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Aural Delights Nov 2008

The A Bertram Chandler Story UFO is now available as an audio podcast from Starship Sofa Aural Delights No 48






















Australian Science Fiction Review

Heard But Not Seen

On reading Lee Harding’s I WAS A VICTIM OF THE GREAT AUSTRALIAN BRAIN BLUDGE (ASFR6) my reaction, especially since my name seems to have been mentioned in the preliminary dickerings, was Better Lee than me. So far I’ve contrived to live a comparatively sheltered life, and my only appearance on the wrong side (but is there ever a right side?) of the fluorescent screen was many years ago, and briefly, on BEC TV.

The ship of which I was then Chief Officer was loading an unusually large consignment of livestock in London for Australian ports and, in addition to the usual Herefords, Aberdeen Anguses, Devons and whatever, there was a fine assortment of smaller animals - some being shipped out to breeders, some the pets of emigrating families.

Anyhow, those watching the BBC TV Newsreel shortly thereafter were treated to the spectacle of myself being towed along the boat deck by a large, beautiful, heavily furred Samoyed. I was told later that practically everyone who knew me had remarked nastily, ‘What a nice dog.’ They were all wrong, of course. She wasn’t a dog.

Even though I have been able to steer clear of TV, quite frequently of late I have been interviewed by press and radio in New Zealand, where things and people regarded as newsworthy would hardly cause the lifting of the most unsophisticated eyebrow this side of the Tasman. However, the one really amusing radio experience had nothing at all to do with interviews, And in connection with it the long arm of coincidence was stretched to an extent that would not be tolerated (by editors, that is) in a work of fiction.

It was about a year ago, and I was in Auckland over the weekend. On the Sunday I was invited to spend the day at the home of an old friend and shipmate with whom I have a great deal in common, he being yet another master mariner with literary ambitions.

That evening, after dinner, he switched on the radio to a programme that he thought I should find interesting - but which induced in me a somewhat hostile mood. I don’t know whether or not the BBC radio series, SCIENCE FACT OR SCIENCE FICTION, was rebroadcast in Australia by either he ABC or any of the commercial stations; it was run, however, by the NZBC. In these talks scientists discussed various ideas used in sf from the viewpoint of their own particular specialties. This Sunday night’s offering was COMMUNICATION WITH ALIEN CULTURES.

Almost with the first word from the speaker I started barracking. ‘The clot should read some real science fiction. The trouble with these eggheads is that they think Flash Gordon is typical of the field…’ And, so on, and so on.

And then, barely audible above my heckling, came the words, ‘The problem is tackled in a very ingenious manner by A. Bertram Chandler in his story, THE CAGE....’

Even I had to join in the laughter.

The following Sunday I arrived back home in Sydney - and there, among the mail, awaiting me, was the umpteenth publication of that same story, this time in Russian. It gets around more than I do, these days but, like myself, it has managed to stay off television.
Originally Published in Australian Science Fiction Review No: 8 - Mar 1967