Chronicled by A. Bertram Chandler, in a series of stories written between 1959 and 1984, the Rim Worlds are situated on the far bleak and cold edge of the galaxy - the last frontier of space. The stories are told from the perspective of several characters, the most significant being John Grimes, who begins his journey as a newly graduated Ensign from the Federation Survey Service Academy and eventually rises to the rank of Commodore in the Rim Worlds Naval Reserve. John Grimes was a relatively minor player on the Rim. He didn't make an appearance until the fifth or sixth published Rim Worlds tale.
The first story to be set in the Rim Worlds was called 'Edge of Night.' Written in January 1958 and sold to Venture, it never appeared under that title as the magazine folded shortly afterwards. By the time it appeared in Fantasy and Science Fiction (1959), Chandler had renamed the story 'The Man Who Could Not Stop.' The next tale to be set in the far edges of the universe was 'Wet Paint,' although Chandler has acknowledged that 'it wasn't a proper Rim World story, being more concerned with the wet paint gimmick than with the Rim mythology.' It wasn't until 'To Run the Rim,' that he really emigrated to the Rim Worlds. In his 1965 Mentor article, Chandler notes:
I suppose it was, like so much of my stuff, ['To Run the Rim'] was really a disguised sea story. And Rim Runners, too, bear a certain resemblance to my present employers. Just as their ships are officered by refugees from the Interstellar Transport Commission, Trans-Galactic Clippers, the Waverley Royal Mail and so on, so are the vessels of the Union Steam Ship Company officered by refugees from Shaw Savill, Port Line, Royal Mail, and even Cunard White Star.
The early Rim World stories also include: "The Outsiders" (a follow-up to "To Run The Rim"), "The Key," "Chance Encounter," "Rimghost" and "To Hell For a Pastime." The final published chapters of the series are "The Wild Ones" and "The Last Amazons" (both 1984).
In addition to John Grimes, the Rim Worlds series also includes a number of other key characters, some of whom are the focus of entire stories. These include: Derek Calver (who makes his way to the Rim shortly after Grimes' arrival), Kitty Kelly (star human-interest reporter of the galactically distributed Bronson Star newspaper), the Empress Irene (who inhabits an alternate-reality version of the galaxy), Sonya Verril (a member of the Federation Survey Service's Intelligence Branch who later marries Grimes), Drongo Kane (one of Grimes' arch-rivals), Frank Delamere (another rival), and Princes Marlene von Stolzberg (the mother of Grimes' first child).
In the Rim Worlds Concordance, Steve Davidson writes: "The Rim Worlds stories are as much about the place as they are about the people that inhabit it. Cold, dark and forlorn, the worlds on the edge of the galaxy are mankind's last, and perhaps most mysterious, frontier."
The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction entry on Chandler provides the following insigh into the Rim Worlds series and its hero John Grimes:
Through these books Grimes's somewhat melancholy temperament and consistent ingenuity often remind one of C S Forester's Horatio Hornblower, an influence Chandler acknowledged (though Grimes's sexual forthrightness strikes a new note); but it is of course more than Hornblower's character that is drawn from the earlier genre. The Grimes/Rim World sequence is very clearly a Hornblower in Space transposition - much more directly than is usually the case - of the maritime world into a dream of interstellar commerce: ships into spaceships, seas into the blackness between the stars, seaports into starports, hinterlands into planets, the South Sea Islands into constellations. Much of the warmth and detail of Chandler's work derives from this direct translation of venues, and Grimes himself establishes a loyalty in his readers rather similar to that felt by readers of Hornblower. Indeed, Chandler's Space Operas are among the most likeable and well constructed in the genre, and his vision of the Rim Worlds - cold, poor, at the antipodean edge of intergalactic darkness, but full of all the pioneer virtues - are the genre's homiest characterization of that corner of space opera's galactic arena.
[Sources: The Rim Worlds Concordance - online (sighted 24/1/2012); A. Bertram Chandler "To Run the Rim," in A. Bertam Chandler - online (sighted 17/1/2012), first published in The Mentor No. 6 May 1965]; and "Chandler, A. Bertram." Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (sighted 10/05/2013).
'They called the robomaid "Clockwork Kitty" until she informed them of her right name. She was a triumph of Japan's far-future robotics industry and she was a present to John Grimes as he set out aboard Sister Sue for a voyage to the planet called New Salem.
New Salem was a colony of blue-nosed religious fanatics and Grimes knew it meant trouble. For in addition to his sexy-looking robot he had Shirl and Darleen aboard, two wild ones of kangaroo ancestry, sure to be problems. And trouble came, not merely from the fire-wielding bigots but from Grimes' old enemy, Drongo Kane.'
Having resigned his commission in the Survey Service rather than face a court martial, John Grimes is now owner and master of Little Sister, a pinnace spacecraft made of modified gold. Formerly the property of the Baroness d'Estang of El Dorado, the ship has come to Grimes in lieu of back pay, and provides him with the opportunity to run his own courier service. Unable to transport anything other than small loads at a time Grimes's first job is to ferry the attractive post-mistress Tamara Haverstock and her mail from the planet Tiralbin to Boggarty. What should be a easy run turns upside down when they encounter the insectoid Shaara. After being taken by force to an uncharted planet Grimes and Haverstock are tortured and publicly humiliated in front of the indigenous population as a show of superior Shaara might. However, things go awry for the Shaara when the pair escape and are mistaken for gods by the planet's resistance army. Grimes must not only defeat the Shaara to save their lives and that of the planet but also complete his contract and get the mail delivered.
Having resigned from the Federation Survey Service rather than face a court-martial for losing his ship in a mutiny (see The Big Black Mark), John Grimes finds himself stuck on the Planet Botany Bay and in urgent need of employment. His saviour comes in the form of the lofty Baroness Michelle d'Estang and her ship the Far Traveller. Built of gold and designed to be a rich woman's plaything the ship is piloted and run by an advanced computer known as Big Sister. And thus while Grimes might be the human Master (in so far as the ship's insurer is concerned), its Big Sister who rules the roost.
'Take one thoroughly spoiled, fabulously wealthy El Doradan baroness, one solid gold spaceyacht complete with almost human pilot-computer, one piratical space tramp captain, add the accident-prone John Grimes, late of the Federation Survey Service, stir and mix thoroughly-and the things that happen shouldn't happen to a Morrovian dog!' (1977 Hale edition).
A Rim Worlds story based around the adventures of Derek Calver, The Rim of Space sees Chandler's hero determined to join the Rim Runners in their exploration of desolate planets. He joins the crew of Lorn Lady and sets forth for Mellise, a planet inhabited by intelligent amphibians. He later visits Groller, where the natives have just qualified as humanoids; Stree, with its tea-loving lizards; and Tharn, the home of a pre-industrial civilization.
'Commander John Grimes, Federation Survey Service, should have been happy but he was not.' Although recently promoted, much to his surprise, Grimes finds himself consigned once again to being captain of a non-war ship. It doesn't help that his new vessel, Discovery (another Census ship) is a badly neglected rust-bucket. Worse still is the crew - a bunch of malcontents comprising the worse the Survey Service has to offer.
Before long a mutinous atmosphere begins to pervade the ship, with the situation spiraling downhill after Grimes is forced to cite the leader of the ship's marines, Major 'Mad' Swinton with the court-martial offence of murdering citizens from another planet. Grime's own misgivings about the voyage also manifest themselves through snatches of memory relating to the 'Wild Colonial Boy' and the ill-fated Bounty.
When the Commander and a few of his faithful crew are eventually dispatched into space aboard a tiny escape craft, he begins to understand how Captain William Bligh must have felt. Not only about the big black mark against his service record, but also about surviving against impossible odds.
Grimes and Sonya embark on a wholly different adventure: marriage. But running their own little shipping company takes a back seat to danger when a distress call leads the pair to an alien ship from an alternate universe—a ship carrying contraband from otherspace— mutant rats which evolved to rule their universe...and threaten to breakthrough to ours. This deadly cargo threatens to sheer through the fabric of reality, like a knife through soft butter.
Lt Commander Grimes arrives on the forgotten planet Sparta where humans had long ago settled and have since modelled their society on the ancient Greek city-state of Sparta. Indeed, Sparta, originally an early Federation colony, has been out of touch for so long the people have forgotten they’re a colony. Over time a civilisation based on war and violence and crude pleasures has developed. It is also a planet where human beings (all men) are produced by birth machines and women are unknown.
The story is told from the perspective of Brasidus, one of the small planet's policemen. Never having laid eyes on a woman, or imagined that such strange beings exist, he and most other residents of the planet Sparta think that the female crew of Grime's ship, including Margaret Lazenby (Grime's sometimes sex partner) are deformed men, and they can’t fathom what the peculiar bumps on their chests are.
Although Grimes and his crew have the best intentions during their stay on the planet they eventually manage to turn the whole society on its head. Horrific events unfurl and truths become known, setting in motion changes that have a profound effect on the Spartan society.
Chandler writes briefly about his positive experiences with Japanese publisher Hayakawa Shobo and illustrator Koichiro Masahiro Noda.
Chandler provides insight into his life and career as both a merchant seaman and a writer. He also talks brielfy about his Rim World's character John Grimes and his desire to write an alternative history novel based on Ned Kelly.
An autobiographical overview of Bertram Chandler's fictional hero, John Grimes (The Rim Worlds series).
Chandler writes about his recent retirement as a merchant seaman and his subsequent part time employment as a ship's caretaker in Sydney Harbour. He also refers to Japanese publisher Hayakawa and the connection between John Grimes and C.S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower.
An autobiographical overview of Bertram Chandler's fictional hero, John Grimes (The Rim Worlds series).
Chandler discusses several aspects of his career as a writer, including his early stories, the influence of the sea and Australia on his writing, his favourite character John Grimes and some of the problems he had with magazine publishers.