Surface Tension (short Story) - Plot Summary

Plot Summary

Humans crash on a distant planet which is earth like but completely water-covered; their ship is too damaged to take off, nor do they have sufficient supplies to survive for long. The humans create a race of microscopic aquatic humanoids to carry on their legacy before they themselves die. The majority of the story concerns these creatures and their intelligence, curiosity, and evolving technology. In particular, the aquatic humanoids develop a "space ship", or rather "air ship", which enables them to pierce the previously impenetrable surface of the water and travel through what is, to them, hostile space—open air—to other worlds in other bodies of water.

Surface Tension was among the stories selected in 1970 by the Science Fiction Writers of America as one of the best science fiction short stories published before the creation of the Nebula Awards. As such, it was published in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Volume One, 1929-1964. It was adapted by George Lefferts as a radio drama for X Minus One in 1956. In this adaptation, the humanoids are part of an experiment running on a doomed Earth.

Anthony Boucher, commenting on the collected version of the story, noted that although Blish might seem "to pass the most remote bounds of scientific extrapolation, . . . the details are worked out in magnificently convincing manner."

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