Science fiction short story by Heinlein.

Many humans are working on the surface of an alien planet (possibly Venus.) They are dropped off individually to work. They insist on proof they will be picked up again. Staying out too long is deadly. The surface is covered in shallow water so that an exhausted man lying down to rest will drown. The protagonist is in this situation as the vehicle does not pick him up at the end of his shift. I think I read it in the 80s.

  • 2
    If only they had heard of the "buddy system"...
    – John C
    Mar 2 at 15:42

1 Answer 1


That's Robert Heinlein's Logic of Empire and it was Venus.

The older clients told grim stories of men who had stood in eighteen inches of water for twenty-four, forty-eight, seventy-two hours, and then drowned horribly, out of their heads from sheer fatigue.

The incident in the story arises when a boss wants to set out a worker without a safety "skiff".

  • 1
    @JudithJones Great question, I'm enjoying re-reading the story. Mar 1 at 12:35
  • 1
    I am enjoying re-reading it too. Thanks. Mar 1 at 12:56
  • 7
    I'm pretty sure you can drown in a bathtub. Mar 2 at 14:29
  • 1
    Note that I wrote in my initial comment that (in the last moment of your strengths weakening) you are consciously going to lay on your back. That's seems feasible based on the story's description provided here and that's the key point in my comment.
    – trejder
    Mar 3 at 16:31
  • 2
    @trejder: Yes, I suspect you might get lucky and survive falling asleep if the water is calm and you get into a position where you're floating on your back. It would still be risky. It could be a lot less risky if you had a flotation collar on your neck to keep your head out of water. You don't need a full life-jacket since some of your body weight can rest on the ground while your head is out of water (not lifting itself via bouyancy), so this can be light-weight and maybe inflatable to avoid bulk: basic safety equipment for this environment, especially alone without a backpack as pillow. Mar 3 at 17:22

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.