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  3. A decade later...I re read "The Cold Equation" by Tom Godwin

User Info: Nintendo_Porn

Nintendo_Porn
3 months ago#1
“The Cold Equations” by Tom Godwin for better, or worse is the story which made a younger me appreciate reading, and made it one of my main hobbies for the past decade, and a half.

Now, I recall coming to this board a long time ago, and stating such to be met with complaints about the book in regards to a manipulative message. I wasn’t mad about that then, and now. However, I’m no longer the kid in school who was given this to read – I’m now an adult and want to give this story my new perspective all these years removed to see what I think of it now. If nothing else I owe “the cold equations” that much for how it made a little s*** like kid me feel something I never thought a book could. So, please indulge my attempt at an analysis.

________________________________________

-From what I remember this is a cruel universe where space travel may be a thing, but due to limited resources across the threshold drastic, and cited as inhumane policies are used like spacing any stowaways on those transport ships due to limited fuel. (Before re read)

-I take issue with those quick to paint this organization as “corrupt” or “incompetent” when after the Emergency Dispatch Ships (EDS) pilot informs his superior of the situation he isn’t so quick to order the pilot to space the girl. Another issue comes up here instead like “double standards.” This girl obviously didn’t read the instructions, and should be spaced like any man would which they make clear has happened on enough occasions that they understand it. However, now that it’s a young girl they give pause?

-This extends to complaints that they should send an emergency ship to supply fuel – sure, she’s related to someone stationed on another planet, but what makes her special? How does that justify wasting valuable resources on someone who wouldn’t read the f***ing warning? Granted, the notion of how B.S. it is that all that separates you from the possibility of getting spaced is a sign, but this girl was old enough to know how to read warnings. This is noted as being stated as a law of interstellar regulations that all stowaways get jettisoned immediately upon discovery which I feel lends weight to the possibility that resources in general are limited.

He would, of course, do it. It was the law, stated very bluntly and
definitely in grim Paragraph L,
Section 8, of Interstellar Regulations:
“Any stowaway discovered in an EDS shall be jettisoned
immediately following discovery.


This s*** isn’t widely known to the public of earth!?

-In this context, I feel the girl did indeed fall victim to the realities of a universe with limited resources, and her own ignorance. She is a cold equation, but maybe not in the way the story wants to say.

-The small cruiser that is used to transport stuff to the other worlds in space with limited fuel in itself were expensive, but don’t seem well made either with metal, and plastic used to keep them together. I don’t know if it was the discovery of interstellar travel, or the colonizing/migration to these new worlds, but this is essentially the space ghetto. >_>

-The fact they felt the need to use computers to carefully calculate just enough fuel for these things to get to the destination, and not allow room for deviation also says a lot. Honestly, I’d leave some leeway, but it’s safe to assume at this point that simply isn’t an option given these measures.

-When the pilot first discovers the girl it’s made clear that had it been a man this would not have lasted long before the spacing happened, and I like how the story does a good job of conveying the girl slowly realizing how badly she f***ed up long before she’s told of the situation with the fuel, and those sick on woden.
N.P.C.C. (Nintendo Porn Company Conspiracy)
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User Info: Nintendo_Porn

Nintendo_Porn
3 months ago#2
-The girl would have seen her brother Gerry anyway in like a year. Keep in mind she already had not seen him for 10 years – the hell is one more!? Could her ignorance of how things work outside of earth be so easily forgiven when she had little to any reason to break the law which she knew on some level earth or not she was doing? The shot against that stupid sign only saying “UNARTHORIZED PERSONEL ONLY” and not elaborating on the risk of life if you enter at the least is a failure on the part of the EDS pilots/organization as whole. Still, it’s not enough to make me see them as corrupt as they are as much a victim of these regulations, and limitations.

-The superior, the commander assumes the stowaway was male upon being informed of the situation via radio communication. >_> How many guys did they kill? I don’t know if it’s the laws, or them, but they take the time to take their identification to notify family before spacing them. I believe it’s their “identification disk?” I should note the commander alludes to them both being bound by a law, laws of which someone above both made up.

-Yeah, this is pretty much how I’d expect an 18 year old being told she has to die to react – she has no idea about how the stardust, and how space operates with these transport ships. This is not information too sensitive to keep from the public given what can happen like here. Stowaways should be the least of their problem after the fact. It’s possible Marilyn is a sheltered 18 year old who didn’t know any better, or take the time to research how star dust operates in spite of limited resources. Her brother is part of interstellar travel, and has been for 10 years, so what’s with the ignorance?

-Oh! There is leeway in the fuel the computers give, but apparently it\s only to account for the atmosphere of space. It doesn’t compensate for some 100 pound girl. That’s just harsh…By manually changing the course of the cruiser’s deceleration to be able to keep her in there as long as possible the commander knows he’s breaking protocol, but says nothing. Very telling.

-“I’m going to die and nobody cares.

They are breaking their backs just to buy you time which you honestly don’t deserve just because you have a vagina! >_> I’m sorry… it’s getting on my nerves now.

-Hmm…The girl was warned by her brother over the years about how dangerous, and cruel it is out there, but beyond that she and her parents simply didn’t have the ability to fully grasp what he was getting at being from earth. Marilyn should have taken that as ample indication that trying to sneak on an eds probably wasn’t a good idea.
N.P.C.C. (Nintendo Porn Company Conspiracy)
Truly Outrageous! The Truth Is Out There! http://i.imgur.com/dQqBtsL.gif http://i.imgur.com/pE4QiFK.jpg

User Info: Nintendo_Porn

Nintendo_Porn
3 months ago#3
-Why is the pilot taking about her leaving possessions like jewelry she’s wearing on the ship? Given the fuel restriction as minor as it is I can’t help but think the story is playing fast, and loose with the weight restriction in contrast to the limited fuel.>_>

-Okay…All these years later Marilyn’s speech to her brother about how she will still be with him got to me a bit. I won’t quote it, but god damn…

Something shapeless and ugly was hurrying ahead of him, going to Woden, where her brother was waiting through the night, but the empty ship still lived for a little while with
the presence of the girl who had not known about the forces that killed with neither hatred nor malice.


-So not necessary – I get that she got spaced, and probably hit the airlock door on the way out. Don’t need implication of seeing her body dead in the void. Come on, dude. >_>

-Something I’m surprised younger me didn’t consider when I first read it to my admission shedding some man tears was I figured the pilot would opt to space himself, and leave the girl alone in the ship. Given how much they bent over backwards for her in the first place it doesn’t seem that preposterous. Could have had cool foreshadowing where she asked how it would work, and in describing the air lock reluctantly he's teaching her how it works. Just a thought.

So, in the end did I approach this story from a new perspective? I still liked it even though the bias from her being female was getting to me. Ridiculous if I’m supposed to assume she was the first to try that s***, and if not it may be even worse.
N.P.C.C. (Nintendo Porn Company Conspiracy)
Truly Outrageous! The Truth Is Out There! http://i.imgur.com/dQqBtsL.gif http://i.imgur.com/pE4QiFK.jpg

User Info: Nintendo_Porn

Nintendo_Porn
3 months ago#4
Bump

Hoped someone remembered this story besides me here. >_>
N.P.C.C. (Nintendo Porn Company Conspiracy)
Truly Outrageous! The Truth Is Out There! http://i.imgur.com/dQqBtsL.gif http://i.imgur.com/pE4QiFK.jpg

User Info: Frozen_Robo-Ky

Frozen_Robo-Ky
3 months ago#5
I remember reading this about 16-17 years ago, so forgive me if my memory is a bit fuzzy. Was this an actual book? For some reason, I'm remembering it as a short story out of my English textbook.

I remember liking the story, if only because stories without a sappy happy ending were still novel to me at the time. I also appreciated that the ending wasn't super obvious, because you're given false hope that they'll be able to jettison enough stuff in order to save her life. Though IIRC, they jettisoned it too late and the exponential effects of acceleration meant that what might have been enough a few hours ago wasn't enough now.

There's definitely an impression that resources are scarce, but I perceived the "exactness" of everything as also being partly about efficiency. Space travel was so well-understood at the time that you didn't have to leave room for error, as there typically was none anymore. Why waste resources when you don't have to?

I agree that the girl should have known the consequences of her actions before she got on the ship (especially due to her brother's profession), but never underestimate the ignorance and/or arrogance of a teenager. I don't recall if she genuinely didn't know what happened to stowaways or if she took the mentality of "I'm sure it'll be fine", but either seem plausible given her age. I'm guessing she didn't know the science of why stowaways were jettisoned and thought it was just a punishment or something. Maybe she thought she was going up against human laws that she could weasel her way out of instead of the "cold equations" of physics.

As for why the pilot gave her special treatment, I don't recall enough about his character to say one way or another. I'm sure her gender played a part, but I assume her age did as well. And wasn't he pretty young himself? I imagine most people would balk at the prospect of having to immediately jettison a person into space, even if science dictated that it had to happen. The "needs of the many over the few" is an easy argument to make when you're removed from the situation, but when you're the person who has to pull the switch, I imagine it becomes a different story.

I recall wondering if the pilot would wind up sacrificing himself instead, but I'm not sure that would have been better. I seem to recall that they wound up jettisoning the medicine he was transporting in an attempt to save the girl, so not only has he possibly doomed the people who needed it, but he's going to get his ass chewed out (if not executed) when he lands. It was lose-lose for him regardless. Maybe he could have saved the day if he'd ejected some junk early enough in the trip (before the acceleration got too rough), but it was kind of a moot point by then.

I don't really have any final point to drive home or anything, other than that I enjoyed the story. I still think about it on occasion.
IN SPACE!
Bzzt.

User Info: Nintendo_Porn

Nintendo_Porn
3 months ago#6
- It was a short story in english class for me too.

- Remember how much emphasis was placed on the gender - had it been a man, preferably a fugitive looking to get lost on a planet it would have been easy, and him and his commander strongly imply they are use to this situation. Marilyn's age at the time is 18, wouldn't be an adult in my eyes. The age of the pilot i'm not sure came up.

- It's about both the scarceness, and efficiency with resources - one leading to the other. The book mentions the ships themselves are made of tape and bubblegum, and barely space worthy to make these trips. Under such conditions they are cheaping out for a reason.

= In her ignorance she intended to just pay her way when caught by cooking/cleaning on the way - her brother didn't tell her s*** over the years when he should have. It's possible he let the parents in on this, and she was kept out of that info as space is depicted as harsh in the story, and seeing as how he worked for the better part of a decade to support them all he wouldn't want her knowing that's how he got her through school.

- The laws of space compared to earth puts everyone at the mercy of the cold equation - not just the girl. Imagine how many he has spaced up till now? His commander scoffed at the stowaway still being on the ship till he told him it was a girl this time.

- Since it's short I recommend you take an hour to give it another read - it reminded me of why I love reading, and it took me for a ride even though i knew how it ended still.
N.P.C.C. (Nintendo Porn Company Conspiracy)
Truly Outrageous! The Truth Is Out There! http://i.imgur.com/dQqBtsL.gif http://i.imgur.com/pE4QiFK.jpg
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