

Get yours  today! Help us boost our Amazon  ratings! All the coolest shapeshifters and giant robot warriors are doing it.  The more copies we sell today (July 1st)  the higher our Amazon rating will be, and the more likely the anthology will be recommended to Amazon shoppers in other searches! Kindle or hard-copy, pick your method of absorption. Let’s boost this bitch!

http://www.amazon.com/Accessing-Future-Disability-Themed-Anthology-Speculative-ebook/dp/B010IU2IQU/ref=sr_1_1_twi_2_kin?ie=UTF8&qid=1435788534&sr=8-1&keywords=accessing+the+future

This is an important anthology for a whole mess of reasons (some of which will be discussed in a more in-depth  post on a different  space) but one reason is that it’s fun. One of the best ways to destigmatize and “normalize” disability is to create honest, messy, multi-faceted  disabled characters who are a valuable part of stories that are fun to read.

Prepare to have fun, while reading this anthology. Prepare also to receive varied and interesting windows into several types of adapted existence. The future’s a cool and funky place.

Feel free to post your own mini-review in the comments!

Hooray for Locus, Ellen Kushner, and Early Reviews!

So, holy crap! The people have cast their votes. The Locus Award finalists are in, and it appears that the home of my very first pro sale, Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction From the Margins of History has made the shortlist for Best Anthology!

That’s some truly head-exploding news for a baby writer to wake up to. It’s been over a year, and I still feel dizzyingly fortunate to have been a part of something as varied and wonderful as Long Hidden. To discover that other people find it to be  as utterly full of wonders as I do…  well, that’s just the most beautiful and sparking icing on the cake I can think of.

Very few people can say that their first paid work as a writer found a home in such company as Tananarive Due, Sofia Samatar, Sarah Pinsker, Ken Liu, Thoraiya Dyer, Christina Lynch… and even fewer people can say that their first paid work was part an anthology so well-appreciated that it incited its readers to want to bestow on it something  they’d normally only give to that Song of Ice and Fire guy.

Needless to say, I’m crazy humbled. Congratulations to all my Long Hidden betters, in particular to the radiant Sofia Samatar, whose absolutely wonder-stuffed, “Ogres of East Africa” is up for Best Short Story. Good luck everyone. In the words of the marginalized poet, Fezzik the Giant: “Inigo… I hope we win!”

In other writerly news, the order period for the e-book Angels of the Meanwhile has been extended for one glorious month. You now have until June 1st to order this eclectic and beautifully strange volume of prose, poetry, and short fiction. And, good God, if we’re gonna talk about icing, another one of my favorite living authors, Ellen Kushner, has added her prose piece to the table of contents! How cool is that? I’ll tell you. It’s ridiculously cool. It’s a dog-pile of cool.

So, for the price of your choosing, you get poetry by the shimmering Catherynne M. Valente, (oh my God!!), prose by the unbeatable Ellen Kushner (oh my God, folks, oh my God!!!) a new story by me (it’s a nice, short one) and tons of other cool works, both new and previously published. Here’s the link again, for those of you who need it. Just ignore the place where it tells you the pre-order ends May 1st. JUNE 1st is your date. Go and do it!

http://alexandraerin.dreamwidth.org/638796.html

Also, most nerve-wrackingly, the reviews have already started to trickle in for Accessing the Future. I’m sure it will all be very exciting, once I stop hyperventilating and shake the feeling back into my legs. Before I go, check out this early shout-out from Publishers Weekly! Nice work Future Crew, we snagged a star! (my pirates earned themselves a little mention, too!)

http://publishersweekly.com/pw/reviews/single/978-0-9573975-4-5

Space Pirates, and Some Angels

In latest writerly news, the official release date of the anthology Accessing the Future, home of my big bad space pirates as well as fourteen other brand-new disability-themed science fiction stories, has been set for July 1st.

I don’t write with great frequency about disability (for reasons I will discuss at length in a later post)  but I’m very happy that my hard-bitten little space opera, “Pirate Songs” has found a home in something like Accessing the Future, alongside such talents as Sarah Pinsker and Rachael K. Jones.

Accessing the Future is not a collection of essays on the stigmatization of disability thinly disguised as fiction; It is a collection that endeavors to create windows into several varied embodied experiences of disability, as well as to create a dialogue about disability as a relative concept. What would a “disability” be in a future where the landscape of ability is radically different from that which we now inhabit?  Given that “disability” is a relative term, and thus, like “poverty”, will always exist, what technologies and spaces will exist in the future for the optimization of personal ability?

It’s got Mech- battles, generation ships, sex in zero-gravity, crazy hologram use, genetic engineering, all that good shit!

And, oh my God, space pirates! Holy cats, did I have fun writing the space pirates!(New Idea: we desperately need an SF/F anthology that centers around pirates–historical, modern, futuristic, fantastical, of space, cyberspace, and sea–and the reasons why we’re so obsessed with them. Kickstarter, anyone?)

Also in writerly news, a tiny little piece of historical fantasy called “Changed” (you might call it my “A Very Young Girl With Enormous Wings” story) will appear in an e-chapbook  alongside one of my absolute favorite authors, Catherynne M. Valente (squee! I never thought I would actually use the word squee!) and many other glowingly brilliant authors and artists (like the amazing Rose Lemberg, and neo-pagan folk musician SJ Tucker. Read the full table of contents here: http://alexandraerin.dreamwidth.org/638796.html ).

The e-book, entitled Angels of the Meanwhile will be a collection of new and previously published works, incidentally released the day before  Accessing the Future, NEVER TO BE RELEASED AGAIN! and the only way to get it is to pre-order it from the link below. Order now, folks! Pay what you can. All donations go to pay for the desperately-needed surgery of  a very loved and well-respected lady.

http://alexandraerin.dreamwidth.org/636831.html