Brother Jonas burst into the room, clutching a long metal lance-like device. His eyes were wide with panic.
‘We’re under attack,’ he wheezed. ‘Father Pius wants everyone in the tech-library.’
‘Under attack?’ said Brother Sabir. ‘Who is it?’
‘Space pirates, a horde of bloodthirsty space pirates!’
During the last few years, I have visited over 60 schools to talk about books, reading and space pirates. The children are always bursting with questions, however there’s one that I get asked the most: “Where did you get your inspiration?”
What a great question. There are so many things that influence and inspire us, including the books we read, the people we meet and the things we experience. However, I can tell you exactly what inspired me to write the Spacejackers trilogy.
I’ve always been passionate about space and pirates, everything from Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. In fact, I grew up watching space films, such as Star Wars and Aliens. As for pirates, I was born in Bristol, a city with a strong pirate history that featured in Treasure Island. It was also the birthplace of Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard. However, it was not until my mid-thirties that inspiration struck. I remember watching Pirates of the Caribbean at home on DVD. It was such an exciting adventure with so many colourful characters, that I wished there could be such a story set in space.
A little voice entered my head and whispered: “Why don’t you write one?”
This is when I decided to combine my love of space and pirates to write Spacejackers – a futuristic swashbuckling adventure about truth, courage and friendship.
I’m not the first person to think of space pirates, they have featured in popular culture for decades, including Lucky Starr and the Pirates of the Asteroids by Isaac Asimov in 1953. Disney released the film Treasury Planet in 2002, however the film does not work for me; there are some great ideas (e.g. a cyborg John Silver, a holographic map and a planet full of plundered treasure), but its vision of space pirates does not make any sense. For example, the RLS Legacy (and other spacecraft) look like sailing ships in space, only powered by ‘solar sails’ – is this really the future of space travel? Also, the clothes resemble those worn by old fashioned sailors and sea pirates – would this be practical for spacefaring crews?
So when I wrote Spacejackers, the one thing I was determined to do was make it realistic. I wanted to reinvent the past, not replicate it. In my books, the space pirates wear silver skull-shaped helmets and chunky space boots. Their padded gloves have special grips for scaling smooth surfaces and their kit belts contain useful raiding tools, such as picklocks, micro-drills and climbing ropes. The crews each wear their own colour combat suits, which are thinner than normal spacesuits and fitted with light armour. These outfits are personalised with patches, straps and buckles.
I’ve not abandoned every aspect of sea pirates, as I expect that some of these will be echoed in space, including nautical terms (e.g. ship, crew and navy). However, I’ve tried to limit the number of clichés that have become synonymous with the genre. Okay, so one of the captains has an eye patch, but it’s only because she cannot afford an artificial eye! My aim is to make space feel old, to create a futuristic tale with a classic feel, using rusty spacecraft coated in space barnacles, sawn-off laser cannon, dusty space docks and robot parrots with razor-sharp talons.
It’s the perfect blend of genres with so many possibilities.
Where do I get my inspiration? A lifelong fascination with the richness of pirate history and the vastness of unexplored space.
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Huw Powell · Space Jackers
Interview Top Facts AUTHOR HUW POWELL is a children’s author with an overactive and uncompromising imagination. He was born in Bristol in 1976 during the hottest summer on record and grew up in the village of Pill in North Somerset, where he wrote his first stories for family and friends. At school, his best subjects were Literature and Art, which he went on to study at University. Huw started writing while working in London, where he often wrote on trains and in cafes using a pen and notepad. His Spacejackers series launched in July 2014 with positive reviews. The first book was shortlisted for the Teach Primary’s ‘New Children’s Fiction Award’ 2015 and it was Literature Works ‘Book of the Month’ in August 2014. Huw now lives in Portishead with his wife and two energetic sons. When he’s not writing, he enjoys spending time with his family and friends.