"Breaking Point" is a 1953 science fiction novelette by James E. Gunn. It is about the crew of a spaceship who are tested to their psychological limits.
What Pushes Your Buttons?
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that “everyone has a limit” or “everyone has a breaking point.” I know I sure have mine, and I’ve been pushed to it a few times… mostly by my kids! Anyway, here is a story about how an alien culture uses that special point in all of us to learn about the crew of an amazing spaceship. It’s a pretty clever and cool story!
The five men who man the indestructible, unbreakable Earth Ship Ambassador have just landed on a beautiful alien world to make first contact with the civilization there. They proceed slowly and cautiously, as any good first-contact crew would. But when strange and unbelievable things begin to happen to them and their ship the stress level of the crew goes sky high! The aliens make contact, but as the men are picked off one by one, the remaining people begin to doubt their sanity. The funny thing about scared people is that they each have a point where they go absolutely bonkers! It’s a good thing this ship has a psychologist to help them know when they’ve reached that point… just in case they missed it themselves!
Some Interesting Tidbits
- Word count: 15,834 (32 pages)
- Did you know that the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America made James Gunn its 24th Grand Master back in 2007? Yep. You can learn more about this science fiction author at Wikipedia.
Where To Find Breaking Point
- This short story first appeared in the March 1953 edition of Space Science Fiction.
- You can download or read "Breaking Point" online for free at Project Gutenberg.
- It is also collected in the 1975 anthology Space Opera: Science Fiction from the Golden Age.
Craving More SF Stories Like This One?
If you enjoyed "Breaking Point" then you might also like “The Hell Ship” by Ray Palmer – about a man who is forced into service on a horrific space ship!