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A Pail of Air

Published December 1951 in Galaxy Science Fiction.

Synopsis

A family of four survive on an earth, which was pulled out of orbit with the sun and had its atmosphere frozen, covering the ground four stories thick, by successively melting pails of frozen air fetched from outside their 'Nest'.

A Pail of Air“You know that game we sometimes play, sitting in a square in the Nest, tossing a ball around? Courage is like a ball, son. A person can hold it only so long, and then he's got to toss it to someone else. When it's tossed your way, you've got to catch it and hold it tight–and hope there'll be someone else to toss it to when you get tired of being brave.”

Collections

Anthologies

  • Constellations: Stories of the Future edited by Malcolm Edwards (Gollancz 1980)
  • Tomorrow's Children: Eighteen Tales of Fantasy and Science edited by Isaac Asimov (Orbit Books 1966)
  • The World Turned Upside Down edited by David Drake, Jim Baen, & Eric Flint (Baen Books 2005)

Pet Themes

  • Concern over war.

Similar Texts

  • It looks like Leiber would recycle and expand on the idea of the Earth being taken out of orbit by an outer-space interloper in his 1964 novel, The Wanderer.
  • The 'Nest' is surrounded on all sides by blankets, rugs, and tarps to keep the oxygen from escaping to rapidly. In Ill Met in Lankhmar the Mouser sets up a similar nest behind the Silver Eel to coddle his love, Ivrian.

Synopses

Radio Adaptations

  • NBC radio program X Minus One, “A Pail of Air,” broadcast on March 28, 1956.

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