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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

Marcon XIII

John Grimes - Autobiographical Notes

Unfortunately, it is impossible to paint  a detailed picture of Grimes’ childhood, as many records were destroyed during the Central Australian Subsidence of 375 AG.  It is known, however, that he was born in the city Alice Springs on Primus 28259.  His father George Whitley Grimes, a moderately successful author of historical romances.  His mother – who had elected to retain her family name after marriage to Grimes’ father – was Matilda Hornblower, a domestic solar heating engineer.

So far as can be ascertained, no ancestral Grimes was ever an astronaut. There are, however, seamen clambering in the branches of the family tree. One Roger Grimes, a minor Seventeenth Century (Old Terran Reckoning) pirate achieved the dubious distinction of being hanged from his own yardarm when Admiral Blake launched his successful campaign  against the corsairs who, at that time infested the Mediterranean Sea. (It may seem strange that a .British seaman was a Barbary Corsair -- but an ancestral Chandler achieved that distinction.) Another Grimes, in the Twentieth Century, commanded mechanically driven surface ships trading up and down the Australian Coast and across the Tasman Sea. Neither seafaring Grimes, however achieved the fame of that illustrious ancestor on his mother’s side, Lord Hornblower R.N.

In an earlier age, young Grimes might well have sought adventure at sea. As it was, he wished to become a merchant spaceman. His mother however, conscious of the Royal Navy traditions of her family, insisted he apply for entry into the Federation Survey Service Space Academy in Antarctica. Grimes scraped through the examinations and was duly enrolled as a cadet in that institute of astronautical education.

At the Academy he did well in some subjects, poorly in others. He took to navigation and gunnery like a duck to water, but always did poorly in engineering. It was inevitable that after his being commissioned he would enter the Spaceman Branch of the Service. He was fascinated by allegedly non-essential courses such as those covering history and literature. Team sports he avoided as much as possible, preferring those, such as hot air balloon racing and ice-yachting, in which he was at all times his own boss. He made few real friends but only one enemy, Francis Delamere. Delamere was Grimes’ bete noir throughout his career in the Federation Survey Service.

On graduation from cadet to midshipman, twenty-third in a class of distinction of  fifty, Grimes and his classmates embarked aboard the obsolescent City Class cruiser Canberra on the training voyage that would determine whether or not the young men made the next step up, from midshipman to ensign. Canberra was under the command of Captain Joachim Strasser, a notorious disciplinarian and perfertionist. Both Grimes and Delamere got into good captain’s bad books very soon after the commencement voyage. Grimes, however, redeemed himself by his ingenuity in effecting repairs with wildly improbable materials to the inertial drive unit of a ship’s boat in which he, with other midshipmen, had been cast adrift to make their own way back to Callisto Base. (Although he was never an engineer he always prided himself on his ability to construct a workable jury rig with whatever lay to hand.) Delamere, in charge of the boat, behaved very badly during the emergency. If Delamere’s mother had not been a very good friend of a certain Admiral that would have been the finish of his career.

So both Delamere and Grimes received their ensign’s commissions. Delamere, with the other newly commissioned officers, proceeded from Earth to Lindisfarne Base in the Survey Service transport Robert Heinlein. Grimes was obliged to take compassionate leave at this time;  his father, practising a quick draw with an antique revolver, part of the research that he was doing for a Western novel, seriously injured himself. When Grimes senior was well on the road to recovery young Grimes reported back to duty and was ordered to proceed to Lindisfarne base as a passenger in the Interstellar Transport Commission’s Delta Orionis.

The account of Delta Orionis’ voyage may be found in THE ROAD TO THE RIM. Delta Orionis was under the command of Captain J. Craven (later Commodore J. Craven of the Rim Worlds Navy), at that time an officer of the Interstellar Federation Survey Service Reserve.  Delta Orionis went to the assistance of the pirated Epsilon Sextans hut too late to save more than a handful of her crew. Craven, acting with somewhat dubious legality, put a prize crew aboard the derelict arming her with Survey Service weaponry “borrowed” from Delta Otionis’ cargo. Grimes, fresh from a gunnery course, had assisted the shipmaster in what was, essentially, an act of private vengeance. (The purser of Epsilon Sextans, among those killed during the piracy, had been Craven’s lover.)

This could well have been a suicide mission - the pirate was actually a heavily-armed frigate of the Waldegren Navy – had it not been for the intervention of Survey Service squadron. Nonetheless Grimes acquitted himself well under Craven’s command. The admiral commanding the Survey Service task force was an old friend of Craven’s and agreed with that gentleman’s opinion of Grimes.

This did Grimes no harm at all.

For quite a while Grimes’ Survey Service career was relatively uneventful.  At first his promotions came almost automatically – from ensign to lieutenant junior grade, then to lieutenant. As such he served in the Zodiac Class cruiser Aries under Captain Daintree. He was in this ship when she put in to El Dorado, a world referred to throughout the known galaxy as “the planet of the filthy rich”. (TO PRIME THE PUMP) El Dorado had a big problem. For
some reason conception was quite impossible to its human inhabitants and most of these, with old and proud family names, were anxious to perpetuate them.

The solution was absurdly simple although far from obvious. Up to the time of Aries’ visit there had been no human deaths on El Dorado. There was, as on all inhabited worlds, the reservoir of life essence waiting to be tapped but first of all the pump had to be primed. Grimes should have been the human sacrifice but instead was instrumental in the violent demise of a local grandee, the Comte Henri de Messigny. The pump was primed. Grimes became the father of the first child to be born on El Dorado, the mother being the Princess Marlene von Stolzberg. She told him that he would be welcome back on El Dorado as soon he had made his first billion credits.

After his tour of duty in Aries Grimes was posted to Pathfinder a survey ship proper, under Captain Tolliver. (THE HARD WAY UP) It was in Pathfinder that he first met Commander (Dr.) -Maggie Lazenby, one of the Survey Servic’s scientific officers. Although Grimes and Maggie Lazenby never married - or never married on the time track on which most of the Grimes stories are set - she was one of the major influences in his life. Grimes failed to endear himself to Captain Tolliver who, after one cruise, demanded this troublesome junior officer be transferred. In many ways this was lucky for Grimes as it meant that he was given a command of his own, of the little Serpent Class courier Adder. In Adder he was always getting into trouble and Commodore Damien, the Officer Commanding Couriers was more pleased than otherwise when Grimes, promoted to Lietenant Commander as a result of what could only be called blackmail, was too senior for such a small craft.


While awaiting his next appointment Grimes was stationed on Lindisfarne Base (THE BROKEN CYCLE) There he met Sky Marshall Una Freeman, a policewoman specialising in piracy and skyjacking. He was loaned to her to assist in the recovery of the skyjacked liner Delta Geminorum, now an abandoned derelict. Grimes’ old enemy, Francis Delamere, was to take Grimes, Una and their prize crew to a rendezvous with the merchantman in his Lizard Class courier Skink. The rendezvous was made. Grimes and Una Freeman were to be the first to board to, hopefully, defuse any booby traps that the pirates had left on board. When their boat was in very close proximity to the derelict a thermonuclear device was detonated. As boat and ship were both proceeding under interstellar drive, with temporal precession rates synchronized, the boat was not destroyed but thrown into an alternate universe - although Delamere, seeing her vanish from his screens, assumed readily enough that hic old enemy and the girl who had spurned his advances had perished.

The alternate universe was one in which there had been a dreadful war wiping out all organic life. Artificial intelligences - robots - had survived and one of these, setting himself up as a sort of god, was determined to give the human race a fresh start. Grimes and Una were captured and then cast in the roles of Adam and Eve on an Edenic planet.

Once the novelty wore off they were far from happy with each other or with the robot deity who, in his wrath, slung them back into their own Space and Time.

(Una Freeman, having somehow acquired a great dislike for spacemen, resigned from the Corps of Sky Marshals to return - to planetbound police duties. As Chief of Police at Port Southern, on Austral, she became quite notorious for her - harassment of visiting astronauts enjoying only a mildly rowdy night on the tiles in that city.)

Shortly after his return to Lindisfarne Base Grimes was given his next command. This was Seeker – like Pathfinder a survey vessel rather than a warship. (FALSE FATHERLAND/SPARTAN PLANET) In her he stumbled upon a lost colony calling itself New Sparta. At the time of Seeker’s landing, New Sparta was on the verge of revolution. The arrival of the outsiders on the planet helped to bring matters to a head. Grimes - encouraged by Maggie Lazenby - committed the unforgivable crime (in the eyes of Central Government on Earth) of taking sides although some members of the Board of Admiralty considered his intervention justified.

When Seeker returned to Lindisfarne Base she was sent out again almost immediately to locate, and to claim for the Federation, another Lost Colony of which there had been persistent rumors. (THE INHERITORS) This world, Morrowvia, was inhabited by people apparently of human descent but actually of feline ancestry, the productions of a Dr. Morrow, a genetic engineer who was one of the few survivors of the ill-fated Lode Cougar. Sniffing around Morrowvia were the representatives of the Dog Star Line, one of whose ships had found Morrowvia, and the semi-piratical Captain Drongo-Kane later Commodore Baron Kane of the El Doradan Navy), owner-master of Southerly Buster. Grimes, with Maggie Lazenby’s assistance, was able to frustrate Kane’s plans to operate a profitable slave trade out of Morrowvia but could do nothing to prevent the Dog Star Line from turning the hitherto unspoiled planet into  a holiday resort, served by that company’s cruise liners.

Seeker returned to Lindisfarne Base. Some of Grimes superiors approved his conduct on Morrowvia, some did not. He was given his promotion to full commander but appointed to the captaincy of a notoriously awkward ship, officered and manned by the Survey Service’s prize misfits and incompetents. In this vessel, Discovery, he was ordered to make search for a Lost Colony regarding which vague rumours had been heard. (THE BIG BLACK MARK) Discovery was an unhappy ship but Grimes managed to lick her into some sort of shape. On New Maine - which world was to be his operational base - he was fortunate enough to meet a tramp master who was able to give him some information regarding the location of the Lost Colony.

The first likely planet investigated by Discovery after departure from New Maine was not, however, a Lost Colony although it was inhabited by an intelligent humanoid race whose technological level was that of steam ships, airships, and firearms. Unfortunately there was a clash between the Terrans and the indigenes. Grimes’ Major of Marines, in defiance of orders, fired upon an airship, destroying it and all its crew. Inadvertently Grimes, during his hasty departure, destroyed another airship which inadvertently flew under Discovery’s stern while the auxiliary reaction drive was in operation.

After a short voyage the real Lost Colony was discovered. This was Botany Bay, so named by the original colonists, the survivors of the ill-fated Lode Wallaby. It was a very pleasant world, to all intents and purposes an idealized reconstruction of Twentieth Century (old reckoning) Australia. It was too pleasant a world. Discovery’s crew were very reluctant to leave it. Grime was far from popular when he gave the order to lift ship.

Trouble broke out during Discovery’s return voyage to Lindisfarne Base. Every member of the crew had smuggled aboard supplies of  the local tobacco which, among other properties, was a potent aphrodisiac. Grimes instituted a search after the conduct of one of the stewardesses had made it obvious that a quantity of the drug was aboard. This sparked off a mutiny. Grimes with two loyal officers - the Surgeon and the Psionic Communications Officer - was set adrift in one of the ship’s boats in which both the mini-Mannschenn and the Carlotti transceiver had been
rendered inoperative. They were picked up however, by one of the very few merchant vessels with a Psionic Ccmmunications Officer on her books.

He was taken to Lindisfarne Base. After he had made his preliminary report he was sent back to Botany Bay in the destroyer Vega which vessel- was under the command- of his old enemy, Frank Delamere. On Botany Bay Delamere used unnecessary force in rounding up the mutineers, thereby antagonizing the civil authorities.  Grimes, who had his friends among them, suspected that an escape attempt was to made by the mutineers but failed to warn Delamere. The mutineers were able to recapture Discovery and lifted off - but not before, by application of lateral thrust, toppling Vega so that there could be no pursuit until she was righted.

Grimes hastily resigned his Survey Service commission, knowing full well that if he returned to Lindisfarne he would have to face a court martial.

He had good friends on Botany Bay, among these being Mavis, the Mayor of Paddington. She appointed him Port Captain - now that Botany Bay had been rediscovered spaceborne traffic was to be expected. (THE FAR TRAVELLER) The first ship into the Paddington Spaceport - after Discovery and Vega - was The Far Traveller, a spaceyacht built on Electra from an isotope of gold and effectively managed by a pilot-computer nicknamed Big Sister. She was owned by the fabulously wealthy Baroness Michelle d’Estang, of El Dorado and officially commanded by a Captain Billings, lately a Dog Star Line second mate. The baroness - although rich she was not averse to making a few extra credits - agreed to let The Far Traveller be used to raise Vega to an upright position. Grimes supervised this operation. With his ship once again an. effective fighting machine Delamere showed his hand and arrested Grimes, intending to take him back to Lindisfarne Base to stand trial. The local police, with whom Grimes was not in favor, made no attempt to intervene. It was the Baroness and Big Sister - who rescued him.  Captain Billings, who was not cut out to be a yachtmaster, resigned so that he could take Grimes’ job as Port Captain. The Baroness engaged Grimes to command her yacht. He soon realized that he was master de jure but not de facto Big Sister ran everything.

The Far Traveller visited several planets - the baroness was assembling material for a doctoral thesis on Social Evolution in Lost among them Morrowvia where, once again, Grimes tangled with Drongo  Kane. In spite of the fact that the  baroness was very  much taken with this picturesque rogue, Grimes – aided by Big Sister who did not approve of Kane – succeeded in frustrating Kane’s ingenious scheme to take over the planet. 


Shortly thereafter The Far Traveller fell in with an incredibly ancient warship, a relic of some long-dead civilization. The “brain” of this vessel, dormant over millennia, awakened, and Big Sister, at last meeting one of her own kind, fell in love. But the warship, with its fantastic armament, was ambitious and intended to embark upon a career of conquest. When it came to the crunch, however, Big Sister’s loyalties were to her human creators and not to her fellow robot intelligence. She managed to destroy the warship and then pushed her own self—destruct button. (A different variation of this episode has been published in AMAZING) Grimes and the baroness got away in the big, spacegoing pinnace carried by The Far Traveller. The baroness let down her defenses insofar as Grimes was concerned. But before things came to their logical conclusion the obnoxious Drongo Kane arrived on the scene in his Southerly Buster and Michelle decided to continue the affair that had begun on Morrowvia.

But she was not ungenerous. She made over the pinnace - like the mother ship it had been constructed from an isotope of gold - to Grimes as a parting gift.

Grimes named his new command Little Sister. (STAR COURIER).  He decided to set up shop as a shipowner - as owner-master and to operate a courier service. His first employment was the carriage of a shipment of very important parcel mail from Tiralbin to Boggarty. The Tiralbin Postmistress General accompanied this consignment; it was (she thought) an interesting way of spending her long service leave. It turned out to be rather too interesting. Little Sister was captured by a Shaara warship under the command of a Rogue Queen, she being on her way to Darijja, an unimportant world upon which the swarming Shaara intended to set up a new colony. Grimes and Tamara Haverstock, after having been subjected to many humiliations by their captors, were rescured by a sort of underground organization composed of followers of the old religion.  Grimes and the postmistress were regarded as incarnations of two of the deities.

The campaign against the Shaara was successful. Little Sister was recovered and the voyage to Boggarty resumed. For various reasons Grimes and Tamara Haverstock did not part on good terms.

Grimes’ next misadventure was the Bronson Star affair. As the result of his killing, in self-defense, two valuable animals consigned to a zoo on Bronsonia, he was grounded on that world with heavy fines impending and port charges mounting. (TO KEEP THE SHIP) He was obliged to accept employment as shipkeeping officer of the obsolescent Bronson Star, which vessel was in parking orbit about Bronsonia. In many ways the job was a sinecure - until the vessel was siezed by a party of royalists wishing to return to their own world, Dunlevin, to take part in a counter-revolution. These people should have had a navigator with them but he was killed during the take-over of the met. satellite from which the skyjackers boarded Bronson Star Grimes was retained on board to navigate - with a pistol at his head.

Two rather unenthusiastic members of the gang were Hodge, the engineer and Susie, the catering officer. (Many years later Fat Susie became the owner of Susie’s Bar & Grill at Port Forlorn, on Lorn. (BEYOND THE GALACTIC RIM) Grimes and Susie became lovers. A call was made on the way to Dunlevin to pick up the royalists’ strike force. A landing was made eventually on Dunlevin. It was a Bay of Pigs type operation but Grimes, with Susie and. Hodge, managed to get away in Bronson Star, leaving the counter-revolutionaries to their fate. They took with them the royalists’ war chest.

Grimes knew that if Hodge and Susie were returned to Bronsonia they would have to stand trial so, after ­having worked out how to fake evidence to show that he had made the voyage from Dunlevin to Bronsonia single-handed, a landing was made on a world whose people had developed a fantastic technique of body sculpture ­the intention being that Hodge and Susie, with much of the royalists money in their possession, would make a fresh stare elsewhere with new identities.

Susie, before her body was redesigned, was a big girl, fat rather than plump. Some of the surplus tissue was made into a little simulacrum of herself which, in a glass container, she gave to Grimes as a memento.

During the last leg of the voyage this container was broken. Grimes disposed of the tiny “corpse” in the ship’s sewage system. Pieces of it finished up in the algae vats. But they were not dead. Soon the ship was overrun with mini Susies. Finally, after cannibalism, there was just one big Susie...

With outside assistance - from the Federation Survey Service - Grimes was able to regain control of his ship.  Luckily one of the boarding party was Maggie Lazenby who, having heard the true story from Grimes, promised to cover up for him.

Back on Bronsonia Grimes learned that the processing of his salvage claim would take a long time. However, a, local newspaper, the Bronson Star, came to his aid. This paper made its money from the syndication of articles and other items throughout the galaxy. Little Sister was chartered to carry The Bronson Star’s chief muckraker, one Fenella Pruin, to New Venusberg and to provide her with a quick getaway should this be necessary. ( MATILDA’S STEPCHILDREN)

On New Venusberg Grimes and Fenella Pruin-discovered that there were some very unsavoury forms of entertainment available to those able to pay for them. They found out too much. Their cover was blown by Aloysius Dreeble once Mate of Drongo Kane’s Southerly Buster and now master of Willy Willy, owned by Able Enterprises. Willy Willy was engaged on the white slave trade from New Alice - a Lost Colony stumbled upon by Kane - to New Venusberg.

Grimes and Fenella Pruin, together with Shirl and Darleen from New Alice, was consigned to a protracted  and painful death in the Snuff Palace.  But series characters are near immortals…

A little wiser but not much richer Grimes continued tramping around in Little Sister. Finally, on Austral, the multi-trillionaire Yosef Markarian, manufacturer of entertainment androids, cast covetous eyes on Grimes’ ship, wanting her for a spaceyacht. The price that he offered was a large fortune. Grimes was sorry to let her go but he had long wanted something larger in which he could carry real cargoes. The obsolescent Epsilon Corvi, owned by the Interstellar Transport Commission, was up for sale in Port Southern. Grimes bought her. He also engaged a crew. Among them were Billy Williams, a Cluster Lines chief officer who had been landed from his ship sick, and Mayhew, a shore-based Psionic Communications Officer who had been made redundant when Austral switched from Psionic Deep Space Communications to the electronic Carlotti system.

Epsilon Corvi was renamed Sister Sue. In her Grimes tramped around the Galaxy, still not making his fortune. He was out on the Rim when the Rim Worlds were expanding their merchant fleet, mainly with secondhand tonnage. An offer was made for Sister Sue which Grimes accepted, on condition that he and his people enter the Rim Runners’ service with no loss of rank. Commodore Craven, of the Rim Worlds Navy, tried to persuade Grimes to accept a commission but he, now long used to the life of a merchant spaceman, refused. All Rim Runners officers, however, were members of the Rim Worlds Naval Reserve.

Sister Sue was renamed Rim Sister but she did not keep this name for long. She became Faraway Quest when she was converted into a survey ship. In her Grimes made the first landings on the worlds to the Galactic East and discovered the anti-matter systems to the Galactic West. To keep him occupied when the old Quest was laid up between commissions he was made Rim Runners’ Astronautical Superintendent and also was promoted the rank of Commodore, RWNR.

The first fully chronicled account of his adventures while in command of the survey ship is INTO THE ALTERNATE UNIVERSE. On this voyage he had with him a Commander Sonya Verrill, of the Federation Survey Service (Intelligence Branch). Grimes and Sonya Verrill later married although she retained her Federation citizenship and Survey Service rank, although she was transferred to the Reserve. Then, in CONTRABAND FROM OTHERSPACE he and Sonya had to defend the Universe against invasion from Outside. THE RIM GODS tells of Grimes’ first experience on the mysterious Kinsolving’s Planet. Kinsolving’s Planet is revisited in ALTERNATE ORBITS. Kinsolving’s Planet is not the only weird world in the Rim Confederacy. There is also Eblis, upon which the action of GATEWAY TO NEVER takes place. (Grimes went there in Rim Malemute, the space tug command by Billy Williams when not serving as Grimes’ executive officer in Faraway Quest.)

In Faraway Quest Grimes was sent to investigate a strange artifact - known as The Outsider - drifting in intergalactic space. (THE DARK DIMENSIONS) All sorts of people got into the act. There was Captain Sir Dominic Flandry (borrowed, with his consent, from Poul Anderson). There was another Grimes in another Faraway Quest, this one married to Maggie Lazenby. There was the ex-Empress Irene (EMPRESS OF OUTER SPACE ; SPACE MERCENARIES ; NEBULA ALERT), strayed from her own series. Finally only one Grimes was left - back on Kinsolving, and at some remote date in the past.

In THE WAY BACK (WB) Grimes, in Faraway Quest, made the long voyage to Earth We managed to avoid interfering with history too badly but his people, apart from a handful of loyalists, mutinied. These made their way to Mars in one of the Quest’s boats, arriving there just as the ancient Martians were about to make a migration through Time. These people assisted Grimes and his party, ensuring them a return to the man-colonized Mars of Grimes’ own day and age.

Currently the Grimes adventures being chronicled in novel form are concerned with his voyages in Little Sister. There is a new series, however, in which Grimes tells tall tales of his misspent youth to one Kitty Kelly of Station Yorick on Elsinore. (“Grimes at Glenrowan”, et al..)

Originally Published in Marcon XIII - Apr 1978