Postmodern Pirate Queen

One of the first things I wanted to be was a writer. It’s one of the first things I can recall earning praise for at school. I was 6 or 7 and the class was writing stories. My teachers were impressed that I had used dialogue, but I’d written a condensed version of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea a few times by then that not using dialogue seemed weird.

I also remember Mum wasn’t thrilled because I’d had a character yelling “Shut up,” which at that age she thought wasn’t language she wanted me using. I recall she muttered something about if I was going to write it, I could at least spell it correctly. Thanks, Mum.

Over the years I’ve dabbled now and then. The longest I kept at it was a David Eddings fan fic which took two years for ~50,000 words. It was moderately awful. Usually it is when I write longer than a five or six hundred words, I don’t sustain narrative very well. I tend to do better at flash fiction, where I have to get in and out in a few hundred words and it is less about a story and more a sketch of one.

My favourite one is one I thought I had lost. I posted it as a comment to a blog post on another site. They were inviting entries to a competition, 300 words or less on the theme of “The Postmodern Pirate Queen”. I’m never sure I actually get what postmodernism even is though, so except something about intertexuality, so I just wrote a pastiche of Moorcock.

The sky was the colour of a crystal ball attuned to a dead dimension. A column of greasy smoke rose up from the shattered carcass of Peg Leg’s ship. It drifted in the breeze over the Rogue Mistress, temporarily hiding the sickly-coloured sky. Maria de Tres Pistolas hardly noticed.

The long boat pulled alongside and the crew started hauling in the booty retrieved from the water; the surviving crew and passengers of the doomed ship now beginning to slip beneath the waves. For all of the day’s maneuvering and posturing the battle only required a single shot from Goreethmorug, the aft-mounted cannon. Peg Leg’s ship had been no match for them and their hellish rounds.

Goreeth detached and clattered down to the main deck. His -it’s? - last human eye scanned the loot. “A good haul, captain,” he said.

“No Bastable though,” Maria replied.

“No. Escaped through the time streams, most like.”

Maria looked out over the alien sea. There was no life in this sea. No life anywhere they’d been while they hunted. Perhaps she’d sent the last life on this world to the bottom. “These colours bore me. Take us somewhere else. Somewhere with…slavery.” She didn’t stay to watch Goreeth winnow through the captives, discarding the sick and injured over the side and saving one for the engines. She sought her cabin. Later, while drifting in an opium dream, she hardly felt anything when the Rogue Mistress’s diabolic engines powered up and tugged at her soul like a loose thread. A good haul and Bastable would turn up again. As a lover or as an enemy; it hardly mattered which.

Something about it just worked for me. Maybe it was the few lines, that seemed to capture the inage I had in my mind for Maria. And of course, I liked it because I got the nicest praise for it: ‘The editors of “Metal-Hurlant” are applauding, somewhere.’

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