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Dreaming Again

Grimes and the Gaijin Daimyo the first A Bertram Chandler story to be published in 24 year is now available in the Anthology Dreaming Again edited by Jack Dann.






















Philosophical Gas

Mar 1975

Your letter of January 30 is to hand, also the batch of minizines (NMH 12, 13; FD). And what’s all the flap about? In this case I was the writer, you the reviewer. What you reviewed you didn’t like, and you said so - as have we all from time to time. The fact that you’re a personal friend of the writer – has nothing to do with it. And your review wasn’t a patch on the one in Nation Review. That was a real stinker, Oddly enough, though, you praise THE BITTER PILL for the very part of it that was slightly condemned by Ken Longworth in the Newcastle Morning Herald. He reckoned that the maritime sequences were ‘too heavily technical’.

In any case, I’m flattered that you mention me in the same breath as Len Deighton, who is one of my own favourites. Deighton, as you know, made two comparatively recent attempts to break out of his own secret-agent infested ghetto, with ONLY WHEN I LARF and BOMBER. Susan, who doesn’t much care for the real Deighton, thought ONLY WHEN I LARF excellent and found BOMBER unreadable. I found ONLY WHEN I LARF only so-so, and deemed BOMBER a great novel. As it says somewhere in the Bible, ‘One man’s Mede is another man’s Persian.’

(Have you ever considered writing Keats & Chapman anecdotes, Bert?)

Also I love Flashman, although Susan doesn’t much care for him, (Flashman is mentioned in Farmer’s TARZAN ALIVE. Although Mr Farmer does not make the claim, I think that be, like Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes et al, must have been descended from the group exposed to that dose of mutagenic radiation. Although no hero he displays a fantastic talent for survival.) Anyhow, George MacDonald Fraser made a brief foray out of his private ghetto with THE STEEL BONNETS, a very well researched history of the Border Rievers, petty gang leaders who infested the border between England and Scotland prior to the Act of Union. None of them had the glamour of a Ned Kelly.

When I read Fraser’s book I had been trying to get BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE from all three of the public libraries to which I belong - Launceston, Hobart and Woollahra, (Ultimately I was knee-deep in Wounded Knees, but that’s another story.) On one visit to Hobart I found in the library a book covering the same period of American history -Stephen Longstreet’s WAR CRIES ON HORSEBACK. At the same time I rook out Fraser’s STEEL BONNETS, and I had with me all three Issues of Playboy with the serialized FLASH-MAN AT THE CHARGE. Neither as a historian nor as a writer is Mr Longstreet a patch on Mr Fraser, but his WAR CRIES ON HORSEBACK abounded In larger-than-life real-life characters: Lieutenant Colonel Custer, Chief Sitting Bull, Chief Joseph and many more. THE STEEL BONNETS, however, was no more than the chronicles of the dreary doings of petty gangsters. I put the book down half read - I never finished it - and turned with a sigh of relief to the latest installment of the Flashman history.

It boils down to this: As a writer you haven’t a hope in heft of pleasing all of the people all of the time, or even some of the people all of the time. The best you can hope for is to please some of the people some of the time.

At the moment, in my own case, ‘some of the people’ now includes the Japanese. A publishing house in Tokyo is going to reprint all the Rim Worlds and Grimes novels. One Interesting point that has come up is that regarding illustrations - both dust jacket and internal. When I first started as a contributor to the American sf pulps it used to be said, with some justification, that the average magazine artist has a mental age of six and can’t read. Mind you, there are some good artists. When most of the Grimes novelettes were being published in If I used to love Vaughn Bode’s pics, especially when ships were involved. Nonetheless, book and magazine publishers in the Western World do tend to give their artists a free hand, very often with disastrous results. One novel recently had a picture of the central character, a Royal Navy Captain, on the dust Jacket. He was in uniform. His cap badge wasn’t quite right. but the biggest gaffe was depicting him with a neat moustache - even after the writer had specifically pointed out that in the Royal Navy, as far as facial hair is concerned, you either wear a ‘full set’ or go clean-shaven.

The Japanese, however, don’t leave everything to the artist. In their Innocence they assume that writers know what they’re writing about. Can you imagine me answering a long-distance telephone call from Tokyo, trying to explain to a rather giggly Nipponese maiden what the Mannschenn Drive looks like? No kidding. We got all sorts of pseudo-technicalities more or less ironed out and I said goodnight and hung up. Then the telephone rang again. It was the same wench. ‘Can you tell me, please, what is the Survey Service cap badge?’ Oddly enough, I have the details of Rim Runners’ uniform trimmings quite firmly fixed in my mind - the main part of the badge is, of course, the winged wheel - but l bad to invent something for the Survey Service (a winged star, I decided) on the spur of the moment.

Bert concludes by mentioning that he has been prematurely retired from his job as ship’s master because ANL - no, I’m wrong: USS, isn’t it (oh hell) - has retired two of its older ships. He hastens to assure me that his retrenchment is on full pay - and that we might very well see him In Canberra some time. I look forward to that. Bert Chandler is one of my favourite people. (And judging by the letters I get, one of yours, too.) - John Bangsund
Originally Published in Philosophical Gas No: 30 - Mar 1975