Starship Mine (A Review)

Review by Curtis Cole

Agency, community, and exploration—these are the themes of Peter Cawdron’s Starship Mine, an original novella featuring protagonist James Patterson, a gay space accountant.

As with any novella, the themes shape the story. In this case, Earth plays host to an extra-terrestrial message which earthlings receive as a dream; accordingly, it is quickly dubbed ‘The Dream.’ This dream is merely that of a big blue planet, an asteroid belt, and an alien spaceship. Millions experience this dream but only a handful makes it past the asteroid belt, and only James Peterson, our out, and stalwart accountant hero, makes it aboard the spaceship. Once there, he meets a race of intelligent, shape-shifting spider-aliens who converse with him on intelligence, equality, and the nature of the universe.

The Good: Cawdron’s story is well-written, clever, and is imbued with personality. The chapters are lively and are able to impart a degree of affection residue after they conclude, while the ending is a classic happy-go-lucky wrap up (one that, unfortunately, reinforces the overarching moral episode concerning free-will and loyalty to familial nuclearism).

The Bad: the entire piece is liberal elitism at its finest.

The author is a classical progressive: he upholds diversity, the nuclear family, globalization, science, and multiculturalism. What I take issue is not in his values as much as his limited scope, his inability to see beyond his present Utopianism toward a post-capitalist future. What Cawdron posts is an end-all situation already inherent in capitalism but merely one which hasn’t yet manifested due to Neo-Luddites, Islamists, and the culturally backward.

Such ideology is disseminated against the backdrop of a ‘First Contact’ story (as it usually does). Issues of race, hierarchy, and warfare are raised but the issue never goes beyond the school-yard semantics of ‘well, things are this way now, but we are trying to push past it even though in reality things aren’t like the conflict portrays it.’ An admirable sentiment but one which does not reveal the very real underpinnings of bourgeois hegemony and the growing fascist threat which subtends the ever-proliferating economic and semiotic decay. The origins of modern warfare, discrimination, and racial mythology are easy to pinpoint—competition among capitalist-imperialist powers, institutionalization of heteronormative and gender essentialist sign regimes, and the formation of the nation-state and the exploitation of the so-called ‘Third World’ in order to sustain Western development—so to propose anything but a concrete plan for revolutionary upheaval is not only an insult to the millions of revolutionists who gave their lives to combat the ills which Cawdron opposes, but also the philosophy of change—dialectics—which made possible those martyrs sacrifices.

Because of his political backwardness, Cawdron’s value thus degenerate into homonormativity, imperialism, scientism, and super-exploitation. When one is trapped in the present, unable to imagine a way forward which leaves behind the contemporary status-quo, the super-structural and economic base, the end-result is an idealism divorced from the modern struggle; elements of ultra-reactionary thought are thusly incorporated back to their progressive kin (progressivism) by virtue of the ever-present deterioration: when liberal thought becomes trapped, in other words, it slowly trickles back down to its logically counter-revolutionary conclusion.

Cawdron’s work is a classical testament to this fact. That the protagonist spurns the galactic collective out of individualistic enterprise; that the protagonist—despite being a White middle-class Cis-male—deems himself as oppressed as the third-world of whom he seems to have a degree of paternalism toward; that he view the world through the lens of historical progress; that he… well, the point is that the protagonist here is an everyman for a Queer-liberal audience and it hits it target well. The caveat is that if you are looking for a genuinely progressive piece of literature, then you should look elsewhere.

Starship Mine

Peter Cawdron

115 pages. Published by Peter Cawdron. $0.99 (Kindle), $7.95 (Paperback)[1]. 2016.

[1] Page length and prices were taken from Amazon.com and were accurate at the time of writing. Page length refers to the Kindle version of the product.

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