Is it just me or do you not see many lawyers in SF? I mean not everyone can be a smuggler or a starship captain. Someone has to cut the red tape. In fact the under-representation of attorneys in SF is quite odd. Numerous SF authors are or have been attorneys, while there are fans who work in the legal business including the guys behind the Law and the Multiverse blog and your’s truly who blogs for the relaunched Amazing Stories.
I can only think of a couple examples from my own experience with attorneys in SF. The first was from Michael A. Stackpole’s X-wing series, which featured a Twi’lek pilot named Nawara Ven. A former Imperial defense attorney, he defected to the New Republic when he was unable to seek justice for his clients in the Empire’s corrupt and bigoted court system. Although he is primarily a pilot, in The Krytos Trap, Ven actually shows off his lawyering chops by defending Tycho Celchu, when he is charged with treason and the murder of a fellow pilot.
Sometime after Ven, I came upon the DC comic hero Manhunter, specifically the Kate Spencer version that came out in 2004. She is a federal prosecutor who grows increasingly tired of seeing guilty criminals evade punishment so she takes on the Manhunter identity to track them down and give the pubishment they deserve. Considering that the point of the justice system is to prevent people from taking the law into their own hands, Kate sort of missed that lesson from law school. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the series for portraying the seedier underbelly of the superhero world.
I know there are other SF attorneys out there, including John G. Hemry’s Paul Sinclair series (called by the publisher “JAG, set in space”) and occasionally you do see attorneys on SF television shows like the TNG episode “The Measure of a Man“. Still many of these attorney characters tend to be minor to the plot and even if they are important, its not like Andrea‘s job as attorney was central to her role on The Walking Dead.
Well I want that to change because I feel in this case the real world is starting to surpass SF. There is already an entire field of law dedicated to space (and oddly enough it has been enforced since Sputnik I made its first trip into orbit), a law journal covering space law and in 2008 the first attorney with a certificate in space law graduated from law.
Plus there are amazing opportunities available for the next generation of space attorneys. Although there a surprising number of activities space law already covers, there is still wiggle room in regards to Lunar/asteroid mining and space debris clean-up. In fact today’s space lawyers aren’t plump desk jockeys, but military veterans who are now combining their legal knowledge with their love of outer space. Finally, with the growing private spaceflight industry and new nations putting men in orbit, you know there is going to be a greater need for these men and women to iron out the details about who is responsible when things go wrong.
So next time you are fleshing out a character for your space opera and want to make him or her an attorney, avoid making them a blood-sucking parasite from Hell. Instead base them on these pioneers who have their eyes pointed skyward.