While considering the stories “The Cold Equations” by Godwin and “The Other Celia” by Sturgeon, one can note that they both use female characters as the key subjects in their works. In addition, each of the female characters faces the circumstances beyond their control, and their lives depend on the decisions of men. However, in the Sturgeon story, Slim, who makes no attempt to save Celia, appears as the person indirectly responsible for the tragedy (77). In the plot described by Godwin, the decision to get rid of the girl on board the spaceship is a balanced and deliberate conclusion that the pilot comes to after weighing for and against (396). Moreover, the stories differ significantly in their settings; Godwin’s characters are presented in a fantasy outer space, while Sturgeon describes a familiar urban environment. Therefore, both stories have both similar contexts and distinctive features.
The historical context in which both stories were written reflects the individual difficulties society experienced during that era. The mid-20th century was a time when women’s rights movements were active and involved mass protests related to demands for equal rights. Both the stories in question, in which female characters appear as victims of male inaction, underline the anxiety of that era. For instance, Godwin represents the fear of the girl aboard the spaceship about to die, but he acts more as an outside observer: “how hard it must be for her to accept the fact” (380). This position suggests that the author does not condemn or approve of the pilot’s decision and only gives an individual interpretation of the situation. As a result, women’s rights, including the right to life, are touched upon in both stories and reflect the social issues of the era in which they were written.
Treatment of Women
The analysis of the two stories reveals distinctive features in relation to female characters. In both contexts, they are presented as victims, but from different perspectives. Sturgeon mentions “Slim’s curiosity” as one of the main factors that distinguish the perspectives of the two stories (75). The young man’s inaction and his role as the one who only spies but does not provide assistance do not correspond to those described by Godwin for his male character. The pilot of the spaceship makes a balanced decision that, despite the obvious ethical contradiction, is argued by scientific reasoning. As a result, “a cold equation had been balanced and he was alone on the ship” (Godwin 392). Thus, the attitude towards the women in the two stories differs in the degree of the men’s involvement.
Science Fictionality of the Stories
From the perspective of the overall storyline, “The Cold Equations” looks to be less more science fictional than “The Other Celia.” This is primarily due to the setting since the former story describes the actions on a spaceship flying to another planet, while the latter one is presented in a traditional environment. However, in the context of the narrative idea, they are unlikely to differ much because, in both of them, the relationship between the characters is the background of the authors’ ideas, and the accompanying events are secondary. Therefore, even despite the distinctive settings, both tragic events are associated more with interpersonal relationships than with the aspects of fiction and truth.
Godwin, Tom. The Cold Equations. Edited by Eric Flint, Baen, 2004, pp. 367-396.
Sturgeon, Theodore. “The Other Celia.” Modern Classics of Science Fiction, edited by Gardner Dozois, St. Martin’s Press, 1991, pp. 60-77.