Going on the Account: Set Sail With an Eye Atop the Mast…

There’s a post over at io9.com about the CG film on Captain Harlock.

Pirates.  In space.

And this doesn’t get you fired up why…?

Think about it:  Two of the great American mythic themes, pirates (the originators of the work ethic and blind belief in market forces that made the New Word the inspired and sexy place we think we inhabit), and going into space (the hope that our core ideal about having a frontier we can turn to for escape and exploitation will always be there and not have died the day we admitted Arizona into the union [February 14th, 1912]), combined together and updated for a new generation.  What’s not to get hot and bothered for?

Yes, it’s a Japanese property with a long history, that hopefully won’t get as bad a treatment as the effort to update ASTRO BOY did.  With any luck, when it gets sent over here to us giajin we’ll appreciate it for what it is, telling a familiar story with cutting edge tools that hopefully won’t lose the power of the original as we receive it.

Pirates.  In space.  And this is not worth noting why…?

Going on the Account: If Not Your First Choice…

There was a profile of Jon Gnarr over the weekend in the NY TIMES, that deserves merit here for this quote given in the piece:

Mr. Gnarr, born in Reykjavik as Jon Gunnar Kristinsson to a policeman and a kitchen worker, was not a model child. At 11, he decided school was useless to his future as a circus clown or pirate and refused to learn any more.

The mind reels at where it wanders on reading that…

TONIGHT ONLY AT THE PIRATE’S COVE

Hear the stand-up of BLACKBEARD, with a special appearance by the duo of ANNE AND MARY!

“Arrr, they be cut-ups!” – William Kidd

Three shares of yer booty! Two drink minimum!

…Yeah, the heat’s getting to me too…

Going on the Account: Running Silent, Running Afar…

This article from BBC about the Dutch providing a submarine for duty off Somalia has a few points of interest; the smaller of the two is the idea of using subs to go after pirates, which I hope was handled with all the dignity Irwin Allen could muster on the episode “The Return of Blackbeard” from VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA

…mind you, should I find and watch this episode and later discover this was not the case, then hell, there’s going to be a sudden opening in the market for pirates-and-submarines fiction that I’m going to try and fill…

The more important point is provided by the graphic showing the range that the modern buccaneers have traveled to go after prizes.  About the only thing keeping them from going around the other side of the Arabian Peninsula for some truly rich treasures is the presence of the 5th Fleet in the area, seconded in difficulty by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, which recently took over the Iranian navy.   And there’s probably a few that might just look at that as a challenge…

What’s striking, though, is how surprised some folks seem to be by the long distances the pirates are willing to go.  Throughout history, pirates have been willing to venture further than anticipated; case in point was the time Francis Drake took the REALLY LONG way home

Going on the Account: Such Signal Flags as These…

I was referred tonight to Rosenfeld and Quackenbush’s Wet Asphalt blog, and in particular Eric Rosenfeld’s post about Robin Sloan.

There’s a lot of praise of Sloan and his website in the piece, which discusses as much his business model as his body of work.   And I have to admit to being like the humans at the very beginning of Clarke’s CHILDHOOD’S END, trying to win the space race until the aliens appear and shut all that down.  One of the things I’ve tried to do here was to find new ways to get out there, find an audience and use new tools in the best way I can.  Sloan is streets ahead of me, and probably most online writers, which alone in and of itself certainly warrants attention.

But the best business model means nothing without good product, and he has that the way galleons had silver from Nueva Espania.  I was particularly struck by a story he has on the site, which he can share with a broad audience now that he’s sold 100 copies of it via Kindle, “The Writer & The Witch.”  I don’t want to spoil it for you; go, follow the link and read it!

A media inventor with good content to boot; yes, there is hope out there for the culture at large…

Going on the Account: Saints Amongst the Sinners

The tale of Ahmed the cook, as relayed by the Associated Press, pretty well speaks for itself.  At all times, there are folks that will cross some lines, but refuse to cross all of them; Ahmed certainly falls into this group.

(And I intentionally use the present tense, in the hope that somehow he’s still out there…)

What’s also of interest is the slow response from the countries that the crewmen came from, which doesn’t say much for their governments for leaving them to die.

Which brings up the question of where these regimes fall as far as the saint-sinner divide goes…

Going on the Account: Avast! Prepárese para ser abordado, el Hombre Araña!

Sometimes, a story that doesn’t seem connected to a topic does a great job of illuminating that subject anyway…

Case in point, this piece in the TIMES about illegal piñatas would seem to have nothing to offer to people discussing pirates.  You ask someone to make a connection between pirates and piñatas, their first thought is more likely, “Won’t all that papier-mâché you made your boat out of just fall apart before you lose sight of shore?”

And yet, the description here of the piñata trade, the actors in this drama and the definition of their roles, so perfectly encapsulates why we have pirates, what makes them who they are and why they do it.  And yes, the terms “pirate” and “piracy” do get used in the piece a lot, but this time appropriately.

What we have here on the streets of Mexico City is a market for product, a product with a high demand being tightly controlled by a few interests.  Because demand creates opportunity, there are enterprising vendors out there who try and meet the demand, and in the process make a little profit for themselves as well.

In a free market environment, these folks would be ‘entrepreneurs,’ able to meet these needs without restriction.  But because this is by no means a free market, with those limited interests losing their income to the upstarts, they become ‘pirates’ instead.  None of the piñata merchants in the piece claim total innocence, and are fully aware that this is a business, one where you have to get your hands dirty.

And sometimes, the ones standing against the pirates (or as they are known in pirate-centric fiction like this, ‘the villains’) are not so easy to boo by the audience.  The Mexican government certainly is promoting lofty goals in tying the fight against counterfeits to their war on drugs, and as the crisis in Ciudad Juarez unfolds such action needs to be taken to promote some stability.  It’s also hard to really vilify Marvel Entertainment; for all you can find wrong with a big corporation that mercilessly monetizes all their IP, they do have a few good points regarding the protection of and right to distribute their work.

Pure blackhearts or justifiable villains, there’s still the issue that leads to the drive to pirate: personal economics, and from that a model economy that sustains smaller players.  Many of the vendors making copies of Marvel’s characters (as well as other corporations’ properties) may be skinning the edges off a few doubloons heading northward, but those small percentages mean much more in a small scale economy.

This has parallels in other settings; most people forget that while the Spanish Treasure Fleet was a popular prize for most pirates to try for during the Golden Age of Piracy, that the system kept feeding precious metals to Spain right up until 1790.  It was not the buccaneers seizing ships that did in the trade, it was economic collapse from too many years fighting the French and Ottomans for too long; you could argue that had Spain practiced a more restrained diplomacy that they could have stayed the hand of history coming to knock them down.  Perhaps la paz española could have allowed for a radical rethink of how much specie had to flow east, and could have changed the face of the New World, to the point where my novel tries to look exotic with a sprinkling of English words en todo el texto…

The point is, we can take away from the example presented a much better picture of the forces at work where pirates sail.  Or download.  Or slap some newspaper over a candy-filled box…