Friday, May 26, 2017

The Heist Always Goes Wrong: In Space

I'm the perfect age to be a Star Wars nut and grew up as such. It loomed larger than any other pop-culture influence of my childhood, but good lord the three year wait betwixt episodes were fathomless voids and nature abhors a vacuum...

So I filled them with many tales sparked by the bits of the story and character so far revealed. Sure Star Wars had a strong fantasy element, but it was the swashbuckling space opera I responded to most. The open seas, the untamed wilderness, unruly scoundrels, badass bounty hunters and ruthless gangsters along with the plucky resistance bucking against the tyrannical super duper power.

Those characters neither part of the power structure nor tethered by conviction to a political movement or creed using the tools available and exploiting the rickety infrastructure to suit their needs - those are my folks and I follow wherever they lead - even outside the bounds of straight up crime fiction.

The frontier is the key element for my kind of criminal fare whether high-seas piracy, western expansion, the colonizing of outer space or the inner-space frontier of digital existence. The outlaw is a romantic figure sometimes just for his ability to recognize that frontier - where everyone else sees danger he sees opportunity (or mere survival as someone irrevocably outside the mainstream of society) - and as such they are eternal pioneers whose brave first hacks through the jungle become the super-highways of the future.

It''s why I dug the Han Solo pulp novels by Brian Daley that focused on his pre-resistance life as a smuggler and thief. The Star Wars universe of Han and Lando, Boba Fett and Jabba the Hutt was my favorite place to visit. I'll have to look at N@B-star Matt Kindt's Rebel Heist to scratch that old familiar itch soon. And shit, I'd be waaaay more excited about a Guardians of the Galaxy that focused on Sylvester Stallone's ravager crew rather than met up with the Avengers.

Jimmy Vik, the aging roughneck at the center of Kieran Shea's Off Rock belongs to this tradition. Done his time being exploited by the man and ready to take action when he sees an opportunity to steal enough gold to set him up for the rest of his life. Of course if he's caught pilfering by his corporate overlords he'll be subject to an excruciating short life of prison and medical experimentation... so, stakes, yo.

If you, like me, dig Shea's Koko books, you'll recognize the corporatized futuristic outer space setting laced with sly satire disguised by sex jokes and ultraviolence, and you'll respond to that call of the frontier and desire to smash and grab.

I've written exactly one of these stories myself. Down, Down, Down, Burns, Burns, Burns is also about a deep space miner on leave at his local hive of scum and villainy and teaming up with a prostitute to rip off a gangster and pursue petty revenge. It first appeared at Beat To A Pulp and will be included in my reissued short story collection super soon from Broken River Books.

Can you dig it?

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