Strikebreaker (short story)
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|Genre(s)||science fiction short story|
|Published in||The Original Science Fiction Stories|
|Publication date||January 1957|
"Strikebreaker" is a science fiction short story by Isaac Asimov. It was first published in the January 1957 issue of The Original Science Fiction Stories under the title "Male Strikebreaker" and reprinted in the 1969 collection Nightfall and Other Stories under the original title "Strikebreaker". Asimov has stated that the editorial decision to run the story as "Male Strikebreaker" represents his personal record for stupid title changes.
"Strikebreaker" had its genesis in June 1956 when Asimov, who then lived in Boston, Massachusetts, was planning a trip to New York City. A group of some three dozen technicians was threatening to go on strike, which would have the effect of shutting down the New York subway system, making travel within the city virtually impossible. The threatened strike did not happen, and Asimov was able to make the trip, but the situation inspired him to write a story about a strike by a single man that would shut down an entire world.
The world in question is Elsevere, an extrasolar planetoid a hundred miles in diameter which is home to an insular, idiosyncratic human colony of thirty thousand people, who have inhabited the planet in all three dimensions. A rigid caste system has developed, with each occupation being confined to a particular set of families. A visiting sociologist from Earth, Steven Lamorak, learns that an Elseverian named Igor Ragusnik has gone on strike.
The Ragusnik family operates Elsevere's waste processing facility, and over the generations, the Ragusniks have become a one-family caste of untouchables, forbidden all contact with the rest of the colony. Igor Ragusnik has demanded that his family's isolation must end. Elsevere's ruling council has refused his demands, and if the strike is allowed to continue, Elsevere's waste processing machinery will break down and the entire colony will be wiped out by rampant disease.
When it becomes clear to Lamorak that neither side will give in, he reluctantly volunteers to operate the waste processing machinery himself. Seeing this, Ragusnik capitulates and goes back to work.
Lamorak assures Ragusnik that now that the other Elseverians are aware of how unhappy he is, they will eventually end his family's isolation. Ragusnik is unimpressed. Meanwhile, Lamorak learns that the rest of the Elseverians will no longer have anything to do with him; now that he has worked at Ragusnik's job, he is an untouchable himself – an 'inside man at the skonk works'.
- Asimov, Isaac (1969). Nightfall and Other Stories. Fawcett Crest. p. 273. "One more point about this story. It represents my personal record for stupid title changes. ... Some idiot in the higher echelons decided to call the story 'Male Strikebreaker.'"