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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 No: 34 - Oct 1981
(Cover Mike McGann)

The Mentor No: 34 - Oct 1981


As far as I’m concerned, most advertising is proof of Newton’s Third Law of Motion. To every action there is en equal and opposite reaction. This is especially true insofar as the advertising of Reader’s Digest goods and services is concerned. For some, probably horribly snobbish, reason I have never liked that magazine. On the rare occasions that a copy falls into my hands I see how highly I score in “It Pays To Test Your Wood Power” - almost invariably 20/20 - and then cast the thing aside unread. A Reader’s Diqest Condensed Book I have long regarded as being fit only for the semi-literate.
If a Book’s worth reading it should be read as written by the Author.

Vary often, in the few years prior to my retirement from the sea, I used to have as my chief officer a young man who was an even worse intellectual snob than myself. Frequently, at meal times, we would talk on literary matters while, all to obviously, the other officers at table would be wondering, what the hell are those two bastards yapping about?

The ship in which we were both serving was a frequent visitor to Port Kembla. The representative of the Missions to Seamen would call on board with bundles of magazines, which he would leave in the Chief officer’s cabin. Somehow most of this reading matter would always consist of copies of The Reader’s Digest. Before passing these on young Steve would tear out all the various order forms. One evening I looked into his room to see him about some ship’s business or other and caught him at it,

“You aren’t going to order any of that rubbish, surely,” I demanded.

“No, sir,” he replied. “But I’m going to post all these forms just so The Reader’s Digest gets stuck for the cost of the postage.”

“Steve,” I told him, “you’re doing it all wrong. I’ll show you how it should be done…”

And so we filled all the forms in...

Each and every Reader’s Digest merchandising department has a different P.O. Box Number. We would order a set of Condensed Books, using a made-up name and, as the address, the Box Number of the Record Album department. And so on, and so on. We enjoyed the work. There was only one fly in the ointment. We had no way of ever discovering the effects of this sabotage on The Reader’s Digest computerised mailing department. We imagined individual computers, all
under the same roof, sending each other bills.

And so on, and so on.

Quite some time later I was travelling from New York to San Francisco by train. It was a very pleasant journey. About half a dozen of us used to meet over meals and in the club car. Although we were strangers, we all had friends in common. One of my fellow travellers was a Reader’s Digest editor. I thought that he might be able to answer the question that had been nagging me over the years. I told him the story of the order forms - carefully editing cut my own part in the sabotage - up by saying that even to this day he (my one-time second in command) was wondering just what did happen.

“I wouldn’t know,” was the terse reply.

I could sense that he suspected that I had been much more than a mere looker-on and I already knew, from past experience, that The Reader’s Digest engenders in its employees a worshipful attitude towards itself.

And it does, too, in its readers. Or its Faithful Readers....

Not so long ago I told the above story to a friend! One of the managers in the Union Steam Ship Company’s Sydney office. I thought that he would be amused. He was not, He was shocked.

“But you were being dishonest, Captain,” he told me.

“How so?” I countered.

“And you must have caused a lot of inconvenience...”

“That,” I said, “was the object of the exercise.’

But it is not only The Reader’s Digest that is guilty of condensing books.

The Rim of SpaceA long time ago the first of the Rim Worlds novels, The Rim of Space (my title was To Run The Rim) was published in hard cover by Avalon. Very shortly thereafter it was published, in paperback, by Ace. In those days Ace had a limit of 40,000 words. The book was episodic, so Ace merely excised one chapter without any effect upon continuity. Unluckily the artist responsible for the Ace cover read the book in hard cover before doing his pretty painting. And, of course, he just had to illustrate the hacked-out chapter.

Quite recently Robert Hale, in London, decided to publish Star Loot, but complained that the book, as already published by Daw books, was too long. They wanted me to do the cutting but (I said) I was too busy. So they wielded the blunt meat axe.

Last week I received the proof, for correction.

My advice to anybody who wants to read Star Loot is to do so in the Daw edition. I looked in vain for passages of which I had been rather proud. Gone altogether was Grimes reunion with his parents and his historical novelist father’s learned discourse on the legal aspects of piracy and privateering. The Green Hornet was still among the characters but the utterly obnoxious nature of the wench was not established. Frankie Delamere’s titled, El Doradan cousin didn’t make an appearance. The Baroness Michelle d’Estang was very briefly on deck but did not enjoy her long-deferred one night of love with Grimes. Most Of Magda’s fortune telling sessions using the I Ching technique were missing.

A long novel is written as such, with all its parts interdependent. Once anybody starts to abridge it the entire structure begins to fall apart. It is as though a master sculptor were commissioned to produce a statue of a naked lady (after all the remarks in the correspondence columns of The Mentor about my obsession with unclad wenches I thought that it was time that I dragged one in, by the hair, kicking and screaming) and came up with something a little better than merely competent. It is as though the purchaser, deciding that the statue was too heavy, went to work with a hammer and chisel.

The nipples aren’t really needed... Off with ‘em…

And what about those buttocks? Nobody’ll see ‘em from the front…

And what about a few centimeters off the hips?

Now, put her on the scales, boys…

Still a few grams too heavy?

Not to worry. Her nose is too long anyhow…

After my Star Loot experience I applaud my good sense in never, ever, having read a Reader’s Digest Condensed Book.