Authors: Keith Laumer
Tags: #Science Fiction
"A most generous offer," Magnan said. "Frankly, I was astonished. I think perhaps we've judged the Groaci too harshly."
"I hear the Ministry of Youth has had a rough morning of it," Retief said. "And a lot of rumors are flying to the effect that Youth Groups are on the way out."
Magnan cleared this throat and shuffled papers. "I—ah—have explained to the press that last night's ah . . ."
"—affair was necessary in order to place the culprits in an untenable position. Of course, as to the destruction of the VIP vessel and the presumed death of the fellow, Slop—"
"The Fustians understand," Retief said. "Whonk wasn't kidding about ceremonial vengeance. Yith was lucky: he hadn't actually drawn blood. Then no amount of dickering would have saved him."
"The Groaci have been guilty of gross misuse of diplomatic privilege," Magnan said. "I think that a note—or perhaps an
: less formal . . ."
was bound for Groac," Retief said. "She was already in her transit orbit when she blew. The major fragments should arrive on schedule in a month or so. It should provide quite a meteorite display. I think that should be all the aid the Groaci's
will need to keep their tentacles off Fust."
"But diplomatic usage—"
"Then, too, the less that's put in writing, the less they can blame you for, if anything goes wrong."
"There's that, of course," Magnan said, his lips pursed. "Now you're thinking constructively, Retief. We may make a diplomat of you yet." He smiled expansively.
"Maybe. But I refuse to let it depress me." Retief stood up. "I'm taking a few weeks off . . . if you have no objections, Mr. Ambassador. My pal Whonk wants to show me an island down south where the fishing is good."
"But there are some extremely important matters coming up," Magnan said. "We're planning to sponsor Senior Citizen Groups."
"Count me out. Groups give me an itch."
"Why, what an astonishing remark, Retief. After all, we diplomats are ourselves a group."
"Uh, huh," Retief said. "That's what I mean."
Magnan sat quietly, his mouth open, and watched as Retief stepped into the hall and closed the door gently behind him.
Keith Laumer is best known for his Retief stories. And, as has happened to many writers in history, he has become so identified with a single character that his other work has tended to languish in obscurity as the years go on.
Speaking for myself, I think that's very unfortunate. For all their entertaining character, the fact is that the Retief stories are by no means the best things Laumer ever wrote. They're not even the
things he ever wrote. I admit, again, that it's a matter of taste—but at least for my money there's more humor contained in his grim little story "In the Queue"
than there is in all the Retief stories put together.
In the next two volumes of this reissue series, we will be presenting a very different side of Keith Laumer. The second volume,
—which will appear in March of 2002—contains some of Laumer's best pure adventure stories. Two of his best novels will be in that volume—
—along with five other great stories: "A Trip to the City," "Once There Was a Giant," "The King of the City," "Hybrid" and "Combat Unit."
In the third volume, which I titled
The Lighter Side
, we will be reissuing the best of Laumer's "comic" stories. I put the term "comic" in quotation marks because Laumer's sense of humor often had a grim edge to it. The wit in the Retief stories is basically light-hearted—as it is in such stories as
The Great Time Machine Hoax
, a novel which will be included in the third volume. But in many of his stories, such as "In the Queue"
(which, depending on my mood, I often think is the single best thing Laumer ever wrote), the humor is contained within a very sharp-edged shell.
So stick around. At his best, Keith Laumer could tell a story in a way which was unique to himself in the history of science fiction. The Retief stories were just one aspect of his talent, and by no means the greatest.