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"We were essentially being shell-shocked by rapid change. That was one of the things you needed science-fiction writers for back in the Sixties, because we could cope with the future."
- Peter Watts
||Wheelchair Space Station
||A home in space.
Waldo F. Jones developed myasthenia gravis as a child; it left him with only a few percent of the strength of an adult.
From childhood, the single great advantage of living in space was immediately apparent to him - there was no gravity!
|"...don't call Waldo's house "Wheelchair" - not to his face."
Waldo F. Jones seemed to be floating in thin air at the center of a spherical room. The appearance was caused by the fact that he was indeed floating in air. His house lay in a free orbit, with a period of just over twenty-four hours. No spin had been impressed on his home; the pseudo gravity of
centrifugal force was the thing he wanted least. He had left
Earth to get away from its gravitational field; he had not been down to the surface once in the seventeen years since his house was built and towed into her orbit; he never intended to do so for any purpose whatsoever.
Here, floating free in space in his own air-conditioned shell, he was almost free of the unbearable lifelong slavery to his impotent muscles. What little strength he had he could spend economically, in movement, rather than in fighting against the tearing, tiring weight of the Earth's thick field...
Waldo's home had been constructed
without any consideration being given to up-and-down.
Furniture and apparatus were affixed to any wall;
there was no 'floor'. Decks and platforms were
arranged at any convenient angle and of any size or
shape, since they had nothing to do with standing or
walking. Properly speaking, they were bulkheads and
working surfaces rather than decks. Furthermore,
equipment was not necessarily placed close to such
surfaces; frequently it was more convenient to
locate it with space all around it, held in place
by light guys or slender stanchions.
The furniture and equipment was all odd in design
and frequently odd in purpose. Most furniture on
Earth is extremely rugged, and at least 90 per cent
of it has a single purpose - to oppose, in one way
or another, the acceleration of gravity. Most of
the furniture in an Earth-surface - or subsurface -
house is stator machines intended to oppose
gravity. All tables, chairs, beds, couches,
clothing racks, shelves, drawers, et cetera, have
that as their one purpose. All other furniture
and equipment have it as a secondary purpose
which strongly conditions design and strength.
The lack of need for the rugged strength necessary
to all terrestrial equipment resulted in a
fairylike grace in much of the equipment in
Waldo's house. Stored supplies, massive in
themselves, could be retained in convenient order
by compartmentation of eggshell-thin transparent
plastic. Ponderous machinery, which on Earth would
necessarily be heavily cased and supported, was
here either open to the air or covered by gossamerlike
envelopes and held stationary by light elastic
Everywhere were pairs of waldoes, large, small, and
life-size, with vision pickups to match. It was
evident that Waldo could make use of the compartments
through which they were passing without stirring out
of his easy chair -~ if he used an easy chair. The
ubiquitous waldoes, the insubstantial quality of the
furniture, and the casual use of all walls as work or
storage surfaces, gave the place a madly fantastic air.
Stevens felt as if he were caught in a Disney.
So far the rooms were not living quarters. Stevens
wondered what Waldo's private apartments could be like
and tried to visualize what equipment would be
appropriate. No chairs, no rugs, no bed. Pictures,
perhaps. Something pretty clever in the way of indirect
lighting, since the eyes might be turned in any
by Robert Heinlein.
Published by Astounding Science Fiction in 1942
Additional resources -
As a space station, compare to the brick moon from The Brick Moon (1869) by Edward Everett Hale, the city of space from The Prince of Space (1931) by Jack Williamson, the New Moon Casino from One Against the Legion (1939) by Jack Williamson, the asteroid space station from Misfit (1939) by Robert Heinlein, the Venus Equilateral Relay Station from QRM - Interplanetary (1942) by George O. Smith, the space transfer station from Between Planets (1951) by Robert Heinlein, the Sargasso Asteroid from The Stars My Destination (1956) by Alfred Bester,
the tether space station from Tank Farm Dynamo (1983) by David Brin and the high orbit archipelago from Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988) by William Gibson.
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