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The Rim of Space on Audio

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The Mentor

Aug 1982

I was particularly interested by Harry Warner's letter in The Mentor 38 in which he says, "In contrast to A. Bertram Chandler, I don't know much about anything..." Well, neither do I. Only in a very few fields do I possess more than a layman’s knowledge. But as so many people who wouldn’t know the sharp end from the blunt end of a ship will persist in writing "sea stories" I am frequently aroused to righteous wrath.

Like Mr. Warner I am often annoyed by the stupidity of fictional characters. For example, recently I read a very competent thriller, written by an ex-policemen - a retired Scotland Yard C.I.D. Commander as a matter of fact. This gentleman, I thought at first, was guilty of a gross error insofar as the conduct pf one of his characters was concerned. This man, a soldier, something of an expert on small arms, was left to guard a prisoner. He was handed an automatic pistol by a superior and told that the weapon was loaded and cocked and that he was to use it. The prisoner wriggled out of his bonds. The guard pointed the pistol and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. He recocked, at which stage it was obvious that there had not been a round in the chamber. By this time the gun was jammed and the hapless guard was hit with a handy hammer and killed. The escaped prisoner - a detective inspector investigated. He discovered that he had been meant to make his escape. Apart from anything else the top round in the magazine had been put in back to front.


Of course people, even intelligent people, even experts, are all too often incredibly stupid. But surely that hapless corporal, having been given a firearm with instructions to use it, would have checked the weapon. Oh, well, it was a reversal of the old dictum "It's the gun that’s not loaded that kills people." In this case it was the gun that was loaded that did not kill people.

So the corporal was stupid. The crooked staff sergeant knew that the corporal was stupid. Nevertheless, he was taking a risk. Just at the one time that the corporal should have acted in character he would have done the wrong thing and made sure that the weapon was in proper working order.

Finally, with reference to my article on convenience foods... I have found a local deli which carries a good stock of all manner of imported goodies in cans.
Originally Published in The Mentor No: 39 - Aug 1982