Oh Captain: Sassinak

Posted by CB Droege

Ship’s captains have been an important part of genre fiction for a long time. Thusly, in our first genre feature series, we’re looking at ship’s captains. Today’s captain is Sassinak of the Zaid-Dayan.

Sassinak is one of the toughest spacefarers in fiction. She appears in Anne McCaffrey’s Planet Pirates Trilogy, featured mostly in the first and third book. The first book is mostly dedicated to the path that brought Sassinak to the Zaid-Dayan.

Sassinak began life on a remote colony world. When pirates attack her colony, she watches as her parents are killed, and she and her siblings are taken to into slavery. This, of course brings out a rage in Sassinak that cannot be quenched, and when she is finally rescued by the human fleet, she leads them to the slave hub with the help of a father-figure named Abe, where the entire operation is shut down, and the slaves are freed. From that point on, she makes it her goal to destroy the Planet Pirates.

A large part of the book deals with her difficulty in officer school, where she fits in poorly due to her unruly and rebellious nature, allowing her anger to come out at inappropriate times, and frequently getting in trouble with her superiors. She gets command of the Zaid-Dayan just as her friend Abe is assassinated, and with renewed determination, she sets out to hunt pirates.

She eventually learns that there is one man who is fully in control of the Planet Pirates, and she makes it her mission to find and kill that man. This hunt takes up the third book.

As with most captains she relies on her crew for information and council, despite her hard, rebellious nature. By the third book, she had gathered a talented group, including another warrior woman Lunzie.

Lunzie is discovered to be Sassinak’s great grandmother, who spent much of her life in suspended animation between bouts of conflict with the Planet Pirates - which is what book 2 of the trilogy is about. Her knowledge of the pirates becomes invaluable to Sassinak as the hunt continues.

On Sassinak’s right hand is her first officer and good friend, Ford, has connections in the criminal world, which, when combined with Lunzie’s knowledge lead the crew to discover a plot of the Planet Pirates to take over the galactic government.

Sassinak is interesting because she’s a true female hero, who doesn’t sacrifice her gender or her sexuality in the cause of becoming the hero she needs to be. While sometimes her crazy rebellion becomes tritely semi-anti-heroic - and makes one wonder why anyone puts up with her shenanigans - she is always noble and righteous in her actions. However, we get the impression that this is only because of who her enemies are. If it was the government who wronged her instead, she’d have become a pirate or criminal in order to fight them.

Her challenge is essential to the whole galaxy, as she eventually must save the galactic government itself, but her motivations are ultimately selfish, as, even after she begins to mature and grow away from her terrible anger, she is still primarily in this for revenge.

The pirates took her entire life away from her. Not just the time she spent as a slave, but the time she spent chasing and destroying them, which her slavery directly led to. Ultimately she is robbed of a family, a role-model, a normal life, and any kind of real relationship with anyone around her - which we see mostly reflected in her inability to become more than a friend with benefits to Ford. When her story closes, she’s left with no mission. With the pirates broken up, there is nothing left to drive her.

Come back tomorrow when we will feature Captain John Robinson. If there is a Ship’s captain which you would like to see featured in this series, let us know in the comments.