Haunted by passage describing space shuttle crash from Niven's "Inferno"

67 views
Skip to first unread message

Jamie Schrumpf

unread,
Feb 21, 2003, 12:15:25 AM2/21/03
to
Somewhere in Larry Niven's and Jerry Pournelle's "Inferno", at the point
where Carpenter builds the glider to fly over the wall of Dis (?), he runs
into a space shuttle pilot whose shuttle burned up on re-entry.

Since 01 Feb. I've been haunted by that passage, a couple of paragraphs
long, where the pilot briefly describes the breakup. Unfortunately all my
books are packed up to a home remodeling project, and I can't look up the
passage.

In the interests of SF predictive ability, and if it's not too offensive (I
can't remember the pilot's description exactly), would it possible for
someone to post the paragraph or two in question? I'm very curious to re-
read how Niven described the event 23 years before it finally occurred.

--
-------------------------------------------------------------------------
James Schrumpf
http://users.adelphia.net/~jaschrumpf

Dorothy J Heydt

unread,
Feb 21, 2003, 12:38:36 AM2/21/03
to
In article <Xns93292B475222ja...@24.48.107.54>,

Jamie Schrumpf <jaNOSPAM...@yahoo.com> wrote:
>Somewhere in Larry Niven's and Jerry Pournelle's "Inferno", at the point
>where Carpenter builds the glider to fly over the wall of Dis (?), he runs
>into a space shuttle pilot whose shuttle burned up on re-entry.

Found.

"One of those days," Corbett said. "First, a twenty-six hour
hold while we replaced one of the solid boosters. That was only
irritating. We lost one of the three main motors going up. Then
after we made orbit one of the fuel tank clamps jammed. Either
of you know what a space shuttle looks like?"

"Yes." "No."

"Well, the tank is big and bulky and cheap. We carry the main
motors down aboard the dart, the winged section, but we leave the
tank to burn up in the atmosphere. If we couldn't get the tank
loose there wouldn't have been any point in going down."

"Did you?"

"Sure. We fired the orbital motors in bursts until the clamp
sprung open and let us loose. Then we had to use more fuel to
get back to our orbit. We were supposed to dump cargo and change
orbit, but there wasn't enough fuel. We had to go down."

"What happened?"

"I don't know. I spacewalked out and looked at the fuel tank
clamp. I swear there was nothing wrong. But maybe the metal
fatigued, or maybe the hatch over the clamp lock got twisted--
anyway, we were halfway down and going like a meteor when we got
a burnthrough under the nose. I heard the maintenance techs--
they were the cargo I couldn't jettison-- screaming in the
instrument room, then the whole nose peeled back in front of me.
I woke up by that ferryboat. The crowd pushed me along to Minos,
and he threw me into the whirlwind."

"Why?"

"Being a shuttle pilot carries a lot of prestige. The girls
liked me."

Dorothy J. Heydt
Albany, California
djh...@kithrup.com
http://www.kithrup.com/~djheydt

Fred Galvin

unread,
Feb 21, 2003, 1:08:25 AM2/21/03
to
On Fri, 21 Feb 2003, Jamie Schrumpf wrote:

> Somewhere in Larry Niven's and Jerry Pournelle's "Inferno", at the point
> where Carpenter builds the glider to fly over the wall of Dis (?), he runs
> into a space shuttle pilot whose shuttle burned up on re-entry.
>
> Since 01 Feb. I've been haunted by that passage, a couple of paragraphs
> long, where the pilot briefly describes the breakup. Unfortunately all my
> books are packed up to a home remodeling project, and I can't look up the
> passage.
>
> In the interests of SF predictive ability, and if it's not too offensive (I
> can't remember the pilot's description exactly), would it possible for
> someone to post the paragraph or two in question? I'm very curious to re-
> read how Niven described the event 23 years before it finally occurred.

It's on pp. 100-101 of my copy (Pocket Books, 1976).

The stranger chortled. "Jerome Leigh Corbett, at your service. I
was a space-shuttle pilot. I had a dozen flights on my record, and
then . . . You ever have one of those days?"
[. . .]
"One of those days," Corbett said. "First, a twenty-six-hour orbit


hold while we replaced one of the solid boosters. That was only
irritating. We lost one of the three main motors going up. Then after
we made orbit one of the fuel tank clamps jammed. Either of you know
what a space shuttle looks like?

[. . .]


"Well, the tank is big and bulky and cheap. We carry the main
motors down aboard the dart, the winged section, but we leave the tank
to burn up in the atmosphere. If we couldn't get the tank loose there
wouldn't have been any point in going down."
"Did you?"

"Sure. We fired the orbital motors in bursts until the clamp sprang


open and let us loose. Then we had to use more fuel to get back to our
orbit. We were supposed to dump cargo and change orbit, but there
wasn't enough fuel. We had to go down."

Benito was looking totally confused. It must have been gibberish to
him. I asked, "What happened?"


"I don't know. I spacewalked out and looked at the fuel tank clamp.
I swear there was nothing wrong. But maybe the metal fatigued, or

maybe the hatch over the clamp lock got twisted--anyway, we were


halfway down and going like a meteor when we got a burnthrough under

the nose. I heard the maintenance techs--they wee the cargo I couldn't
jettison--screaming in the instrument room, then the whole nose peeled

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Feb 21, 2003, 1:27:52 AM2/21/03
to
Here, Dorothy J Heydt <djh...@kithrup.com> wrote:

> [Niven:]
> [...] anyway, we were halfway down and going like a meteor when we


> got a burnthrough under the nose. I heard the maintenance techs--
> they were the cargo I couldn't jettison-- screaming in the
> instrument room, then the whole nose peeled back in front of me.

Hell, that image has been floating around in my mind, too. I forgot
whose it was.

Thanks.

--Z

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."
*
* Make your vote count. Get your vote counted.

Htn963

unread,
Feb 21, 2003, 7:55:46 AM2/21/03
to
Jamie Schrumpf wrote:

>In the interests of SF predictive ability, and if it's not too offensive

I do find it very offensive. Remember how some news cameras zoomed it for
a close-up of an elderly man's face as he watched his daughter died in the
first shuttle explosion? There are some things that should not be said or done
so soon after an event, no matter how well intentioned, sensitive, or eloquent
they may be. Discussing what the experience may be like for those in an
exploding space shuttle right now is in extreme bad taste.

Whether you should or should not have identified with or feel grief for
people you don't even know -- which has been fruitlessly yammered about here --
is a different issue. But at least have respect for those who died and their
families and friends and shut the fuck up. Thank you.


--
Ht

|Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore
never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
--John Donne, "Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions"|

Roger Christie

unread,
Feb 21, 2003, 1:18:18 PM2/21/03
to

"Htn963" <htn...@cs.com> wrote in message
news:20030221075546...@mb-fe.news.cs.com...

> Jamie Schrumpf wrote:
>
> >In the interests of SF predictive ability, and if it's not too offensive
>
> I do find it very offensive. Remember how some news cameras zoomed
it for
> a close-up of an elderly man's face as he watched his daughter died in the
> first shuttle explosion? There are some things that should not be said or
done
> so soon after an event, no matter how well intentioned, sensitive, or
eloquent
> they may be. Discussing what the experience may be like for those in an
> exploding space shuttle right now is in extreme bad taste.
>
> Whether you should or should not have identified with or feel grief
for
> people you don't even know -- which has been fruitlessly yammered about
here --
> is a different issue. But at least have respect for those who died and
their
> families and friends and shut the fuck up. Thank you.
>

This strikes me as ludicrously oversensitive. If you don't want to see it,
don't read
the damn posts. The subject is clearly spelled out.


Lee

unread,
Feb 21, 2003, 5:25:23 AM2/21/03
to

Htn963 wrote:

> I do find it very offensive.
>

<snip>

There's an expression, something about not talking about rope in a
hanged man's house, so if you'ld rather not talk about it,
fine, peace be upon you.

But if you want to bully other people into not talking about it, then
I'm with Roger. Pull your socks up!


Norville

unread,
Feb 21, 2003, 10:03:45 PM2/21/03
to
In article <20030221075546...@mb-fe.news.cs.com>,

htn...@cs.com (Htn963) wrote:
>Jamie Schrumpf wrote:
>>In the interests of SF predictive ability, and if it's not too offensive
>
> I do find it very offensive.

Oy. Would you find it horribly offensive to note that Stephen Baxter
destroyed COLUMBIA in 2004 in a re-entry crash, in _Titan_? For that
matter, COLUMBIA was destroyed in a crash in S. V. Date's technothriller
murder mystery, _Final Orbit_. I'm creeped out by both.

> Remember how some news cameras zoomed it for
> a close-up of an elderly man's face as he watched his daughter died in the
> first shuttle explosion?

I remember a lot of inappropriate media reaction to CHALLENGER, believe
me. They fed on that like vultures.

> There are some things that should not be said or done
> so soon after an event, no matter how well intentioned, sensitive, or
eloquent
> they may be. Discussing what the experience may be like for those in an
> exploding space shuttle right now is in extreme bad taste.

Oh, please. Ignore it or kill-file it, then. Let other people talk about
it if they wish. It's a good thing you haven't gone to sci.space.shuttle,
as COLUMBIA is virtually all they've discussed since Feb. 1. (If you want
bad taste, note the conspiracy theorists ranting on that group.)

> Whether you should or should not have identified with or feel grief for
> people you don't even know -- which has been fruitlessly yammered about
here --
> is a different issue.

I mourned for CHALLENGER. I've mourned for COLUMBIA, though it didn't hit
me nearly as hard; perhaps it's exhaustion from having reacted so strongly
to September 11, 2001? Perhaps I was expecting another accident and
thought we were way overdue?

> But at least have respect for those who died and their
> families and friends and shut the fuck up. Thank you.

You might want to take your own advice, thanks.

--
...ten.cinos@ellivron...
"...To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."
<*> "Ulysses" by Tennyson <*>
Salute Space Shuttle COLUMBIA, 1981-2003

Jamie Schrumpf

unread,
Feb 22, 2003, 3:16:12 AM2/22/03
to
Fred Galvin amazed everyone in rec.arts.sf.written by posting:

Thanks for posting. I only hope that it might have been as painless and
sudden as that. NASA is indicating that they might have had as much as
20 seconds to realize what was happening, which is more than I hope to
ever have in such a situation.

OTOH, I was expecting this at the first Columbia landing which I watched
at work 'way back then. When my wife woke me on this recent Saturday
morning with the words "Columbia's exploded coming back in...it's burning
up on re-entry," and I watched the contrail breaking up into pieces on
replay, I only had a feeling of "well, it's finally happened."

Alan Gore

unread,
Feb 22, 2003, 2:57:52 PM2/22/03
to
htn...@cs.com (Htn963) wrote:

> I do find it very offensive. Remember how some news cameras zoomed it for
>a close-up of an elderly man's face as he watched his daughter died in the
>first shuttle explosion? There are some things that should not be said or done
>so soon after an event, no matter how well intentioned, sensitive, or eloquent
>they may be. Discussing what the experience may be like for those in an
>exploding space shuttle right now is in extreme bad taste.

You might want to bear in mind that Niven and Pournelle wrote this
before the first Shuttle ever flew!

ag...@qwest.net | "Giving money and power to the government
Alan Gore | is like giving whiskey and car keys
Software For PC's, Inc. | to teenaged boys" - P. J. O'Rourke
http://www.alangore.com

Robert Carnegie

unread,
Feb 22, 2003, 6:00:28 AM2/22/03
to
In article <Xns932A215DE245Aja...@24.48.
107.54>, Jamie Schrumpf <jaNOSPAM...@yahoo.com>
writes

>Thanks for posting. I only hope that it might have been as painless and
>sudden as that. NASA is indicating that they might have had as much as
>20 seconds to realize what was happening, which is more than I hope to
>ever have in such a situation.

Don't dwell on it. You could get trapped in a crashed burning
automobile. There are so many horrid ways to die, and each of us
is going to die some way. What matters is living well. A good life
is your responsibility. Your death isn't. Usually it doesn't even
take too long, so why rehearse it mentally? Your friends won't
congratulate you afterwards on how well you did it. There's no
need to practise.

Robert Carnegie at home, rja.ca...@excite.com at large
--
"Shabab Indian Takeaway. Opening Wednesday the 13th of April.
Just two minutes from Whiston Hospital."

Karl M Syring

unread,
Feb 22, 2003, 5:06:30 PM2/22/03
to
Robert Carnegie wrote on Sat, 22 Feb 2003 11:00:28 +0000:
> In article <Xns932A215DE245Aja...@24.48.
> 107.54>, Jamie Schrumpf <jaNOSPAM...@yahoo.com>
> writes
>
>>Thanks for posting. I only hope that it might have been as painless and
>>sudden as that. NASA is indicating that they might have had as much as
>>20 seconds to realize what was happening, which is more than I hope to
>>ever have in such a situation.
>
> Don't dwell on it. You could get trapped in a crashed burning
> automobile. There are so many horrid ways to die, and each of us
> is going to die some way. What matters is living well. A good life
> is your responsibility. Your death isn't. Usually it doesn't even
> take too long, so why rehearse it mentally? Your friends won't
> congratulate you afterwards on how well you did it. There's no
> need to practise.

The human brain takes care of the problem automatically. You
do not feel anything special while you think "Now it time for
the coffin". (Yes, it feels like it is minutes, when it only
takes seconds in real time). The shock comes afterwards,
if you are happy enough to survive.

Karl M. Syring

James Nicoll

unread,
Feb 22, 2003, 5:18:37 PM2/22/03
to
In article <b38s93$1jej65$1...@ID-7529.news.dfncis.de>,
I find this varies considerably from near-death experience
to near-death experience. For example, having a wandering loonie
break down the door of my game store to look for women was so funny
the entire concussion and pools of blood thing was a minor footnote.
Being sucked out into the Atlantic by an undertow was deeply irritating.
Having a snowback collapse on me was alarming because of the claustro-
phobia issue. The car wreck was over almost before I had time to realise
what was happening.
--
"Repress the urge to sprout wings or self-ignite!...This man's an
Episcopalian!...They have definite views."

Pibgorn Oct 31/02

Ian A. York

unread,
Feb 22, 2003, 5:35:21 PM2/22/03
to
In article <b38svt$o0u$1...@panix1.panix.com>,

James Nicoll <jdni...@panix.com> wrote:
>>
> I find this varies considerably from near-death experience
>to near-death experience. For example, having a wandering loonie
>break down the door of my game store to look for women was so funny
>the entire concussion and pools of blood thing was a minor footnote.
>Being sucked out into the Atlantic by an undertow was deeply irritating.
>Having a snowback collapse on me was alarming because of the claustro-
>phobia issue. The car wreck was over almost before I had time to realise
>what was happening.

Don't get the wrong idea here, people. Even for James that was a busy
day.

Ian
--
Ian York (iay...@panix.com) <http://www.panix.com/~iayork/>
"-but as he was a York, I am rather inclined to suppose him a
very respectable Man." -Jane Austen, The History of England

Karl M Syring

unread,
Feb 22, 2003, 5:54:19 PM2/22/03
to
James Nicoll wrote on 22 Feb 2003 17:18:37 -0500:
> I find this varies considerably from near-death experience
> to near-death experience. For example, having a wandering loonie
> break down the door of my game store to look for women was so funny
> the entire concussion and pools of blood thing was a minor footnote.
> Being sucked out into the Atlantic by an undertow was deeply irritating.
> Having a snowback collapse on me was alarming because of the claustro-
> phobia issue. The car wreck was over almost before I had time to realise
> what was happening.

Could you write a book about that? I would propose some kind
of life-style book, title is "Thousand ways to escape the
grim reaper".

Karl M. Syring

phil hunt

unread,
Feb 22, 2003, 6:33:33 PM2/22/03
to
On Sat, 22 Feb 2003 22:35:21 +0000 (UTC), Ian A. York <iay...@panix.com> wrote:
>In article <b38svt$o0u$1...@panix1.panix.com>,
>James Nicoll <jdni...@panix.com> wrote:
>>>
>> I find this varies considerably from near-death experience
>>to near-death experience. For example, having a wandering loonie
>>break down the door of my game store to look for women was so funny
>>the entire concussion and pools of blood thing was a minor footnote.
>>Being sucked out into the Atlantic by an undertow was deeply irritating.
>>Having a snowback collapse on me was alarming because of the claustro-
>>phobia issue. The car wreck was over almost before I had time to realise
>>what was happening.
>
>Don't get the wrong idea here, people. Even for James that was a busy
>day.

LOL

Funniest thing I've read all day.

--
|*|*| Philip Hunt <ph...@cabalamat.org> |*|*|
|*|*| "Memes are a hoax; pass it on" |*|*|

David Kennedy

unread,
Feb 22, 2003, 7:33:40 PM2/22/03
to
James Nicoll <jdni...@panix.com> wrote:
> I find this varies considerably from near-death experience
> to near-death experience. For example, having a wandering loonie
> break down the door of my game store to look for women was so funny
> the entire concussion and pools of blood thing was a minor footnote.
> Being sucked out into the Atlantic by an undertow was deeply irritating.
> Having a snowback collapse on me was alarming because of the claustro-
> phobia issue. The car wreck was over almost before I had time to realise
> what was happening.

And this, ladies and gents, is one of the reasons I love this
group. James, please, please, just before you die, write your
memoirs. It'll be a comic classic. Millions will dismiss it
as fiction.

(On the other hand, how would you know when to start?)
--
David Kennedy

Mark Jones

unread,
Feb 22, 2003, 8:21:27 PM2/22/03
to
On 22 Feb 2003 22:54:19 GMT, beaten and sobbing, Karl M Syring
<syr...@email.com>' confessed:

Or a follow-up to "The Disaster Survival Handbook", which was (I'm
sure) written by a bunch of theoreticians. This could be the "No
shit, there I was..." companion book written by the guy who'se DONE
(and survived) all the disasters he describes.
--

"It will let you do things nobody else can do, see things nobody else can see."
"_Real_ things?"
--Egg Shen and Jack Burton

Robert Carnegie

unread,
Feb 23, 2003, 2:13:41 AM2/23/03
to
In article <b38v2r$1j8jo5$1...@ID-7529.news.dfncis.de>, Karl M
Syring <syr...@email.com> writes

>James Nicoll wrote on 22 Feb 2003 17:18:37 -0500:
>> I find this varies considerably from near-death experience
>> to near-death experience. For example, having a wandering loonie
>> break down the door of my game store to look for women was so funny
>> the entire concussion and pools of blood thing was a minor footnote.
>> Being sucked out into the Atlantic by an undertow was deeply irritating.
>> Having a snowback collapse on me was alarming because of the
>claustro-
>> phobia issue. The car wreck was over almost before I had time to
>realise
>> what was happening.

I should have remembered that the heroic Mr. Nicoll might be
reading. Now I'm just sitting here holding my manhood, or
whatever it was Shakespeare said in _Henry the Fifth_. :-)

>Could you write a book about that? I would propose some kind
>of life-style book, title is "Thousand ways to escape the
>grim reaper".

I think "Worst Case Scenarios" is already taken...

Peter D. Tillman

unread,
Feb 23, 2003, 11:34:55 AM2/23/03
to
In article <b38svt$o0u$1...@panix1.panix.com>,
jdni...@panix.com (James Nicoll) wrote:

> In article <b38s93$1jej65$1...@ID-7529.news.dfncis.de>,
> Karl M Syring <syr...@email.com> wrote:

> >
> >The human brain takes care of the problem automatically. You
> >do not feel anything special while you think "Now it time for
> >the coffin".

Or, as Joe Haldeman put it, "well, time to shut down..."

> >(Yes, it feels like it is minutes, when it only
> >takes seconds in real time). The shock comes afterwards,
> >if you are happy enough to survive.
> >

> I find this varies considerably from near-death experience
> to near-death experience. For example, having a wandering loonie
> break down the door of my game store to look for women was so funny
> the entire concussion and pools of blood thing was a minor footnote.
> Being sucked out into the Atlantic by an undertow was deeply irritating.
> Having a snowback collapse on me was alarming because of the claustro-
> phobia issue. The car wreck was over almost before I had time to realise
> what was happening.

Have you read Shale Aaron's VIRTUAL DEATH?

http://groups.google.com/groups?selm=9801090100.AA24099%40aztec.asu.edu

"Lydia Melmoth is a Death Artist - she died 7 times before she was 18,
still the world record..."

An sfnal career for your next reincarnation?

Cheers -- Pete Tillman

John DiFool

unread,
Feb 23, 2003, 11:59:44 AM2/23/03
to
Mark Jones wrote:

> On 22 Feb 2003 22:54:19 GMT, beaten and sobbing, Karl M Syring
> <syr...@email.com>' confessed:
>
> >James Nicoll wrote on 22 Feb 2003 17:18:37 -0500:
> >> I find this varies considerably from near-death experience
> >> to near-death experience. For example, having a wandering loonie
> >> break down the door of my game store to look for women was so funny
> >> the entire concussion and pools of blood thing was a minor footnote.
> >> Being sucked out into the Atlantic by an undertow was deeply irritating.
> >> Having a snowback collapse on me was alarming because of the claustro-
> >> phobia issue. The car wreck was over almost before I had time to realise
> >> what was happening.
> >
> >Could you write a book about that? I would propose some kind
> >of life-style book, title is "Thousand ways to escape the
> >grim reaper".
>
> Or a follow-up to "The Disaster Survival Handbook", which was (I'm
> sure) written by a bunch of theoreticians. This could be the "No
> shit, there I was..." companion book written by the guy who'se DONE
> (and survived) all the disasters he describes.

One thing I always wondered...you hear about those awful plane
tragedies where the craft breaks up over water. What are your
chances of surviving, sans chute, from (say) 20,000 feet?
Assuming you get free of the wreckage without being burned or
vaporized (big if), and don't go unconscious from oxygen deprivation,
you would need to stay in a skydiver's pose until the last 300 feet,
then go into a vertical feet first tuck, cover both your face AND your
crotch with your hands, squeeze your pelvic spincter muscle as hard
as you can (to prevent water from going up that way-both ways if
you are female), and position your toes into a sharp point. Even
then the decceleration when you hit the water may be too much...
I did hear about a RAF pilot who survived such an ordeal (in
WW2 near the Solomons IIRC). I also heard about two people
who lived while falling over LAND-the first was lucky enough to
hit a snowy slope at a favorable angle, and slid down to a stop,
and the second landed in someone's soggy front yard, sank into
the ground up to her waist, but shattered her entire lower skeleton
in the process. But she lived.

John DiFool


--
============================================
Reach heaven far too high
============================================


Sea Wasp

unread,
Feb 23, 2003, 12:14:21 PM2/23/03
to
"Peter D. Tillman" wrote:

Wouldn't James actually have to DIE in order to be reincarnated? We have
no evidence that this is possible.

BTW, James, would you consider collecting all of your Near Death/Amusing
maiming/hideous situation stories into a book? I think it'd be a best-seller.

David Kennedy

unread,
Feb 23, 2003, 2:38:57 PM2/23/03
to
In rec.arts.sf.written John DiFool <jdi...@earthlink.net> wrote:
> One thing I always wondered...you hear about those awful plane
> tragedies where the craft breaks up over water. What are your
> chances of surviving, sans chute, from (say) 20,000 feet?
> [One woman] landed in someone's soggy front yard, sank into

> the ground up to her waist, but shattered her entire lower skeleton
> in the process. But she lived.

Everyone's favourite unfortunates will now chip in with
"Ah, dear old mum..."

Dragging this back to SF: I can think of lots of non-SF novels
where we see that near-death experiences etc are emotionally
scarring and difficult, and I can think of several SF proper
novels with the same - but I'm having a tough time thinking of
many fantasy, particularly epic fantasy I mean, where things
are that gritty - suggestions?

One of the few fat fantasies that I can think of is Kerney's
Monarchies of God - Corfe is definitely damaged by <mutter>'s
dyke.
--
David Kennedy

Brenda W. Clough

unread,
Feb 23, 2003, 2:43:06 PM2/23/03
to
John DiFool wrote:

>One thing I always wondered...you hear about those awful plane
>tragedies where the craft breaks up over water. What are your
>chances of surviving, sans chute, from (say) 20,000 feet?
> Assuming you get free of the wreckage without being burned or
>vaporized (big if), and don't go unconscious from oxygen deprivation,
>you would need to stay in a skydiver's pose until the last 300 feet,
>then go into a vertical feet first tuck, cover both your face AND your
>crotch with your hands, squeeze your pelvic spincter muscle as hard
>as you can (to prevent water from going up that way-both ways if
>you are female), and position your toes into a sharp point. Even
>then the decceleration when you hit the water may be too much...
> I did hear about a RAF pilot who survived such an ordeal (in
>WW2 near the Solomons IIRC). I also heard about two people
>who lived while falling over LAND-the first was lucky enough to
>hit a snowy slope at a favorable angle, and slid down to a stop,
>and the second landed in someone's soggy front yard, sank into
>the ground up to her waist, but shattered her entire lower skeleton
>in the process. But she lived.
>

You could read THE IMPOSSIBLE VIRGIN by Peter O'Donnell -- a novel in
which a character survives just such a fall.

Brenda


--
---------
Brenda W. Clough
Read my novella "May Be Some Time"
Complete at http://www.fictionwise.com

My web page is at http://www.sff.net/people/Brenda/

James Nicoll

unread,
Feb 23, 2003, 3:32:33 PM2/23/03
to
In article <3E590186...@wizvax.net>,

I literally have no idea how to go about it.

Karl M Syring

unread,
Feb 23, 2003, 4:46:01 PM2/23/03
to
Peter D. Tillman wrote on Sun, 23 Feb 2003 09:34:55 -0700:
> In article <b38svt$o0u$1...@panix1.panix.com>,
> jdni...@panix.com (James Nicoll) wrote:
>
>> In article <b38s93$1jej65$1...@ID-7529.news.dfncis.de>,
>> Karl M Syring <syr...@email.com> wrote:
>
>> >
>> >The human brain takes care of the problem automatically. You
>> >do not feel anything special while you think "Now it time for
>> >the coffin".
>
> Or, as Joe Haldeman put it, "well, time to shut down..."

I would strongly prefer Linda Nagata's "Make a ghost, this
version of you is finished".

Karl M. Syring

Craig Richardson

unread,
Feb 23, 2003, 5:27:38 PM2/23/03
to
On Sun, 23 Feb 2003 16:59:44 GMT, John DiFool <jdi...@earthlink.net>
wrote:

> One thing I always wondered...you hear about those awful plane
>tragedies where the craft breaks up over water. What are your
>chances of surviving, sans chute, from (say) 20,000 feet?
> Assuming you get free of the wreckage without being burned or
>vaporized (big if), and don't go unconscious from oxygen deprivation,
>you would need to stay in a skydiver's pose until the last 300 feet,
>then go into a vertical feet first tuck, cover both your face AND your
>crotch with your hands, squeeze your pelvic spincter muscle as hard
>as you can (to prevent water from going up that way-both ways if
>you are female), and position your toes into a sharp point. Even
>then the decceleration when you hit the water may be too much...

I saw this in a Sgt. Rock comic back in the 70s. He escapes from a
turreted castle 700 or so feet above a convenient river in exactly
this way.

One thing for sure - you better hit the water *perfectly* or it'll be
a surprisingly hard surface.

--Craig


--
Managing the Devil Rays is something like competing on "Iron Chef",
and having Chairman Kaga reveal a huge ziggurat of lint.
Gary Huckabay, Baseball Prospectus Online, August 21, 2002

Keith Morrison

unread,
Feb 23, 2003, 5:30:34 PM2/23/03
to
John DiFool wrote:

> One thing I always wondered...you hear about those awful plane
> tragedies where the craft breaks up over water. What are your
> chances of surviving, sans chute, from (say) 20,000 feet?

Depends on if you ride the wreckage down. The world record fall
was Vesna Vulovic, the flight attendant on a DC-9 who fell in a bit
of the plane (after it exploded, probably by a bomb) over Yugoslavia
in 1972. The plane was at 10,000 and a bit metres (around 33,330
feet) and the piece she was in hit the snow-covered side of a mountain.
She eventually recovered.

Three men are known to have survived freefalls from over 18,000 feet
without parachutes, all WW2 aviators. I.L. Chisov was in a Soviet
bomber attacked by German fighters in 1942 who left the plane at
22,000 feet and landed on the endge of a snow-covered gully and
rolled to the bottom. He was badly injured. Alan Magee was thrown
out of B-17 at about 20,000 feet before he could get his chute on
and crashed through the skylight of the St. Nazaire train station,
badly injuring his arm (but recovered as well) in 1943. Nicholas
Alkemade was the tailgunner in a Lancaster in 1944 and was bailing
out with the rest of his crew but his parachute was on fire before
he got to it, so he decided leave the plane at 18,000 feet, dying
that way instead of riding the burning plane into the ground. He
went through trees, underbrush and landed in snow, twisted his knee,
had some cuts, but walked away.

Practically speaking, there's no real difference from falling several
hundred feet and falling over 20,000. Well, except for the amount
of time you have to consider the landing.

--
Keith


Joseph Michael Bay

unread,
Feb 23, 2003, 6:05:12 PM2/23/03
to


"Time, gentlemen, please!"


--
Joseph M. Bay Lamont Sanford Junior University
www.stanford.edu/~jmbay/ DO NOT PRESS
When encryption is outlawed, om;u h$g9!ap k#-j tv*d$]p.

Stewart Robert Hinsley

unread,
Feb 23, 2003, 5:58:40 PM2/23/03
to
In article <3E58FF06...@earthlink.net>, John DiFool
<jdi...@earthlink.net> writes

> I did hear about a RAF pilot who survived such an ordeal (in
>WW2 near the Solomons IIRC). I also heard about two people
>who lived while falling over LAND-the first was lucky enough to
>hit a snowy slope at a favorable angle, and slid down to a stop,
>and the second landed in someone's soggy front yard, sank into
>the ground up to her waist, but shattered her entire lower skeleton
>in the process. But she lived.

There was reportedly also a case of an RAF bomber pilot, also WW2, but
over Germany. Survived by falling into conifers, and then (deep?) snow.
--
Stewart Robert Hinsley

Stewart Robert Hinsley

unread,
Feb 23, 2003, 6:04:36 PM2/23/03
to
In article <3E590186...@wizvax.net>, Sea Wasp <sea...@wizvax.net>
writes

>
> BTW, James, would you consider collecting all of your Near Death/Amusing
>maiming/hideous situation stories into a book? I think it'd be a best-seller.
>
Perhaps, but I have a suspicion that they're better in small doses. I
suppose he could make his fortune selling them to Reader's Digest for
their one paragraph filler stories, or launch a single-handed campaign
to raise the factuality level of American tabloids.

But if he wants a title, I offer "Not the Darwin Awards".
--
Stewart Robert Hinsley

Maureen O'Brien

unread,
Feb 23, 2003, 6:32:02 PM2/23/03
to
James Nicoll wrote:

>Sea Wasp <sea...@wizvax.net> wrote:
>> BTW, James, would you consider collecting all of your Near >>Death/Amusing maiming/hideous situation stories into a book? I think
>>it'd be a best-seller.
>
> I literally have no idea how to go about it.

Begin at the beginning. Write a chapter for every hideous story.
Then stop.

Instead of it being a biography, it could be an a-necrography!

Maureen

Bill Snyder

unread,
Feb 23, 2003, 6:51:22 PM2/23/03
to

"Pulitzer? I can't even get a Darwin Award,"

--
Bill Snyder [This space unintentionally left blank.]

Elisabeth Riba

unread,
Feb 23, 2003, 7:51:03 PM2/23/03
to
Ian A. York <iay...@panix.com> wrote:
> James Nicoll <jdni...@panix.com> wrote:
>> I find this varies considerably from near-death experience
>>to near-death experience. For example, having a wandering loonie
>>break down the door of my game store to look for women was so funny
>>the entire concussion and pools of blood thing was a minor footnote.
>>Being sucked out into the Atlantic by an undertow was deeply irritating.
>>Having a snowback collapse on me was alarming because of the claustro-
>>phobia issue. The car wreck was over almost before I had time to realise
>>what was happening.

> Don't get the wrong idea here, people. Even for James that was a busy
> day.

Does anyone else think that "James Nicoll's Busy Day" would make an
excellent children's book?

Too bad it's too late for Edward Gorey to illustrate:
J is for James sucked by undertow.
J is for James nearly buried in snow.
J is for James beat bloody for games.
J is for James whose car was in flames.

--
--------------> Elisabeth Anne Riba * l...@osmond-riba.org <--------------
Looking for work in the Boston area. Dynamic professional with over
10 years experience with software interface design, library science,
documentation and end-user support. See http://www.osmond-riba.org/lis

Karl M Syring

unread,
Feb 23, 2003, 7:52:51 PM2/23/03
to

You could embed it into a multiple worlds mumbo-jumbo, where you
track alternative world lines together with the real ones. It
will turn out that the worst case scenarios did not happen,
because there was a supernatural being that did protect you.
You get rich, because there is a huge demand for novels about
repentant sinners.

Karl M. Syring

Brian D. Fernald

unread,
Feb 23, 2003, 8:46:11 PM2/23/03
to

Or, he could do one of those little desk calendars that you tear off a
clever page per day...

An Injury a Day, by James Nicoll.

--
Brian F.
FSOBN.

Elisabeth Riba

unread,
Feb 23, 2003, 9:00:45 PM2/23/03
to
Brian D. Fernald <bfer...@mindspring.com> wrote:
>> In article <3E590186...@wizvax.net>, Sea Wasp <sea...@wizvax.net>
>> writes
>>> BTW, James, would you consider collecting all of your Near Death/Amusing
>>>maiming/hideous situation stories into a book? I think it'd be a best-seller.

> Or, he could do one of those little desk calendars that you tear off a
> clever page per day...

> An Injury a Day, by James Nicoll.

Yeowch. That sounds like a threat.
Death by 365 paper cuts?

Robert Carnegie

unread,
Feb 24, 2003, 2:17:46 AM2/24/03
to
In article <b3bb51$8kp$1...@panix1.panix.com>, James Nicoll
<jdni...@panix.com> writes

Would it be tempting fate to hire a ghost writer...

Title "A Series of Unfortunate Events" has also been taken
already, btw.

Niall McAuley

unread,
Feb 24, 2003, 8:15:22 AM2/24/03
to

"David Kennedy" <da...@dkennedy.org> wrote in message news:3e592351$0$815$cc9e...@news.dial.pipex.com...

> Dragging this back to SF: I can think of lots of non-SF novels
> where we see that near-death experiences etc are emotionally
> scarring and difficult, and I can think of several SF proper
> novels with the same - but I'm having a tough time thinking of
> many fantasy, particularly epic fantasy I mean, where things
> are that gritty - suggestions?

This is central to Bujold's _Curse of Chalion_.
--
Niall [real address ends in se, not es.invalid]

David Tate

unread,
Feb 24, 2003, 2:42:33 PM2/24/03
to
"Peter D. Tillman" <til...@aztec.asu.edu> wrote in message news:<tillman-1CD54D...@news.fu-berlin.de>...

> Have you read Shale Aaron's VIRTUAL DEATH?
>
> http://groups.google.com/groups?selm=9801090100.AA24099%40aztec.asu.edu
>
> "Lydia Melmoth is a Death Artist - she died 7 times before she was 18,
> still the world record..."

ObSylviaPlath:

The first time it happened I was ten.
It was an accident.

The second time I meant
To last it out and not come back at all.
I rocked shut

As a seashell.
They had to call and call
And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls.

Dying
Is an art, like everything else.
I do it exceptionally well.

I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I've a call.

-- from "Lady Lazarus"

--
David Tate

Brian Davis

unread,
Feb 24, 2003, 3:07:15 PM2/24/03
to
Jamie Schrumpf wrote:

> I've been haunted by that passage...

As a rather tragic footnote, sci.space.shuttle has some posts about
a teaser for MSNBC tonight (24 Feb 2003). It appears that NASA says
the crew compartment tumbled after break-up. Note that it also appears
they crew had 20-30 seconds from the last voice transmission to
realize something was going very wrong (RCS system reported leaks,
left hydralic pressure drop, avionics trying to compensate for left
drag, etc.). While the 2nd is based on recovered frames from the final
32 seconds of mangled telemetry, the former (about the crew
compartment) was a surprise (although only partially - the rapid
recovery of crew remains pointed in that direction previously).
The folks on sci.space.shuttle are doing an excellent job keeping
on top of this one.

--
Brian Davis

David Cowie

unread,
Feb 24, 2003, 7:36:06 PM2/24/03
to
On Sun, 23 Feb 2003 15:30:34 -0700, Keith Morrison wrote:


> Practically speaking, there's no real difference from falling several
> hundred feet and falling over 20,000. Well, except for the amount of
> time you have to consider the landing.

How far does one have to fall to get to terminal velocity?

--
David Cowie david_cowie at lineone dot net

SkyeFire

unread,
Feb 25, 2003, 7:48:48 AM2/25/03
to
In article <3E590186...@wizvax.net>, Sea Wasp <sea...@wizvax.net>
writes:

>
> BTW, James, would you consider collecting all of your Near Death/Amusing
>maiming/hideous situation stories into a book? I think it'd be a best-seller.

My personal wish is that someone would hire the alt.callahans famous writer
who goes by the nome-de-plume "Sailor Jim" to follow James around and chronicle
his... adventures. I'd have a lot of fun watching... from the other side of
the planet.

(for those willing to Google, SJ appears to suffer
weird/strange/embarrasing but non-lethal events with almost *more* regularity
than James suffers near-fatal events. If the two of them ever meet, I'm
confident that whatever continent they're standing on at the moment is doomed)

Manny Olds

unread,
Feb 25, 2003, 8:07:24 AM2/25/03
to
Robert Carnegie <rja.ca...@excite.com> wrote:
> In article <b3bb51$8kp$1...@panix1.panix.com>, James Nicoll
> <jdni...@panix.com> writes
>>In article <3E590186...@wizvax.net>,
>>Sea Wasp <sea...@wizvax.net> wrote:

>>> BTW, James, would you consider collecting all of your Near
>>> Death/Amusing maiming/hideous situation stories into a
>>> book? I think it'd be a best-seller.
>>
>> I literally have no idea how to go about it.

> Would it be tempting fate to hire a ghost writer...

> Title "A Series of Unfortunate Events" has also been taken
> already, btw.

"Oh, Shit" or "Oops", perhaps.

--
Manny Olds (old...@pobox.com) of Riverdale Park, Maryland, USA

"Always drink upstream from the herd,
Never look straight up at a bird,
When you get bucked off, get back on
And never squat with your spurs on."
--Too Slim, giving cowboy advice, with the Riders in the Sky

Samuel Paik

unread,
Feb 25, 2003, 3:06:12 PM2/25/03
to
"David Cowie" <see...@lineone.net> wrote:
> > Practically speaking, there's no real difference from falling several
> > hundred feet and falling over 20,000. Well, except for the amount of
> > time you have to consider the landing.
>
> How far does one have to fall to get to terminal velocity?

According to
<http://www.urbanlegends.com/death/falling_terminal_velocity.html>
it takes roughly 600 m to reach terminal velocity (the page gives the
numbers in more precision than I think is warranted)

Sam

Christopher Henrich

unread,
Feb 28, 2003, 1:22:03 PM2/28/03
to
In article <3E590186...@wizvax.net>, Sea Wasp
<sea...@wizvax.net> wrote:

>
> BTW, James, would you consider collecting all of your Near Death/Amusing
> maiming/hideous situation stories into a book? I think it'd be a best-seller.
>

The hell of this is - if it succeeds, the publishers will want "more of
the same" for a sequel.

--
Chris Henrich

Keith Morrison

unread,
Mar 1, 2003, 12:00:43 AM3/1/03
to
Christopher Henrich wrote:

>> BTW, James, would you consider collecting all of your Near Death/Amusing
>>maiming/hideous situation stories into a book? I think it'd be a best-seller.
>
> The hell of this is - if it succeeds, the publishers will want "more of
> the same" for a sequel.

Not a problem. They just have to wait a week.

--
Keith


Sea Wasp

unread,
Mar 2, 2003, 8:59:48 AM3/2/03
to

Darn. You beat me to it.

Sea Wasp
/^\
;;;

Andy Cooke

unread,
Mar 5, 2003, 6:24:36 PM3/5/03
to
David Cowie wrote:
>
> On Sun, 23 Feb 2003 15:30:34 -0700, Keith Morrison wrote:
>
> > Practically speaking, there's no real difference from falling several
> > hundred feet and falling over 20,000. Well, except for the amount of
> > time you have to consider the landing.
>
> How far does one have to fall to get to terminal velocity?
>

By experience, in a stable face-to-earth position, about 1000
feet (10 seconds or so).

A rule of thumb for freefalling (in a stable spread)[1] is:

10 seconds for the first thousand feet
5 seconds per thousand feet thereafter.

[1] - in the lower atmosphere - when you get above about 20,000
feet, the rule becomes less accurate due to diminished air
resistance.

--
Andy Cooke

Reply all
Reply to author
Forward
0 new messages