Running the Rim of Japan; January 1959 Astounding (11-23-1958)

Editors are often capricious creatures.  Depending on the busyness of their schedules, they will one month wax poetic on some topic, and the next, they will give their columns short shrift.  Forgive me, but this is going to be a brief column.

“Why?” you ask.  The answer is simple.  Travel between cities in Japan is about as convenient as any travel can be, but until someone builds a super-express high-speed train from Osaka to Fukuoka (on the southernmost main Japanese island of Kyushu), the trek is an arduous one leaving little time for extracurricular activities.  Moreover, while I sometimes can find the time to write while train-bound, we picked an unfortunate day to travel: Saturday during a holiday. 

Nevertheless, we have arrived at Fukuoka, and it is a lovely city.  Their ra-men (white noodles in fish broth) is nationally famous, and the weather has been most kind to us.

Another trick editors employ is spending a great deal of verbiage on frivolous topics to disguise the fact that they don’t have much to talk about.  You’ll never see that tactic employed here, no sirree!

The new Astounding is out, and it is the only one of the Big Three magazines available to me in Japan.  Thus, even though Astounding made my stomach churn last month, it is at the top of my list this month.  Don’t ask me how I obtained a copy in advance of the normal publishing schedule.  I have my methods.

Nevertheless, I got it so recently that I’ve only managed to read the opening story, “To Run the Rim,” by A. Bertram Chandler.  I don’t know much about him, but I understand he is an Australian with a nautical background.  This is evident in his writing; “Rim” is a tale of tramp space freighters on the frontier of the galaxy, and it is redolent with terrestrial nautical tradition.  Our hero, Calvert, is a retiree from the regular navy who signs up as second mate on a rickety boat.  Chandler’s characters, especially the ship’s quartermistress, Alden, are well-drawn.  The setting, with its few but highly distinguishable worlds, is interesting and would make a good setting for more stories.

Everyone has a favorite style of science fiction.  You may enjoy psychological science fiction, or dystopias/utopias, or space opera on a Doc Smith scale.  Gadget stories may be more your thing, or tales of Martians and Venusians.  My favorites are stories that feature interstellar exploration and commerce on a personal level, particularly if they have a strong naval tradition.  The idea of seasoned sailors plying the space lanes in a kind of star trek strongly resonates with me.  Moreover, my hat is off to Chandler for featuring a strong female officer whose steadiness and expertise are vital to the success of her ship.  I will definitely look forward to his future works.

Well, that turned out to be not as short as I’d feared.  I hope you feel you got your money’s worth.  In the meantime, while you wait for my next article, why not send a letter expressing your favorite kinds of science fiction.

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