This 60 year old thriller should properly be called a long story rather than a short one - it's much longer than many of the Clarke's short stories.
While introducing this story in "The Collected Stories of Arthur C Clarke", there is a mention that this "was one of the stories incorporated into the film and novel, 2001".
Story summary (spoiler).
This is a shipwreck & survival story with a very dated theme: Of the two travelers in the ship, there is food enough (till rescue) only for one. Should both die, or one lives? If later, who lives?
Since it is a space travel story - a freighter on earth/Venus route is the one affected - what runs out is not food but oxygen. A little meteor has hit the ship at a vital place, blasting away a major portion of onboard oxygen. And there is nothing onboard to break the carbon dioxide being produced by passengers back to breathable oxygen.
I occasionally found the narrative too long & suspense too obvious, but it is still a good story.
This story also describes a spaceship shape different from that common in Clarke's other stories: a dumbbell shape rather than a rotating cylinder or spherical. Only other story I recall with dumbell shape is in "2010 Odyssey 2": the wreck left by "2001 A Space Odeyssy" is described as a craft with this shape; I do not recall if 2001 elaborated on this shape.
And Clarke is more specific on dumbbell design here: a 50 meter diameter sphere at one end; 20 meter sphere at the other end; connected with a 100 meter long cylinder of undescribed diameter. Bigger sphere is living & operational quarters; smaller sphere houses atomic motors that are off bound to all organic matter; what the cylinder contains in not described.
Breaking strain, short story, review
Author: Arthur C Clarke
First published: Thrilling Wonder Stories, December 1949 under the title "Thirty Seconds - Thirty -Days".
This story has also been published under these titles.
- "The Collected Stories of Arthur C Clarke"
- "Expedition to Earth"
- "Across the Sea of Stars"
- "The Sentinel (collection)"
- Eric Frank Russell's "Jay Score": Published 8 years before this story by Clarke, it is a very similar plot but different tension - meteor hit on earth to Venus run kills propulsion system, making the ship head for the Sun! Very good ending.
- "Arthur C Clarke's Venus Prime, Volume 1" of 6: An expanded version of this story as a novel. This novel is by Paul Preuss, apparently with Clarke's blessings.
- Larry Niven's "How the Heroes Die": Similar in that only one of the two men can live - because there is oxygen enough for only one to reach back to safety. But rest of the plot is very different.