(Arthur) Bertram Chandler was born in Aldershot, England in 1912, Chandler sailed
the world in every-thing from tramp steamers to troop transports before emigrating
to Australia in 1956. Here he commanded merchant vessels under the Australian and
New Zealand Flags up to his retirement in 1974.
Up until his death in 1984 he published over 40 science fiction novels and over
200 works of short fiction writing as A Bertram Chandler, George Whitley or Andrew
Dunstan. Many of the novels had a nautical theme, with the plot moved from the seas
of earth to the ships of space in the future. Many of the stories revolved around
the character of John Grimes some times referred to as “Hornblower of Space”. While
most stories are set in the future, they also have a distinctly “Australian” theme
with places and stories relating back to Australia today.
Chandler was the last master of the aircraft carrier Melbourne. Law required it
to have a master aboard for the months while it was laid up and waiting to be towed
off to Asia to be broken up for scrap, so in a sense he really was briefly the master
of the Australian navy's former flagship. Apparently he had his typewriter aboard,
and worked on his novels!
Chandler received four Australian SF "Ditmar" Achievement Awards for his
novels. Nearly all of his novels were published in the USA. Two of his short stories
'The Cage' and 'Giant Killer’ are regarded as some of the best SF stories
written in the 1950's. He was also very popular in Japan winning the prestigious
SEIUN SHO, the premier Science Fiction award. The Japanese editions have some of
the best covers of any of the published editions.
Baen Books have released four John Grimes anthologies
To the Galactic Rim: The John Grimes Saga
, First Command: The John Grimes Saga II
, Galactic Courier: The John Grimes Saga III
and Ride the Star Winds: The John Grimes Saga IV
. These are available as both eBooks and Trade Paperbacks
have reprinted 8 Novels as eBooks, including the hard to find Glory Planet, now available for the second time since the initial Hard Cover publication. The published novels include Frontier of The Dark, Kelly Country, The Bitter Pill, The Sea Beasts, The Alternate Martians, Glory Planet, The Coils of Time and The Hamelin Plague
There are now 31 Novels available as audio books, including all the John Grimes
Novels. These are all available from
Tales From Super-Science Fiction
The short story I'll take over (originally published as by George Whitely)
has been published in the anthology
Tales from Super-Science Fiction
edited by Robert Silverberg.
Australian S. F. Fans
This article was published in The Mentor (October 1971).
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.