Nautical and Science Fiction: Cousins?

A classic scene from science fiction!

And now, a brief word about nautical fiction and how it relates to science fiction…

So, I just finished reading this book about sailing on the high seas. Go me. Why bother putting up a review on a blog dedicated the speculative fiction?

Have you ever watched Star Trek? If you enjoyed what you saw, you’d probably enjoy nautical fiction. Many of the plot and character trappings remain the same, from court martials to the chain of command to the system of honor and courage.

Go back and read the first paragraph from the plot description of Ramage. I’ll wait.

Now, if you’ve seen it, think about the opening scene from Star Trek. The nu-Trek. The one starring Chris Pine.

There were no lens flares in the nautical fiction novel, though.

I would not be shocked to find out that someone along the line had read Ramage and the idea of losing the ship in the first few minutes of the movie appealed to them. How brave can a five-minute captain be, after all? It made for some compelling storytelling in the movie – and it did for the novel, too.

If you’re interested in setting up a story in a universe similar to Star Trek with chains of command and honor and all that, seriously, read some naval fiction and feel for the deck beneath your feet and the kind of moral quandaries facing the captain, and find new and imaginative ways to transport those problems into space.

After all… they’re space ships, aren’t they?

And they always belonged to Star… Fleet, another nautical reference!

And you know what? This even goes well if you like Firefly. Yeah, I know, that’s more cowboys in space. The show intentionally wears its western influence on its sleeve, right from the opening credits. But think about the space elements: Captain Reynolds is a space pirate. Pirates belonged on the water originally, didn’t they? I could easily see Treasure Island lifted up and placed wholesale in the Firefly ‘verse. (Disney did Treasure Planet, but I’ve still not seen it…)

Think about “the honor of the captain” in Firefly — it’s still a deal, even in a space-western.

I would encourage you to check out some good nautical fiction. I can personally recommend both Horatio Hornblower and Ramage as good places to start, though the relatively recent Master and Commander movie was decent. (I prefer the Horatio Hornblower movies myself, and that’s what got me into nautical fiction in the first place.)

Yes, that’s not exactly a normal place to go dredging for science fiction ideas… but you know what? I think it’ll work for you.

Give it a try. Even if it doesn’t work for an idea-maker, it will keep you well entertained!

In contrast, Star Wars doesn’t work as nautical fiction, at least presented as such. That’s another beast entirely.

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