test case

Economic collapse, the heat death of the earth, and the forthcoming resource wars of the 2010s: what do these things mean for genre fiction?  Some subgenres will prosper, presumably, others will decline. As we are plunged into a real-life gothic-punk nightmare, what people are looking for in escapism and exoticism seems likely to change.

What’s going to happen to all those books about gritty decaying Dickensian cities once we’re all actually living in one? 

Test case: pirates.  There’s been a bit of a resurgence of pirate stories recently. Fun and light-hearted escapism, with just a touch of tongue-in-cheek jokiness.  What’s going to happen to the demand for pirate stories now that pirates are actually a problem again?  OK, probably not much, not yet.  Somalia is a long way away from the US or European market.  Somalia might as well be Narnia for all the US market gives a damn.  So how much closer and more prevalent would piracy have to get before it affects reading tastes?  Suppose international civilization degrades to the point at which pirates are attacking shipping in the North Atlantic, let’s say once or twice a month.  I imagine for a while that would increase the demand for pirate stories.  Look how the demand for light-entertainment movies about terrorists has increased since 2001.  But terrorism, of course, has so far been a pretty distant and rare phenomenon.  More likely to be killed by lightning than by terrorism, etc.  Just scary enough to be entertaining and titillating, not scary enough to be offputting and unpleasant. But what if piracy started really ruining your day? What if you started getting piracy off the coasts of New York or the Netherlands?  I’m not really willing to rule that out.

Yes. Anyway. Pirates. Has a pirate ever ruined your day? Tell us about it in the comments.

38 comments on “test case

  1. No, but yesterday’s Ecstatic Days outburst came close to blog piracy!

    (just kidding)

  2. Benedict says:

    We covered the cargo interest on the big tanker that got hijacked so I’m mildly peeved about it. We think we’re probably not liable unless they jettison it though so fingers crossed, obviously it’d be a massive environmental disaster as well, but that’s kind of a secondary effect.

    If the next Die Hard movie is set on a boat with an octagenarian Bruce Willis fighting off pirates I think you should sue them for stealing your ideas.

  3. Both pirates and terrorists have been in the news recently in India. There was a ship, called the Stolt Valour, which was captured by Somali pirates a few months ago–the crew members, many of whom were Indian, were let off recently. And of course, you’ve heard of the Mumbai terror attacks.

  4. I imagine these things look a lot closer to home in India than they do here in New York.

  5. Has a pirate ever ruined my day? Yes, yes, and oh, god yes. The inexplicable pirate on the children’s television program The Wiggles gives me the wiggins every time he appears on screen. In truth I do love that show, as children’s programming goes – but only with the screen turned off. THe songs are great, but that pirate is just plain creepy.

    And you know what’s even creepier? We don’t have cable and I have been systematically ridding the household of any stray Wiggles vhs tapes and dvds – and yet, we continually have more. They emerge like mushrooms in the darker corners of my home an are scattered under the beds like dust bunnies. At last count, there were nineteen. Nineteen! I’ve purchased zero. I’ve given away about thirty to the goodwill. Where the hell are they coming from? I have two theories: 1. my children have secretly acquired their own credit cards and automobiles and are zipping back and forth to Target when I’m not looking (given that they are budding evil geniuses – genii? – this is not totally out of the realm of the possible), or 2. the pirate has the ability to slip out of the dvd case and leave his foul booty all around my house (honestly, I’d believe anything at this point).

    My god. I just found another one in my desk. Goddamned Wiggles Pirate.

  6. Larry says:

    Pirates (and ninjas) make me want to vomit. Really.

    And as for the “serious” part of the post, have you ever read Robert Kaplan’s “The Coming Anarchy,” that was published in The Atlantic about 15 years ago? Amazing how on he was with his predictions.

  7. whats a wiggles

    sounds horrid

  8. I don’t think I have read the Coming Anarchy

    I think I have an impression of Kaplan as a horrible disingenuous imperialist scumbag without ever having really read anything by him, but no-one ever said life was fair, right? is he worth reading?

  9. Seriously, what I think we’re going to see is an increase in security jobs, in some cases leading to thuggery. Pseudo-military outfits like Blackwater. Like Wells Fargo protecting the Pony Express in days of yore. A blurring of lines between government and civilian agencies. Ex-SEAL team bounty hunters.

  10. and Dennis Hopper wearing an eye patch.

  11. Benedict says:

    It’s a shame that the increased levels of piracy undermine the pirates / global warming correlation identified by the church of the flying spaghetti monster. Maybe the intelligent design proponents were right all along . . .


  12. Larry says:

    Kaplan’s article is indeed worth reading. Here’s a link to it and I don’t think I’d associate “imperialist” with him there. Funny, since there are quite a few crypto-imperialists out there still in American media and not just on Faux News.

  13. maybe i’m thinking of the wrong kaplan

  14. no wait shit I’m thinking of robert kagan

    oh god how embarrassing

  15. that’s a very good article indeed

  16. “Why’d you get out of the Navy, then?”

    Seagulls circles over the glittering water in the bay.

    “Hell, I make more money guarding Mr. Logan’s cruise ships,” said Keelhaul Budreau as he pulled on the rope.

    Hand over hand, he drew the rope up out of the water until the pirate boss burst through the surface, writhing and gasping for air, feet still dragging the water from the weight of the anchor lashed to them.

    “This how you talked the Captain o’ the LuraLee into given you his loot?”

    “Piss off!” sputtered the pirate.

  17. Kelly –
    Yep, that damn Wiggles pirate has ruined many a day for me. Worse is when you’re on a long car trip and the kids just want to listen to that stupid Wiggles at Australia zoo cd.

    However – given that popular culture has informed us that pirates are all i: scruffy and endearingly camp and ii: excellent children’s television, why am I not now seeing a gently funny pirate-based reality show on my TV? What? It’s on later? I don’t want to tape it!

    Anyway. If we’re talking about *actual* pirates, it’s not a problem. Just get yourself some of Precious Roy’s Pirate Cripplers! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owouynBXC4g

  18. Felix, you really don’t know what the Wiggles are? God bless you, my dear. Seriously, you must live in some magical cloud of happiness and delight where grownups can sleep in if they goddamned feel like it and there are no flashing plastic robots saying “Search and Destroy” and there are no four year old children who refer to you as Mrs. Big-Butt. That, or you just don’t have children – which is essentially the same thing. One day, I shall live in a land that is free of the Wiggles and Barney and High School Musical and other monstrosities. Unfortunately, I shall also be old and senile and am not likely to enjoy it. We don’t even have a working television, but I think children these days have evolved in such a way that they are all born with internal antennas, so any attempts at hippy-parenting is futile.


    Well, at least my kids are ridiculously cute.

  19. Kelly,

    Do your kids at least let you play some Dan Zanes now and then?

  20. >Felix Gilman says:
    >December 2, 2008 at 11:32 am
    >whats a wiggles

    >sounds horrid
    Pretty much sums them up, yes.

  21. i’ve got a cat

    she doesn’t give me any wiggles-type problems

    good cat

  22. Plus, you can go to the vet for cat-wiggles problems.

  23. The Wiggles wear what look like uniforms from the original Star Trek, right?

  24. Yes, but with less travel to other planets and more gurning.

  25. Larry says:

    After all this Wiggles talk, I’m waiting to hear Felix expound on his take of Twilight

  26. i am sure Twilight means well

  27. Carrie says:

    Kelly, I feel very close to you right now. We are currently a Wiggles-free home, but then again, the kid’s only 20 months old…

  28. Carrie says:

    Did you know that Twilight is in fact propaganda to encourage Mormon-style abstinence? Discuss.

  29. would you like to watch the wiggles? i said to the cat

    (because sometimes i like to test her)

    she just stared at me with yellow-eyed contempt

    good cat! i gave her a treat

  30. I can imagine a Twilight movie poster with the quote “i am sure Twilight means well” on it

  31. Larry says:

    I wonder what Fred Phelps would make of Twilight

  32. Mary C says:

    That Kaplan article. Wow!

  33. Felix, I think I’m in love with your cat.

    Heeeeere kitty, kitty.

    And on the Rev. Phelps – that guy could find the gay subtext in a rock. Cuz, yanno, rocks….

    Actually, when I was preggers with baby #1 (because I measure time these days in pregnancies) I was teaching in a high school in a semi-rural town in Oregon. Now, since I was young and fresh-faced and sporting the whole cute pregnant girl thing, I found myself the adoptee-du-jour of all kinds of crazy folks – including a small cadre of parents who were Rev. Phelps devotees (because there’s nothing that the Homophobics of America like better than a twenty three year old knocked up unmarried chick. Anyway.) So one of their kids shows up in my room before school started with a big-assed phelpsian poster and asked if he could hang it up in class. I told him I’d think about it.

    Now, this was an interesting development for the young, untenured (shall we say – maverick) teacher. There was nothing in the poster that was overtly in contrast to any school anti-defamation code, because the gltb community was systematically excluded from any civil rights language in the school system. So, I had the kids read a section of The Stranger, and got them to talk about the responsibility of the individual in the face of an insane system. So, I asked the kids, “What should I do with a piece of media that follows the rules, but I consider immoral – not only for me, but for the community I’m trying to establish in this classroom?” Two cute Latina girls in the back – who never participated before this day, said, “Tear it the fuck up.” So that’s what we did.

    Now, here’s the interesting thing about this story – the Phelpsian kid? Well he wrote to me about three months ago – how he got my mailing address, I’ll never know. But anyway, he’s married to the man of his dreams and they’re both park rangers in some remote area of Alaska. And he wanted to – I don’t know – thank me and stuff. I get these letters from former students and I don’t always know what to do with them, because they’re usually from the kids that I don’t expect.

    I really don’t have a point to this story except this – everyone’s going to find proof to their politics in everything. Mostly, I think it’s fun to poke at it a little and see what deflates – because you can get some pretty cool spirals from a rapidly deflating idea.

  34. Carrie says:

    “you can get some pretty cool spirals from a rapidly deflating idea”

    I’m so stealing this line.

  35. Two cute Latina girls in the back – who never participated before this day, said, “Tear it the fuck up.”

    i hope you gave them an A

  36. “An A + + + +,” I trilled as I sashayed about the room, inscribing plusses on random surfaces.

  37. Larry says:

    Sweet. I teach in a TN school, so while I can’t officially endorse the swearing, I certainly would have managed to have “lost” any disciplinary papers I would have had to sign. Despite being a native of the state, it is odd to realize that being Catholic means one is liberal by comparison…

Comments are closed.