Friday, March 4, 2016

"PIRATES! PIRATES! We're Being Attacked by Space Pirates!"

"Grandma Perkins and the Space Pirates."
By James McConnell (1925-90).
First appearance: Planet Stories, March 1954.
Short story (15 pages).
Online at PulpGen HERE (PDF).
"Raven-haired, seductive Darling Toujours' smoke-and-flame eyes kindled sparks in hearts all over the universe. But it took sweet old Grandma Perkins, of the pirate ship Dirty Shame, to set the Jupiter moons on fire."
It was supposed to be a normal in-System trip from Callisto to Earth for the Kismet, and it was until . . . As usual, there's never a cop around when you need one:
"Pirates! Attacking us! Incredible!" cried the Captain. "There are no pirates any more. What have we got a Space Patrol for? Where in blazes is the Space Patrol anyway?"
But the Captain doesn't know the half of it, and would probably pop a valve if he even suspected that a certain little old lady was bored with the trip and looking for some excitement:
"If I go down and hide, I'll miss all the fun. Of course, it's safer, and an old woman like me shouldn't be up and about when pirates are around, but—" A delicious smile spread over her face as she took her scruples firmly in hand and turned to follow the bellowing Captain towards the bridge.
Principal characters:
~ Grandma Perkins: At a mere 152 years of age, she's "a withered little lady, scarcely five feet tall, with silvered hair, eyes that twinkled like a March wind, and a friendly rash of wrinkles that gave her face the kindly, weathered appearance of an old stone idol. Her slight figure was lost in volumes of black cloth draped on her in a manner that had gone out of style at least fifty years before."
~ Darling Toujours: 3-D video film star; "She was credited with being the most beautiful woman alive and there were few who dared to contradict her when she mentioned it."
~ Carlton E. Carlton: The "acid-tongued author whose biting novels had won him universal fame."
~ Captain Homer Fogarty: Bluff Commander of the luxury STARship Kismet (capable of "blasting through space at close to the speed of light"); Fogarty's been known to charge about "like a rhinoceros in heat."
~ Johnny Weaver: Helpful ship's steward.
~ Commodore Trumble of the Space Patrol: "His cap carried enough gold braid to stock a small-sized mint."
~ Professor Spindle (offstage): "He invents lots of things."
~ The space pirates manning the Lulu Belle (soon to undergo a name change): Lamps O'Toole, their "nominal leader"; Snake Simpson, his none-too-bright second in command with a tendency to malapropism; and Willie Wicket, "the youngest of the pirates."

Comments: If you remember the Helen Hayes character in Airport (made, please note, sixteen years later), you'll have a good picture of Grandma Perkins. Typos: "metallic coveting"; "dean suits."
Resources:
- On occasion science fiction writers have given Callisto, Darling Toujour's home "planet" and one of Jupiter's 67 moons, some attention (as shown HERE); the real Callisto as depicted by space probes (see HERE) has proven to be far different from what they initially imagined.
- There's an article about James McConnell at Wikipedia HERE and one at SFE HERE, while the ISFDb has bibliographical details HERE.

The bottom line: "You've got a great deal to learn about women."
— Grandma Perkins

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