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," also known as "Thirty Seconds Thirty Days
," is a short story by Arthur C. Clarke
Sir Arthur Charles Clarke, CBE, FRAS was a British science fiction author, inventor, and futurist, famous for his short stories and novels, among them 2001: A Space Odyssey, and as a host and commentator in the British television series Mysterious World. For many years, Robert A. Heinlein,...
, first published in 1949
The year 1949 in literature involved some significant events and new books.-Events:*Arthur C. Clarke becomes Assistant Editor of Science Abstracts.*Bertrand Russell receives the Order of Merit....
. It was adapted into a movie in 1994 under the title Trapped in Space
This shipwreck survival drama involves a space freighter on Earth/Venus run. A meteor hit during the middle of the voyage has drained most on-board oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...
supplies. The two crew members (Grant and McNeil) realize they will not have enough oxygen to complete the trip. At first they attempt to empty all their cargo in an effort to speed up the voyage. This produces no tangible results, so they are forced to improvise.
The two crew members live a few days in exclusion from each other, independently considering plans for survival. The story is primarily told from Grant's perspective (the ship's captain), who becomes frustrated with McNeil's apparent inconsiderate behavior. Eventually Grant realizes that there is enough oxygen on-board for one crew member to finish the trip. He struggles with the idea of deciding who will live or die, though all the while believes he has more to live for than his seemingly selfish partner. As he becomes more and more frustrated with his crew mate, he decides to poison McNeil in order to save himself. Grant poisons McNeil's drink and sits down to a meal with him, waiting for him to die. However, it is soon discovered that McNeil foresaw the murder and replaced the ship's poison with a salty liquid, so that he could detect its presence if Grant tried to use it.
McNeil confronts Grant on the subject of suicide or homicide and the two men agree that an agreement must be made to decide who will die and who will live. The short story ends with a retrospective retelling of the decision process by McNeil (the survivor), who is rescued after being alone aboard his space freighter for three weeks.
The ship in "Breaking Strain" shares several similarities with Discovery One
United States Spacecraft Discovery One is a fictional spacecraft appearing in The Space Odyssey series, including the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. Discovery One is a large, nuclear-powered interplanetary spaceship.-History:...
in 2001: A Space Odyssey
2001: A Space Odyssey is a science fiction novel by Arthur C. Clarke. It was developed concurrently with Stanley Kubrick's film version and published after the release of the film...
. Both ships have a spherical command module which is located a great distance away from the engines of the ship, connected by a long spine.
The story was the inspiration for Breaking Strain
, the first novel in the Venus Prime
Venus Prime is a series of six science fiction novels written by Paul Preuss, based on characters and locations in Arthur C. Clarke's short stories....
series by Paul Preuss.
"Breaking Strain" was included under that title in Clarke's anthology Expedition to Earth
Expedition to Earth is a collection of science fiction short stories by Arthur C. Clarke.There are at least two variants of this book's table of contents - in different editions of the book . Both variants include the stories History Lesson and Encounter in the Dawn...
, published in 1953, as well as The Sentinel
The Sentinel is a collection of science fiction short stories by Arthur C. Clarke originally published in 1983.The stories, written between 1946 and 1981 originally appeared in a number of magazines including Astounding, Famous Fantastic Mysteries, Thrilling Wonder Stories, Ten Story Fantasy,...
, published in 1983.