Spacer and Rat, by Margaret Bechard

Spacer and Rat

Jack has spent his whole life on Freedom Station, out in the Asteroid Belt. He knows exactly what it means to live out in the Black. And working in Gert’s pub, he sees everyone who passes through: the geeks and the mechs, the miners and the sci guys. And the Earthies, fleeing the problems back on Earth, coming out to the new colony worlds, bringing those problems with them.

Jack knows who belongs out in the Black. And who doesn’t. Until Kit comes walking into the pub. And challenges everything he believes about the Black and the people who live there, challenges everything he believes about what it means to be human.


“Although perhaps best known for her realistic novels, Bechard is no stranger to sf, and she adds sly homage to classic works and authors … creating snappy space jargon, and Waldo is an inspired character.” —Booklist

“Bechard’s wry sense of humor and meticulous detail bring the space station to life … a warm, quirky adventure story.” —Horn Book

“Fast-paced romp … a very engaging tale.” —Bulletin, Recommended

“A gripping and gritty look at a vividly realized future world.” —School Library Journal

  • An ALA Best Book for Young Adults
  • A CCBC Choice
  • A Bank Street Book of the Year

Author’s Notes

Ah. This story. This story was supposed to be so easy.

For me plotting is always a huge challenge. I can create believable, engaging characters. But figuring out what those characters have to do is always the big challenge. And invariable, things fall apart for me somewhere around the middle. Somewhere around Chapter Seven or Eight, I suddenly get stuck. I realize that what I thought had to happen, can’t happen at all. And I’m back to the drawing board.

But I thought, with this story, it would be clear sailing. Because I planned to steal the plot.

Yes. I admit it. I planned to steal the plot of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island and just transpose it to outer space. (And it’s not such a bad idea. Disney did it with Treasure Planet. Not, it’s true, one of their best movies.) I even went so far as to get out my copy of Stevenson’s book, and I did a chapter by chapter outline based on his story.

And I began. I wanted to set my story on a space station because … well … I was interested in space stations. I knew I wanted pirates. Obviously. And I figured, science fiction, right? I’d throw in some space ships. Some aliens. Some laser guns. I really wanted a boy’s adventure “Space pirates and aliens and lasers … oh my!” kind of story.

I had to do a lot of thinking, of course. A lot of world building. A lot of thinking about alien biology and physiology. But I had my plot, thanks to Mr. Stevenson. I knew what my characters had to do. I could build them up from that. Couldn’t I?

And things did go pretty well. For a while. Right up until, oh, say Chapter Seven. Or maybe it was Chapter Eight. Where I got stuck.

I went back to the beginning and tried again. And got stuck. I went back to the beginning and tried again. And couldn’t even get past Chapter Two.

At this point, I actually took a break of a few years and I wrote Hanging On to Max.

And when I came back to this story, I had to face the fact that my characters were not Stevenson’s characters. How could they be? They were living on a space station somewhere inside the Asteroid Belt, for heaven’s sake. They did not want what his characters wanted. And so, they couldn’t do what his characters had done. I had to figure out the plot that fit them, their back story, their fears and hopes and desires. I had to make up the plot all by myself.

Sigh. It turns out, it’s never easy. But if it were too easy, would it be as much fun?