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Captain Mal investigates a ghost ship in Titan's new Firefly: Generations novel

By Jeff Spry
firefly hero

While a small-screen reunion of the intrepid Firefly crew at Fox still seems a remote possibility, Joss Whedon's cult TV space western that aired for one season back in 2002-2003 keeps on truckin' with Firefly: Generations, another original prose novel from Titan Books set in The 'Verse — and SYFY WIRE is launching an exclusive preview and chapter excerpt to saddle up.

Book-loving Browncoats might recall that this is the fourth literary outing for Captain Mal Reynolds and his fellow smugglers after author James Lovegrove's Big Damn Hero in 2018, 2019's The Magnificent Nine, and this year's The Ghost Machine.

Written by Tim Lebbon (Alien vs Predator: Armageddon), Firefly: Generations docks in book stores on Nov. 3 and centers around an unusual star map won by Captain Mal in a wild card game while on an Outer Rim moon. The mysterious chart is covered in strange symbols that River Tam manages to decipher back aboard the Serenity.

Firefly Generations

River believes this map marks the route to locating one of the legendary Arks, ancient generation ships that first delivered humans from Earth-That-Was to The 'Verse. Realizing the salvage potential would be life-altering, the crew sets a course for the drifting relic to discover the floating spaceship might not be entirely dead after all. The nearer they get to the derelic craft, the more agitated River becomes, sensing something angry is lurking on board.

Lebbon is intrigued with the idea of Generation Ships, and that's one of the big draws of the Firefly 'Verse for him, that being the idea of those interstellar arks linked to our future.

"I've always wondered about the ships that took humanity to the 'Verse, so for Generations I decided to find one," he tells SYFY WIRE. "The crew is drawn to one of these massive, ancient ships by a mysterious star map. The ship is hidden in the ruins of a shattered moon, and of course for the Serenity gang this is a great opportunity for salvage.

"There's a big market for collectible items from Earth-that-was ... but there's so much more on this cold, silent ship than old Earth things. There's a man, who sings to River in her dreams. And of course, he's much more than he seems."


River has always fascinated Lebbon as a character as she's the most unusual of the crew, and probably the one who's the real outsider.

"Her history is tragic, her potential huge, and in Generations I wanted to take a little look into what her future might hold," he adds. "Getting into her head was tough –– it's strange in there! –– but I hope I've given her a compelling story. In Generations the action is confined and claustrophobic, and all the more exciting and brutal because of that. I hope readers will enjoy the ride."

Now enjoy our exclusive chapter excerpt taken from Firefly: Generations by Tim Lebbon, published by Titan Books. Firefly ™ & © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, and arriving in Earth orbit Nov. 3.

“Maybe Inara has the right idea,” Jayne said. He scooped a third spoonful of energy supplement onto his plate, glancing at Mal as he did so. They’d agreed that they were all on rations of two spoons per meal until they resupplied somewhere. Mal blinked at him but said nothing. The fact that he was having to pick his battles, even with Jayne, meant that this had gone on for too long. 

“Inara has every right to come and go as she pleases,” Mal said. 

“Good time to leave when we’ve become a bunch of no-hopers,” Jayne said. 

“I have an appointment,” Inara said. “I take advantage of good opportunities the same as the rest of you.” 

“Good rich opportunities, I’ll bet,” Mal said. 

“I prefer to think of them as people of means,” she said, smiling at Mal. Her smile always did something to him he wasn’t used to. It confused him. And the last person in the crew he’d want to pick up on that always seemed to be the one who did. 

“I doubt she’d have you even if you could afford to pay,” Jayne said. River giggled at that, causing a moment of shocked silence around the table. The girl didn’t usually laugh at anything, or if she did it was something none of them understood. 

“It was bad luck we had to dump the pods,” Zoë said, and Mal wished she’d changed the topic to something else. 

“Bad luck on the Spider Slugs inside,” Inara said. 

“We had an Alliance cruiser closin’ in,” Mal said. “If they’d boarded us—” 

“Still don’t know how anyone can eat those gorramn things,” Jayne said, spooning a mass of paste into his mouth. “I mean, they’re slugs. As big as my arm!” He shivered. “Euch.” 

“They’re a delicacy on Londinium,” Book said. “One good-sized slug costs fifty credits.” 

“You’re speakin’ as if you’ve tried them,” Kaylee said. 

Book shrugged. “Once or twice. Actually… once. They taste as bad as they look.” 

Jayne was looking back and forth between Book and Kaylee. “But fifty credits each?” 

“Why do you think I was so ready to smuggle them?” Mal said. 

“And we dumped ’em in deep space?” Jayne shook his head. “We could have hidden the pods. This ship’s got more hiding places than… than somethin’ with lots of hiding places.” 

“They didn’t come on board,” River said. “They were sailing, that’s all, sailing on by.” 

“We weren’t to know they weren’t aimin’ to board us,” Mal protested.

“You never asked.” River stirred her food but didn’t eat any. She stared down at the patterns it made on her plate, and Mal wondered what she might be seeing. Something other than energy paste and rehydrated potato, that was for sure. 

“I appreciate everyone’s patience,” Mal said. “We’ve been here before, lookin’ for work and missin’ out on commissions by a few days.” 

“Or a few million miles,” Zoë said. 

“But we’ll pull through if we hold together. One big score and we’ll forget about this.” 

“A familiar refrain,” Book said. 

Jayne scooped up more paste to add to the remnants of his meal. “Take me a long time to forget about this.” It didn’t taste of much, but it provided essential vitamins and calories. Simon had recommended supplementing their meals with it ten days before, and since then it had become a constant. 

“I hear you on that one,” Mal said. 

“Evening,” Wash said. He sat beside Zoë and started spooning food onto his plate. “Oh, yum. Potatoes and goo for dinner again.” 

“We were just discussing its culinary merits,” Zoë said. 

“Merits?” Wash looked around at them all, one eyebrow raised. “What’d I miss?” 

“Mal telling us how much those Spider Slugs were worth,” Jayne said. “And where our next score is comin’ from.” 

“Yeah, about that,” Wash said. “I might have an idea.” He forked food into his mouth and succeeded in chewing without pulling a face. Mal admired him for that. 

“So share!” Kaylee said. 

“Golden’s Bane.” Wash smiled, green paste between his teeth. 

“That another type of gǒu shǐ food?” Jayne asked. 

“It’s a place,” Wash said, looking around the table. “Don’t 

tell me none of you have heard of it?” 

“Rings a bell,” Mal said, tapping his fork on the table. “So where and what is it?” 

“It’s a mining town on Zeus’s fifth moon,” Wash said. “Or rather, it’s a valley on that moon, and there are buildings scattered either side of the valley’s river for a mile or so. Wouldn’t really call it a town.” 

“Why not?” River asked. She seemed suddenly interested. Mal still found it mystifying what might grab the girl’s attention. Simon didn’t appear to know either, much as he pretended to understand her. Must have been tough, losing your sister like that, then getting her back different. 

“It’s just… a rough place. Buildings appeared when they found gold in the hills, then when the gold was all mined out the place remained. Prospectors who went there with no money and found nothing couldn’t afford to leave. Over the years it’s built something of a reputation as a way station for criminals and miscreants. I went there once, years ago, when I was piloting a small transport ship for a mining facility on Aberdeen. They traded with the town for a while, buying a lot of the old mining equipment in return for farming gear, seeds, water filtration plants, that sort of goings on. Not somewhere I’d even hoped to visit again.” 

“Not to your usual standard of civility?” Zoë asked. 

“Could say that, sweetheart. The place was a dump. No law and order, no real system of rule other than local gang lords warring back and forth through the place. I was there four days and there were three murders, one in the tavern I was drinking in. I realized it was the butthole of the ’verse and left the next day.” 

“I’m liking the place more and more,” Jayne said, grinning. 

“Mal?” Zoë asked. He’d been thinking, and her saying his name jogged a memory he wasn’t too pleased to recall. 

“Lassen Pride,” he said. 

Zoë looked up, surprised, or maybe shocked. 

“What the hell is Lassen Pride?” Jayne asked. 

“Who, not what,” Zoë said. “Mal and I fought with him. He was…” 

“Not a good man,” Mal said. “The killin’ suited him, and after the war stopped, he didn’t.” 

“So what’s he got to do with Golden’s Bane?” Wash asked. 

“It’s where he went when he retired,” Zoë said. 

“From killin’?” Jayne asked. 

“So it’s purported,” Mal said. “But it’s also said he got into the smugglin’ business. If we’re close, and Wash knows the lie of the land as well’s he claims, maybe he’ll be a useful contact.” 

“You were friends?” Book asked. 

Mal gave a forced grin. 

“Friendly enough,” Zoë said. 

“Yeah. He didn’t try to kill either of you,” Jayne said, and he chuckled. 

There was silence around the table. When Mal caught Zoë’s eye he saw a glimmer of uncertainty there, and suspected it was reflected in his own. He couldn’t afford that. A captain shouldn’t be uncertain. He pressed his hands to the table and stood. 

“Let’s pay a visit,” he said. “Pride might find us some work.” 

“By ‘work,’ I assume you mean questionable employment that might eventually require my expertise?” Simon asked. 

“We always start out hoping not,” Mal said. “How things turn out is rarely of our making.” 

“If I may,” Book said, “I believe I’ll be sitting this one out.” 

“Sitting it out?” Mal asked. He caught a glance between Inara and Book and he sat back down, slapping his hand on the table. “Spill.” 

“Nothing to spill,” Book said. “I’ve asked Inara if I can accompany her to her appointment. She’s going to a space station in 

orbit around Ghost, and there’s a fine book trader there who I believe will pay handsomely for three of the old Bibles I found in the crate.” 

“How handsome?” Jayne asked. 

“That’s what I’m going to find out.” 

“You know that crate belongs to Serenity,” Mal said. 

Book held out his hands. “And I’d be more than happy to donate any proceeds to her. I could even use them to pick up the supplies we’re in need of.” 

“So we go to Golden’s Bane and mix it up with this Pride character, and you go to a library,” Jayne said. 

“And if I make some money, and you still find no work, Inara and I return with food,” Book said. He glanced at Kaylee. “And spare parts.” 

“And booze,” Jayne said. 

“Goes without saying.” 

“I’m not fond of my crew being split,” Mal said. 

“Split the crew, double the chance we make a score,” Book said. “And these books, Mal… they’re rather precious.” 

“You mean more’n money,” Mal said. 

Book nodded once. 

“They’re just books!” Jayne said. “Maybe we can burn ’em, keep warm.” 

“Not being a book lover, I’m not sure a gentleman like you would understand,” Book said. 

“So educate me.” 

“We’ve tried,” Mal said. 

Jayne looked around the table at them all, then snorted. 

“So when do you leave?” Mal asked, looking at Book but directing his question at Inara. Whenever she left Serenity on an appointment he felt a cool sense of loss. Part of it was seeing her leave, part knowing what she was going to do. One day maybe 

he’d tell her, but sometimes he felt they’d been doing the dance for so long that might never happen. 

“Right after dinner,” Inara said. 

Jayne slammed down his spoon with a clatter. “You call this dinner?”