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The Rim of Space on Audio

Blackstone Audio have release The Rim of Space on Audio as part of A Galaxy Trilogy VOL. 4






















The Mentor

Australian S. F. Fans

Ron asked for it, so you’ve got it. Such as it is.

I was born in the Army Hospital at Aldershot, England, on March 28, 1912. The reason for this apparently odd choice of hospitals is that my father was a member of the British Regular Army. So far as I know I’m the first seaman in the family since an ancestor, Roger Chandler, was hanged from his own yardarm for piracy quite some years ago. Like me, he was allergic to hard work. Like me, he was a good agnostic. He was Master of a small sailing vessel on the Mediterranean trade in the days when the Barbary Corsairs were making nuisances of themselves. His ship was captured by the Barbary Corsairs. He was given the usual choice, the Koran or the rowing benches, so embraced Islam. He then became a Barbary Corsair himself, rising to command. He was one of the victims of Admiral Blake’s grand clean-up of the Mediterranean.

I was exposed to education mainly at the Sir John Leman School - a venerable institution founded in the days of Lizzie I - in Beccles, Suffolk, England I was invariably Top in English and Practical Chemistry, Second in Theoretical Chemistry, Physics & Mathematics (because of my bad handwriting and general untidiness) and Bottom in French and Scripture. Today I think that I would score much more highly in the last named subject, having learned that an agnostic should know what he’s being agnostic about.

Poor grades in French and Scripture prevented me from passing into the Remove at the appointed time and so, rather than have an additional year at school before I could matriculate (I still think, that the people who say that their schooldays were the happiest days of their lives either possess short and highly selective memories or are bloody liars) went to sea as an Apprentice in the Sun Shipping Company, a tramp steamer concern with all the faults to be expected In those days, 1928. Their ships were engaged mainly on the Indian Coast Trade, with occasional voyages further afield — to Java, as it was then, to China, to Burma, and once to Fremantle to load grain for Karachi, and once to Manila to load tobacco for Spanish ports, and once from Calcutta to New Orleans with jute. But it was the Calcutta coal trade for most of the time.

In 1932 I completed my Indentures, returning to England to attend the King Edward VII Nautical School in London before sitting for my Second Mate’s Certificate of Competency. Having gained this I rejoined the Sun Shipping Company as Third Officer. During this tour of duty I passed for my First Mate’s certificate in Calcutta — what was called in those days a “Curry & Rice Ticket”. As there was then no Navigation schools in India I think that it should have been regarded more highly that a similar qualification gained in England...

After this second tour of duty I’d had tramps in a big way and, in 1936, entered the service of the Shaw Savill & Albion Company as Fourth Officer. Whilst in their ships I came to know Australia (but only the coastal fringe) and New Zealand quite well.

I was with Shaw Savill throughout World War II, rising to Second Officer. During this period I gained my Master’s Certificate and, shortly thereafter, commenced my writing career. I was lucky inasmuch as Shaw Savill’s ships had been shunted off their wellworn tramlines by the War and used to call quite often into New York, where I made the acquaintance of John W. Campbell, George O. Smith, Murray Leinster (Will F. Jenkins), Theodore Sturgeon, Lester del Ray and quite a few more. At the same tine, in Sydney, I started selling sf shorts to MAN.

As Chief Officer in Shaw Savill, in 1955, I met my wife when she was travelling out to Sydney in my ship. In 1956 I resigned from Shaw Savill and entered the employ of the Union Steam Company of New Zealand, rising rapidly from Third to Chief Officer and, eventually, to Master.

But this series is supposed to be about fans, not about low seafaring types. As a writer I am, of course, a low seafaring type; that is glaringly obvious.

As far as I can remember I was first bitten by the science fiction bug at the age of 12 or so, when I discovered H.G. Wells’ THE TIME MACHINE in the school library. And it was at about the same time that I discovered Burroughs (I needn’t specify which one); his Martian novels still stick in the memory. Tarzan? Only the ones that were science fictional. Then there was the Hugo Garnsback SCIENCE & INVENTION, and from that I graduated to AMAZING STORIES.

My first contact with organised fandom was towards the end of the War, when Wally Gillings was lining up writers for a new s/f magazine that never got off tao launching pad. Then, of course, there was the weekly gatherings of fans in the White Horse, in Fetter Lane (immortalized by Arthur C. Clarke in his TALES FROM THE WHITE HART) which was later transferred to another pub, the Leather Bottle. It was not long before I was attending fan gatherings in both Melbourne and Sydney during my visits to those ports.

Unfortunately the nature of my employment prevents me from becoming as deeply involved in fandom as I would wish; it is more by luck than judgement that I am ever able to attend a Convention.

Still, I count myself lucky that I became a science fiction writer instead of becoming just a writer of, say, sea stories. (No unkind comments, please.) In no other field than science fiction does a writer get to meet so many good and interesting people with whom he has so much in common.
Originally Published in The Mentor No: 21 - Oct 1971