Misfit (short story)

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Misfit is a science fiction short story by Robert A. Heinlein. It was first published in the November 1939 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. One of the earliest of his Future History stories, it was later included in the collections Revolt in 2100 and The Past Through Tomorrow.

Plot summary

The story concerns Andrew Jackson Libby (here nicknamed Pinky, for his red hair, but later nicknamed Slipstick), a boy from Earth with extraordinary mathematical ability but meager education. Finding few opportunities on Earth, he joins the Cosmic Construction Corps a future military-led version of the Civilian Conservation Corps, employing out-of-work youth to colonize the Solar System. With a group of other inexperienced young men, he is assigned to a ship travelling to the asteroid belt, where their task is to move an asteroid into near-Earth orbit. Pinky comes to the Captain's attention during the process of blasting holes in the asteroid for rocket engines, when he realizes that a mistake has been made in calculating the size of the charge, and prevents a catastrophic blast. He is assigned to the ship's astrogation computer. During the trip back to Earth, the computer malfunctions, and Libby takes over, performing all the complex calculations in his head. The asteroid is settled successfully into its final orbit.

"Slipstick" Libby became one of Heinlein's recurring characters, and would later appear in several works associated with Lazarus Long, among them Methuselah's Children and The Cat Who Walks Through Walls.

In the short story, Heinlein also coined the term space marine.

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