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Critics of the story point out that the writer, Tom Godwin, unnecessarily stacked the deck against the girl.Why was it necessary to design the shuttle with such a slim margin of error?
She spends the rest of the story waiting to die, while the pilot reflects on the cold, harsh reality of the universe. I began reading it during class, during the teacher’s lecture, and quickly forgot about the lecture. This was long before cold-blooded authors like George R. Martin began killing off our favourite novel and television characters with impunity. I kept waiting for her to be saved, and was utterly gobsmacked when she was finally jettisoned from the space shuttle.
Reading the story as a teen-ager, I had never encountered such a brutal ending before. But Dave felt strongly that we needed more tension, more suspense, so for my version of the story I concocted a storyline where there was some slim hope that another ship (the Stardust) would catch up with the emergency shuttle and rescue Marilyn. In the original story, Marilyn was older, in her late teens.
Usually we scavenged lines from other takes of the same scene.
I mixed the twenty-five minute long play in a single day in Sound Effects Three, my favourite mixing studio.
Oh, and allegations that he borrowed the idea from a story published in EC Comics’ Weird Science #13 . An embarrassing amount of actors showed up for the casting call (we auditioned for both radio plays included in Faster Than Light at the same time, The Cold Equations and Captain’s Away).
Anyway, Campbell recognized the true power of the story: the idea that the universe is impartial. Reading it back in high school, I glimpsed, perhaps for the first time in my life, a sense of the implacability of the universe. Ultimately we cast Matthew Mac Fadzean (not to be confused with British actor Matthew Macfadyen) in the role of the shuttle pilot, and Vivian Endicott-Douglas as the young stowaway Marilyn.Sergio Dizio played the Clerk and Jennifer Dean one of the surveyors.Julia Tait was our casting director (replacing regular CBC Radio Drama Casting Director Linda Grearson, who, I believe, was subbing for Deputy Head James Roy at the time). I have to single out Vivian, though, who was extra-ordinary.We did four takes and were running out of time—we only had the actors for so long. Just before production wrapped for the day we came back to that problematic scene and did two more takes.Matthew finally nailed the tone, sounding troubled yet together.The Cold Equations is a short story by Tom Godwin, first published in Astounding Magazine in August 1954. The story’s about a teen-aged girl named Marilyn Lee Cross who stows away on an emergency space shuttle with disastrous results.You might want to read it before we go any further. I chose it as one of the two radio dramas we included in our science fiction radio pilot Faster Than Light.I reduced her age to thirteen to make it more believable that she would do something so ill-considered as to sneak onto an emergency shuttle without understanding the consequences.This also injected a little more pathos into the story. Something she said (unfortunately, I don’t remember what, exactly) made me realize that the pilot didn’t need to talk or think after ejecting Marilyn from the shuttle. It allowed me to cut a bunch of extraneous boring dialogue and get on with the emotion of the scene.In the story, Marilyn just wants to visit her brother on a nearby planet.The emergency shuttle is delivering critical medical supplies to sick miners on that planet.