So I Wrote a Science Fiction Novel: Mercenary Calling


Long time readers of this blog may recall my reviews of a few science fiction novels. See, e.g., this (a carefully reasoned explanation of why Michael Flynn’s Firestar is alternate future history) and this (a cry from the heart). I assessed the accuracy of their space law. I am now wondering whether that was a good idea. You see, I have written a science fiction novel with lots of space lawyers. It’s called Mercenary Calling, and Calvin Tondini, our lawyer hero, has to defend a starship captain against charges of mutiny for leaving an unauthorized human settlement on a distant, Earth-like world.

True, that doesn’t sound like the space law we talk about here usually on this blog, but the book does have several mundane space-lawyer jobs, all of which I made up. The book itself takes place around the bicentennial of the Administrative Procedure Act. I will leave figuring out when exactly that is as an exercise for the astute administrative law expert. (Hint: it’s not this century).

The mundane legal jobs that I predict come in a few forms. At the start of the book, Calvin himself is a regulatory attorney at the Department of Energy, which I’ve decided is the proper place for the regulation of solar powersats. But see, Wallach, M. “Legal Issues for Space Based Solar Power.” Powersats will beam solar power to rectenna farms back on Earth by microwave or laser. I’m sure someone will want that regulated. For personal and objective reasons both, I am committed to the view that regulatory attorneys who work on the regulation of space activities are space lawyers. Thus, Calvin counts as someone gainfully employed as a space lawyer. The beautiful Sara Seastrom is also a space lawyer. She supports her client’s attempts to build a bubble drive for another interstellar journey. The book also has a couple of attorneys who work for the U.S. Administration for Colonial Development (USACD (pronounced u-SACK-dee because I made it up so I get to say how it’s pronounced)). One fellow is a friend of Calvin’s. The other one definitely isn’t, and it wouldn’t be inaccurate to say that he nurses a grudge. The friend and the malevolent fellow are both space lawyers.

It’s all very bourgeois. But with drama.

As the author, I feel a little stymied in reviewing any space law issues in the novel out of concern for spoilers. I will, however, note a space policy theme. Building on Congress’s direction to NASA in 42 U.S.C. 18312 that it should pursue, as a long term goal, the human habitation of the solar system, the book contains an undercurrent of the tension between space settlement and worries about harmful contamination. That is why there is a picture of corn on the cover. It’s symbolic and metaphorical. Also, it’s alien corn.

Anyway, this is all making it sound very serious and dull, when at heart the story is a light-hearted and frivolous work of bourgeois, legal science fiction. After all, it has–

Exoplanets. Terrorists. Lawyers…

Calvin Tondini has his first client, but he may be in over his head.

It’s the twenty-second century. Humanity’s first and only interstellar starship returns safely. Its mission to discover a habitable planet succeeded beyond all hopes, but there’s one problem. Captain Paolina Nigmatullin of the USS Aeneid left an unsanctioned human colony behind and now stands charged with mutiny.

Despite a somewhat spontaneous approach to his own career, life, and limb, Calvin intends to map a more cautious path for his new client. Captain Nigmatullin, however, shows an unnerving penchant for talk shows–appearing on them, that is–and otherwise ignoring her attorney’s sober counsel.
How can Calvin ensure his client’s freedom when death stalks the Aeneid‘s crew, and Nigmatullin herself hides secrets from everyone, even her lawyer?

To check it out, click here.