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Who are these bold rebels pillaging their European neighbors in the name of revolution? The Futurists! Utopian pirate-warriors of the tiny Regency of Carnaro, the unlikely scourge of the Adriatic Sea. Mortal enemies of communists, capitalists, and even fascists (to whom they are not entirely unsympathetic).
“Fritz Lang directing Buckaroo Banzai.”
The ambitious Soldier-Citizens of Carnaro are lead by a brilliant and passionate coterie of the perhaps insane. Lorenzo Secondari, World War I veteran, engineering genius, and leader of Croatian raiders. Frau Piffer, Syndicalist manufacturer of torpedos at a factory run by and for women. The Ace of Hearts, a dashing Milanese aristocrat, spymaster, and tactical savant. And the Prophet, a seductive warrior-poet who leads via free love and military ruthlessness.
Fresh off of a worldwide demonstration of their might, can the Futurists engage the aid of sinister American traitors and establish world domination?
- Original introduction by Warren Ellis
- Cover, illustrations, design, and design notes by John Coulthart
- Afterword by Christopher Brown
- Interview with Bruce Sterling by Rick Klaw
[STARRED REVIEW] “Cyberpunk progenitor Sterling’s alternate history novella is bizarre, chock-full of famous people in improbable situations, and wildly entertaining, even when the world-building seems to go a little off the rails. Lorenzo Secondari, a veteran of the recently ended Great War and forever changed by it, is the head engineer of the titular utopia, the Italian free state of Fiume. He and his compatriots build flying boats and fight communism while dealing with American secret agents, including Harry Houdini and Howard Lovecraft (who’s now working as Houdini’s publicity agent after going into advertising). Hitler died saving another man’s life in a bar fight, Wilson was poisoned, and Mussolini’s been disabled by a pair of bullets aimed “where a man least likes to be shot,” so the Europe in which Secondari is attempting to create his radio-controlled airborne torpedoes and other gizmos is already massively different from ours. An introduction by Warren Ellis and an interview with Sterling sandwich the novel, both bearing an air of false gravitas, but the actual story is wacky and fun what-if-ing at its finest.”
[STARRED REVIEW] “Noted sci-fi maven and futurologist Sterling (Love Is Strange, 2012, etc.) takes a side turn in the slipstream in this offbeat, sometimes-puzzling work of dieselpunk-y alternative history. Resident in Turin, hometown of Calvino, for a dozen years, Sterling has long been experimenting with what the Italians call fantascienza, a mashup of history and speculation that’s not quite science fiction but is kin to it. Take, for example, the fact that Harry Houdini once worked for the Secret Service, add to it the fact that H.P. Lovecraft once worked for Houdini, and ecco: why not posit Lovecraft as a particularly American kind of spook, “not that old-fashioned, cloak-and-dagger, European style of spy,” who trundles out to Fiume to see what’s what in the birthplace of Italian futurism-turned-fascism? Lovecraft is just one of the historical figures who flits across Sterling’s pages, which bear suitably futuristic artwork, quite wonderful, by British illustrator John Coulthart. Among the others are Woodrow Wilson and Adolf Hitler, to say nothing of Gabriele D’Annunzio and Benito Mussolini. “Seen from upstream, most previous times seem mad,” notes graphic novelist Warren Ellis in a brief introduction, but the Futurist project seems particularly nutty from this distance; personified by Lorenzo Secondari, a veteran of World War I who leads the outlaw coalition called the Strike of the Hand Committee in the “pirate utopia” of the soi disant Republic of Carnaro, its first task is to build some torpedoes and then turn them into “radio-controlled, airborne Futurist torpedoes,” not the easiest thing considering the technological limitations of the time. A leader of the “Desperates,” who “came from anywhere where life was hard, but honor was still bright,” Secondari and The Prophet—D’Annunzio, that is—recognize no such limitations and discard anything that doesn’t push toward the future. So why not a flying pontoon boat with which to sail off to Chicago, and why not a partnership with Houdini to combat world communism? A kind of Ragtime for our time: provocative, exotic, and very entertaining.”
“A fantastic, comical, alternate historical dieselpunk affair … filled with astonishing characters, fine dialogue, and an abundance of ideas and is packaged with John Coulthart’s cool Futurist-Constructivist-inspired graphics, an introduction by graphic novelist Warren Ellis, and an interview with the author.”
—Michael Swanwick, author of The Dragons of Babel
“Between 1920 and 1924, the Free State of Fiume was a real-world “pirate utopia,” an ungoverned place of blazing futurism, military triumphalism, transgression, sex, art, dada, and high weirdness. In Bruce Sterling’s equally blazing dieselpunk novella Pirate Utopia, the author turns the same wry and gimlet eye that found the keen edges for steampunk’s seminal The Difference Engine to the strange business of futurism.”
—Cory Doctorow, Boingboing
“Pirate Utopia is a rollicking, full-bodied, intelligent satire of a country that might have been a world player, had not events conspired against it in real life.”
“An alternate history clusterfuck of brilliant, whacky world-building and hilarious, bizarre characters.”
“A wild satire about serious issues. Sterling’s wonder-romp is perfectly matched by Coulthart’s superb designs. The best of their brilliant generation, Sterling and his collaborator have produced a book to treasure. Bravo!”
—Michael Moorcock, author of the Elric of Melniboné series and The Whispering Swarm
“Spiky, provocative, drenched in his trademark wit, Sterling delivers us a brilliant and surprising jolt of vividly rendered counter-factualism.”
—Alastair Reynolds, author of Revenger and the Revelation Space series
“Imagine if Hunter S. Thompson traveled in time to the Great War in order to write The Futurist Manifesto and you’d come a little closer to envisioning the surreal, madcap—and yet almost entirely factual! —adventure that is Bruce Sterling’s Pirate Utopia. It is sly, smart, and subversive—and also very, very funny.”
—Lavie Tidhar, author of Central Station and A Man Lies Dreaming
“Satirically glamorous, Bruce Sterling’s Pirate Utopia captures a comically refined view of the proceedings as only Bruce Sterling can…delightful…engaging…a visual treat.”
“Pirate Utopia may seem to be about an ancient and almost forgotten struggle between Italy and Yugoslavia, but its themes are as relevant as this year’s presidential politics.”
For more info on PIRATE UTOPIA, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover and illustration by John Coulthart