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A. Bertram Chandler A. Bertram Chandler i(A6739 works by) (a.k.a. Arthur Bertram Chandler; Bertram Chandler)
Also writes as: George Whitley ; S. H. M. ; Andrew Dunstan
Born: Established: 28 Mar 1912 Aldershot, Hampshire,
United Kingdom (UK),
Western Europe, Europe,
; Died: Ceased: 6 Jun 1984 Sydney, New South Wales,
Gender: Male
Arrived in Australia: 1956
Heritage: English
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Arthur Bertram Chandler carved out a four-decade-long career as a science-fiction writer, with much of that time spent living in Australia. In all, he published more than 40 novels and collections and over 240 works of short fiction using either his birth name or the pseudonyms George Whitley and S.M.H.. Chandler also contributed essays and letters to dozens of speculative-fiction magazines and fanzines.

Between 1959 and 1984, Chandler developed the series he is perhaps best known for: the Rim Worlds. A collection of stories situated on the far bleak and cold edge of the galaxy, they are told from the perspective of several different characters. The most notable of these is John Grimes, once described by Publishers' Weekly as 'SF's answer to Horatio Hornblower.' Two of his short stories, 'Giant Killer' (1945) and 'The Cage' (1957), are also regarded by critics as being among the best science-fiction stories of the mid-twentieth century. To 2012, 'Giant Killer' has been reprinted in at least 17 different publications, while 'The Cage' has amassed more than 30 reprints. Nearly all of his novels were published in the USA.

Raised in Beccles, Suffolk, Chandler left school in 1928 to become a merchant seaman. He began his apprenticeship at age 16 with the Sun Shipping Company and eventually rose to status of captain. During his 45 years as a seafarer, he sailed the world in virtually every class of vessel - ranging from tramp steamers to troop transport ships. In an interview with Thomas Sheridan ('He Wrote "The Rat's Tale"') published in the February/March 1947 issue of Fantasy Review, Chandler recalls that after eight years with the Sun Company, he had risen to second mate but had had his fill 'of tramps.' After working ashore for a while, he joined Shaw Savill Lines as Fourth Officer in 1937, eventually working his way up to Chief Officer. This allowed him the opportunity to make more regular voyages to and from Australasia (ctd. David Kelleher).

In relation to his passion for science fiction and fantasy, Chandler also recalls in the Sheridan interview that these had been 'instilled in childhood by reading of Verne, Wells and Lester Bidston.' It was later 're-awakened by odd encounters with the Gernsback magazines, and finally satisfied by Street and Smith's Astounding.' The urge to write, he further notes, had always been as strong as his urge to roam, and he had some initial publishing success with light verse and humorous pieces submitted to Nautical Magazine (ctd. David Kelleher).

Chandler had his first science-fiction story, 'This Means War,' published in the May 1944 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. According to the author, its genesis lay in a visit he made to New York-based science-fiction editor John W. Campbell in 1942. Although he received a good deal of encouragement from Campbell, Chandler recalls that it took him some while to before his first story came to fruition:

Not yet being the proud possessor of my Master's ticket, and having plenty of swotting to do, I thought the notion fantastic, though the prospect intrigued me. Six months later, when I had become a Master Mariner–at least, on paper–and was again in New York, I bought The Books of Charles Fort for light reading on our outward passage. That gave me an idea for a story, which I slowly and painfully pecked out on the way to New Zealand (Sheridan, ctd. David Kelleher).

Chandler's writing career started towards the end of the golden age of science fiction, a period generally regarded as having occurred between 1938 and 1946. During that time there was a noticeable transition from 'facile adventure to rather more carefully thought out speculation.' As Sean McMullen notes in 'Chandler on the Scoreboard' (1991), he 'like many of the authors of that time ... brought his own specialist knowledge to SF.' In this respect, Chandler's passion for the sea, his experiences, and his knowledge of nautical life and ships were often infused into his stories. Indeed, his narratives are rich in seafaring allusions, whether it be the names and types of spacecraft (pinnaces, cruisers, tramp liners, etc.), the organisational structure of various commands such as the Federation Survey Service (Rim Worlds series), or life in general aboard the various space 'ships' in which many of his stories are set. There are repeated references in the Rim Worlds series, for example, to an obsolete type of magnetically powered spaceship known as the 'Gaussjammer', which is modelled on the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century windjammer.

Chandler's employment as a merchant seaman was also perfectly suited to his life as a writer. With many hours to fill in between shifts, he was able to devote much of his spare time to writing. As Sean McMullen notes:

The 1950's saw nearly 60% of his total short story output, and his average peaked at one sale per fortnight for a couple of years. With such volume one can hardly expect them all to be profound, and the themes did range from serious moral issues to bad puns. 'Boomerang' (1947) is one of the earliest stories to warn of the danger of accidental nuclear war (and the setting was a race between Melbourne and Sydney to land a rocket on the moon!). 'Next in Line' (1952) is humorously told, yet is a quite chilling allegory on the inability of society to adjust to new technology. 'Gateway' (1953) is an insight into how brutally pragmatic seamen can be when the safety of their ship is in question. 'Familiar Pattern' (1960) draws parallels between the first contact between aliens and humans (in Bass Strait!) and European colonisation of the Pacific Islands - the readers voted it second. Chandler did have a serious face, even if it wore a grin (1991).

Chandler's interest in the Antipodian region led to him eventually immigrating to Australia. After he arrived in 1956, he commanded merchant vessels under both the Australian and New Zealand flags. It did not take him long, either, to begin infusing his stories with Australian themes, language, colloquialisms, and places. Indeed, Australia is frequently referred throughout the Rim World series, including being acknowledged as having taken the lead in space exploration and in colonising other planets. John Grimes is himself a 'Terran' (the name given to Earth), and many planets have Australian-named cities or town (see, for example, 'The Mountain Movers', 1972). Some planetary civilisations are also seen to have evolved after contact with early Australian interstellar explorers (The Inheritors, 1972; Matilda's Stepchildren, 1979). Chandler even gives Grimes's arch nemesis an 'Aussie'-flavoured name: Drongo Kane.

The 1960s and early 1970s were incredibly productive for Chandler, with his output rising to as high as four novels per year. While not all were set in the Rim Worlds, it was that series that has since had the most reprints and translations. The last fifteen years of his life (ca. 1970-1984) saw Chandler largely writing Rim Worlds stories in addition to Australian historical science fiction. His 1984 novel Kelly Country explores, for example, an alternate history, in which the bushranger Ned Kelly was not captured and hanged, but led a rebellion, ultimately becoming the president of an Australian republic, which degenerated into a hereditary dictatorship. And in The Anarch Lords (1981), Chandler brings both Australian fictional history and the Rim Worlds together.

It was during the 1970s and early 1980s, too, that Chandler won the Australian fans' Ditmar Award four times out of a record fourteen fiction nominations (McMullen). The A. Bertram Chandler Award, recognising 'significant and sustained contributions to the appreciation of science fiction in Australia', was inaugurated in his honour by the Australian Science Fiction Foundation. He was also a Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society and appeared as a guest of honour at a number of science-fiction conventions, including the World Science Fiction Convention at Chicago in 1982.

Chandler's fandom has been widespread over a long period. Sean McMullen notes, for example, that his second, third, fourth, and fifth stories in Astounding came fourth, third, second and first respectively in readers' polls. 'Moreover, out of his first 20 SF stories in magazines that ran polls, half polled 1st, 2nd or 3rd. Say what you will, this is popularity' ('Chandler on the Scoreboard').

The popularity of his writing extends beyond the English-speaking science-fiction community, too. Many of his works have been translated into foreign languages, including French, Italian, Russian, Polish, Spanish, Norwegian, German, Swedish, and Japanese. Regarded highly in Japan, he once won the prestigious Seiun Sho award. The covers of his reprints in that country are also considered to be among the best ever produced.

The father of Bradley Chandler, Bertram Chandler died in Sydney in 1984, barely ten years after retiring from his seafaring career. Leigh Edmonds, in his review of the 1990 Dreamstone anthology, From Sea to Shining Star, reflects on Chandler's work and legacy:

One of the problems with the speculation in many of the later stories is that they are now so obviously dated. There are a couple of stories which involve the first landing on the moon, and they are, by the standards of the reality of 1969, lacking in foresight. This may be because Chandler's view of space travel was that of a seaman, whereas space has been colonised by the aviation industry, and so it has been the test pilots, and not old sea-hardened ship's captains, who have created the culture of space. In these stories there is also the reminder that the view of what people could do and how they related to technological developments was different when Chandler wrote these stories. Here the actions of people are still shaped by earlier ideas where technical innovation was still individual, rather than part of a large web of communications and highly automated and standardised machinery. The relaxed and independent nature of many of the crews in Chandler's ships and space ships also speaks of Chandler's own basically easy going attitude, something which does not appear to have survived into the new era science fiction characterised in the 1970's by Larry Niven, and more recently by the Cyberpunks (Eidolon 4, March 1991).

There is little doubt that the technology in Chandler's works is now often out-dated (but not always so). However, this does not appear to have affected his continuing popularity. The peppering of Australian allusions, references, and in-jokes also seems to be a non-issue, as his works continue to find new audiences around the world. Since 2000, there have been more than a dozen anthologies, including anthology series, published in both traditional and digital formats. Quite a few are translated editions.

Perhaps the answer to this on-going popularity is that his stories are not reliant on technology. The narratives often unfold slowly, driven by fully fleshed-out personalities with all their flaws and quirks (including sexual foibles) laid bare. The crises rarely ensue as part of high-tech space battles or within scenes of futuristic action, but rather they arise out of interpersonal interaction between people (human and non-human) who are placed in a variety of situations: sometimes dangerous, sometimes strange, and very often exotic.

Most Referenced Works


  • The Deep Reaches of Space (1964) also has undisguised autobiographical elements within it. The narrative concerns a seaman turned science-fiction writer who travels to the future and uses his nautical experience to save a party of humans stranded on an alien planet.

  • Chandler was the last master of the Australia aircraft carrier Melbourne. Naval law required the ship to have a master aboard for several months before it was towed to Asia to be broken up for scrap. With few duties to carry out, Chandler spent most of his time writing. This period is referenced in his Rim Worlds novel To Keep the Ship (1978). In that story, his hero John Grimes is forced by financial necessity to take on a similar position, as caretaker of the decommissioned Bronson Star (formerly the flagship of the Interstellar Shipping Corporation of Bronsonia).

  • The reference to John Grimes being 'SF's answer to Horatio Hornblower' is referenced by Chandler. On several occasions, he mentions Grimes being a descendant (on his mother's side) of the 'fictional' British naval officer (see for example, Star Courier, 1977).

  • Chandler also plays around with one of his pseudonyms, George Whitley. In the 'Prologue' to Star Courier (1977), for example, Chandler records Grimes's genealogy: 'He was born in the city of Alice Springs on Primus 28, 259. His father, George Whitley Grimes, was a moderately successful author of historical romances.' He introduces Whitley at least once, in Star Loot (Chapter 16).

  • The pseudonyms Andrew Dunstan and Paul T. Sherman have also been attributed to Chandler.

  • Short fiction published between 1944 and 1955:

    The following list details Chandler's publication output prior to moving to Australia in 1956. Stories from this period are indexed selectively on AustLit, depending on whether they have Australian content or are included in later anthologies. For more information on our scope, see Scope.

    Stories that are individually indexed are linked from the list below to their AustLit record.

    Only the first publication of each story is included on this list: for subsequent republications, see the Internet Speculative Fiction Database. All entries are short stories unless otherwise noted.

    • Alter Ego. Astounding Science Fiction vol.35 no.1 (1945), 118-138.
    • And Not in Peace. Famous Fantastic Mysteries vol.8 no.2 (1946), 112-122.
    • Bad Patch. Astounding Science Fiction vol.38 no.5 (1947), pp.155-179.
    • Castaway. (as George Whitley) Weird Tales vol.40 no.1 (1947), pp.86-94.
    • Coefficient X. New Worlds vol.2 no.6 (1950), pp.80-95.
    • Dawn of Nothing. Astounding Science Fiction vol.41 no.6 (1948), pp. 46-55.
    • False Dawn. Astounding Science Fiction vol.38 no.2 (1946), pp.126-158.
    • Farewell to Lotos. Science Fiction Adventures vol.1 no.2 (1953), pp.4-50.
    • Final Voyage. (as George Whitley) Science Fiction Adventures vol.1 no.2 (1953), pp.116-163.
    • Finishing Touch [aka Doom Satellite] New Worlds vol.6 no.16 (1952), pp.86-93.
    • Fire Brand! Marvel Science Stories vol.3 no.1 (1950), pp.109-127.
    • Forest of Knives, The. Fantastic Universe vol.1 no.3 (1953), pp.146-188.
    • Foul Log. (as Andrew Dunstan) Man: Australian Magazine for Men Dec. (1945), pp.66-67.
    • Frontier of the Dark. Astounding Science Fiction vol.50 no.1 (1952), pp.106-153.
    • Gateway. Cosmos Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazine vol.1 no.1 (1953), pp.92-120.
    • Giant Killer. Astounding Science Fiction vol.35 no.1 (1945),7-48.
    • Golden Journey, The. Astounding Science Fiction vol.35 no.1 (1945), 138-179.
    • Haunt. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction vol.1 no.3 (1950), pp.123-131.
    • Hot Squat, The. Cosmos Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazine vol.1 no.2 (1953), pp.59-68.
    • Jetsam. New Worlds Science Fiction vol.7 no.20 (1953), pp.37-45.
    • Lady Dog. Astounding Science Fiction (1946), 119-38.
    • Lost Art. Startling Stories vol.24 no.3 (1952), pp.94-115.
    • Matter of Timing, A. Fantastic Universe vol.1 no.2 (1953), pp.61-75.
    • Moonfall. Imagination vol.6 no.5 (1955), pp.92-99.
    • Moonflowers and Mary. (as George Whitley) Fantastic Universe vol.1 no.3 (1953), pp.74-82.
    • Moon of Madness.(Issue 10) (as George Whitley) Planet Stories vol.4 no.2 Spring (1949), pp.40-50.
    • Mutiny on Venus. Planet Stories Winter (1948), pp.38-57.
    • New Wings. Astounding Science Fiction vol.41 no.2 (1948), pp.71-87.
    • Next in Line. Science-Fantasy vol.2 no.4 (1952), n. pag.
    • One Came Back (as George Whitley) Thrilling Wonder Stories vol.27 no.3 (1945), pp.79-94.
    • Path of Glory. (as Andrew Dunstan) Man: Australian Magazine for Men vol.19 no.2 (1946), pp.28-30.
    • Perfect Machine, The. Astounding Science Fiction vol.34 no.5 (1945), pp.107-125.
    • Perfect Machine, The. (essay) Philosophical Gas 27 (March 1945), n. pp.107-125.
    • Pest. New Worlds vol.5 no.13 (1952), pp.2-40.
    • Position Line. New Worlds vol.2 no.4 (1949), pp.73-88.
    • Preview of Peril. Planet Stories vol.3 no.12 (1948), pp.67-73.
    • Raiders of the Solar Frontier [aka And All Disastrous Things] Out of This World Adventure Dec. (1950), pp.4-23, 106-116.
    • Second Meeting. Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction vol.1 no.4 (1950), pp.84-92.
    • Serpent, The. New Worlds vol.6 no.17 (1952), pp.43-51.
    • Shadow Before. Cosmos Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazine vol.1 no.3 (1954), pp.84-92.
    • Ship from Nowhere. Argosy no.3 (1948), pp.62-73.
    • Six of One. Science Fantasy vol.3 no.9 (1954), pp.63-71.
    • Special Knowledge Astounding Science Fiction vol.37 no.5 (1946),7-79.
    • Stability. Astounding Science Fiction vol.37 no.5 (1946), pp.130-147
    • Terror of the Mist Maidens. Out of this World Adventures vol.1 no.1 (1950), pp.88-101.
    • This Means War. Astounding Science Fiction vol.33 no.3 (1944).
    • Tides of Time. Fantastic Adventures June (1948), pp.150-157.
    • Tower of Darkness. Astounding Science Fiction vol.38 no.3 (1946), pp.78-95.
    • Traveller, The. (as Andrew Dunstan) Man: Australian Magazine for Men vol.19 no.5 (1946).
    • Traveller's Tale. Startling Stories vol.13 no.3 (1947), pp.93-103.
    • Viscous Circle Fantastic Universe vol.1 no.1 June-July (1953), pp.50-66
    • Wrong Track, The (as George Whitley) Fantastic Universe vol.2 no.3 Oct. (1954), pp.4-32.
  • A selection of Chandler's published letters which concern either his works or experiences as a writer (including relationships with publishers, editors and illustrators) is included in AustLit. For correspondance pertaining to non-writing matters see David Kelleher's A. Bertram Chandler website (Letters page). The website also includes a selection of Chandler's reviews of non-Australian publications.

Awards for Works

y separately published work icon From Sea to Shining Star Fyshwick : Dreamstone , 1990 Z309117 1990 selected work short story science fiction

This collection of thirty Chandler stories spans his entire career. Many of the stories, which were only available in hard-to-find magazines, are accompanied by illustrations.

In a review of the collection published in Eidolon 4 (March 1991), Leigh Edmonds writes, 'The stories fall into two sections, as the title suggests. The first third or so of the collection, "From Sea . . .", contains stories set mainly on this planet, while the second two thirds. . . To Shining Star", are space-faring stories. A great many of the stories are really, however, seafaring ones with all the lore of the sea and Chandler's experience in the merchant marine finding expression. Some stories deal directly with the experience of travelling at sea or in space, others tell stories about the people who travel, either on their journeys or once they arrive'.

Source: Eidolon ('From Sea to Shining Star').

1992 shortlisted Ditmar Awards Best Novel
y separately published work icon The Last Amazon New York (City) : DAW Books , 1984 Z811024 1984 single work novella science fiction 'John Grimes's career as a space pirate has ended, he faces his toughest assignment yet. He has been made governer of the anarchist's own planet. His first task is to stay alive with a whole world plotting his murder!'

[Source: 1984 DAW edition]
1985 shortlisted Ditmar Awards Best Novel
y separately published work icon The Wild Ones St Kilda : Void Publications , 1984 Z810910 1984 single work novel science fiction

'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.'


1985 shortlisted Ditmar Awards Best Novel
Last amended 12 Oct 2016 14:24:46
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