January 03, 2011
I'm good at getting stuff after it's marinated in my brain for a while. Unfortunately, this sometimes takes years. Take the Reavers on Firefly.
The Reavers live on the edge of the human-controlled binary solar systems, rarely venturing deep into occupied space. As a result, most of inner worlds and many Alliance officials believe them to be myths made to cover for violent criminals. Reavers are known to capture ships and raid colonies on the edge of populated space.
The other day, I was listening to the first track on Mark Knopfler's Get Lucky CD, "Border Reiver." And it clicked. I was vaguely familiar with the meaning of reave [Old English reāfian] is actually the more common English term, reive being chiefly Scottish.
reave — verb (reaves, reaving, reaved, reft)
1. to carry off (property, prisoners, etc) by force
2. See also reive: to deprive; strip
But the historical usage is what brings Whedon's adoption of the term alive.
Border Reivers were raiders along the Anglo–Scottish border from the late 13th century to the end of the 16th century. Their ranks consisted of both Scottish and English families, and they raided the entire border country without regard to their victims' nationality. Their heyday was perhaps in the last hundred years of their existence.
Drawing these kinds of human connections in futuristic world building is what makes good fantasy and space opera great. Joss Whedon is one smart guy. Firefly was one great television series.