Friday, August 5, 2011

Asimov's short stories: Marrooned Off Vesta

"Marooned Off Vesta " was the third science fiction story written by Asimov, and the first to be published. It appeared in Amazing Stories in its March 1939 issue (which arrived on news stands on January 10, 1939).

In beginning his science fiction career, Asimov had first written "Cosmic Corkscrew", which he completed on June 19, 1938 (after having worked on it, off an on, for 13 months). He brought it in to John Campbell, whom he had met some weeks earlier when he'd visited the Astounding offices in person to find out why the latest issue of that magazine was delayed. That story was rejected by Campbell and a couple of other magazines, and is now lost.

The second story Asimov completed was "Stowaway," which took him 18 days. He went to John Campbell's office a second time to submit the story, on July 18, 1938, and then stayed and talked to Campbell about science fiction for an hour. On the way home, he already was working out the idea for "Marooned Off Vesta."

The rejection letter for "Stowaway" came 4 days later, but Asimov was undeterred because Campbell went through a detailed critique of the story and why it was rejected. Asimov submitted it to Thrilling Wonder Stories on August 3, 1938.

Meantime, on July 30, 1938, eight days after Campbell had rejected "Stowaway", he completed "Marooned Off Vesta."

He also quickly completed two other stories, "The Irrational Planet" and "Ring Around the Sun." He did not feel "The Irrational Planet" worthy of Astouding, but submitted the others, which Campbell rejected.

Asimov kept on writing, and kept on submitting short stories.

Unlike Astounding, whose offices were in Mahattan, which Asimov could easily visit, the offices for Amazing were in Chicago.

On Friday, October 21, 1938, Asimov received a letter from editor Raymond Palmer informing him that "Marooned Off Vesta" had been accepted. The check for it arrived on October 31. Payment was a penny a word, the story was 6,400 words long, so the check was for $64.

Where to find it
Anthologized in:
Asimov's Mysteries (1968)
The Best of Isaac Asimov (1973)

Because this story had appeared in other anthologies, it was not included in The Early Asimov (1972) anthology, which consisted only of stories that had not been anthologized.

The Plot
Three men have survived the wreck of the spaceship Silver Queen in the Asteroid Belt and find themselves trapped in orbit around the asteroid Vesta.

The Silver Queen, in its wrecked state, now has three airtight rooms, one spacesuit, three days' worth of air, a week's supply of food, and a year's supply of water. The trapped men manage to use the limited resources at their disposal to rescue themselves.

The Sequel
In 1958, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the story's pubblication, Asimov wrote a sequel called "Anniversary", also set twenty years after the original story. Both stories appeared in the March 1959 issue of Amazing Stories.

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