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Introduction to the CDT (from Retief At Large, Ace, 1978)
The official account of Terra's efforts in the field of interstellar diplomacy during the 29th century are available... to anyone willing to pore through the records of the Corps Diplomatique Terrestrienne (CDT).
For those of sufficient discernment, however, it will be evident that the Corps' records, incredibly voluminous though they may be, fail to tell the whole truth -- indeed to some degree must obscure it. Surely if it had been guarded solely by the efforts of such persons as Ambassadors Magnan, Thunderstroke, and Grossblunder, Terra's "sphere of influence" would have crumpled instantly before the diplomatic assaults of the Groaci. That it did not demonstrates that other factors were at work.
One such factor was a career diplomat named Jame Retief. Contained here are several accounts of his achievements, illustrating how a few able men were able to save the galaxy for Mankind.
In late 2003, Leon Retief of South Africa emailed me noting that Retief is a South African surname:
Retief is a surname found only in South Africa - if one leaves out of consideration the few Retiefs who moved from S. Africa to other parts of the world. We are descended from the French Retifs, who emigrated to S. Africa during the late 1700's. As time passed, the spelling changed from Retif to Retief and, of course, the pronunciation also changed.
What were the origins of "Retief".
Dr. Joe Haldeman (noted SF author of, for example, "The Forever War") was an acquaintance of Keith Laumer and, when asked, wrote back that Laumer was aware Retief was a South African name. Some people who might know the origin of "Retief", Keith's brother March and SF author Gordon R. Dickson, are both dead.
Finally, I read Keith Laumer's interview in "Speaking of Science Fiction" by Paul Walker and found the answer:
Inadvertently, I dredged the name Retief up from the depths of my subconscious; I could taste the flavor of the name, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. I thought of various place names such as Tenerife and Recife and finally Retief popped into my mind. Many years later, Jack Gaughan pointed out to me that an actual historical character named Retief had lived in South Africa and had been massacred by the Zulus and been mentioned in a H. Rider Haggard novel, "Marie". I had read the book but had no conscious recollection of it.
- Keith Laumer, 1972
Some commentaries about Retief
Lee Skidmore writes (in scifiarchive.com):
When I was growing up 'Doc' Smith, Kimball Kinnison, Clarrisa MacDougal, and Richard Seaton were and still are my 'Heros', but I have to say: "Retief, yeah Retief, Retief is the man." So where does that put his creator? Pretty high up there, you can bet. And, that's not even to mention all of Keith Laumer's other works that don't feature Retief. Great stories, great fun, great titles.
A literary risk-taker; for Reference see "Pime doesn't Cray" in the collection titled "Retief at Large".
Too bad Albert R. Broccolli wastes his time on a lightweight like James Bond.
P.S. Where do I sign up for the Corps Diplomatique Terrestrienne?
Life After Death
Since Laumer's death, at least one other author has written a Retief novel:
- Retief's Peace, Frank H. Keith, JR, Sept. 2005, Baen
o Fan website by by Wayne M. Schmidt with excellent information about the character and Laumer. There are also links to fan fiction!