‘Down And Out On Ellfive’ by Dean Ing
There is a straight line from Heinlein to Ing and nothing much has changed in the thirty years between ‘It’s Great To Be Back’ and ‘Down And Out On Ellfive’. The concerns are the same – that resourceful men must be left alone to be resourceful – and there have been no advances in either literary quality or social awareness. One character is sketched as a “soulful” “little Brazilian” with an “olive face” (p. 185) whilst another is dismissed in passing as a “lissome widow” (p. 187). The former dies, the latter is the subject of a sexual innuendo.
Ellfive is, of course, L5 and the plot centres on an accident that threatens a space habitat. The mechanics of the accident are dwelt on at length with the requisite hardness but no such rigour is applied to the plausibility of it actually occurring. Apparently hard-headed space corporations no longer carry out risk assessments or basic health and safety checks in the future, despite working in the most hostile environment imaginable.
The accident is only there in order to bring together a meeting between two of our beloved resourceful men who then predictably match their manly wits. In the course of which we learn that libertarianism is the key to immortality:
“You know what hurts? You’re nearly my age and look ten years younger. How?”
It wasn’t a specific exercise, Zen explained. It was attitude. “You’re careworn,” he sniffed. “Beat your brains out for idling plutocrats fifty weeks a year and then wonder why you age faster than I do.” Wondering headshake.
Someone tell Gok Wan.