The Cold Equations PDF - Overview
The Cold Equations is a science fiction short story by American writer Tom Godwin, first published in Astounding Magazine in August 1954. In 1970, the Science Fiction Writers of America selected it as one of the best science-fiction short stories published before 1965, and it was therefore included in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One, 1929–1964. The story has been widely anthologized and dramatized.
The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction points to A Plunge into Space as having a subplot very similar to The Cold Equations. A Weighty Decision (Al Feldstein in Weird Science, 1952) and the story Precedent (E. C. Tubb in New Worlds, 1952). also have been cited as potential inspirations. In all three, a stowaway must be ejected from a spaceship because the fuel aboard is only sufficient for the planned mission mass.
The Cold Equations
Summary of The Cold Equations
The story takes place entirely aboard an Emergency Dispatch Ship (EDS) headed for the frontier planet Woden with a load of desperately-needed medical supplies. The pilot, Barton, discovers a stowaway: an eighteen-year-old girl. By law, all EDS stowaways are to be jettisoned because EDS vessels carry no more fuel than is absolutely necessary to land safely at their destination.
The girl, Marilyn, merely wants to see her brother Gerry and was not aware of the law. When boarding the EDS, Marilyn saw the unauthorized personnel keep out sign, but thought she would at most have to pay a fine if she were caught.
Barton explains that her presence dooms the mission by exceeding the weight limit, and the subsequent crash would kill both of them and doom the colonists awaiting the medical supplies. After contacting her brother for the last moments of her life, Marilyn willingly walks into the airlock and is ejected into space.