Scourge of the Seas of Time (and Space) edited by Catherine Lundoff

Publisher – Queen of Swords

Published – Out Now

Price - £4.55 Kindle

Outlaws. Lovers. Heroes. Villains. With their peg legs, their parrots and the skull and crossbones flying from the mastheads of their ships, classic pirates are some of the world’s best known and easily recognizable outlaws. Or are they?

These fifteen stories spin new tales of pirates crossing dimensional barriers for revenge, fighting terrible foes in outer space and building new lives after the Trojan War. Travel to the South China Sea then on to New York City after a climate apocalypse then roam the Caribbean during the Golden Age of Piracy and voyage to distant and fantastical worlds. Go with them as they seek treasure, redemption, love, revenge and more…

I loved pirate movies as a kid.  I am a sucker for a sword fight in a movie and finally have given in to friend’s urging to watch Black Sails (It is good, and my Xmas catch up show). There is something about the person who rebels against the system to do their own things that always appeals to us and sadly we tend to focus too much on interminable sequels featuring a past their prime actor who should not be in any more movies…ahem. In SF and fantasy great tales have long existed such as Revenger by Alastair Reynolds or The Liveship Traders by Robin Hobb (and in movies Wrath of Khan clearly loved the sailing metaphors) but this amazing anthology looks at the concept of a pirate and gives them all of time, space and magic to play with.  It’s a breath of fresh air as fifteen authors try to give us a new take on the rogue with a ship.  My highlights were as follows

Treasured Island by Ginn Hale

The starting point for the collection is a wonderfully funny and saucy narrator working for a cruel pirate captain gets tossed into a magical (east Asian-based) sea for potential mutiny.  However, this is a sea where islands wander, giant crabs may eat you and treasure can be found.  Loved the main character’s voice and you really want them to find their way home.

The Seafarer by Ashley Deng

This is more of a magical action story as a pirate named Drasio returns from a magical land to the Mediterranean.  He finds himself and his crew in battle with a Dutch galleon holding an evil load.  This story really paints a vivid picture of the life and crew in a very short space of time before culminating in a final sea duel.  Quiet spellbinding and you’d love to know more of the magical realm these pirates come from.

Saints and Bodhisattvas by Joyce Chng

A pirate captain who has all their life loved the sea is hired by a woman for a revenge mission, but they find a lot more than they bargained for.  As always, I find Chng’s ability to paint a picture of a different world effective. While the Captain trains Maria in her fighting skills they grew closer and again we get a brilliant sea battle. To climax the story with an important emotional beat to it The Asian take on pirates plus the idea of a non-binary pirate really makes this tale stand out.

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by Megan Arkenberg

We are told the tale of Sham who all is currently on the run from one of the most dreaded Pirate Captains who seeks revenge on her. Sham’s voice of the standard pirate crew really makes the story as someone who while not a captain is ingenious, and you’re given this entire pirate universe of violent feuds and rogues that this short story is but one small episode.  Really effective and so surprising to have women as main villains and leads too!

Andromache’s War by Elliott Dunstan

This is my favourite story in the collection.  Andromache’s is the widow of Hector and is starting the story as a slave by one of the Greeks after the Fall of Troy.  It’s a story about what will a person do when they’ve lost everything and can anyone stop them?  Poetically written this is an epic tale in miniature with gods and a very different lens to Troy than some writers have managed. Wonderful.

Rib of Man by Geonn Cannon

We meet the pirate captain Henriette Talmadge who has over the course of her life embraced the sea and has a crew of men and women all working with her on the best plunder.  Their next ship though may contain Henriette’s most valuable prize yet.  This was the progressive queer pirate captain I’ve always needed in my life.  I would quite happily have read an entire book of her adventures but again this is a brilliant snapshot on life and the way this crew all works together to achieve their aims is fantastic.

A Smuggler’s Pact by Su Haddrell

Unusually most of this story happens on land and significantly dials up the magical elements as a first officer under a cruel and inefficient pirate is sent inland to the swamps to find out who is taking their treasure shipments.  Strange magical battles and a very pirate-like solution make the story flow and end in a very neat and creative solution. Who doesn’t like fighting demonic trees!

The Dead Pirate’s Cave by Soumya Sundar Mukerjee

We move from magic into science fiction as a young girl is forced to go to an island guarded by killer robots to find treasure.  Neatly weaving past and present for characters to make you understand how everyone got into this situation the ending as unexpected but welcome as was the explanation for the strange sights we are seeing.

Tenari by Michael Merriman

In deep space a rogue captain of space veterans answers a distress call.  Much more of a space battle story than pirates but the way the crew explore the dark and mysteriously empty ship is suspenseful and then it climaxes in a story of sacrifice and explosions. 

The hall mark of this collection is the creativity of the worlds the authors create.  Each tale is its own universe and the ships and characters all feel their own creation.  It makes these stories really work for a 21st century audience and to see pirates in such diversity makes it clear this is not a genre simply for Jack Sparrow fans we can all play a part.  So, if you fancy a trip away from the winter cold and move to the warmer tropical seas with added adventure you want this book!