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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Shoulders of Giants, by Robert J. Sawyer

  1. Star Colonies edited by Martin H. Greenberg and John Helfers (DAW Books, June 2000)
  2. Iterations, story collection by Robert J. Sawyer
  3. Relativity, story and essay collection by Robert J. Sawyer
  4. Escape Pod, audio read by Stephen Eley.
  5., author's website.
Summary: Colonists are bound aboard a generation starship to Tau Ceti, captained by both Toby (our narrator) and Ling Woo. They have been frozen for centuries only to discover the planet, that they had intended to settle, has already been settled when they arrive--for six generations. They are greeted as novelties--as relic celebrities since these colonists were born centuries before they were. The captains of the Pioneer Spirit ask for a new starship, to take them to Andromeda galaxy.

  • From the introduction, the author lists Michael T. Savage's The Millennial Project as saying, "[O]nly a fool would set out for a long space voyage on a generation ship."
  • Another source, thematic, is listed as a link in the fifth question.

  1. The first sentence--"It seemed like only yesterday when I'd died, but, of course, it was almost certainly centuries ago"--is known as a science-fiction sentence. Can you guess why? Context should supply the meaning, but you might have to read the whole story to find out how the sentence is meant. How can someone dead tell a story? The narrator, it becomes clear, is no zombie or vampire. What is meant by that sentence? The story never states the answer explicitly, but perhaps you've read or watched stories that have happened like this.
  2. What other uses do you think the name of the starship has in the story aside from being just a name? How does it reflect on the captains and the colonists they represent? How does this impact their reaction to being greeted and asked to stay on the planet circling Tau Ceti?
  3. What does the story's title refer to? Who originally said it, in what context, and for what purpose? How is the title meant by the first Tau Ceti colonists? How do the captains of the Pioneer Spirit change its meaning?
  4. How does the attitude of the Pioneer Spirit (question #2) impact the change of meaning in the title (question #3)?
  5. Can the title mean more than what the story is about? How might it be applied to your life today? The author comments on the application to his own life.
  6. If you can think of other possible questions , please let me/us know.
  • Science: As much as the story runs on a scientific concept, this is probably not a story that applies to the science curriculum. One possibility might be during the teaching of dimensional analysis or some other unit on measurement, but it is perhaps too long for what science it conveys. One might mention the story in passing, however.
  • English: Clearly the story has some thought-provoking elements, but it may be best suited for a science-fiction unit or as story choice for a student interested in science or science fiction.
  • If you can think of other possible uses, please let me/us know.

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