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I’m looking for a short story or novella about some people on a space station, around Earth I think, which at the end of the story broke free of its orbit and headed off into open space. The central character was some sort of engineer, and played a guitar, and there was a recurrent song with a refrain of “I’ll get where I wasn’t going”. At the end, he created a verse that ended something like “If the slipstick slips on this ship of ours, we’ll get where I wasn’t going.” I'm not sure about the word slipstick – I believe it was a slang term for a slide rule, and slipstick is how I remember it.

In the 60s, this was published in Analog, and I think it was done as a series over a few issues, but I could be misremembering.

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1 Answer 1

Where I Wasn't Going by Leigh & Walt Richmond looks like a good match.

Millie began to hum a soft tune. Someone else brought forth a harmonica that had been smuggled aboard, and suddenly Paul Chernov burst into song, his deep baritone, perhaps inspired by the captain's speech earlier in the day, lending the wailing "The Spaceman's Lament," an extra folk beat:

"The captain spoke of stars and bars
Of far-off places like maybe Mars
But the slipsticks slip on this ship of ours—
And we'll get where I wasn't going!"

On a side note, yes, "slipstick" is slang for a slide ruler or other mechanical calculator.

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Incidentally, I probably couldn't have found this without so many details provided. It was searching on parts of the phrase that found me it on Google, and knowing it was from Analog gave me immediate confirmation. –  Sean Duggan Jul 1 at 19:43

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