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Original introduction by Warren Ellis, author of Transmetropolitan and Gun Machine

Who are these bold rebels pillaging their European neighbors in the name of revolution? The Futurists! Utopian pirate warriors of the diminutive Regency of Carnaro, scourge of the Adriatic Sea. Mortal enemies of communists, capitalists, and even fascists (to whom they are not entirely unsympathetic).

The ambitious Soldier-Citizens of Carnaro are led 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 global domination?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781616962364
Publisher: Tachyon Publications
Publication date: 11/15/2016
Pages: 192
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 15 - 18 Years

About the Author

Bruce Sterling (Schismatrix, The Zenith Angle, Zeitgeist) is an internationally-bestselling author, journalist, editor, columnist, and critic. He is perhaps best known for his ten visionary science fiction novels, as a founder of the cyberpunk movement, and as the editor of the quintessential cyberpunk anthology Mirrorshades. His much-heralded nonfiction includes The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier, and The Epic Struggle of the Internet of Things. A renowned expert on technology, Sterling has appeared on ABC's Nightline, the BBC's The Late Show, MTV, and TechTV, and in Wired where he is a featured blogger, as well as in Time, Newsweek, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Fortune, Nature, La Stampa, La Repubblica, and many other venues. Sterling splits his time among the cities of Austin, Turin, and Belgrade.

Warren Ellis is the internationally-bestselling author of the graphic novels Transmetropolitan, Fell, Red, and Planetary, and the novels Gun Machine and Crooked Little Vein. His graphic novel Iron Man Extermis was the basis for the blockbuster Iron Man 3 movie. He has written for Vice and Wired UK and is currently at work on various projects. Ellis lives in London.

John Coulthart is the World Fantasy Award-winning illustrator and designer of the iconic Steampunk anthology series, the The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric and Discredited Diseases, Lovecraft's Monsters, and Clive Barker’s A–Z of Horror. He was the Artist Guest of Honour at Ars Necronomica 2015. Coulthart lives in Manchester, England.

World Fantasy Award nominee Christopher Brown’s novel Tropic of Kansas, about Americans trying to create their own liberated city-states, is forthcoming from Harper Voyager in 2017. His other fiction and criticism can be found at christopherbrown.com. He lives in Austin, Texas, where he also practices technology law.

Mojo Press co-founder Rick Klaw is an editor, pop culture historian, reviewer, social media maven, and optimistic curmudgeon. His most recent editorial projects include The Apes of Wrath, Rayguns Over Texas, Hap and Leonard, and Hap and Leonard Ride Again. He lives in Austin, Texas.

Read an Excerpt

Pirate Utopia

By Bruce Sterling

Tachyon Publications

Copyright © 2016 Bruce Sterling
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-61696-236-4




To celebrate his new, improved torpedo, the engineer took his pirates to the movies.

The spectacles in Futurist Fiume amazed the pirates. They'd never seen motion pictures.

The engineer's pirates were refugees and criminals. They felt rather shy about leaving their safe haven in the engineer's Torpedo Factory. To encourage themselves, they sang a Croatian sea ditty and whistled loudly at the passing girls.

Using his cane, the engineer wobbled along in the wake of his nine pirate crewmen. His female companion helped him over a tangled mess of harbor rope. Frau Blanka Piffer was a native of Fiume. She served as the engineer's business manager, interpreter, and purchasing agent.

The pirates left the dockside, with its dense mass of cranes, quays, and railway tracks. Downtown Fiume had a stone broadway with tall, peculiar gas-lamps. The church and the clock tower were the tallest buildings in the town.

The Croatian pirates were vividly conspicuous. All nine of them wore stolen women's fur overcoats, cinched by thick leather army belts festooned with daggers, pistols, and hand grenades.

As the pirates swaggered by, the dames of Fiume fled inside the dress-shops. The gentlemen dropped their newspapers and abandoned their sidewalk cafés. Children hid themselves behind the horse-carts and fruit-stands. Even stray dogs ran off.

Frau Piffer tugged the engineer's black sleeve. "Lorenzo: did you have to bring all these crooks to the movies with us? I thought we were going alone."

"I told you to bring the daughter along," said the engineer, reading her lips.

"I won't take my innocent child to see that man-eater!" said Frau Piffer. "Your Turinese femme fatale!"

"Pina Menichelli is from Naples," the engineer corrected. "You mustn't fuss about cinema, my dear. The Prophet himself adores the movies. He wrote the script of Cabiria, the greatest motion picture ever filmed! Made in Turin, of course."

Frau Piffer pursed her small, red lips, but she obeyed him.

Blanka Piffer was a Communist union leader. When the Great War had ended, her Torpedo Factory had been shuttered. Frau Piffer had lost both her livelihood and her husband, for Herr Piffer was an Austrian Communist agitator. Herr Piffer had abandoned Fiume and run off to join the violent uprisings in Red Vienna.

Frau Piffer's Torpedo Factory in Fiume had become a gloomy Red Cross depot, where Frau Piffer doled out soup to her despairing factory girls.

Then the engineer had arrived in Fiume from Italy, intent on saving the day. The engineer was Lieutenant Lorenzo Secondari, a veteran of the Royal Artillery, Third Army.

Secondari had spent four years on the front lines of Isonzo, maintaining Italy's war machinery. Constantly improvising under harsh battlefield conditions, making do with scrap, rivets, and steel wire, Secondari had deftly repaired Italian howitzers, trench mortars, FIAT trucks, pneumatic drills, even military telephones and radios.

Being from Turin, Lieutenant Secondari fully understood the needs of heavy industry. Once he'd met Frau Piffer inside her Torpedo Factory — (they had met because he was hungry, and he needed the Red Cross soup) — he'd been appalled to see such a splendid assembly line standing idle.

At his shouted insistence — Secondari was deaf from wartime cannon fire, so he tended to shout whenever he spoke — Frau Piffer's Communist factory workers had declared a strike. They seized their empty Torpedo Factory and placed it under worker occupation.

Secondari re-commenced local arms production with the simplest, most humble weapons he could create. These guns were crude single-shot derringers, punched from sheet-metal. The guns used ten-penny nails as firing pins, and they tended to burst.

He paid the striking workers with the flimsy handguns. The factory girls then swapped and bartered the guns with all the other women in Fiume.

The Torpedo Factory busily made hundreds of these cheap, nameless guns until the factory's owner had shown up, and urged the workers to desist. Whining in his bourgeois, conformist fashion, this rich man had complained that the Great War was all over. He'd said that it was morally wrong to make more weapons in peacetime.

Secondari had seized the capitalist, beaten him up, shaved his head, and dosed him with castor oil. The wretch had fled Fiume for Switzerland, never to return.

Secondari's Futurist fervor profoundly inspired the factory girls. Liberated by this swift change in their circumstances, they became eager factory pirates.

These female assembly workers found ways to re-purpose their factory tools, to illicitly copy the objects of their own desires. The girls happily banged out steel pots, pans, tableware, and kitchen stoves. They also redoubled their production of grenades and sea-mines.

The factory's weapons found ready buyers, as the Occupation persisted and the rebel soldiers dug in. American men with Irish accents arrived in civilian sailboats. They took the sea-mines to torment Great Britain, and they paid with American dollars.

Some Turks arrived, too: clean-shaven fanatics from the insurgent army of Mustafa Kemal. These "Young Turks" were Western-educated Moslem rebels. They bought grenades and car-bombs, and they paid with black opium.

With this money in her hands, Frau Piffer transformed her dull, brick war-factory into a vibrant stronghold of Futurist feminism. Frau Piffer's communal assembly line featured cake socials, tea breaks, and a generous childcare policy. Her factory's public address system played American jazz records.

The leaders of Occupied Fiume were poets and political radicals, but they had to notice so much innovation and initiative. Lieutenant Secondari and Frau Piffer were both well-rewarded. Secondari was made a gang-boss within the "Strike of the Hand Committee," the fiercest pirate commandos of Fiume. Frau Piffer was transformed into a "Corporate Syndicalist," and made the dictator of her factory.

For their night together, out on the town, Frau Piffer wore her shining new Syndicalist ensemble, granted to her by the grateful Fiume regime. Frau Piffer's Futurist paramilitary outfit had dazzling zigzag lines in shades of Italian orange, white, and green, plus a shining silk sash heavy with bronze medallions.

Frau Piffer was portly, married, and eleven years older than Secondari. Frau Piffer was an ugly, older woman from a newer, better world.

"It might be best if Maria avoids Cabiria," Secondari mused. "I just remembered a scene in that movie where a little girl is flung into the flaming belly of a brazen beast-god."

"We should see Cabiria together some night soon," Frau Piffer urged. "You work much too hard, Lorenzo. Every night you're out on those raiding boats, stealing diesel fuel. You should see more of the local people. Try to make some real friends."

"Oh, Cabiria is just a peacetime movie," said Secondari. "I don't care a damn about the ancient past."

The pirates arrived at the movie house. This Fiume cinema was a small musical-comedy theater. It sat within a modest piazza, crowded with glum examples of bad provincial Austro-Hungarian architecture.

The ticket-seller was a teenage girl. She had insolent bobbed hair, narrow plucked brows, and scarlet lipstick. She sat within a glass booth, reading a cheap German romance novel. Muffled jazz music blasted from her radio set.

Since Secondari was half-deaf, he hated conversing with the locals of Fiume. In fact, Secondari hated leaving his Torpedo Factory for any reason at all, except for enthusiastic pirate raids. Using low-slung, rapid Italian assault boats, his "Strike of the Hand Committee" raided the whole Adriatic. Half spies and half black-marketeers, operating mostly on moonless nights, the utopian pirates of Fiume stole supplies from half-abandoned Great War military depots. Secondari knew exactly what to steal, so he went along on every pirate raid. He generally manned a cannon.

Secondari brusquely rapped at the glass ticket-booth with the brass head of his gentleman's cane. "Miss, I built that radio with my own hands! So turn it off and pay attention to me."

The startled girl dropped her romance book. She struggled with the dials of her wooden radio box. The jazz music grew much louder, and the ticket-girl shouted in dismay.

"My gallant troops are here to see your movie!" Secondari bellowed at her. "Let us all in at once!"

The ticket-seller pointed angrily at the clock-tower, then at the nine Croat pirates, who were puffing smuggled Turkish cigarettes and knocking mud from their jackboots.

Secondari threw open his trenchcoat, revealing a black shirt, black jodhpur trousers, a bandolier of grenades, two holstered Glisenti semiautomatics, and a trench dagger the size of his forearm.

He plucked a newspaper clipping from his wallet, which was stuffed with five kinds of currency. "Now, you see here, miss! Your own advertisement states — no, look at this clipping, it's from yesterday's issue of The Fiume Head of Iron — it distinctly states that Miss Menichelli's feature begins at five pm!"

"Let me talk to her," said Frau Piffer.

Secondari stepped aside.

"Ciao, Tanja!" Frau Piffer chirped. "Is that Barney Bigard and his Jazzopators? They're great, aren't they? Turn that down a little! Use that big brown knob."

The ticket-seller successfully reduced the radio jazz racket. She made some muffled remark about Frau Piffer's new uniform.

"I'm a Corporate Syndicalist nowadays," Frau Piffer announced, preening at her lapels.

"So, what's that?" silently mouthed the ticket-girl, from behind her glass.

"Well, I don't know that yet! You'll have to ask the Constitutionalist about that! He's a genius!"

The ticket-girl made some flippant remark to the effect that all the leaders of Occupied Fiume were geniuses, but all the geniuses had to pay to watch her movies, anyway.

"Now Tanja, your father is a good Communist, isn't he? So why don't you let us inside there, without some exchange of cash? We're from the Torpedo Factory! I could see to it that you and your girlfriends get some very nice little pistols."

Tanja the ticket-girl twirled one kiss-curl over her lacquered fingernail. She then boasted about the Italian soldiers who were already inside her theater, happily watching her movies.

The Occupation troops of Fiume were the Arditi, the Alpini, and the legendary Royal Grenadiers of Sardinia. These fierce Italian elite troops feared no man and adored all women.

Frau Piffer stiffened. "You'd better watch that tongue of yours, young lady! Lieutenant Secondari is my business associate! Our relationship is entirely chaste and revolutionary."

Vividly waving her hands behind the glass, Tanja scoffed.

Frau Piffer then switched to speaking German. Being a Fiume girl, Tanja also spoke excellent German.

Since Fiume was an Italo-Balkan port city, the people of Fiume spoke an entire Babel of tongues. Unfortunately, the Great War had smashed Secondari's right ear. Even when the Fiumans spoke good Italian, Secondari was hard-put to hear them. He entirely failed to understand their Serbo-Croatian speech. Their Hungarian was a profound mystery to him.

The rich people of Fiume spoke some French, but Secondari hated the arrogant rich, and didn't much like the French, either. The English language was well known in Fiume's banking and shipping circles. Secondari could speak and write English rather well. However, the Great War had deafened him. Civilian life would always be a conspiracy to him.

The two Fiume women rattled along, parrying and bargaining, as if selling fish. The city life of Fiume was kinked like tarry harbor rope with Gordian knots of this kind. Secondari's thoughts drifted toward Futurism, as his thoughts generally did.

His next logical step was entirely clear to him. He had to manufacture naval torpedoes — that should be easy, in a Torpedo Factory — and then some radio-controlled, airborne Futurist torpedoes.

In Turin, Italy's national plans for flying torpedoes were gathering dust in the blueprint drawers of the War Ministry. Many brilliant Italian military innovations had been sadly doomed by the Armistice.

The new civilian government in Rome was weak, impoverished, and gutless. The civilians had mutilated Italy's great victory during the Great War. They were trying to put the Great War behind them, instead of ahead of them, where it properly belonged.

The secret agents of the Fiume "Strike of the Hand Committee" would steal those flying torpedo plans from inside Italy. Then Secondari would illicitly copy these unbuilt war-machines within his pirate factory.

The Anarcho-Syndicalist city-state would then own and brandish flying Futurist torpedoes. Even a civilian fool could see that this feat would change the destiny of the world.

Lorenzo Secondari was not an inventor. He lacked the creative skills for that. Instead, he was what he most wanted to be: a free pirate. Given the stolen plans, he had no doubt that he could successfully build flying radio torpedoes. Anyone who doubted his capacities deserved a hard lesson.

Frau Piffer glanced up from her negotiations. "Do you have any ready-money, Lorenzo?"

"Aha! Yes, indeed I do! Tell this tawdry creature that I have a good stock of American dollars."

"Dollars are only good for buying dynamite," Frau Piffer mourned. "Do you have any postage stamps?"

Secondari scowled. The Revolution had been selling its exotic postage stamps to foreigners, ever since the anarchist liberation of September 1919. Along with drugs, jazz music, and easy divorce, the postage stamp racket was a way of scraping by. The Fiumans often used their postage stamps as their makeshift internal currency.

"Postage stamps always stick inside my wallet," Secondari complained. He selected a legitimate British five-pound note from among a sheaf of fake ones. The Fiume "Strike of the Hand Committee" was wonderfully adept at forgery. However, British currency notes were hard work.

"Five pounds is much too much money!" Frau Piffer said. "She would have to give you change in dinars."

"Dinars! Outrageous!" Secondari yelled. "The 'Kingdom of Yugoslavia' cannot exist! I should arrest her for offering me Yugoslav money."

The impatient Croat pirates were shuffling at the delay. Some of Fiume's ubiquitous street urchins had shown up. They were begging the pirates for cigarettes.

One of the Croat pirates tossed his fine fur coat into the gutter. He tore his blue-striped nautical shirt from his tattooed back. He handed this to a young boy.

Secondari was not to be outdone by this splendid revolutionary gesture. He picked up the pirate's fur coat, dusted it off, cordially handed it back, then gave the Croat his favorite Swiss Army knife, direct from his own pocket.

He then confronted Frau Piffer. "Get this mess over with," he ordered.

Frau Piffer shouted at length at the ticket-seller, who was rebellious, but unable to resist a uniformed adult. "All right," Frau Piffer said at last. "I've fixed it. We'll give her some jazz records, later."

"Good work."

"We'll have to sit upstairs in the balcony. No gunfire. Also no brandy, no pipes, and no cigars."

Frau Piffer distributed the movie tickets to the pirates, then bought them nine boxes of popcorn. The happy marauders settled upstairs into the cheap seats, jostling their pistol belts and scratching at flea-bites. They immediately began smoking.

"Turin has movie palaces five times the size of this place," Secondari griped. "I should steal this theater! I could run pirated movies in here."

"Lorenzo, have you been snorting cocaine again?"

"No, I haven't," Secondari lied. The Ace of Hearts, his patron in the Fiume secret police, had given him a steady supply of the useful Peruvian herb. All the flying aces made much use of cocaine. Cocaine sharpened the senses for combat.

Newsreels commenced on the silver movie screen. These newsreels were American in origin because American newsreels were everywhere, and therefore easy to steal.

The first newsreel concerned American big-game hunters in Africa. The second reel featured "Tarzan." Tarzan was the American version of a Nietzschean Overman. Tarzan was a superhuman anarchist, but since he lived in a jungle, he did not have to smash the State.

The feature began, and the theater's hired pianist played along. Secondari scarcely heard the tinkling piano, but he did not mind. Since it was silent, the cinema was the one form of modern art in which a deaf man could fully participate.

The Turinese film featured the famous diva, Pina Menichelli, as a Russian countess, exiled and living in Italy. La Menichelli was a gorgeous creature of aristocratic privilege, from a fabulous Czarist world of sables and diamonds.

Of course her noble Russian life had been shattered by the Twentieth Century. The Russian Countess had wandered to Turin, bearing the livid infection of her doom, and the Italian noblemen within her high social circle ... They were all degenerate dabblers and dilettantes. Feeble, nerveless, archaic dolts with slicked-back hair, celluloid collars, and boiled shirt-fronts. Not one of these despicable toffs and weaklings had any Futurism to offer to this beautiful woman.


Excerpted from Pirate Utopia by Bruce Sterling. Copyright © 2016 Bruce Sterling. Excerpted by permission of Tachyon Publications.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


TO THE FIUME STATION: Afterword by Christopher Brown,
RECONSTRUCTING THE FUTURE: Notes on design by John Coulthart,

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Pirate Utopia 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
stickerooniDM More than 1 year ago
I'm pretty much a sucker for anything by Bruce Sterling so I was giddy with glee to see a Bruce Sterling ARC available. This really isn't a novel and I'm not even sure it's long enough to be considered a novella. Novelette? Short story? In any case, this is a short work of a really ... well ... interesting nature. In the 1920's a ragtag band of free-thinking warriors took over the eleven square mile 'Free State of Fiume' between Italy and Yugoslavia. They took to calling themselves 'pirates' and the book centers on Lorenzo Secondari, Pirate Engineer, who observes his comrades changing from warriors and rebels to politicians and business leaders trying to create that perfect country. Sterling tells the story in true pulp fiction manner and brings in characters such as Robert E. Howard and Howard Lovecraft and Harry Houdini. The book feels like a story and not a book, even when reading it. We get flashes of something, but no flesh. The characters are not developed and instead we move along at pulp-pounding-pace. The last third of the book (or so) is an interview with Sterling who gives a brief account of the real history of Fiume. I enjoyed this and it had me doing a quick Google search of my own to learn a little more. Perhaps the best part of the book is the beautiful art by John Coulthart, who captures the Art Deco/war years style to lead off the chapters and divisions of the book. The art alone is worth checking out this book. The idea is wonderful and I liked this twist on the alternative history fiction (a genre I don't usually care for), but this is probably my least favorite Sterling book to date. Looking for a good book? Pirate Utopia by Bruce Sterling is a short book about some idealizing 'pirates' in the 1920's who take over and develop their own country. Buy it for the art and enjoy the story. I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.
Yzabel More than 1 year ago
[NOTE: I received a copy of this novel through NetGalley.] A book that, to me, was more interesting for the world it developed than for its actual plot—I'd definitely like to see this "Futurist 1920s Italia/Europe/USA" revisited and developed more, especially for what the author does with famous figures and events of that time period. So. It is 1920 in Fiume, and this town poised between Italia and Croatia is run by pirates: anarchists and artists, writers and syndicalists, all at once, boasting ideals and beliefs in the Future, taking over factories and throwing away rich capitalists. It is 1920, and Communism has been alive and kicking for quite a while. Gabriele d'Annunzio is the Prophet (and the man who really established the Republic of Carnaro in our world, too); Harry Houdini, H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard are working as flamboyant spies for the US government; and in Berlin, a young man by the name of Adolf dies to protect another man in a bar brawl, thus never starting on the path he will be known for in our History. And he's not the one, far from it. I loved what Bruce Sterling did with this alternate history, dieselpunk Europe, full of contradictions: praise for the Future and strong beliefs and angular colourful clothes; rambunctious pirates proud of their ways, fascists with minds turned towards a different ideology, and engineers stealing armoured cars from the rioters who stole them first; beautiful and mysterious artist women, and a magician without fear who may or may not be human; but also factories churning torpedoes, small guns produced by the hundreds and used as currency, manifestos and propaganda, and a mounting tendency towards a new war. A constant energy permeated the narrative, nervous and stressful in parts, ecstatic in others, and it provided for a fascinating read. There's humour and pulp and inventions and scary ideas as well in there. There's speed and technology and violence, carried by a youthful spirit—in one word, Futurismo—reflected in the illustrations at the beginning of each chapter. Delightful. What I regret is that it didn't go further. This is more a novella, and one that stops at a turning point that I would so much have wanted to see developed and explored. (In an interview, the author explains his choice, and the writer in me can totally understand it; still, the reader in me felt sad at leaving that alternate world so soon.) Conclusion: 3.5 stars. Mr Sterling, are you going to revisit this world soon? Please.