Two years ago I had the pleasure of reviewing Out of This World: Queer Speculative Fiction Stories, a collection of short stories by Catherine Lundoff, and the inaugural title from Queen of Swords Press, a small independent press dedicated to “swashbuckling tales of derring-do and bold new adventures in time and space.” Lundoff delivers on this promise in spades in the latest title from Queen of Swords, Scourge of the Seas of Time (and Space), an anthology of pirate stories.
True to the title, the contributions to Lundoff’s volume span from Antiquity to post-Apocalyptic times, from Earth’s oceans to the outer reaches of the galaxy and even other dimensions. The stories span history, fantasy, sci-fi, and horror, with dashes of romance and humor to leaven the mix. And while each of the stories scores high on the adventure quotient, each of them is distinctly its own story, and not a pale Errol Flynn/Blackbeard/Pirates of the Caribbean imitation. And thankfully, none of them relies on any trite pirate argot to signal “this is a story about pirates.”
Whatever your pleasure, you are sure to find a story to enjoy in this anthology. Among my favorites are “Andromache’s War” by Elliott Dunstan, who ponders what might have happened if one of the widowed captives from the Trojan War had had the chance to choose her own life path, and “The Serpent’s Tail” by Mharie West, which depicts a bisexual poly family of Viking pirates whose battles are not the typical skirmishes at sea; both are quite the thought-provoking reads. “Rib of Man” by Geonn Cannon likewise has a female captain, who might strike you as a kinder, gentler pirate—except when she isn’t. “After the Deluge” by Peter Golubock, set in a post-climate changed new New York, contains a sly nod to a recent viral phenom from three years ago.
Pirates are complicated figures: like vampires, they are simultaneously romantic figures of history and legend, and bloodthirsty criminals, depending upon your perspective. Lundoff captures that complexity through the diversity of her stories. Chosen from almost 100 submissions from fourteen countries, the fifteen stories in this volume feature female pirates, male pirates, non-binary pirates, even non-human pirates; pirates who sail the seas of our Earth, the waters of other Earths, even the far reaches of outer space. These pirates look for treasure, excitement, danger, revenge, the past, the future, and/or redemption; some of them may even find what they seek. What you will find is a treasure trove of unforgettable adventure.
Reviewed by Keith John Glaeske