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Literature: The Helmsman Saga
aka: Helmsman Saga
The Helmsman Saga is a Space Opera series by Bill Baldwin. Essentially a WWII Recycled IN SPACE!, it tells the story of Wilf Ansor Brim, an officer from Carescria, a poor and despised province of the Galactic Empire, fighting his way through two galactic wars between his Empire and the League of Dark Stars.

Started in 1985, seven books have been released by 1996. Then, after 15 years (and several years of constant promises), the eighth book was released in December 2011. Also, the first 4 books (as of September 2012) have been retconned to fix a few inconsistencies and loose ends.

  • The Helmsman (1985)
  • Galactic Convoy (1987)
  • The Trophy (1990)
  • The Mercenaries (1991)
  • The Defenders (1992)
  • The Siege (1994)
  • The Defiance (1996)
  • The Turning Tide (2011)


The series contain examples of:

  • All There in the Manual: There is a glossary and list of units on the Author's website (the former currently needs a bit of work).
  • Almighty Janitor: The Siege has a chauffeur being completely unimpressed with Brim's rank - he is a Rear Admiral, and the chauffeur sees enough of them every day. But when he learns Brim's adjutant is Utrillo Barbousse, the highest-ranking Petty Officer in the Fleet...
  • Arms Dealer: Lixor is an entire planet.
  • Arranged Marriage: Margot and Rogan LaKarn. It doesn't work out.
  • Assassin Outclassin': An interesting case. An assassin sent to kill Wilf cannot carry out the job because she owes him a life debt, and he accumulates new ones faster than she can repay. And the assassin's code demands that if she can't kill him, she must kill the one who ordered the hit. She does.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: In the first book, Wilf is among a team captured by a League ship. He escapes, manages to kill an officer and steal his clothes. Then he uses his supposed rank to get into the engine room and disable the reactor. He's pretty far along by the time anyone starts suspecting.
  • Bears Are Bad News: The Expy of Russia is inhabited with large bipedal bears.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: In The Defenders, Wilf is stranded on a League planet along with three people. One of them is the Emperor. He states right away that Emperors cannot fall captive, and makes the others swear they'll kill him first.
  • BFG: The Hador-Haelic space forts have guns which are hundreds of feet long.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": All the time. Alien pigeons, cats, horses...
  • Chekhov's Skill: Wilf knowledge of the League language is used a lot.
  • Cultured Warrior: Wilf knows a lot of poetry.
  • Dirty Coward: Puvis Amherst. And he leads an entire organization of these.
  • Dressing as the Enemy
  • Earth All Along: The first books seem to imply the series are set in distant future, but Turning Tide has Wilf's escape pod land on Earth in December 1965.
  • E.T. Gave Us Wi-Fi: At least three races were given the final push toward interstellar travel by interstellar Escape Pods. In the eighth book, a pod is left on Earth - deliberately.
  • False Flag Operation: The League captures a Fluvannian cruiser and use it to attack one of their liners.
  • Fantastic Drug: Timeweed.
  • Fantastic Racism: The League hunts the Bears for their pelts. Wilf himself deals with it a lot in the Empire because of his birthplace - although it gets better over time.
  • First Girl Wins: Not quite certain yet, but she does tend to reappear all the time.
  • General Failure: Megan Trafford.
  • Genius Ditz: Covall the Wraith.
  • Glorious Mother Russia: Sodeskaya, an empire of a race of bipedal bears wearing papakhas, mostly living on frozen planets and inhabiting one sixth of the galaxy.
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: There are at least four examples. One is clear Good Adultery (Margo). The rest... well, not so clear.
  • Government Drug Enforcement: All of the League State Sec are addicted to timeweed from childhood.
  • Honey Trap: The Trophy and The Mercenaries each have a case. The first time, Wilf is warned, the second time, it's a bit worse. The retconned versions add a third example
  • I Can't Dance: Wilf has a lot of problem with that.
  • Insurance Fraud: In The Turning Tide.
  • Invisibility Cloak: Bender ships.
  • I Owe You My Life: The Turning Tide.
  • Long Runner Tech Marches On: Book 5 - Wilf has a paging unit. Book 7 - Wilf has a mobile phone. Book 8 - he sends SMS messages.
  • Lost Superweapon: The Hador-Haelic space forts. They are well remembered and in plain sight, actually, and still in pristine condition after thousands of years... it's just that no one remembers how to power the guns up.
  • Lowered Recruiting Standards: Before the First Galactic War, only nobles were accepted into the Helmsman Academy. Wilf is from the first batch of commoners to be allowed in due to the combat losses.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Subverted; while Brim thinks how to tell his four year old daughter he's her real father, it turns out enough hints have been dropped for her to figure it out already.
  • Mexican Standoff: Defenders feature one with starships.
  • Mistaken for Servant: Happens to Brim is Siege. He is later introduced officially to the woman who made the mistake. Fortunately, they both take it in good humor.
  • No Biochemical Barriers: Averted. At least, emergency rations state which races they are good for.
  • No OSHA Compliance: In book 3, it is mentioned being a menial on a civilian ship is risky - during a takeoff, they aren't given time to strap in. Somewhat averted in other cases - when Brim attempts to disable an enemy ship's engine while disguised as an enemy officer (using a blaster rifle), for example, he knows one of the options will fry him, but the engine will shut down before it will damage the ship.
  • Old Flame: Margot. And Claudia, to an extent.
  • Ramming Always Works: In the Mercenaries rewrite.
  • Really Gets Around: After book 7, Wilf has a lot of one night stands - nothing to do.
  • Recycled IN SPACE!: Up to Eleven.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: The first thing the League does on conquered planets is destroying their collaborators.
  • Rock Beats Laser: An interesting example in the Galactic Convoy. A city constantly suffers from airstrikes which no one sees. Now, it is known that the League has invisible ships, but no one understands how they make their weapon fire invisible. It's not until Brim actually sees it that they realize that the Leaguers are simply dropping bombs.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Margot and Onrad.
  • Shoot the Hostage: Well, not shooting, but threatening to shoot works nicely on the League, because they believe Brim when he says the hostage will be executed anyway for failure and they only need to recover the expensive equipment.
  • Shout-Out: Captain Verger Antillies, a space station which must be taken out by a torpedo attack which gets right to the reactor, a planet named Throon...
  • Society Marches On: In Mercenaries, Wilf is amazed by the fact that a woman has a completely shaved pubic area. Back in 1991, it might have been unusual (and served to emphasize the fact she is from an exotic culture). By the time Baldwin published the rewrite... well, there is no such scene there.
  • Standard Sci-Fi Fleet: No Battlestars or carriers (at least yet), but everything else seems to be present. Fighters have been retconned in with the new rewrites.
  • Superweapon Surprise: The Hador-Haelic space forts activate right in the middle of a major combat.
  • Tank Goodness: The series are mostly space-based, but books 1 and 6 contain a bit of tank fighting.
  • Telepathic Spacemen: Nadia Tissuard. And a lot of people on her planet.
  • The Empire: The League.
  • The Kingdom: The Galactic Empire.
  • This Is Reality: In book one, Wilf Brim has a last stand against three League ships, and muses that Big Damn Heroes only arrive in time in books.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: The League.
  • Uncoffee: Cvcesse'.
  • We Will Have Perfect Health in the Future: At least parasitic diseases have been exterminated.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Anna Romanoff is the most noticable example. The author eventually retconned that in the newer edition.
  • Winged Humanoids: A'zurnians. The Leaguers break the wings in half - roofed concentration camps are too expensive.
  • Worthy Opponent: Both Wilf and Kirsh treat the other that way.
  • You Need to Get Laid: Stated explicitely by Brim's First Officer in Mercenaries. She is really sorry - they both are - that the protocol stops her from helping out in that regard.
  • You Are in Command Now: In the first book, Brim has to do it all the time. Either the commander has been captured, a Dirty Coward, or away overseeing some trade negotiations (those are three different commanders).

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alternative title(s): Helmsman Saga; Helmsman Saga; The Helmsman Saga
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