Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Eric Frank Russell's "A Little Oil" (novelette): Even precision machinery needs a bit of lubricating!

Most stories on this theme tend to be melancholy - a very few people, packed together in a small spaceship for years, with little hope of ever locating home, cracking up one after the other. This one, on the other hand, is sometimes funny, & made me laugh once.

There is something here I don't think I've seen in this kind of stories before: main thing driving the crew crazy is noise the ship's drive is making - relentless, day after day, with no respite for years.

Story summary.

First 2 manned starships never returned. Story is set on 3rd one - 4 years out from earth - 2 of them going to an unnamed target star, 2 returning. Sol should have been located by now & is not, & everyone seems to be cracking up. Everyone, that is, except ...


  1. Title comes from analogy to a precision machine - cogs & wheels working together generate friction - so you oil the interfaces to cut friction. Here precision components are highly skilled crew members, & oil is...
  2. There was "a film offer by Metro Goldwyn Mayer, MGM, for A Little Oil". Looks like the movie never came through. 

Collected in.

  1. "Major Ingredients" (ed Rick Katze). 

Fact sheet.

First published: Galaxy, October 1952.
Rating: B.
Related: Stories of Eric Frank Russell (annotated list).