Notes for Tubb’s ‘The Space Born’

Tubb, E.C. (1956) The Space Born. New York: Ace Books.


The consensual forgetting


“First the name of the ship had been discarded from common usage and it had become known only as the Ship. The sense of motion had soon died also, and to the inhabitants of the Ship, the metal cubicles had become their entire universe, static, unchanging, unalterable. They lived and died within the close confines of their metal prison and, with the slow passage of time, even the aim and purpose of their journey became vague and slightly unreal.


But the builders had planned well.” Chapter One (location 107, Kindle edition)


Rigid indoctrination and training


“Shame was unknown on the Ship, but indoctrination had set up a rigid code which no one in his right mind would think of transgressing. The trouble was that young people in love are seldom in their right mind.”

Chapter Six (Location 820)


Amusing asides


The captaincy of the Ship is finally given to Jay, a police enforcer who has killed many old people (over 40 years). Straight Heinleinian politics and tones. Best of all they all just wear a pair of short and that is all. To be disguised, they put one colour of shorts over the police black.


The great Psycho computer, the punch card AI programmed by the Builders


“Gregson stood and watched the machine of destiny. It was big, as it had to be to hold all the filed information, the various educational tapes, the selective masterplates, the cards, the erasers and computers. In itself it was a masterpiece of planning, constructed by the builders centuries ago to serve as a guide and a master above and beyond all limitations of human flesh. The Ship could forget its purpose, the personnel waste themselves in ambition and selfish pleasure, the race sicken and die from stupidity and greed, but Psycho would always be ready to give the information to restore the essential balance if the project of which it was a part was to succeed.


“And yet it was not wholly omnipotent. It could advise but it still needed the human touch to transform its dictates into action.” Chapter Eleven (Location 1571)


Description of the ship as a metal egg


“The ship was a murmuring throb of whispering sound. The eternal, inevitable vibration of life trapped in a medium of emptiness and silence. It was comforting in a way to hear it, to feel the subtle quiver of footsteps, the soft drone of engines, the myriad sounds of five thousand people living and breathing, loving and hoping, playing and working in the titanic metal egg which was their universe and their home.” Chapter Thirteen (Location 1872)


The Ship is losing energy – inevitable entropy


“‘The position as regards supply is serious.’ There was an unusual importance in Folden’s voice as he spoke. ‘As you all know, or should know, there can be no such thing as a perfectly balanced ecology in a closed-cycle system the size of the Ship. The very energy used in the effort of walking, for example, means energy lost. We can reclaim almost all of the water, almost all of the oxygen. I say “almost.” There is bound to be some wastage and our reclamation units are not one hundred per cent efficient. In effect then, we started with a certain amount of essential supplies on which we have had to draw to maintain our ecology.’ He paused, enjoying his moment. ‘At the present rate of consumption, those supplies will be exhausted by the end of the seventeenth generation.'” Chapter Fourteen (Location 2449)

Deep freeze hibernation of animals and people


“‘There’s no one else capable of operating the investigation ships; teaching the handling and care of rocket exploration craft is something which obviously couldn’t be done by means of educational tapes. We need those crews in deep freeze.’ Chapter Fifteen (Location 2476)


Great overview of GS travel needs – suspended animation plus generational rocketry


“‘First, there are two ways by which men can reach the stars. One is by suspended animation as you have suggested, the other is by generation ship, which this is. We have combined both and so avoided the weaknesses inherent in either. The generation ship depends on new blood replacing the old, but the danger is that the new blood will forget what it should remember. Sixteen generations are a long time, Jay. Even with continual use of educational tapes it is still hard for some people to accept the fact that the Ship is nothing but a metal can drifting in the void. To them the Ship is the universe and they just can’t imagine anything possibly being bigger.” Chapter Fifteen (Location 2498)


Heinleinian sexism



‘I never really believed what you said. I’m a woman, Jay, and a woman knows when a man is in love with hjer.’ She smiled up at him. ‘Did you hear the news? Genetics has given permission for free-choice marriages.’ She paused, hopefully, and then shook his arm in a sudden impatience. ‘Jay! Didn’t you hear what I said?’

‘Yes,’ Jay lied. He was still thinking of what Quentin had told him in the Bridge. ‘It’ll take about five years.’

‘What will take five years?’

‘Contacting the planets.’

‘Who cares about planets?’ Susan clung to his arm.