The Rime of the Postmodern Mariner

More ramblings of Rhys Hughes.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

PM Question Time #1: with the Pirate Princess

Work on my story started again, came to another pause and now needs to start yet again... I am very pleased with progress so far. I have passed the section where the Postmodern Mariner persuades the eight surviving pirate captains to work together. He has a brief conversation with each of them and these conversations take place not in the story itself but in this blog...

The first of the conversations is with the pirate of the southern zone, Charlotte Gallon, and it goes something like this:

PM: Do you really believe that piracy is a fitting career for a lady?

CG: I do, and what's more, I maintain that women are better at it than men. For a start, men are interested only in the 'heroic' side of the business: the swinging from ropes, the swigging of rum, the accumulation of booty. But there's a 'domestic' side too and female captains handle this aspect of piracy far more neatly and convincingly.

PM: Isn't that a rather old-fashioned attitude? I'm sure that some men are just as good at domestic matters as women...

CG: Yes, but we are talking about piracy here, not about housekeeping... Consider the plank that extends over the deck into the sea. Captives are supposed to walk down this plank at the point of a cutlass. Male captains just use bare planks full of splinters. I always cover my planks with a nice pashmina throw.

PM: I'm sure that elevates the whole business.

CG: It does indeed. But domestic superiority is only one relatively minor advantage of the female pirate. We are, in fact, more deadly when necessary. We are required to be more cunning, more dominant and more ruthless because we are setting ourselves not just against the commercial shipping we prey on, nor even the warships that are sent to hunt us down, but the scepticism of society. A female pirate is still a curiosity, a freak, a greater victim of the distorted perceptions of the media than a male pirate.

PM: I assure you that I have no distorted perceptions about you.

CG: But you are just an imaginary character! If you were a real human being, a living man, I maintain that you too would regard my chosen career on the high seas as an anomaly. Your reaction would be wholly traditional: a mixture of disbelief, amusement, lust and distaste. It is against such reflexive responses that I must struggle to assert my individuality, a battle no less strenuous than an engagement against a heavily armed treasure galleon.

PM: Your outlook seems to be a fusion of femininity and feminism.

CG: I wouldn't put it quite like that. I come from an age when such distinctions were never or rarely articulated or even conceived. Pirates become successful or unsuccessful (which is the same as saying lucky or unlucky) for a variety of reasons. There is no formula for our basic psychology... I am not a woman who acts like a man. I am not even a woman who has managed to succeed in a male profession. I am something different, something that has no true counterpart in your own age.

PM: What is your age?

CG: 26.

PM: I mean, what age do you come from?

CG. Good question. Probably some period between 1720 and 1850. I may change my mind on this later, I may not. I suspect that the answer you are hoping for is this: I come from that age which exists only in old storybooks about pirates, specifically in the illustrations that accompany those books, the woodcuts and watercolours, seen when the reader is young and has little grasp of chronology and no appreciation of the physical stresses of working on a ship... That is a pleasant answer but not the right one. You must be satisfied with the one hundred and thirty year period I have already stated.


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