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Space opera on the red planet

IT officer devises out-of-this-world ideas

Space opera on the red planet

Our mock-up of Pirates of Mars author Chris Gerrib on Mars fulfills-virtually-his childhood wish. His website, www.privatemarsrocket.net, tells more and offers three free chapters. (The book contains some military-level profanity.)   

Pirates have seized the interplanetary containership Charles S. Price, approaching Mars. Hostages have been taken. But the Price is now dead in space because an officer cut power to foil the pirates. A mystery cargo aboard may be lost, which will not please the pirate's equally mysterious private backers. The pirate chief-"Chuckles"-sends a mayday to Space Rescue Service for "assistance." But rescue astronauts fight back when the pirates attempt to commandeer their craft. Pirates and good guys begin dying in the cold of space ...

Do the good guys win? You'll have to read Chris Gerrib's Pirates of Mars. Published last year, Pirates is the Chicago-area banker's first commercially published science fiction novel.

The story takes place in 2074. Mars has not only been colonized, in Gerrib's vision, but actually become a cross between lower-middle-class 'burbs and an industrial park. Being an astronaut carries no glamour-less Right Stuff, more grungy.

Gerrib, senior vice-president, technology, at $1.3 billion-assets Republic Bank, Oak Brook, Ill., began reading the greats of science fiction-Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke-as a boy. He started a few sci-fi short stories then, but didn't complete them. Years later, after serving as a damage-control officer aboard the guided-missile frigate U.S.S. Jack Williams, he obtained an MBA and eventually found himself in bank technology.

Along the way, he was always reading science fiction. He came across some winners of a famous sci-fi writing contest. "I can write better than this!" he thought, and entered the next competition. (He didn't win.)

Undaunted, he kept at it and in 2001, after a nearly endless cycle of revisions (his own), produced what he calls his "practice novel," The Mars Run. This first book, self-published in 2006, received some praise in the fan community. Gerrib had learned much from the project and grew more serious about writing. Today he has committed to producing daily output-not counting his personal blog.

Pirates was professionally published by Hadley Rille Books, a small specialty house named after the Apollo 15 landing site, and Gerrib has made some money. The book's sequel-The Night Watch-is with the publisher, and Gerrib continues to work on an entirely new concept for book four.

"For me writing is a labor of love," says Gerrib, "but I don't want to just write and put it under a bushel basket. I have stories I want to tell and things I want to say." He notes that his undergraduate degree in history aids his work. "They say that history is the raw material for science fiction." History is about people, and the best science fiction ultimately is about people. "Without people," he says, "nobody cares."

Steve Cocheo

Steve Cocheo’s career in business journalism has taken him to all 50 states and nearly every corner of banking in institutions of all sizes. He is executive editor of ABA Banking Journal, digital content manager of ababj.com, and editor of ABA Bank Directors Briefing. He coordinates the popular Pass the Aspirin and First Person features and wrote the booklet series Focus On The Bank Director. He is the only journalist to have sat in on three federal banking exams, was a finalist for the Jesse H. Neal national business journalism awards, and a winner of multiple awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors.

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