Birthday Reviews: A. Bertram Chandler’s “Planet of Ill Repute”

Birthday Reviews: A. Bertram Chandler’s “Planet of Ill Repute”

Infinity Science Fiction November 1958-small Infinity Science Fiction November 1958-back-small

Cover by Ed Emshwiller

A. Bertram Chandler was born on March 18, 1912 and died on June 6, 1984.

Chandler has received four Ditmar Awards for his novels False Fatherland, The Bitter Pill, and The Big Black Mark, as well as the story version of “The Bitter Pill.” His story “Wet Paint” won the Seiun Award in 1976 and he was nominated for a Retro Hugo for his novella “Giant Killer.” Chandler was the author Guest of Honor at Chicon IV, the 1982 Worldcon in Chicago.

“Planet of Ill Repute” originally appeared in the November 1958 issue of Infinity Science Fiction, edited by Larry Shaw. The story was reprinted in the NESFA Press book Up to the Sky in Ships/In and Out of Quandry, released to coincide with the Chicon where Chandler was Guest of Honor.  Published in the Ace Double format, the Up to the Sky in Ships side contained stories by Chandler and the In and Out of Quandry side contained essays by fan Guest of Honor Lee Hoffman.  The cover for both sides was by Chicon Artist Guest of Honor Kelly Freas.

“Planet of Ill Repute” looks at “The Protection of Undeveloped Peoples Act,” which has stark similarities to Star Trek’s Prime Directive. In this case, when Commodore Pendray discovered that his men had run afoul of “The Act” during an initial survey of the planet Lishaar, he followed proper protocols, arresting the men responsible with the goal of having them court martialed.

Four of the men were helped to escape at the next port of call, however, and Chandler then jumps the story thirty years into the future. After a freighter was forced to put down on Lishaar, a proscribed planet, for emergency repairs, they found a technological culture among the natives.  The same ship that discovered the planet was sent out to resolve the situation, which was, of course, caused by one of the escaped men from the earlier visit.

It is good to see Chandler focus on the enforcement of a Prime Directive sort of law, although his treatment of it is a little glib, without looking at it too deeply. He also doesn’t fully think it through, establishing the rules in the first couple of paragraphs, but then allowing people to explore planets and interact with the natives when the Act should be in force.

Reprint reviewed in the double Up to the Sky in Ships/In and Out of Quandry, by A. Bertram Chandler and Lee Hoffman, NESFA Press, 1982.

Steven H Silver-largeSteven H Silver is a fifteen-time Hugo Award nominee and was the publisher of the Hugo-nominated fanzine Argentus as well as the editor and publisher of ISFiC Press for 8 years. He has also edited books for DAW and NESFA Press. He began publishing short fiction in 2008 and his most recently published story is “Big White Men—Attack!” in Little Green Men—Attack! Steven has chaired the first Midwest Construction, Windycon three times, and the SFWA Nebula Conference 5 times, as well as serving as the Event Coordinator for SFWA. He was programming chair for Chicon 2000 and Vice Chair of Chicon 7. He has been the news editor for SF Site since 2002.

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I’ve been a big A. Bertram Chandler fan since the 1960s. I first read Chandler’s work published in ACE Doubles and went on to read his books published by DAW. Love your series on these writers and their work!

Keep up the Good Work!


The issue is freely available on Internet Archive.

Thomas Parker

In recent years I’ve become a big fan of Chandler’s John Grimes space operas. They’re highly enjoyable books, and they’re all available in six big omnibus volumes from Baen.

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