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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

Owlflight No: 3 1982

Owlflight No: 3 1982


A. Bertram Chandler With Dr. Jeffrey M. Elliot

For most of my life I have served two mistresses with each of them the relationship has been rewarding. My love affair with science fiction antedates that with the sea by a few years. It continues to this day, although my relationship with the sea and ships now been terminated by retirement. But, ever since I started writing, the sea has exercised a influence upon my literary career. It still does. My series character, John Grimes, is essentially a 20th century shipmaster temporarily displaced into deliberately vague future period, commanding faster than light spaceships instead of the 17-knot (at the very best) surface ships to which l was long accustomed, And, had I not been at sea during World II, I should never have made that visit to New York when I was privileged to meet the late, great John W. Campbell. He, more than anyone else, is responsible for my having become a science fiction writer.

A Bertram ChandlerBut every story, every life, must have a beginning. I was born in the Military Hospital in Aldershot, England, on March 28, 1912. The British Army’s involvement in this auspicious occasion occurred because my father was a regular soldier. He was among the members of the Expeditionary Force sent to France shortly after the outbreak of World War I in 1914. Too, he was among the many fatal casualties. I never knew him but I inherited two things that were peculiarly his. One was his nickname - “Jack.” (He was christened Arthur Robert.) It seems that he had a rolling gait which his friends thought was a “nautical roll” - Jolly Jack Tar and all that. (I took things one stage further and became a seaman.) The other was his love of science fiction.

There is one very early memory - I must have one only about two years old - of myself in a perambulator. Dimly I can recall a man pushing that pram my father - and a woman walking beside him. There is a much more vivid picture of those odd machines - the “flying birdcages” as they were called, all sticks and strings - either trundling over the grass or not-quite-flapping through the air. (Some years later I was to mention this to my mother and she called an outing to Salisbury Plain to watch the military aircraft exercising.)

Another very early memory is also concerned with aviation. My mother, my younger brother and I were staying in London. There was a German air raid. In those long - ago days people (until the novelty wore off) used to go out into the streets to watch fun. I can still see the criss-crossing searchlights and, sailing serenly high overhead, the silvery cigar shape of the marauding Zeppelin.

I don’t know what we were doing in London. After my father’s death in action my mother moved to a town called Beccles, in Suffolk, to be with her parents. Beccles was - and still is, I think - a small market town on the river Waveney, about nine miles inland from the coast. There were only two industries - the printing works and the iron foundry. The population was about 8,000 and I don’t think that it has increased much over the years. (I was hoping to have another look at the place when I was last in England - after a very long absence - in 1979 for the Beacon, in Brighton - but, unfortunately, had to proceed from the Seacon to the NorthAmericon almost immediately alter the conclusion of the former.)

In those days, shortly after the conclusion of World War I, dirigibles were a common sight in the skies over Beccles. There was a Royal Navy blimp. I don’t know what her official name was, but everybody called her “the Pulham Pig.” (She was stationed at a base called Pulham.) There were the two rigids, R33 and R34, also stationed near by. I can remember watching the launching of fighter biplanes from one of these. (There was a sort of trapeze arrangement to lower them to take off position, and they hooked onto this when returning from their flights.)

Sea and Science Fiction

I have never flown in an airship. I hope I live to see the day when - it is long overdue! - they once again take their rightful place in the skies of this planet as the only civilized means of aerial passenger transport.

It was in Beccles that I first met science fiction. It was a copy of the old Science and Invention which I saw for sale at the local newsagent’s and persuaded my mother to buy for me. Science and Invention - a sort of futuristic Popular Mechanics used to have a science fiction serial and one or two science fiction short stories as well as articles on how to build a mousetrap from two torch batteries, an empty cocoa tin and a used razor blade. I can recall Ray Cummings’ “The Girl in the Golden Atom” and A. Merritt’s “The Metal Emperor.” Most of the short stories were episodes in a series, “Dr. Hackensaw’s Adventures.” After awhile Hugo Gernsback realized that people were buying his magazine more for the fiction than for the alleged fact and started Amazing Stories. By this time I was hooked.

During this period I discovered that science fiction came in books - respectable, hardcover books - as well as in magazine serials and short stories. I found a copy of H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine in the school library. And then, of course, I was reading everything by Wells that I could lay my hands on - although the only mainstream novel of his that I liked (and still do) was Tono Bungay.

It was not very long after I stumbled upon “the magic casements fronting perilous seas” that my mother, brother and I went to stay for two or three weeks with my late father’s parents, in a small village called Brampton, in Huntingtonshire. In the attic of their cottage I found a large trunk packed with my father’s books. There were issues of the now-defunct Strand Magazine with H. G. Wells and A. Conan Doyle serials. There were the old Hodder & Stoughton yellow paperbacks, mainly H. Rider Haggard. There were stacks of another magazine called The Boys’ Own Paper, with science fiction serials...

Heredity’s a strange thing.

My brother, two years my junior, has no interest in science fiction whatsoever—yet my three children, by my first marriage, are all members of what could be referred to as the English Science Fiction Family, attending all the conventions. One daughter, Jenny, is married to the English fantasy writer Ramsey Campbell.

Meanwhile I was being exposed to an education, some of which I caught. In those days, in England, there were the free schools, the council schools, with a leaving age of 14. There were the secondary and grammar schools, which had to be paid for, with a leaving age of 16. (There were, too, of course, the “public” schools, definitely upper crust.) Secondary and grammar schools offered a limited number of scholarships. The Beccles secondary establishment was The Sir John Leman School, founded by a merchant knight during the reign of the first Elizabeth. It had the reputation of being a swot school. At the age of 11 I was fortunate enough to pass the scholarship examination.

I have no patience with those who say that their schooldays were the happiest days of their lives. What can their lives have been like after leaving school? Such persons must have been able to achieve the dubious distinction of being largish frogs in small and rather boring puddles and then, after being emptied out into the Big World, never experienced such satisfactions as commanding ships or having novels published. My own schooldays were neither especially happy nor unhappy. There were some subjects which I liked and at which I excelled - English and the various sciences - and others which I detested, French and Scripture especially.

It was French and Scripture that brought about my academic downfall. Scripture was taught by the Headmaster, who suspected, not without reason that I was, even at a tender age, an agnostic.

There were some very important end-of-year examinations coming up. Those passing would move up into a higher form and then, at the end of the year, sjt for matriculation, with a possibility of a university scholarship. Those who failed to would just have to stay put. I had no worries, I knew that my French and Scripture scores would be extremely low but that I should do sufficiently well in my pet subjects to scrape through. After all, I was always top in English, despite my bad handwriting (It hasn’t improved over the years.) I was always top in Practical Chemistry. I was always second in Theoretical Chemistry, because of my bad handwriting. Mathematics, Physics, Geography, History - no worries.

The Science Mistress was a Miss Deeley. I was always one of her pets. She, of course, supersvised the Practical Chemistry examination. In the laboratory there were the usual benches, two student to a bench, each with his own sink, Bunsen burner, glassware, etc. There was a strict “No Talking” rule.

At the beginning of the examination there was an issue of dishes of powder, bottles of fluid, etc. The idea was to run through the correct procedures, taking notes as you went, to find out just what chemical compound you had been given to play with. It was all rather fun, really.

My benchmate was a dim lout named George Martin. He stared in bewilderment at the dish of some brownish powder before him and whispered to me, “What do I do with this?” I whispered back, rather too loudly, “Shut up, you bloody fool!” From her position of authority Miss Deeley demanded, ‘Were you talking, Chandler?” I admitted that I had been, thinking, in my innocence, that Martin would own up to having initiated the conversation. (I still thought that there was such a thing as “schoolboy honor.”) He maintained his silence. But still I was not worried. I knew that Miss Deeley would know that I, of all people, would never have to ask Martin’s advice on a simple task of chemical analysis.

Eventually the examination results were posted As I had expected, my scores in French and Script were pitifully low. As I had expected, my score in Practical Chemistry was very high. I was top, as usual. But all my marks had then been taken from me because of my crime of talking during the examination. So I did not get the overall pass that had been hoping for.

For many years I blamed Miss Deeley for this debacle - unjustly so, I now realize. More than once I have seen an officer overruled by a tyrannical captain. So, much too belatedly, I apologize to the lady for the unkind thoughts that I have harbored regarding her. It is obvious to me now that it must have been that good Christian, Daddy Watson, who grabbed with both hands that God-given opportunity to smite the youthful infidel hip and thigh.

Fuck him, anyhow.

So there I was, faced with the prospect of marking time for another year in school that I had come for some reason, actively to dislike. If I left at the age of 16 I should have no qualifications for any sort of decent job. So I ran away to sea. Well, not quite. One of the other students of my year, who also had failed that crucial examination, was entering the British Merchant Service as an apprentice. I obtained from him the details and persuaded my mother to allow me to do the same. So, in 1928, I signed indentures with the Sun Shipping Company of London and, resplendent in my brassbound uniform (we even wore stiff white collars in those days) joined the S. S. Cape St. Andrew in Cardiff Docks (she was loading coal) for her maiden voyage.

There is one last memory - this one, oddly enough, connected with science fiction. One of my (few) school friends, the one who also went to sea, used to borrow my magazines and I used to borrow his. His were the usual school stories. Mine were mainly science fiction. Anyhow, there had been a serial in Amazing - The Second Deluge, by Garrett P. Serviss (Great writing it was not but I can still remember it quite vividly.) Anyhow Mr. Robinson, the friend’s father, asked me round to his home so that he could have a serious talk with me. He was very embarrassed about it. Anybody would have thought that I had been plying his innocent son with hard-core pornography. Finally he got to the point. He produced the issue of Amazing with the first installment of the Serviss masterpiece.

“But you don’t think it’s true, do you?” he finally came out with.

I assured him that I didn’t.

With this answer he seemed to be satisfied.

During my earlier years at sea I was a science fiction reader but not yet a writer. The Sun Shipping Company was a tramp steamer concern whose ships were names after capes around the South African coast. The company owned coal mines in South Africa. Whenever possible we bunkered with the company’s own coal. Another diversification was a jam factory in England. The steward’s storerooms of the company’s vessels were always well stocked with jam. (To this day my dislike for plum and apple jam persists.) Also owned by the Sun Shipping Company was a crayfish canning factory in South Africa. This luxury, however, was not for the likes of us.

In theory the ships were round-the-world tramps. In practice their trade was confined almost entirely to the Indian Coast - the Calcutta coal trade and the Calcutta salt trade. Now and again, however, we did run off the tramlines. I was once in Australia, to load grain in Fremantle, and once in the United States, to discharge jute (from Calcutta) in New Orleans and to load cotton in Houston for Kobe, Osaka and Shanghai. The Kobe and Osaka voyage was my only visit to Japan during all my years at sea. I never dreamed that, many years later, Japan would play an important part in my life.

At that time in Shanghai I had my first experience of warfare. When we sailed the Sino-Japanese War - or one of the Sino-Japanese Wars - hostilities just broken out. On our way down river we had to pass between the Japanese cruisers and the forts at Woosung, who were engaged in an artillery duel. The Japanese politely held their fire until we were past and clear. The Chinese did not. As far as we were concerned, every round was well over, but it was not a comfortable experience. I thought at the time that there is nothing more annoying than being under fire in somebody else’s war. (A few years later I discovered that being under fire in a war of your own is equally annoying.)

Finally, my indentures having expired, I returned home, as a passenger, from Calcutta and, after a spell at the King Edward VII Nautical College in London, succeeded in passing for my Certificate of Competency as Second Mate of a Foreign Going Steamship. Shortly thereafter I gained employment as Third Officer of a really horrible old tramp steamer called Saint Dunstan, owned by the Saint Line, a subsidiary of the Sun Shipping Company. The trade was very much as before, only more so. We never strayed from Indian Coastal waters. During this period I studied hard and, without having to go to school, passed for my First Mate’s Certificate of Competency in Calcutta. It was during this period, too, that the writing bug bit me. I acquired a very secondhand Remington portable typewriter (which gave me many years of service) and sold the occasional article or piece of light verse mainly to the British Nautical Magazine (still in existence) or to newspapers. I never dreamed that I should one day become a real writer. My literary ambition, such as it was, was to become a free-lance journalist.

With the expiry of Articles I once again returned to England. It was at a period when jobs at sea were hard to find. For a while I was a tally clerk at Ford’s Dagenham factory, and then a kennelman in Jersey, in the Channel Islands. (Years later that kennelman’s experience was to stand me in good stead. When I was Chief Officer in the English Shaw Savill Line anybody wishing to ship small livestock, dogs or cats, out to Australia would find out which ship I was in so that I could look after their pets for the voyage.)

PakehaAfter a spell ashore I obtained employment with the Shaw Savill Line, as Fourth Officer of the old Pakeha. Nowadays one never sees a Shaw Savill ship but then they were one of the companies on the trade - cargo and passengers - between England and Australasia. It was a Shaw Savill ship that carried the first cargo of frozen lamb between New Zealand and England. The house-flag was what used to be the national flag of New Zealand, looking from a distance very like the Royal Navy’s white ensign. Some of the masters and officers, holding commissions in the Royal Naval Reserve, tried to be more naval than the Royal Navy.

At first I was doing very little writing, even of the journalistic kind. Soon I should have in sufficient sea time to qualify me for my Master ‘s Certificate, the big and vitally important hurdle in a maritime career. The idea is that one should be studying flat out for that and not spending any time on trying to fabricate a second string to one’s bow. (What usually happens, of
course, is that one neither studies for Master nor for anything else. ..)

But the outbreak of World War II caused a certain amount of disruption. I remained with the Shaw Savill Line, serving mainly in troopships and fast, independently sailing cargo liners. After I had my time in for Master it was impossible, for quite a while, to get the necessary leave required for the essential few weeks at school. Like many others at that time I could have passed an examination in gunnery quite easily but had almost forgotten my navigation and seamanship. But at last I was granted leave, attended the Sir John Cass Nautical School in London, was called back for relieving duties halfway through the course, returned to school and, eventually, was able to satisfy the examiners that I was competent to command a foreign going steamship.

MataroaOne effect of the war was that the ships of the Shaw Savill Line were shunted off their peacetime tramlines. Instead of running back and forth between England and Australasia we were liable to be sent anywhere. My first visit to New York was shortly after the entry of the United States into the arena of hostilities. At the time I was Third Officer of Mataroa, a somewhat elderly passenger liner serving as a troop transport. I was also the Armaments Officer of that vessel. New York was a city in which I felt at home from the very start.

For many years my favorite magazine had been Astounding (as it then was). Greatly daring, I decided to call upon the editor in my capacity as Faithful Reader. I did so. John Campbell was pleased to meet me. During our conversation he told me that he was very short of material and suggested that I might try my hand at writing science fiction. I said that I’d think about it.

Shortly thereafter I obtained my Master’s Certificate and was appointed as Second Officer to Raranga. She was a ship with plenty of character, mainly bad, a big, old-fashioned, twin screw, coal-burning cargo liner. On a homeward voyage from New Zealand, via the Panama Canal, we were to replenish our coal bunkers in New York, proceeding from there to Boston to pick up an East Coast convoy to Halifax and a North Atlantic convoy from there to Liverpool, England. During the passage across the Pacific I remembered my half promise to John Campbell and wrote a short story called “This Means War.” It was only 4,000 words but it took me a full fortnight to tap it out.

RarangaI delivered this “masterpiece” in person to John. I said, “I suppose I’d better leave the return postage with you.” He said, “Don’t worry. I’ll send it back.”

The homeward bound convoys were very slow ones. Among the mail awaiting me at home was a letter from Street & Smith. A check was enclosed.

During the remainder of the war years I was one of the Astounding regulars. Each time in New York - sometimes we were just there for bunkers, other times we loaded refrigerated cargo there - I would deliver my manuscripts in person. (The very few rejections I was able to place with other magazines, both in the United States and Australia.) I met authors such as Theodore Sturgeon, Lester del Rey, L. Sprague de Camp and George O. Smith. Frequently I was a weekend guest at the Campbell home in New Jersey.

There was one - or so people still tell me - outstanding story written during this period: “Giant Killer.” I got the idea while I was serving in the old Raranga. She was rat-infested. We used to keep a 22 rifle on the bridge so that on moonlit nights the officer of the watch could amuse himself potting at the rats. We were all of us very rat-conscious.

I got to thinking. “Just suppose that there are rats in a spaceship. . . Just suppose that they’re in the insulation between inner and outer
hulls... Just suppose that exposure to radiation causes them to mutate….”

The first story was written from the viewpoint of the crew of a ship that finds this intelligent-rat-infested derelict drifting in space. As I recall it, it title was “Derelict.” John Campbell liked the idea but not the story. “Do it again,” he told me, “but from the viewpoint of the original crew.” (The first attempt sold to a new, English science fiction magazine that, due to a wartime paper shortage, never got off the ground.) So I did “The Rejected,” taking my title from a couple of lines from The Internationale:

“ Arise, ye starvelings, from your slum Arise,
rejected of the earth…”

The spaceship was a Russian one, with a red-draped photograph of The Little Red Father on one wardroom bulkhead and a brass samovar bubbling away on the other. I stressed the irony of this me of mutinous mutants seething under the comrades feet. There were other complications. The human crew was a mixed one. There was a complexity of interlocking triangles.

John handed this “masterpiece” back to me more in sorrow than in anger. “I would point out to you, he told me, “that Astounding Science Fiction is neither Thrilling Romances nor a monthly edition of The Daily Worker. Do it again - from the viewpoint of the rats!”

“ What!”

“ You heard me.”

He was right, of course.

But I still wish that I hadn’t lost, many years ago, the manuscript of that second version.

I was still in Raranga when the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs brought World War II to a close. Like everybody else in the field I did my quota of After The Bomb stories. Astounding was no longer my only market; I was selling to Planet, Thrilling Wonder, Startling and so on in the States, to New Worlds and other magazines in England, to Man, Man Junior and Pocket Man in Australia. I had made my first contacts with fandom, mainly in England and Australia. In London, during my leaves, I was one of the White Horse Regulars.

Now and again I was tempted to give the sea away and become a full-time writer. The number of magazines was increasing. Any reasonably competent wordsmith could sell everything, if not to the best paying markets then to the relatively minor publications. Too, as a seaman, I had my editorial contracts in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. If I didn’t sell a story at least twice I thought that I was very hard done by.

Then I was promoted to Chief Officer and that I no longer had the time for off-watch typewriter wallping. My output diminished. Had it not been for an horrendous upheaval in my life probably I should have dropped out of the field altogether.

A marital breakup is pleasant neither to remember nor to write about. But such things happen. My first wife, Joan, and I joined what I am inclined to think of as The Great Majority. I decided to make a clean break, resigned from the Shaw Savill Line and emigrated to Australia. I found employment with the Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand, another very old shipping company (not spoken of very highly by Mark Twain in one of his travel books) as Third Officer. My first ship, Wanaka, was engaged on a regular service between New South Wales ports and those on the north coast of Tasmania.

There was far more free time in the Australian Merchant Service than in the British one. Furthermore, as I was back in a junior rank, my duties were far less onerous. My second wife, Susan, cracked the whip and drove me back to the typewriter (still that ancient, battered, very secondhand Remington). I started selling again to all my old markets.

Then came the Big Crash. All the minor science fiction magazines vanished from the newsstands. One cause of their extinction was the proliferation of paperbacks. So there was only one thing for it. Although I viewed with extreme disfavor the amount of work involved, I decided that I would have to try my hand at novels.

Before then, however, the first Rim Worlds story had already been written. This was “To Run the Rim,” published in Astounding (or was it, by then, Analog?), The protagonist was an officer from one of the major interstellar shipping lines who had resigned from this employ, for personal reasons, and come out to the Rim Worlds to make a fresh start. The Rim Worlds’ own shipping line, Rim Runners, officered by refugees from the big ship concerns over the galaxy - Interstellar Transport Commission, Trans-Galactic Clippers, Waverly Royal Mail, Coincidentally (perhaps) the Australian fleet of the Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand, when I entered their service, was officered by refugees from most of the major British shipping companies - Shaw Savill, Port Line, Blue Funnel Line, Royal Mail and even Cunard White Star. (At the time all those names meant something in the shipping world.) Some of the Union Steam Ship Company’s trades ) could almost be classed as rim running - that, for example, to the port of Strahan on the wild West Coast of Tasmania.

Just as any shipping company today has a Marine Superintendent so Rim Runners had to have an Astronautical Superintendent. This was a Captain Grimes, at first only a background character in the Rim Worlds stories.

The Rim of SpaceThe first Rim Worlds novel was an expansion of this story. It was published first by Avalon, in hardcover, and then by Ace as The Rim of Space. I was writing other things, of course, and then I made the fatal mistake of giving Grimes a novel all to himself. I became trapped in my own series. As did Forester with Hornblower I went back in time to give Grimes some sort of background. I wrote The Road to the Rim (Ace) with Grimes as a snotty-nosed ensign in the Federation Survey Service (rather similar to today’s Royal Navy) making his first deep space voyage For quite a while I had two Grimes series running concurrently - the young Mr. (eventually Commander) Grimes of the Federation Survey Service and the rather elderly and cantankerous Captain eventually Commodore) Grimes, of Rim Runners and the Rim Worlds Naval Reserve. There was obviously a big gap in his career and quite a few readers asked me to fill it. I had hinted, more than once, that he left the Survey Service under some sort of a cloud.

The Big Black Mark was my attempt to fill the gap. Grimes was the victim of a Bounty-type mutiny but, unlike Bligh, felt sympathy for some of the mutineers and was instrumental in their escape from justice. He resigned his commission in some haste, before he could be brought before a court martial, and, presumably, drifted out to the Rim Worlds.

“But you haven’t filled the gap!” was the cry.

So it is that, for a few years now, I have been working on what I call Middle Period Grimes - Grimes as yachtmaster to a filthy rich El Doradan aristocrat, Grimes as owner-master of a deep space pinnace making a more or less honest living as a courier, Grimes as owner-master of an Epsilon Class star tramp, Grimes as a commodore of privateers and - a rehash of another of Bligh’s famous mutinies (the Rum Rebellion in New South Wales) - Grimes as a planetary governor. He still has to get out to the Rim. To complicate matters still further he has been obliged to take two years Long Service Leave.

Meanwhile, just as Grimes was climbing the ladder of promotion so was I - but he always seemed to be one jump ahead. While I was still “Mr.” he was “Captain.” When I became “Captain” he was being called “Commodore.” When I was a sort of honorary Commodore - as the senior (but only) master in a one ship shipping company (a Union Steam Ship Company subsidiary) he was made a sort of honorary Admiral.

The Wild Ones - Japanese CoverThere have been other changes in Grimes. Originally he was British born but for quite a while now he has claimed Australian ancestry, although on his mother’s side he is descended from the famous English Admiral Horatio Hornblower. His speech has become increasingly Australianized. He is well read in Australian history. In one short sequence, involving tinkering with Time, he actually played a part in the Siege of Glenrowan.

It is the Japanese who are to thank (or to blame) for the development of Grimes as a character. Before I retired from active sea duty my New York agent, Scott Meredith, sold all the Grimes novels then in print to the Tokyo publishers Hayakawa Shobo. At the time these were all Early Period and Late Period Grimes. The translator, Koichiro Masahiro Noda, wrote to me personally to ask the correct order of publication as far as Grimes’ own personal chronology was concerned. Until then the Grimes stories, long and short, had just. . .happened. So I had to try to work things out satisfactorily for all (including Grimes) concerned. To date Hayakawa have published all the Early Grimes novels and promptly accept each Middle Period book as it is written. As long as I keep on churning these out I shall never see Late Period Grimes in the Japanese editions.

Abel TasmanRetirement, which I was dreading, finally came. My last command was Abel Tasman (owned by the Abel Tasman Shipping Company, a Union Steam Ship Company subsidiary), at the time the only Australian flag ship on a regular trans-Tasman service. I thought that my travelling days were now finally over and that I should just sit at home and write. Or just sit. The psychology behind this attitude is rather amusing. During my years at sea I did quite a deal of travelling by air, at the Company’s expense. (One year it took six months for my sea miles to catch up with my air miles.) So I recoiled with horror from the idea of having to pay my own fares.

Shortly after my retirement Susan said to me, “Why don’t you apply for a Literature Board Fellowship?” I said, “Who? Me?” She
said, ‘Why not you? Writers not as good as you get Fellowships.”

Perhaps a few words of explanation are required here. The Australia Council - of which the Literature Board is part - was set up by the Whitlam Labor government to give financial aid to the various arts and the practitioners thereof. The Literature Board Fellowships come in two categories, Junior, to assist beginning writers, and Senior, to help established writers to carry out some special project. Each year the various fellowships, grants, etc. are advertised in the literary pages of the Saturday newspapers.

I asked the secretary of the Australian Society of Authors for her advice. She told me that I should have to think of some very special project and then sell it to the Literature Board. It would, I decided, have to be something very Australian and yet science fictional.

One of the most famous characters in Australian history is the bushranger and outlaw Ned Kelly. His last planned exploit was the derailment of a special train carrying a detachment of police who were on their way to arrest him and his gang. Things didn’t go as planned. The village schoolmaster (not a Kelly sympathizer), standing on the track with a candle and his wife’s red scarf, was able to flag the train down. The Kelly gang was besieged in the Glenrowan Hotel. Kelly, thanks mainly to his famous homemade armor, survived, although wounded. He stood trial and was hanged.

Not a few people think that Kelly was more of a freedom fighter than a criminal. It is certain that he received a great deal of support from the small farmers. There are strong indications that he was both innovative and something of a military genius. He was charismatic.

So, thought I, what if the special train had been derailed, as planned? What if that event were the start of the Australian War of Independence.?

What then?

When the Fellowships for 1975 were advertised I put in my application, saying that I wanted to write the Australian If Of History novel and that a great deal of research would be required if it were to be done properly.

The application was bounced, as it was in 1976.

That year I was lured to the United States by the organizers of the notorious Science Fiction Exposition. My reluctance to pay my own fare was dispelled, in part, by the prospect of all the promised freebies and actual payments for this, that and the other. The flopping of the Expo is history - but I really enjoyed myself in the United States. It was my first experience of inland travel in that country. I was able to attend the MidwesterCon in Cincinnati and the WesterCon in Los Angeles and to meet many American writers and fans who, until then, I had known only by name. And there were, too, the writers and fans I had met in Australia when they came to the country for the AussieCon in 1975.

While I was wandering all over the United States by Greyhound Susan was enjoying a Far East package tour - Hong Kong, Japan and Taiwan. I had told my translator and my publisher when she would be in Tokyo; she was really amazed by the warm welcome that she received.

Early in 1977, when I was looking through the literary pages for the advertisement for Literature Board Fellowships, I found another ad just above the one that I wanted. This had been inserted by the Australia-Japan Foundation offering travel grants to those who could satisfy the Foundation that their visit to Japan would be of cultural value as well as fostering the cause of Australian-Japanese friendship. So I made two applications—one to the Board and one to the Foundation. That for the Fellowship was bounced, as usual. That for the Travel Grant was approved.

I fell in love with Japan. I especially enjoyed travelling between the various cities by train - everything from the famous bullet trains to the little locals. It was good to meet so many Faithful Readers - although the autograph sessions in various bookshops were more than a little wearing. I was Guest of Honor at that year’s Science Fiction Convention in Yokohama. I had learned how to manipulate chopsticks before leaving Australia so I had no trouble with the food. (Unluckily, though, I had not learned how to sit cross-legged at the table, and every time I tried it the services of two strong girls were required to disentangle me.)

Meanwhile, every year I was making a routine application for that Literature Board Fellowship. I had sold the Ned Kelly idea to myself, if to nobody else. With my final application, in 1979, I sent Xeroxes of two published Ned Kelly stories. A few weeks after my return from a world trip - mainly conventions but with business talks in New York and Tokyo—there was a fat Literature Board envelope in my mailbox. I thought that it would be the return of the Xeroxes and was in no hurry to open it. When I finally did so I found that it was all the documentation to go with a Two Year Senior Fellowship.

And that is why Grimes has had to take his Long Service Leave.

1980 was devoted mainly to research, in the United States as well as in Australia. In Washington D.C., at the National Air and Space Museum and at the National Archives, I was able, by dint of persistence, to get all the information I needed on the Andrews Airship, which flew successfully in 18 and Professor Lowe’s mobile hydrogen gas generator a device used by the Union Army during the War Between the States for the inflation of observation balloons. Other valuable information picked up at Smithsonian was that concerning one Francis Bannerman, who set up shop as a used arms dealer short alter the Union won the war.

Back in Australia I read everything concerning the history of the Ned Kelly period that I could lay hands upon. I visited the scenes of his depredations his last stand and of his eventual execution. Front the Union Steam Ship Company’s Head Office, in Wellington, New Zealand, I was able to obtain plans specifications of the s. s. Rotomahana, a very fast (for her day) trans-Tasman liner built in 1879.

I am now convinced that, given the very slightest of nudges, history could have been changed in 1880 Historically the Siege of Glenrowan comes between Eureka Stockade, a goldminers’ revolt, and the Great Shearers’ Strike, during which artillery was employed against the strikers. Some wealthy squatters (i.e., landowners) actually possessed their own cannon - not to protect their properties from maraud-Aborigines but from white rebels.

And just where, you might ask, do the Andrews Airship, Professor Lowe’s mobile hydrogen gas generator and the merchant of death, Francis Bannerman, fit into a history of the Australian War of independence? And, come to that, the Union Steam in Company’s Rotomahana?

Well, a Chandler novel, even a novel without Grimes among those on deck, must have ships in it. The Andrews dirigible was a practicable airship. It could have been used in warfare. The innovative Ned Kelly will so use it. A ship such as Rotomahana could have made a beautiful auxiliary cruiser, capable of overhauling almost any merchant vessel of her time and of outrunning almost any British warship. I do not think that the Union Steam Ship company would have sold her to the Australian rebels but she could have been seized by them in an Australian port. Angary is legal—especially if it is done by the winning side. As for Bannerman—he wasn’t fussy about whom he sold his weapons to as it was cash on the nail.

I am of the opinion that the American Revolution would never have succeeded had it not been for outside help. Perhaps the decisive action was the the Battle of Chesapeake Capes, between the French and Britsh fleets. The Australian Revolution, if it had happened, would never have succeeded without outside help. American-Irish volunteers. . . American money.. . American arms, including newfangled devices that the American military wouldn’t mind trying out in somebody else’s country....

And so - if I may borrow a saying - it goes.

Life has been a long road, arduous at times, but never lacking in interest. And there have been the crossroads, the first of which, perhaps, was that crucial Practical Chemistry examination. What would have happened if I had not shared my bench with George Martin or if I had refused to respond to his question? Should I, having matriculated, gone on to become an industrial chemist? If so, then what? What would I have been doing during World War II? Would my war service have brought me to New York and a meeting with John W. Campbell?

There were the other crossroads, several years later. If a certain lady had not been travelling out to Australia in a certain ship, and If I had not been Chief Officer of that vessel at the time, neither she nor I would now be Australian citizens, and the Rim Worlds/ Grimes series would never have been written.

Her fortune teller, however, was far closer to the mark than mine. While I was still an apprentice, on one of the rare occasions that Cape St. Andrew returned to England, I was home on leave. With friends I went to Great Yarmouth, a seaside resort, for the day. On the beach there was the tent of a gypsy fortune teller. I crossed her palm with silver and she told me, among other things, that I would never travel. Already I had been round the world.

When Susan was a small girl, in Prague, a gypsy fortune teller told her that she would one day marry a sea captain. But even this clairvoyant was somewhat
off the beam. She never told Susan that she would one day marry a writer.

But I am not a fatalist.

I do not subscribe to the Moslem, It is written philosophy.

If there’s any writing to be done I want to do it. Especially, as now, when it’s a rewriting of Australian history.