Category Archives: Isaac Asimov

Some Thoughts on National Science Fiction Day and Isaac Asimov’s Birthday

Today is January 2, the accepted day on which Isaac Asimov is considered to have been born in 1920.  It’s also National Science Fiction Day here in the States.

I’d forgotten today was National Science Fiction Day.  Probably because I haven’t been paying attention.

I wrote yesterday that I intended to read more science fiction this year.  My imagination was captured by science fiction almost as soon as I could read, if not before.  We had a couple of books about rockets and space exploration.  Some of my earliest memories are my parents reading them to me.  I don’t recall if they were reprints of some articles Willy Ley wrote or not. I remember they were heavily illustrated.  Not surprising since they were for kids.

Star Wars was what really kindled my imagination, sending me to look for science fiction at both the school library and the public library.  I remember the main branch of the Wichita Falls library had an entire shelf, maybe two, in the adult section for their science fiction books.  And I also bought science fiction at the mall and the flea market.

Soon I was reading Ray Bradbury, Alan Dean Foster, Jack Williamson, and of course Isaac Asimov.  I’d seen a copy of The Foundation Trilogy on that shelf in the public library but I hadn’t checked it out.  I didn’t have any idea what it was about, and the paperbacks that were in print at the time (shown above) weren’t very informative.

Fast forward a couple of years to when I was in middle school and joined the Science Fiction Book Club.  One of the books I got with my introductory order was the club’s edition of The Foundation Trilogy, shown on the left.  The cover wasn’t anymore informative as to what the story was about than the paperbacks.  I didn’t care.  By that time I’d read I, Robot and some of Asimov’s other short stories in some of the anthologies in the school library.

I dove in and enjoyed the original three novels.  A few years later, when Asimov wrote some additional volumes and tied them into the robot stories, I read those as well, although I didn’t enjoy them as much.

I’m probably not going to read any of Asimov’s short fiction as a birthday observance.  Instead I’m going to honor his memory by writing. Asimov wrote literally hundreds of books in his lifetime. I doubt my output will ever be anything close to his, but I still need to write.  This blog post has been a good warm-up.

As for reading Asimov, should The Foundation Trilogy be one of the works I revisit this year? Or should I read some of the robot stories or other short fiction? Maybe a novel of his I haven’t read?  There are several of them, such as The Gods Themselves and The Currents of Space.  What do ya’ll think?

Robots for Asimov

i-robotI apologize for the campaign-esque sound of the title.  I’m still trying to get 2016 out of my head.  Anyway, I said yesterday at Adventures Fantastic that I’m going to be reading more of the classics of the field.  Furthermore I specifically named Asimov’s robot stories as one of the things I’ll be reading.

It’s Asimov’s 97th birthday today.  He was born January 2, 1920, in Russia.  I first read the robot stories in 7th grade.  It’s been more than a decade (going on two decades now) since I last read one of them.  I’ve read a few Asimov stories over the past year; I’m about a third of the way through The Winds of Change right now.

The robot stories have all been collected in The Complete Robot.  I’ve got a copy around somewhere, if I an ever find the darn thing.  I’m looking forward to diving into them.  Robots used to be pretty  ubiquitous in science fiction, but you don’t see them that much these days.  They’ve been supplanted by AIs.  Still, I like the old-fashioned robots, and Asimov did them better than anyone.

Asimov and the Editorial Hand of John W. Campbell

The Winds of ChangeI said in my post on Asimov’s birthday a few days ago that I was going to read some stories from The Winds of Change.  I did, getting through the first four stories before my eyelids grew heavy.  The third story is the oldest in the book, “Belief” from 1953.  Asimov notes in his introduction to the story that this was its first appearance in one of his American collections.  (The reasons are beyond the scope of this post.)

I thought I had read it somewhere, perhaps in The Great SF Stories, but the ISFDB said otherwise.  It did, however, show that the story had been published in a later collection, The Alternate Asimov’s.  I had a copy I had picked up years ago that I’d never read, primarily because I didn’t have time to read the original and final versions of the novels The End of Eternity and Pebble in the SkyThe Alternate Asimovs contains the original versions of those novels.  It also contains both version of the novelette “Belief”.

It seems the version of the story John W. Campbell, Jr. published in Astounding wasn’t Asimov’s preferred version.   Campbell required Asimov to rewrite the ending significantly.  I read the original version, and found the experience quite enlightening. Continue reading

Happy Birthday, Isaac Asimov

Isaac_AsimovIf he were alive, Isaac Asimov would have celebrated his 94th birthday today.  I never had the privilege of meeting Dr. Asimov, but I grew up reading his works.  I’ve not read everything he wrote, but I’ve read quite a bit.  I’m speaking of his science fiction here, not his total output.  Wikipedia says he wrote over 500 books.

It’s also National Science Fiction Day, which I think is quite appropriate.

Asimov was one of the first science fiction authors I read when I graduated to adult science fiction.  This would have been in junior high.  (I’ve always been ahead of my time.)  I think I came across one of his robot stories in an anthology edited by Robert Silverberg that was in the school library.  It wasn’t long before I was hunting down his short fiction (in addition to his robot stories), the Foundation series, and some of his other novels.  His later Foundation novels were among the first science fiction I purchased new in hardcover that wasn’t a book club edition.

The Winds of ChangeIt’s been quite a while since I read any of Asimov’s work.  As I stated in my reading goals post, I want to get back to basics  this year and reread some of the works and authors that first attracted me to science fiction.  I picked up a paperback copy of The Winds of Change a few months ago in a second hand shop.  It’s a later collection, and I haven’t read it.  I’ve loved the colors on the cover for years and finally gave in to temptation and bought it.  I think I’ll spend some time this evening reading it and raising a glass to the legacy of Isaac Asimov.

RIP Ralph McQuarrie

I’ve been traveling this weekend, so I just heard the news when I got home and logged in to the computer.  Ralph McQuarrie has passed away.  He was most famous for his work on Stars Wars, but I think my favorite work of his was the set of illustrations for Isaac Asimov’s Robot Dreams, back in the 1980s.  He will be missed.  Rest well, Ralph, and peaceful dreams.