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Thursday, December 26, 2013

"Wait It Out" by Larry Niven

First published in Future Unbounded Science Fiction Show and Convention Program Book. Reprinted by Robert Silverberg, Charles G. Waugh, Isaac Asimov, and Martin Harry Greenberg.  This forms a part of Larry Niven's future history series, Known Space.  Caveat:  I will "ruin" some of these Larry Niven stories as it is impossible to discuss the science without revealing the key plot points.

Who wouldn't want to be the first to walk on Pluto?  Not you if its surface melts when your ship come in contact with it and hardens as the hull sinks halfway down.  The astronauts are trapped on Pluto and may have to wait years before a new ship comes.  All you have for electricity is a battery that's dying.

They encounter a helium-amoeba alien that sounds much like the one on Mercury ("The Coldest Place").  One astronaut removes his helmet and dies.  The other, though, decides too leap out in his underwear and hope that he's cryonically preserved.  He freezes and at night when it's super cold, he becomes a superconductor and can think and feel once more if not move.  Years pass in a blink.  He waits.

This carries resonance with some classic SF like Harry Bates' "Farewell to the Master"--not to mention some cool if out-there ideas.  I'm surprised it hasn't been collected more often.

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