Survival Ship

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Merril, Judith. "Survival Ship." Worlds Beyond 1.2 (Jan. 1951): 59 f. Collected Survival Ship and Other Stories. Kakabeka Falls, Ontario? Kakabeka Publishing, 1974. For frequent reprints see Internet Speculative Fiction Database, as of June 2022, here.[1]

Generation Starship story with a feminist twist. Summarized on the website Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations: Reviews to Vitage Science Fiction (1950s to mid-1980s), 27 Feb. 2021.

“Survival Ship” (1951), 3.5/5 (Good): The Survival, “the greatest spaceship ever engineered,” blasts off on a fifteen-year journey to Sirius (9). But there’s a secret! The millions of well-wishers do not know the real identities of the twenty four crew. The world followed the details of the mission preparation: from detailed requirements and proficiencies to the rigorous training. Each crew received a nickname and the public obsessed over their “small characteristics and personal idiosyncrasies” (9).

After launch, the twenty women awake and go about their duties. They inspect the hydroponics bays, the engines, the control mechanisms. In this future, women are deemed more suitable for command positions. Captain Melnick reminds the women, “we are hardier, longer-lived, less susceptible to pain and illness, better able to withstand, mentally, the difficulties of life of monotony” (15). The four men would be the fathers of the next generation and parenting would be shared in non-traditional family groups (15).

Merril deliberately withholds pronouns until the last few pages.[2]


Story continued in Merril's "Wish Upon a Star," Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction Dec. 1958. Collected Survival Ship and Other Stories (see above). As of June 2022 available on line here.[3] Reviewed on the Classics of Science Fiction website, 9 December 2019, as of June 2022 available here.[4]

RDE, finishing, 18Jun22