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The Rim Worlds

... out on the Galactic Rim things are very iffy and if you fart really hard your're liable to blow yourself on to an Alternate Time Track.

A Bertram Chandler.






















Philosophical Gas No: 31 - Jul 1975
(Cover Alexis Gilliland)

Philosophical Gas No: 31 - Jul 1975

Letter

Please note change of address. We bought the home unit as an investment but it is, pro term, my working premises.

(13 April 1975) You’ve seen my old workroom, with one wall of bookcases. That room is now the dining room. The bookcases, repainted to match the decor, were moved to the large living-room. The entire Encyclopaedia Britannica, complete with year books, atlas and dictionaries, was taken to the home unit, also a few shelves of Chandler. (Most of the books by this author and the magazines containing his short stories were in duplicate, so quite a lot remains in the house.) Then I had the job of restowing the books in the repainted cases. I finished up with the tool shed half filled with the overflow. It’s a mystery. From now on call me Clancy! (If you call me Clem, okay.))

I retired from the service of the Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand on 28 March. I was back on their payroll on 4 April. I’ve got a ship, but no crew. Taking turns with another retired Master, I’m in charge of one of our vessels laid up at a small shipyard in Balmain until such time as employment is found for her or she is sold. Most portable items of equipment have been landed to the Company’ s stores, including, unfortunately, the ship’s office typewriter, and my own machine, although allegedly portable, is too damned heavy to lug back and forth each day with my overnight bag of dagwoods, thermos bottles, milk, fruit and reading matter. The ship being dead, I have no cooks to cook my meals and no stewards to make my bed. Apart from that, the job’s ideal for an introvert such as myself. And I sorely miss a typewriter. When I’m home I have no time, until things settle down, to do any writing.

When I reviewed THE DANGEROUS DESPERADOES I wandered off on to an evaluation of my own peculiar psychology. I’ve been doing some more evaluating. It all reminds me of a Thurber title - ‘Leave your mind alone’... Perhaps I should do just that. Anyhow, I’m in an odd situation. Every second night I am the only person aboard a ship I know quite well. She was my first Australian flag command. Do I sing myself to sleep each night with ‘Goodbye, old ship of mine’? Frankly, no. And that’s odd, because there is, I well know, a broad streak of ham in my make-up. But this is just a job, bringing in money at a time when it’s very welcome. There’s no sentimentality.

All in all, I think that I shall be able to make the transition from shipmaster to literary gent with surprising ease. One reason perhaps is that same streak of ham. As a Master I was something of a Walter Mitty. I loved the glamorous part of the job. But I was never really interested in the sordid financial details, and the even more sordid industrial wranglings never appealed to me. Or, come to that, to any Master. (Recommended reading on this subject is Monsarrat’s A FAIR
DAY’S WORK.)

(13 May:) I am still getting telephone calls from my publishers in Tokyo. Invariably they ring when I’m out. Then Susan assures them that I shall be in the following evening and a time, 1730ish, is arranged. Then I have to stay at home and wait and wait until Tokyo comes through, at about 2100.

The latest call was about illustrations, again, this time for ‘To prime the pump’. They want me to supply a map bf El Dorado! There was one amusing example of the troubles Sat afflict the translator - and the translatee. You may recall that in ‘To prime the pump’ there is a tussle with a fearsome underwater beastie called a ‘rock ogre’. I mentioned that it was actually native to Australis but had been introduced to the waters of El Dorado because it was good eating. The translator got Australis confused with Australia and thought that the rock ogre was something infesting our own Barrier Reef...

(16 May:) My translator asked rue if Commodore Grimes is a descendant of one John Grimes who was one of Hornblower’s shipmates in HORNBLOWER AND THE HOTSPUR. Mphm? I’ve always thought of Grimes as being descended from Hornblower himself, just as Tarzan is descended from Mowgli and that horrible Golden Amazon (the Ziff-Davis incarnation) from Tarzan, and Sexton Blake from Sherlock Holmes, and Modesty Blaise from James Bond, &c &c and &c. The question got me thinking. As soon as l can get hold of a copy of the Hornblower story I’ll try to work something out. Could Hornblower’s John Grimes have had a wife, or a sister? Or did Hornblower unknowingly abandon some trusting maiden to her fate, and did that John Grimes marry her just in time to save the child from being born a bastard?

Now I’d better get on with a job of work that I’ve been putting off - the construction of a chart of El Dorado...