I owe this story, which had the cover of the June 1995 Asimov’s, to John Kessel and Tom Godwin. In the early nineties, my friend John Kessel incited a dust up about Godwin’s seminal sf story, “The Cold Equations.” He questioned the rigor of the science in a story that had long been at the center of the hard sf canon, and took a rather dim view of its socio-political subtext. A lively discussion ensued in the pages of the New York Review of Science Fiction. My contribution to the debate was to be a short-short shocker with a working title of “The Cold Equation.” But in the course of researching the story, I had to good fortune to read Kip Thorne’s wonderful, BLACK HOLES AND TIME WARPS: EINSTEIN'S OUTRAGEOUS LEGACY.
By the time I was done with Thorne’s book, I had far more material than I could have possibly crammed into a couple of thousand word short story. The piece grew in size and complexity until I was ready to bring it to the Cambridge Science Fiction Workshop, where it got a fiery reception. I remember that we took a break after we were “done” with the critique of my manuscript and people were still arguing about the morality of what Michael Burr had done when we reassembled to begin the next story. I knew then that I had written something that would get under people’s skins.
I am not ashamed to admit that another influence on this story was St*r Tr*k. I have always been disturbed by its transporter technology. Maybe after you read this, you will be, too. But I was not fully conscious of a much more important influence until Barry Malzberg wrote me to ask if I had intended to borrow from Algis Budrys’ ROUGE MOON. I had only a vague memory of reading this fine novel. When I went to my bookshelf, I found a paperback copy that had been printed in 1960 but that bore the imprint of a used bookstore in Nashua, New Hampshire. I lived in Nashua from 1975 to 1980 and presumably read it then, internalized its ideas and forgot all about the source material. In fact, until I got Barry’s letter, I was rather proud of having come up with a glitzy new sf gizmo all on my own!
This is without doubt my most famous story, and it may well be that the lead of my obit will read something like “This was the guy who wrote ‘Think Like A Dinosaur’”
I am very cool with that.