Heather Massey is a lifelong fan of science fiction romance. She searches for sci-fi romance adventures aboard her blog, The Galaxy Express. She’s also an author: Her latest book is Queenie’s Brigade, coming October 2011 from Red Sage Publishing. To learn more about her published work, visit www.heathermassey.com.
Stories featuring a ragtag group of underdogs who unite for a common good are probably as old as Time itself. Many of us can relate to these types of characters because their flaws make them infinitely accessible. It’s a great fantasy: the idea that even the lowliest scum of the universe can find redemption and save the day.
I first came across this trope as a teen in the anime series Space Cruiser Yamato, a.k.a. Star Blazers. Remember ol’ Sargeant Knox of the Space Marines (Hajime Saito in the original Japanese series)? I love that asshole! Full of bluster and swagger, he didn’t take shit from anyone. But when the battle against the Comet Empire reached its darkest hour, even a bastard like him didn’t ignore the call of duty.
Now that’s what I call a hero.
So years later, when I finally watched The Dirty Dozen, the ultimate criminals-turned-heroes story, I was in seventh heaven. Then I started wondering about what other kinds of stories like that existed, because I need to watch/read them. Also, were any of them set in space or a futuristic setting? As a result of my search, this is what I found (all are films unless denoted otherwise):
- The Inglorious Bastards (1978)
- Inglourious Basterds (2009)
- Do Aankhen Barah Haath
- The Nun and the Sergeant
- The Secret Invasion
- The Devil’s Brigade
- Kelly’s Heroes
- Too Late the Hero
- Play Dirty
- The Dirty Dozen: The Next Mission
- The Dirty Dozen: The Deadly Mission
- The Dirty Dozen: The Fatal Mission
- Blake’s 7 (television series; originally pitched by creator Terry Nation as “The Dirty Dozen in space”)
- Switchblade Honey (graphic novel)
- Moon 44
- The Dragon’s Nine Sons (book) by Chris Roberson
- Alien Legion (graphic novel)
All of the above are some kind of variation on the criminals-turned-heroes theme. Some pre-date The Dirty Dozen while others followed it. (For the record, I can already cross Inglourious Basterds (sweet) and Armageddon (not so sweet) off of the list.)
However, the above stories fall short in one particular way. Can you tell what it is? Take your time-I can wait.
Still pondering? No problem.
Couldn’t figure it out? That’s okay-you get an A for effort! Here’s what the above stories are lacking in significant numbers: Female protagonists.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, despite the glorious nature of Dirty Dozen-style stories, there seems to be a singular drought of such tales featuring women in key roles, and by key, I mean characters with a criminal/shady past. I mean, c’mon, we all know those are the best parts! Blake’s 7 gets a big “Hip hip, hooray!” for its inclusion of badass female characters such as Soolin the gunslinger.
On the other hand, I did find this “fabulous” gem: The Dirty Dozen: Porn’s Most Popular Stars.
That said, I’m here to help lessen the drought with Queenie’s Brigade, my military SF action-adventure tale from Red Sage Publishing. Here’s the lowdown:
After ruthless invaders occupy Earth, a military starship captain must convince the headstrong leader of a remote prison colony that her band of convicts represents Earth’s one and only chance for freedom.
Being female, I set out to write a character that entertains in ways that are distinct from male ones such as The Dirty Dozen‘s Franko (John Cassavetes) or Wladislaw (Charles Bronson). Don’t get me wrong, these guys are the shit. But they’re not the only shits in town. Women are criminals too, you know.
What can an action hero of the female persuasion bring to a Dirty Dozen-inspired tale? Subversion, for one thing, and plenty of it. Plus, I wanted to explore the culture of gangs in a futuristic setting. Therefore, Queenie is not only female, but also Latina and a gang leader as well. Like her predecessor Sergeant Knox, she doesn’t take anything from anyone. But when the time comes to demonstrate her true worth, she doesn’t pull any punches.
Here’s the bottom line: if Earth is invaded by hostile aliens, who do you want defending us? Not me, that’s for darn sure. Queenie’s your woman! One of the appeals of a Dirty Dozen-type story is the fantasy that even the most hardened criminals have skills and talents that they can channel into something awe-inspiring. That, of course, means there’s hope for the rest of us.