Captain Bob and the Space Patrol

Captain Bob marched towards the silver-chrome rocket ship.

Did I say ‘captain’? That won’t do. I really don’t want anything political in this story. ‘Captain’ that suggests a rank and a rank suggests all sorts of thing. I mean sure, you can be captain of a civilian ship – it just means you are the one in charge but even that assumes Bob lives in a society in which hierarchal chains of command are the norm. Because this story must have no politics, I don’t want to suggest that his ship is necessarily run as some sort of anarcho-syndicalist commune of like-minded space travellers but I also don’t want to rule out the possibility by calling Bob ‘captain’. Mind you, if I don’t call him ‘captain’ does that rule out possibility that Bob lives in a society like ours? I guess even if he is a captain then ‘Bob’ is still his name.

I’ll stick with just plain Bob. The reader can add ‘captain’ or ‘daily short-term decision maker decided by lot’ accordingly.

Bob climbed the ladder up to the hatchway.

Actually, scratch that. He just got into the ship. Doesn’t matter how. A ladder implies all sorts of things about the society in question. A highly aristocratic society might draw its officers from the upper ranks and maybe a ladder would be undignified, on the other hand, a ladder also implies various attitudes towards disability in Bob’s profession. Heck ladders imply a whole heap of stuff about what he is wearing – not a short kilt! Well I guess he might wear a short kilt and climb a ladder if he doesn’t mind people seeing his underwear. Does Bob wear underwear? Let’s not go there, I’m in danger of delving into the topic of what Bob’s society thinks about the public display of genitals. Let’s leave out the ladder. The ladder doesn’t matter. We are avoiding politics…and ladders – well ladders are fraught with politics.

Bob checked his mission.

SHIT. Where the f_ck has he got his mission from? Can he have a mission without suggesting some political structure to GIVE him a mission? Think, think. No, it is OK …he could get a mission LOTS of ways and while that implies some sort of politics MAYBE it doesn’t imply any politics in particular! I mean, maybe Bob lives in a techno-libertarian society and receives his missions via a peer-to-peer distributed network where each mission is identified by a cryptographic-hashes in a self-maintaining smart ledger as a blockchain attached to the mission that means no central mission allocating state apparatus is needed for Bob to get a mission. Alternatively, maybe missions are simply written on the walls of communally owned buildings and Bob just goes and looks at the wall and finds a ‘mission’ that arises out of the wisdom of the crowds, which with the absence of capitalism pitching humanity against each other in class driven competition with inherently contradictory goals, will tend naturally towards suggestions aimed at the common good. OK, we are cool. Bob can have a mission – just no ladders.

I’ve still got the question of whether Bob wears underwear stuck in my head.


“Space Patrol, prepare for launch!” announced Bob.

Damn. A ‘patrol’ implies an identified region over which Bob and his crew have some sort of authority. That implies territory and therefore some sort of territorial claims in space and all the political apparatus that does with that.

“Space Guys, prepare for launch!”

Hmmm, ‘guys’ is sort of gender neutral these days? Maybe…don’t want to make any political assumptions there.

“Space People, prepare for launch!”

Neat! That way all the misogynists can assume the crew are all guys and everybody else can think something more realistic. Oh, I said “guys” again…

Bob checked his mission which was to…

  • defend against the alien menace – nah, way too much politics there.
  • clear the asteroid field – I guess that’s OK? I’m assuming there aren’t asteroid conservationists in the future. Maybe there are though? Asteroid environmentalists? Orbital Greens? Dangerously political topic clearing asteroid fields, on reflection.
  • rescue ships in distress – yeah but should those ships rescue themselves? Shouldn’t they have taken out ship rescue insurance instead of expecting Bob to put HIS life on the line to rescue them? Why that’s practically slavery – obliging Bob to go around rescuing spaceships that have been far too careless because of the nanny-state attitude…Or…maybe Bob works for the insurance company! No, won’t do. I’d have to pick one or the other that way. Wait law of the sea says a ship has to help another ship in distress! Everybody knows that! That’s not political – except, well it is a law agreed by transnational treaties. Nope, this won’t do.
  • Observe stellar phenomenon – oh, so Bob’s some kind of academic now is he? How’s that being funded? Is Bob getting some sort of grant so he can sit around in his spaceship paid for by OUR tax dollars…No, I’m OK – I just had an attack of the Daily Mails there for a moment. He *might* be an academic or he *might* be being funded by a hyper-rich Elon Musk like techno-billionaire. I think I can get away with not saying HOW he is getting funded. Phew.

So Bob and the Space People are off observing the stellar phenomenon. Ha! I got there! No politics! And they said it was impossible but good old Bob managed it! I mean, so long as we ignore that he is called ‘Bob’ which implies that this future society is one in which common Anglo names are still used which in turn has deep implications for how society has changed (or rather not changed) in the intervening time. No worries! I’ll call him…Plob. I guess that implies some sort of societal change but as we don’t know what change that maybe means we’ve avoided the politics of it.

Ha! We did it! Plob and the Space People observe the stellar phenomenon in their spaceship which…damn. Some sort of wider society must have built their bloody spaceship which implies an economy and the exploitation of natural resources to manufacture complex goods such as spaceships. I guess that could be lots of kinds of societies but it can’t be a society that has rejected technological change or which has adopted a non-industrial basis for its economy. But!  They could be watching the stellar phenomenon from a grassy field on Earth (or some other planet). They don’t need to be IN a spaceship as such. If I just avoid mentioning the spaceship altogether.

While I’m at it… Other people? Dangerously political in itself. Do I really need the Space Patrol…sorry…the Space People? I don’t want to imply a non-society of loners but even the most gregarious of societies will have people doing stuff by themselves sometimes.


Start again.

Plob was looking at the sun.

No…” the sun”? Seriously? Like that is the ONLY sun? A political assumption in itself about which stars are more significant than others. Fine in most genres but in Science Fiction in which beings from other star systems are a legitimate plot element?

Another go:

Plob was looking at a sun. It was very shiny.

The end.

Ha! And they said I couldn’t write an apolitical science fiction story!


25 responses to “Captain Bob and the Space Patrol”

      • Oh, sure. Otters. Not just multicellular organisms, but vertebrate, warm-blooded multicellular organisms – can you get any more elitist than that? Single-celled creatures outnumber the multicellular kind by millions to one, but do they get any sort of proportionate representation in contemporary fiction? I think not.

        Well, all I can say is: watch out. You and your otters and all the other multicellular types, you think you’re secure in your place in the food chain – but beware. Beware the power of… the protist vote.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Heh. A friend of mine did a parody book cover for ‘In the Company of Otters’.

        (Said friend was also a friend of Julie Czerneda, who apparently got a kick out of it.)


  1. camestrosfelapton: the story was translated from the original version which was told within the aquatic dance of otters.

    African or European? 😀

    Liked by 4 people

  2. This is brilliant, such a refreshing change from all that positional garbage in the genre these days.

    I have decided my own apolitical masterpiece will be a fantasy about four people of unclear gender and race (ideally described JUST enough so that those who want to can interpret them as white heterosexual pairings), who never speak to each other (too complicated), in an isolated cabin with unclear surroundings (but it’s fantasy so I guess I’m allowed to have snow). The plot will be them magically chopping wood by day and fighting nondescript monsters by night – but both activities will have to be described in such a way that it’s not clear which of the four people are doing them.

    I haven’t made any progress towards writing it, or thought of a title, but I feel like just having the idea should put me into some kind of awards consideration…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Wait, I see a problem. If your people are *fighting* monsters, you’re agreeing with the hegemonic discourse which says violence is an acceptable solution. Maybe your people can just look at the monsters. (Not *study* them, since that asserts that science is acceptable….)

      Liked by 2 people

      • Worse, you’re also asserting pro-human bias. What about those poor monsters, who are really just hungry, getting attacked and killed, just because they want to eat some tasty humans of indeterminate race and gender.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Oh no you’re all totally right. Who knew how ingrained some of these biases are! Maybe we can just say there are two indistinct groups of beings, occasionally aware of each others presence in the same space, but with no defined interaction (eating, fighting or otherwise)?

          Liked by 2 people

  3. I was hoping you could pass along a question to the Triceratops you know on how how they dealt with political writing during their time, and if a characters point of view in a story in inherently political as the story will be filtered through the belief system of that character, if 4th person more political because it technically is telling the story from the person who heard about that characters story, or does the 4th person mitigate the political aspects of the point of view as it’s delivered second hand?

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Doesn’t the whole concept of “story” imply that the storyteller has some claim on other people’s – sorry, “entities’” – time?


  5. This book clearly encourages people to stare directly at their local sun. Scientists have issued many statements that this is a dangerous, harmful action and you should not do this. An analysis of the text indicates this book’s reading level is suitable for children. Thus, you are encouraging children to disregard scientific consensus in favor of their own desires. I recommend banning this book immediately.

    I do congratulate you on avoiding indicating whether shiny has a positive value (reinforcing the light = good/dark = bad paradigm) or a negative value (reinforcing that materialism is bad) to Plob (and by inference everyone in Plob’s culture, civilization, world, and galactic empire). However, you end on a cliffhanger. I hate when books do not indicate upfront that they are part of a series. Would not recommend to my cat to nap on.

    Liked by 1 person

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