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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.

Alfred Bester and “Fondly Fahrenheit”

alfred-besterAlfred Bester was born on this date (December 28) in 1913 in New York City.  He was in many ways one of the most brilliant and innovative science fiction writers of the 20th Century, having an influence that was disproportionate to his output.  His novel The Demolished Man won the first Hugo Award for Best Novel.  Dealing with telepathy, it was a wild and stylistically innovative book.  The Psy-Corps in Babylon 5 was modeled after portions of this novel, and Walter Koenig’s character in the show was named Alfred Bester, an obvious homage. Continue reading

Happy Birthday, Harlan Ellison

Image result for harlan ellisonHarlan Ellison was born today in Cleveland, Ohio on this day in 1934.  I’d like to wish him a Happy Birthday.

Ellison is a writer’s writer.  He’s best known as a science fiction writer (although fantasist is a better term), but  he’s written in multiple genres.  His works include mystery, mainstream, screenplays, teleplays, and essays.  It’s hard to point to something representative of his work because is oeuvre is so varied.  There are the classic stories such as “The Deathbird”, “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream”, “Jeffty is Five”, and so many more.  There are the essays in The Glass Teat, The Other Glass Teat, and Harlan Ellison’s Watching.

If you’ve not read him, give him a try.  Then give him another try, because chances are good that the second thing you read by him won’t be anything like the first.

Anyway, Happy Birthday, Harlan!