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Archive for August 31st, 2011

The Dumb Equations

I was hanging out in the SFWA Suite at WorldCon the other week, eating peanuts and squinting at name tags, and a small group of affable looking folks started talking about Tom Godwin’s “The Cold Equations, ” the old classic about the girl who gets blown out of the airlock for the crime of being excess mass.  They were going on about how moving the story is, how sad, how science fiction-y, in apparent tacit consensus that the story was about what the story purported to be about — that the laws of physics don’t give a rat’s ass about us miserable humans, that the needs of the many outweigh the importance of an individual life, etc.  If you’ve been around the field for any length of time, you’ve heard this big steaming crock before.  I made the mistake of suggesting that there’s an alternate text embedded in the story, that you could look at it as a ham-handed bit of clockwork to justify a violently sadistic and misogynistic outcome.  Also not a new interpretation, but interesting and certainly worthy of consideration.   I mean, once you strip away the plot and logic holes, there’s not much left but this guy murdering a girl “because he has to.”  Well, if Hotel California hadn’t been playing at full blast, you could have heard a pin drop.  Ha-ha.  Well, never mind.  It’s all good.  Damn, no more Diet Coke in the ice bucket — I guess I’m outta here.  Nice talking to y’all.  The moral of the story is, I guess, that if you’re gonna mess with peoples’ sacred cows, you’re gonna piss ’em off, that there’s nothing rational about that even if the subject itself is rationality, and if you don’t want to tangle with that shit, you should probably just shut up and have another peanut.

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