Edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer

To celebrate the Talk Like a Pirate Day, Night Shade Books graciously gave me a review copy of this short story collection about science fiction and fantasy pirates. It’s been on my to-get-list for a while so I was happy. It contains 18 stories from talented writers.

“At least part of the current fascination with pirates, including our own, has to be about freedom, frontiers, a yearning for adventure and a desire to explore exotic locales.” So starts the VanderMeers’ introduction and I fully agree. The stories in this collection are very much about freedom; about the need to be the master of your own life and fate, and to be free of the demands of the society. There are also quite a few exotic locales as you might expect from a SFF collection.

All of the stories are good but some of them stand out to me:

Elizabeth Bear’s and Sarah Monette’s Boojum is a story about Black Alice Bradley who is the newest recruit aboard the alive Boojum spaceship Lavinia Whately. The Boojums eat other spaceships no matter if they are other Boojums or made of steel. The crew finds very interesting cargo aboard the ship they pillage.

In Kage Baker’s I Begyn As I Mean to Go On two runaway slaves are rescued by a pirate ship and they end up having to sign on to the crew. After they pillage a Spanish ship, a dying sailor tells them about his treasure but it turns out to be less traditional than the pirates had hoped for.

Howard Waldrop’s Avast, Abaft! is a humorous tale about the Pirate King who is fleeing the HMS Pinafore. Both crews enjoy singing very much.

In Katharine Sparrow’s Pirate Solutions, three young coders drink rum one night and bite down on the bones at the bottom of the bottles. They find out about their destinies, or previous lives, as pirates. They are determined to bring the tactics of the pirates to the modern world and so they sail away from their current lives.

Paul Batteiger’s A Cold Day in Hell is set above the frozen sea where ships run on skates. The commander of the Ranger and the Jane, one English Leftenant Drake, is chasing the dread pirate Captain Frost.

Naomi Novik’s Araminta or, The Wreck of the Amphidrake is set in an alternate world with working magic. Lady Araminta is a headstrong young woman who is sent to the Colonies to marry and settled down. But on the way, pirates attack.

In Garth Nix’s Beyond the Sea Gate of the Scholar-Pirates of Sarsköe two men are looking for pirates in order to get them to storm the stronghold of the legendary Scholar-Pirates. Both of them are masquerading as pirates themselves: Sir Hereward as Martin Suresword, the Terror of the Syndical Sea and Mister Fitz as Farolio a living puppet down on his luck. Fitz is in fact a puppet which has been brought to life by magic. However, it seems that the duo bit off a bit more than they can chew when they meet Captain Fury of the Sea-Cat.

The stories were surprisingly different: sailing ship, spaceships, airships, skateships, living ships… One of the stories is written as a logbook and other as memoirs which were interesting techniques that worked well. Two of the stories were about pirate ships’ cooks. Some of the captains were intelligent gentlemen and some evil bastards but all of them were colorful.

Very good collection.