“First Man in a Satellite,” Charles W Runyon, 1958

“First Man in a Satellite,” Charles W Runyon, 1958 — The first manned satellite requires a little person as pilot; they want human data, not data from an animal or machine.  They find a potential pilot in a circus; he reluctantly leaves his love, also a little person.  All his life he’s been treated like a child, he muses, now he’s one step up from a lab rat.  And yet the project has an allure for him.

During the mission, a meteorite hits the satellite, disabling the remote controls. He tries to pilot the satellite manually but his frequent lapses into unconsciousness prevent him from starting his re-entry in the necessary window of time.  The administrators of the program find his sweetheart and put her on the line with him during one of his blackouts; when he awakes, she explains that he’s not going to make it.  She promises to talk to him until the end.

Comments:  Interesting passage in which he notes that his love is always clearly recognizable as an adult female in miniature, and no one ever mistook her for a child.  Read in Tales of Superscience.

Runyon comments on his first sale in this interview: “Of course; it was a short story called “First Man in a Satellite” to Super Science Fiction in 1958 – almost fifty years ago! This was about the time the Russians sent up Sputnik so I was undeservedly credited with being a harbinger of the Space Age. I got a personal rejection from John W. Campbell [editor at Astounding SF], with his signature slanting across the bottom of the page as if tracing the path of a tumbling tumbleweed. He disparaged the whole idea of a midget in a space ship, adding that Lester del Rey had already done it – better. Editors didn’t care about writer’s sensibilities in those days. I still treasure the letter.”


About jennre

Lifelong sf fan, first-time blogger
This entry was posted in 1946-1959, astronauts, death/immortality, difference/tolerance, disability, freaks/misfits, gender, love/family/children, masculinity, mourning/grief, scientific ethics, the Other, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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