This week, our Free Culture Book Club reads the second quarter of Captain Quark and the Time Cheaters.

The cover for the book

To give this series some sense of organization, here are some basic facts without much in the way of context.

  • Full Titles: Captain Quark and the Time Cheaters
  • Location: https://unglue.it/work/445547/#
  • Released: 2020
  • License: CC-BY
  • Creator: Timothy McGettigan as “William Shatspeare,” the Starbard
  • Medium: Novel
  • Length: Approximately 47,000 words
  • Content Advisories:

This should go without saying—even though I’m going to repeat it with every Book Club installment—but Content Advisories are not any sort of judgment on my part, just topics that come up in the work that I noticed and might benefit from a particular mood or head space for certain audiences. It’s to help you make a decision, rather than a decision in and of itself.

Captain Quark and the Time Cheaters

Here’s the book’s blurb.

Universes are colliding. Characters from a tangle of universes—Star Trek, Marvel Comics, Star Wars, Harry Potter, DC Comics, Middle Earth and more—are colliding in a reality that has simply gone mad.

The evil, orange-skinned usurper, Uranus Blowhard, has hypnotized Amerricans with this mind-numbing MAGA chant. Blowhard is determined to collect the five Time Cheaters that will make him the most powerful roach motel tycoon in the Infiniverse. The only thing standing in Blowhard’s way is Captain Quark and his crack team of superheroes, The Funtastic Five.

Will Quark and the FF thwart Blowhard’s scheme to conquer the Infiniverse? The only place to find out is in the brain-tingling pages of CAPTAIN QUARK AND THE TIME CHEATERS!!

Read on MacDuff!

The author also has a comment describing the book.

As an author, I am much more interested in reaching readers than in making mountains of money.

In Captain Quark and the Time Cheaters, I have taken the liberty of drawing characters and inspiration from a wide range of science fiction universes. Just as it took every hero in the Marvel Universe to defeat Thanos, it will require a big tent of beloved superheroes to defeat Captain Quark’s arch-nemesis: the evil, orange-skinned menace, Uranus Blowhard. My hope is that, by searching for new ways to work together, puny humans will find the hope and strength that they need to make the future a better place.

Live long and perspire!

I admittedly had concerns about reading this. The title implies that we might overlap a bit with the Star Trek posts, and the “I changed letters in the name to make bad words” variety of parody doesn’t generally amuse me. I can’t rightly pass up a short novel, though, especially when I can use it to buy time to find more Free Culture things…

What Works Well?

A few parodies come surprisingly close to landing as intended, especially when the vignette doesn’t take up much space. The writing flows nicely when it has punchy jokes. Even the jabs at Arena do a nice job of rewarding people who recognize the reference, but also resemble an interaction that could reasonably happen in a crossover, and it doesn’t wear itself out to the point that someone unfamiliar with the episode would feel lost.

While it tends to feel uneven, this quarter seems like it has an urgent direction to it, significantly more than the introductory chapters do.

And I may have smiled at the fictional tweet.

What Works…Less Well?

The extended fight, technically started at the end of the first quarter of the book, feels incomprehensible to me, as if the author cribbed the entire battle from somewhere else, and didn’t bother to pick a source that had good editing.

The Blowhard vignettes feel like they only exist to fill space, which I realize has a counter-intuitive quality to it, given their short word counts. Other than the tweet, though, none of them seem to have much point, or even a joke to them, other than the admittedly legitimate commentary of “Trump worked to undermine the government.”

Opportunities

The Unglue It page doesn’t have any option to pay for the book or contact information, so it doesn’t look like the author has much interest in collaborating or building a community.

What’s Adaptable?

Apart from what feel like shallow parodies—by which I mean that it just represents the original work for humorous effect, rather than transforming it—I suspect that Rudyard the Poetic Intelligence might have enough distinctiveness to survive outside the book, though I suppose that I could have overlooked the reference, like I did for “Oobie Doobie Kabootie,” despite his inspiration’s show streaming right now. And the Crossroads of Humanity could probably make some sense elsewhere.

Depending on your threshold for parody, the Lady Galahadrielle feels like she could go either way, either having too much Tolkien in her background or giving some new depth to the Arthurian knight.

We also have the “smarticles,” a class of subatomic particles that manifest subjective experiences of life based on the variety, and form the only way to detect them.

Next

Next week, we continue Captain Quark and the Time Stealers, from 3.Ø5 through 3.Ø7. If you reach 4.Ø1, then you’ve gone too far.

While we wait for that, what did everybody else think about this section of the book?


Credits: The header image is the book’s cover, presumably released under the same license.