Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Arthur Clarke's "Death and the Senator" (short story, space hospitals, free): Certain heart ailments may be best treated in a zero gravity environment

Quote from short story titled Death and the Senator by Arthur C ClarkeThis is a bit unusual among Clarke's stories in that a lot of text goes into human relationships that don't have anything to do with science fictional aspects of the story.

Story summary.

When Martin Steelman, long-term US senator & likely candidate for next presidential elections in 1976, learned he was suffering from a fatal heart disease & had only months to live, he finally began paying attention to his family - daughter's family including grandchildren, & estranged wife. And began preparing for the end.

When the news got out, he was approached by Dr Harkness, Technical Director of NASA. Soviets apparently have a small treatment facility up in orbit as part of research laboratory called Mechnikov Station, & probably magic can happen when his heart doesn't have to work against earth's gravity during treatment. Russians are also willing to help.

Turns out, it was primarily opposition from Steelman as a member of US Senate Committee on Astronautics that had killed NASA's efforts at setting up an Astrobiology Lab in space that might have given US a similar capability. Part out of guilt, & part out of altruism, senator will refuse treatment & die quietly.

Collected in.

  1. "The Collected Stories of Arthur C Clarke".
  2. Arthur Clarke's "More Than One Universe" (collection).
  3. Arthur Clarke's "Tales of Ten Worlds" (collection).

Fact sheet.

First published: Analog, May 1961.
Rating: A.
Read online at wowio (no free download). Note their interface requires more than a half dozen clicks before the story text shows up.
Listed among the stories from John Campbell's Astounding/Analog.
Related: Arthur Clarke's short stories, novels, collections, best of.