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?

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

  1. Jason

    Nice post.

    If there’s one book that made me the science fiction fan I am, it’s The Foundation Trilogy, so I’d say re-reading that could never be a bad thing. That said, the Robot stories and novels are also superb and actually preferred by Asimov, so you can’t go wrong there. But if there’s anything Asimov wrote alone that you haven’t read, I’d say go for that. The Gods Themselves is kind of atypical in ways, dealing with aliens and sex, but is quintessentially Asimov in others, such as the scientific and rational focuses. It’s a great book, either way. The Empire novels (including The Currents of Space) are often slighted but I liked them a lot when I first read (and re-read) them. Still, for top choices, I’d have to say go for The Gods Themselves for a fresh read and The Foundation Trilogy for a re-read.

    1. Keith West Post author

      Thanks, Jason. I’ll probably spread the robot stories out and dip into them from time to time throughout the year. I might do the same thing with The Foundation Trilogy now that I think about it. Those stories were originally a series in Astounding and only became a trilogy when published in book form. I don’t think Asimov had a trilogy in mind when he first wrote them.

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  3. Jason

    Yeah, that’s very true. There was no book market when he started them and, while I think he had a series of stories in mind from the start, it was pretty open-ended – he even mentions having written himself into a hole one time that Fred Pohl helped him out of. The first four stories were more or less singletons and then he wrote two pairs of two longer stories (which form the last two books) before circling around with a prequel for the first volume. And the robot stories do very much stand alone. So they could definitely be spread out if you wanted. I read so much current short fiction and my To Be Read Pile is so huge that I keep wanting to re-read Asimov but keep putting it off because I can’t take out a large chunk of time, but you’ve inspired me to maybe try it in small bits. 🙂

    1. Keith West Post author

      Small bits are what are probably going to work best for me this year. I know Asimov had a series planned, and your point about there being no book market is a good one. A number of series were later collected into book form, which reminds me that I need to finish blogging about Kuttner’s Baldy stories.


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