(Originally aired April 1986)
(1920 -1992 R.I.P.)
Polymath / Good
Guy Genius Futurist
This Program was Co-hosted by MARILYN
MACH VOS SAVANT
The program can be viewed in its
entirety by clicking the you tube link below:
More about: ISAAC
Isaac Asimov Home Page
Welcome to the Isaac Asimov Home Page. Here you'll find a
comprehensive collection of resources pertaining to Isaac Asimov
(1920-1992), the quintessential author, who in his lifetime wrote over
500 books that enlightened, entertained, and spanned the realm of human
The Isaac Asimov FAQ
FAQ for the
alt.books.isaac-asimov provides answers to the frequently asked
questions about Isaac Asimov, and is an excellent place to start if you
have questions about him. Included is biographical information about
both his personal life and his literary life, answers to questions about
and Robot series, and more.
For a German
translation of the FAQ, see
Bálint Krizsán's site.
The Isaac Asimov Memorial Panel Debate
Janet and Robyn Asimov, working with the American Museum of Natural
History in New York City, established the Isaac Asimov Fund to support
the annual Isaac Asimov Memorial Panel Debate as part of the Museum's
Hayden Planetarium Programs. The ninth annual debate will take place on
the evening of March 10, 2009 in the museum's LeFrak Theater.
The topic of the 2009 debate will be
"From Planets to Plutoids: The New Solar System". It will explore
the way that advances in knowledge, such as detailed observations of
other planets by spacecraft, the discovery of more than 1000 icy bodies
that lie in the region beyond Neptune known as the Kuiper belt, and the
discovery of more than 340 planets orbiting stars other than our Sun,
are changing the ways that scientists classify and name the constituents
of solar systems, and the controversy in the scientific community
associated with those changes.
The debate will be once again moderated by Neil DeGrasse Tyson,
the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium, and author of
The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America's Favorite Planet.
The featured panelists will be:
Each of the eight previous debates were presented to a standing-room
Gibor Basri, Professor of Astronomy, University of California,
Berkeley. He is a co-investigator for NASA's
Kepler mission that will launch an instrument to search for
Earth-line planets orbiting other stars.
David C. Jewitt, Professor of Astronomy, University of Hawaii
Institute of Astronomy. He discovered the first Kuiper Belt object
with Jane Luu in 1992.
Jack Lissauer, Research scientist, NASA Ames Research Center.
Together with Mark Showalter, he discovered two moons and two faint
rings of Uranus. He is a co-investigator for NASA's Kepler mission.
Sara Seager, Ellen Swallow Richards Associate Professor of
Planetary Science and Associate Professor of Physics, MIT. She was
part of a team that co-discovered the first detection of light
emitted from an exoplanet and the first spectrum of an exoplanet,
and her work led to the first detection of an exoplanet atmosphere.
Alan Stern, former Associate Administrator, Science Mission
Directorate, NASA. He is the principal investigator for NASA's
New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.
Mark V. Sykes, Director, Planetary Science Institute, Tuscon, AZ,
and former president of the Division of Planetary Sciences of the
American Astronomical Society. He is a member of the science team
Dawn, a spacecraft currently en route to study the asteroids
Vesta and Ceres.
- 2001: "The Theory of Everything"
- Is there a single, unifying theory that can describe the
- 2002: "The Search For Life in the Universe"
- How likely is it that there is other life in the universe,
and if it exists, how are we going to find it?
- 2003: "The Big Bang"
- Are there alternative models for the Big Bang theory that
provide a different view of the origin of the cosmos?
- 2004: "The Dark Side"
- What are dark matter and dark energy, and what role do they
play in the future of the universe?
- 2005: "The Enigma of Alien Solar Systems"
- Why are many of the other solar systems that have been
discovered so different from our own?
- 2006: "Universe: One or Many?"
- Are there reasons to believe that other universes may exist?
- 2007: "The Pioneer Anomaly"
- Why is it that the two Pioneer spacecraft sent on their way
out of our solar system have trajectories that do not precisely
match the predictions of scientists?
- 2008: "Mining the Sky"
- Who owns the natural resources on asteroids, comets, moons,
and planets, and will it ever be practical or worthwhile to mine
Thanks to the many contributors, the Isaac Asimov Memorial Fund
continues to grow. If you would like to participate in this
extraordinary opportunity to perpetuate Isaac's memory and support the
cause of science education, please read
article from Rotunda, the newsletter of the American Museum of
Natural History in New York City, profiles the career of Dr. Janet
Jeppson Asimov, her involvement with the museum, and the establishment
of the Isaac Asimov Memorial Fund.
Black Widower's Collection: The Return of the Black Widowers
A new collection of Isaac Asimov's Black Widower mystery
stories was published by Carroll & Graf in November 2003. The
Return of the Black Widowers features six stories that have
never appeared in a Black Widowers's collection, plus ten of the
best previously collected Black Widower stories. It also
includes an introduction by Asimov's close friend, author Harlan
Ellison; a pastiche about the Black Widowers; and an essay by
Asimov about how he came to write the Black Widowers stories.
Also appearing in the collection is a new Black Widowers story,
"The Last Story", written by Charles Ardai, the editor of the
collection, for the December 2002 issue of Ellery Queen's
Mystery Magazine, to commemorate the tenth anniversary of
Asimov's death and the thirtieth anniversary of the publication
of the first Black Widowers story.
The Return of the Black Widowers can be purchased from
Autobiography: It's Been a Good Life
In late March, 2002,
Prometheus Books published
It's Been a Good Life, an autobiography edited by Janet
Jeppson Asimov. The new book was compiled from selections made
from the three previous autobiographical volumes
In Memory Yet Green
(1979), In Joy Still Felt
(1980), and I. Asimov: A Memoir
(1994). The book also features "A Way of Thinking", Asimov's
400th essay for the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction,
which Janet put together from conversations they had and letters
they had exchanged during many years of correspondence. In
addition, there are excerpts from those letters sprinkled
throughout the book. The result is a portrait of the life of
Isaac Asimov, the writer, humanist, thinker, wit, and bon
vivant, which lovingly illustrates why he was able to truthfully
say "It's been a good life".
The book also includes an epilogue in which Janet Jeppson
Asimov reveals for the first time that Isaac's 1992 death from
heart and kidney failure was a consequence of AIDS contracted
from a transfusion of tainted blood during his December 1983
triple-bypass operation. She explains how and when he learned he
had the disease, and why his doctors convinced him to keep it a
secret from the public. The epilogue includes a description of
Asimov's final days, together with some poignant passages that
describe his views of life and death.
[There have been some erroneous published reports stating
that it was Janet Asimov who convinced her husband to keep the
fact that he had contracted AIDS a secret. This is absolutely
untrue. In fact it was Asimov's doctors who urged that the
matter be kept a secret. See Janet's
April 4, 2002 letter to Locus magazine.]
The book can be purchased online from
Barnes and Noble.
Lists of Asimov's Works
catalogue of Asimov book titles, arranged by categories in the
same fashion as in his autobiographies. (55k)
A list of
Asimov's book titles, numbered in order of authorship, as known
or estimated. (54k)
A "big list" of
all known editions [that is, known by the list compiler, Ed
Seiler] of Asimov's books, in order of publication. This includes
title, publisher, year of publication, number of pages, size,
Library of Congress call number, Dewey number, ISBN, and Library of
Congress card catalog number. (183k)
file has been formatted for 132 columns.
"big list" in alphabetical order by title. (183k)
file has been formatted for 132 columns.
guide to Asimov's short fiction. Every short story Asimov ever
wrote is listed here. Indexes are provided that list works in each
genre in order of publication, and an alphabetical index of titles
lets you find an entry for any Asimov story title. Entries for each
story cite where the story was first published, and list Asimov's
collections and the anthologies in which the story appears. (77k)
guide to Asimov's essays. Over 1600 of Asimov's essays are
listed here, including the subject of the essay, the publication in
which the essay first appeared, and a list of Asimov's collections
in which the essay appeared. Indexes list the essays chronologically
for each major series (e.g. the science essays in the Magazine of
Fantasy and Science Fiction), and also group the essays by subject,
in order to help you find any essay Asimov wrote on any given
A list of
books and articles about Asimov. (6k)
Johnny Pez's Insanely Complete Fiction List
chronology of events in Isaac Asimov's positronic robot and
Foundation stories, compiled by Johnny Pez.
A list of
worlds mentioned in the Foundation series. (5k)
A list of Asimov works available on
other media: records, audio tapes, videotapes, computer
software, and board games. (14k)
Sources for Obtaining Asimov's Books
There are many websites that offer books for sale, and of course the
number grows each day. A number of those are good sources for books by
Asimov, and a few are listed here. Please note that the listing of these
sites do not constitute an endorsement of their services.
Amazon.com Books: With over two-and-a-half million titles
available, there is a good chance that you can find most of Asimov's
books that are currently in print at Amazon.
Advanced Book Exchange represents large numbers of independent
used book dealers, and is a good source for hard-to-find books.
Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America offers
out-of-print, collectible, and hard to find books. They are an
association of booksellers who collectively sell books on the
Internet. . Their selection of books by Asimov often includes a
number of titles you may not have seen elsewhere.
AddAll offers searching and price comparisons.
Powell's Book Store is a large store in Oregon (reputed to be
the largest bookstore west of the Mississippi) that has a website.
Science Fiction Book Club sells its own editions of many of
Asimov's science fiction books at discount prices.
Internet Bookshop is a source for books published in the U.K.
And last, but not least, don't forget your local library as a
source for borrowing books for reading.
Publishers of Asimov's Books on the Web
Prometheus Books published several of Asimov's essay
Random House, whose
Bantam Spectra imprint publishes most of Asimov's
science fiction titles that are currently in print.
Doubleday (Doubleday Broadway Publishing Group, a division of
Random House Inc.) has published more of Asimov's books than any
Gareth Stevens Publishing has published 50 of Asimov's books for
young people on science, technology, and explorers.
HarperCollins, published several of the more recent titles.
HarperCollins UK, whose
Voyager imprint includes a substantial number of Asimov's books
published in the UK.
Penguin Group published Asimov's books under several different
Tor Books is publishing new hardcover editions of Asimov's
science fiction novels. Their
website provides information about their science fiction and
fantasy books, and has links to other SF resources on the web.
Houghton Mifflin Company has published 44 of Asimov's books, but
there is no mention of him at their website.
Jenkins' Spoiler-Laden Guide to Isaac Asimov is a collection of
John Jenkins' reviews of every one of Isaac Asimov's books. Well, he
hasn't actually reviewed all of Asimov's books yet, but he's working
on it. John offers his views of what he likes and dislikes in
Asimov's books from the point of view of a dedicated Asimov
enthusiast, and provides a graphical rating system that neatly
summarizes his evaluations for both the Asimov fan and the intended
audience of each book. He has included reviews of Asimov's short
fiction. John's opinions are highly personal, comprehensive, and
clearly written, and definitely worth a look.
Search the science fiction review archives of the
Science Fiction Resource Guide to view their collection of
reviews of Asimov's books.
brief review of Forward the
Foundation by Matthew B. Tepper.
A Graph of Asimov's Book Publications
It took nineteen years for Asimov to publish his first 100 books, ten
years to publish the next 100, and only five years to bring the total up
to 300. Thanks to Tony Neilson (firstname.lastname@example.org), here is a graph of
the number of books Asimov published each year throughout his career:
Some Items of Interest
Isaac Asimov's Birthplace
Isaac Asimov was born in Petrovichi, Russia, in 1920. Petrovichi is
very proud of their native son, and have honored the place of his birth
with a memorial stone. A
picture was supplied by Alexander Azimov, who is almost certainly a
relative of Isaac's.
Essays by Johnny Pez
Johnny Pez dispenses his knowledge in a series of essays:
The publishing history of the Positronic Robot and Foundation
The publishing history of the Positronic Robot and Empire novels,
The Rise and Fall of the Spacers
Articles from the Encyclopedia Galactica:
A Piece of History
By March 18, 1941, Isaac Asimov had written thirty-one stories, sold
seventeen, and fourteen had been published. At that time, he considered
himself nothing more than a third-rate writer. That evening, he sat down
to write his thirty-second story, based on an idea suggested by
Astounding editor John W. Campbell the day before. By April 8, he
finished the story, titled "Nightfall", and on April 9 he took it to
Campbell. Two days later, he received
this letter from Campbell, and the history of science fiction was
Science Fiction writer
Michael A. Burstein pays homage to Isaac in
Cosmic Corkscrew, his Hugo Award nominated story which appeared in
the June 1998 issue of Analog, and honors the 60th anniversary of
Asimov's submission of his first story to Astounding Science Fiction.
Asimov and Religion
Mike Brummond's scholarly essay
Religion in Asimov's Writings considers the aspects of religion that
appear in Asimov's fiction, and Asimov's views on religion, as expressed
in his nonfiction.
Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine
Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine has a website containing feature
articles, excerpts from upcoming issues, book reviews, online
interviews, reprints of Isaac Asimov's editorials, and much more.
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction
Home to Isaac Asimov's monthly science column for over thirty-three
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, founded in 1949, is the
award-winning SF magazine which is the original publisher of SF classics
like Stephen King's Dark Tower,
Daniel Keyes's "Flowers for Algernon" and Walter M. Miller's
A Canticle for Leibowitz. The
website has selections from recent and upcoming issues, current issue
contents, writer's guidelines, and subscription information.
Other Asimov Resources
Encyclopedia Galactica is the ultimate reference work for the
universe detailed in Isaac Asimov's robot, Galactic Empire, and
Foundation stories. Providing information on people, chronology,
robotics, and other topics, it is published by the Encyclopedia
Galactic Publishing Co., via the efforts of Mike Carlin of Bristol,
Imperial Galaxy, a gallery of original artwork illustrating the
Foundation universe, brought to us by Slawek Wojtowicz.
In the early sixties, Asimov regularly contributed book reviews
The Horn Book, a children's literary review journal, who marked
their 75th anniversary in October 1999. At their virtual history
exhibit is a
letter from Asimov to an editor at Horn Book, after he received
an unexpectedly large payment, asking to make sure that he wasn't
On September 25, 1987, Asimov was interviewed by Terry Gross for
the National Public Radio program Fresh Air. A
RealAudio version of the 27-minute interview can be found at the
New York Times website. To listen to this interview, you'll need the
RealAudio player, which can be downloaded from the
Life & Times section of the
New York Times website also features articles by and about
Asimov, as well as reviews of Asimov's books that appeared in the
Times (registration required).
Science Fiction writer Michael A. Burstein, winner of the 1997
John Campbell Award for Best New Writer, remembers Isaac Asimov in
"Asimov and Me", first published in the Fanzine
Mimosa in December 1997.
1988 interview with Asimov by Slawek Wojtowicz, a science
fiction fan from Poland.
The transcript of a lecture by Asimov on
the future of humanity.
obituary for Isaac that appeared in
chronology of Asimov's Susan Calvin stories, robot novels,
galactic empire novels and Foundation series.
essay by Robert J. Sawyer on why the Three Laws of Robotics
aren't used in the real world.
A Few Science Fiction Resources
Isaac Asimov in 1956
c. January 2, 1920
April 6, 1992 (aged 72)
Science fiction (hard
Golden Age of Science Fiction
Foundation Series, the
The Intelligent Man's Guide to Science,
Planets for Man
Isaac Asimov (c. January 2, 1920
– April 6, 1992; originally Исаак Озимов but now transcribed into
Айзек Азимов), was a
American author and professor of
biochemistry, best known for his works of
science fiction and for his
popular science books. Asimov was one of the most prolific
writers of all time, having written or edited more than 500 books
and an estimated 9,000 letters and
His works have been published in nine of the ten major categories of
Dewey Decimal System (the sole exception being the 100s;
philosophy and psychology).
Asimov is widely considered a master of the science-fiction
genre and, along with
Robert A. Heinlein and
Arthur C. Clarke, was considered one of the "Big Three"
science-fiction writers during his lifetime.
Asimov's most famous work is the
his other major series are the
Galactic Empire series and the
Robot series, both of which he later tied into the same
fictional universe as the Foundation Series to create a unified "future
history" for his stories much like those pioneered by
Robert A. Heinlein and previously produced by
Cordwainer Smith and
He penned numerous short stories, among them "Nightfall",
which in 1964 was voted by the
Science Fiction Writers of America the best short science
fiction story of all time, an accolade that many still find
persuasive. Asimov wrote the
Lucky Starr series of
juvenile science-fiction novels using the
pen name Paul French.
The prolific Asimov also wrote
fantasy, as well as a great amount of
non-fiction. Most of his popularized science books explain
scientific concepts in a historical way, going as far back as
possible to a time when the science in question was at its simplest
stage. He often provides nationalities, birth dates, and death dates
for the scientists he mentions, as well as
etymologies and pronunciation guides for technical terms.
Examples include his Guide to Science, the three volume set
Understanding Physics, Asimov's Chronology of Science and Discovery,
as well as numerous works on
William Shakespeare's works and, of course,
Asimov was a long-time member and Vice President of
Mensa International, albeit reluctantly; he described some
members of that organization as "brain-proud and aggressive about
but also said that the only two people he had ever met who he would
admit were more intelligent than he was were
Marvin Minsky and
He took more joy in being president of the
American Humanist Association.
5020 Asimov, the magazine
Asimov's Science Fiction, a
Brooklyn, NY elementary school, and two different and
distinctive awards are named in his honor.
Asimov was born sometime between October 4, 1919 and January
2, 1920 in
Russia) to Anna Rachel Berman Asimov and Judah Asimov, a
Jewish family of
millers. His exact date of birth is uncertain because of
differences in the
Hebrew calendars and a lack of records. Asimov himself
celebrated it on January 2.
The family name derives from озимые (ozimiye), a
Russian word for a winter grain in which his great-grandfather
dealt, to which a
patronymic suffix was added. His name was originally Isaak
Исаак Озимов); but later in Russia was known as Ayzyek Azimov (Айзек
This is a Russian Cyrillic adaptation of the American English
pronunciation. Asimov had two younger siblings; a sister, Marcia
(born June 17, 1922), and a brother, Stanley (born July 25, 1929).
His family emigrated to the
United States when he was three years old. Since his parents
English with him, he never learned
Growing up in
Brooklyn, New York, Asimov taught himself to read at the age of
five, and remained fluent in Yiddish as well as English. His parents
owned a succession of
candy stores, and everyone in the family was expected to work in
Education and career
pulp magazines were sold in the stores, and he began reading
them. His father in general forbade reading the pulps, but he
persuaded Poppa that magazines with "Science" in the title were
educational. Around the age of eleven, he began to write his own
stories, and by age nineteen, having discovered
science fiction fandom, he was selling them to the science
John W. Campbell, then editor of
Astounding Science Fiction, was a strong formative influence and
eventually became a personal friend.
New York City Public Schools, including Boys' High School, in
Brooklyn, New York. From there he went on to
Columbia University, from which he graduated in 1939, eventually
returning to earn a
Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1948. In between, he spent three years
World War II working as a civilian at the
Navy Yard's Naval Air Experimental Station. After the war ended,
he was drafted into the
U.S. Army, serving for just under nine months before receiving
an honorable discharge. In the course of his brief military career,
he rose to the rank of
corporal on the basis of his typing skills, and narrowly avoided
participating in the 1946
atomic bomb tests at
After completing his doctorate, Asimov joined the faculty of
Boston University School of Medicine, with which he remained
From 1958, this was in a non-teaching capacity, as he turned to
writing full-time (his writing income had already exceeded his
academic salary). Being
tenured meant that he retained the title of
associate professor, and in 1979 the university honored his
writing by promoting him to full
professor of biochemistry. Asimov's personal papers from 1965
are archived at the university's
Mugar Memorial Library, to which he donated them at the request
curator Howard Gottlieb. The collection fills 464 boxes, on
seventy-one metres of shelf space.
Personal life and quirks
Asimov married Gertrude Blugerman (1917, Canada–1990, Boston)
on July 26, 1942. They had two children, David (b. 1951) and Robyn
Joan (b. 1955). After a separation in 1970, he and Gertrude divorced
in 1973, and Asimov married
Janet O. Jeppson later that year.
Asimov was a
claustrophile; he enjoyed small, enclosed spaces.
In the first volume of his autobiography, he recalls a childhood
desire to own a magazine stand in a
New York City Subway station, within which he could enclose
himself and listen to the rumble of passing trains while reading.
afraid of flying,
only doing so twice in his entire life (once in the course of his
work at the Naval Air Experimental Station, and once returning home
from the army base in
Oahu in 1946)
He seldom traveled great distances, partly because his aversion to
flying complicated the logistics of long-distance travel. This
phobia influenced several of his fiction works, such as the
Wendell Urth mystery stories and the Robot novels featuring
Elijah Baley. In his later years, he found he enjoyed traveling
cruise ships, and on several occasions he became part of the
cruises' "entertainment," giving science-themed talks on ships such
RMS Queen Elizabeth 2.
Asimov was an able public speaker, and enjoyed doing so.
Asimov was a frequent fixture at
science fiction conventions, where he remained friendly and
He patiently answered tens of thousands of questions and other mail
with postcards, and was pleased to give autographs. He was of medium
height, stocky, with
muttonchop whiskers and a distinct Brooklyn accent. His physical
dexterity was very poor. He never learned to swim or ride a
bicycle; however, he did learn to drive a car after he moved to
Boston. In his humor book Asimov Laughs Again, he describes Boston
driving as "anarchy on wheels."
Asimov's wide interests included his participation in his
later years in organizations devoted to the
comic operas of
Gilbert and Sullivan
and in The Wolfe Pack,
a group of devotees of the
Nero Wolfe mysteries written by
Rex Stout. Indeed, his interest in Gilbert and Sullivan inspired
Foundation Series, and many of his short stories mention or
He was a prominent member of the
Baker Street Irregulars, the leading
Sherlock Holmes society.
He was also a member of the all-male literary banqueting club the
Trap Door Spiders, which served as the basis of his fictional
group of mystery solvers the
In 1984, the
American Humanist Association (AHA) named him the Humanist of
the Year. From 1985 until his death in 1992, he served as president
of the AHA; his successor was his friend and fellow writer
Kurt Vonnegut. He was also a close friend of
Star Trek creator
Gene Roddenberry, and earned a screen credit on
Star Trek: The Motion Picture for advice he gave during
production (generally, confirming to
Paramount Pictures that Roddenberry's ideas were legitimate
Illness and death
Asimov died on April 6, 1992, in New York City. He was
survived by his second wife, Janet, and his children from his first
marriage. Ten years after his death, Janet Asimov's edition of
It's Been a Good Life, revealed that his death was caused by the
AIDS virus. He had contracted
HIV from a blood transfusion that he received as a necessary
part of coronary-artery bypass operation in December 1983.
The specific cause of death was heart and kidney failure, as
complications of an HIV infection. Janet Asimov wrote in the
epilogue of It's Been a Good Life that Asimov had wanted to "go
public," but his doctors convinced him to remain silent, warning
that the anti-AIDS prejudice would likely extend to his family
members. Asimov's family considered disclosing his condition after
his death, but the controversy that erupted when
Arthur Ashe announced his own AIDS infection (also contracted
from a blood transfusion during heart surgery) convinced them
otherwise. Ten years later, after most of Dr. Asimov's doctors had
died, Janet and Robyn Asimov agreed that the AIDS story should be
Isaac Asimov was a
humanist and a
He did not oppose religious conviction in others, but he frequently
pseudoscientific beliefs that tried to pass themselves off as
genuine science. During his childhood, his father and mother
Orthodox Jewish traditions, though not as stringently as they
Petrovichi; they did not, however, force their beliefs upon
young Isaac. Thus he grew up without strong religious influences,
coming to believe that the
Bible represented Hebrew mythology in the same way that the
Greek mythology. (For a brief while his father worked in the
synagogue to enjoy the familiar surroundings and "shine as a
learned scholar" versed in the sacred writings. This experience had
little effect upon Isaac beyond teaching him the
Hebrew alphabet). For many years, Asimov called himself an
atheist; however, he considered the term somewhat inadequate, as
it described what he did not believe rather than what he did.
Eventually, he described himself as a "humanist"
and considered that term more practical.
In his last volume of autobiography, Asimov wrote, "If I were
not an atheist, I would believe in a God who would choose to save
people on the basis of the totality of their lives and not the
pattern of their words. I think he would prefer an honest and
righteous atheist to a TV preacher whose every word is God, God,
God, and whose every deed is foul, foul, foul."
The same memoir states his belief that
Hell is "the drooling dream of a
sadist" crudely affixed to an all-merciful God; if even human
governments were willing to curtail cruel and unusual punishments,
wondered Asimov, why would punishment in the afterlife not be
restricted to a limited term? Asimov rejected the idea that a human
belief or action could merit infinite punishment. If an afterlife of
just deserts existed, he claimed, the longest and most severe
punishment would be reserved for those who "slandered God by
As his books Treasury of Humor and Asimov Laughs Again record,
Asimov was willing to tell
jokes involving the
Garden of Eden,
Jerusalem, and other religious topics, expressing the viewpoint
that a good joke can do more to provoke thought than hours of
Asimov became a staunch supporter of the
Democratic Party during the
New Deal, and thereafter remained a political liberal. He was a
vocal opponent of the
Vietnam War in the 1960s and, in a television interview during
the early 1970s, he publicly endorsed
George McGovern. He was unhappy about what he considered an
"irrationalist" viewpoint taken by many liberal political activists
from the late 1960s and onwards. In his second volume of
autobiography In Joy Still Felt, Asimov recalled meeting the
Abbie Hoffman; Asimov's impression was that the
1960s' counterculture heroes had ridden an emotional wave which,
in the end, left them stranded in a "no-man's land of the spirit"
from which he wondered if they would ever return. (This attitude is
The Wave Speech in
Hunter S. Thompson's
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.) His defense of civil
nuclear power even after the
Three Mile Island nuclear power plant incident damaged his
relations with some of his fellow liberals. In a letter reprinted in
Yours, Isaac Asimov,
he states that although he would prefer living in "no danger
whatsoever" than near a nuclear reactor, he would still prefer a
home near a nuclear power plant than in a slum on
Love Canal or near "a
Union Carbide plant producing
methyl isocyanate" (referring to the
Bhopal disaster). He issued many appeals for
population control, reflecting a perspective articulated by
Thomas Malthus through
Paul R. Ehrlich. Asimov considered himself a
feminist even before
Women's Liberation became a widespread movement; he joked that
he wished women to be free "because I hate it when they charge".
More seriously, he argued that the issue of women's rights was
closely connected to that of population control. Furthermore, he
homosexuality must be considered a "moral right" on population
grounds, as must all
consenting adult sexual activity that does not lead to
In the closing years of his life, Asimov blamed the
deterioration of the quality of life that he perceived in
New York City on the shrinking tax base caused by the
middle class flight to the
suburbs. His last non-fiction book,
Our Angry Earth (1991, co-written with his long-time friend
science fiction author
Frederik Pohl), deals with elements of the
environmental crisis such as
global warming and the destruction of the
Rowena Morrill depicts Asimov enthroned with symbols
of his life's work
Asimov's career can be divided into several time periods. His
early career, dominated by science fiction, began with short stories
in 1939 and novels in 1950. This lasted until about 1958, all but
ending after publication of
The Naked Sun. He began publishing nonfiction in 1952,
co-authoring a college-level textbook called Biochemistry and Human
Metabolism. Following the brief orbit of the first man-made
Sputnik I by the
USSR in 1957, his production of nonfiction, particularly
popular science books, greatly increased, with a consequent drop
in his science fiction output. Over the next quarter century, he
wrote only four science fiction novels. Starting in 1982, the second
half of his science fiction career began with the publication of
Foundation's Edge. From then until his death, Asimov published
several more sequels and prequels to his existing novels, tying them
together in a way he had not originally anticipated, making a
unified series. There are, however, many inconsistencies in this
unification, especially in his earlier stories.
Asimov believed that his most enduring contributions would be
Laws of Robotics" and the
Foundation Series (see Yours, Isaac Asimov, p. 329).
Oxford English Dictionary credits his science fiction for
introducing the words
positronic (an entirely fictional technology),
psychohistory (which is also used for a
different study on historical motivations) and
robotics into the English language. Asimov coined the term
robotics without suspecting that it might be an original word; at
the time, he believed it was simply the natural analogue of words
hydraulics, but for
robots. Unlike his word psychohistory, the word robotics
continues in mainstream technical use with Asimov's original
Star Trek: The Next Generation featured
androids with "positronic
brains" giving Asimov full credit for 'inventing' this fictional
technology. His fictional writings for space and time are similar to
the writings of
Brian W Aldiss,
Poul Anderson and
Gregory Benford. He is considered one of few authors who have
the potential to bring older teenagers in to the realm of adult
Asimov first began reading the science fiction
pulp magazines sold in his family's confectionery store in 1929.
He came into contact with
science fiction fandom in the mid-1930s, particularly the circle
which became the
Futurians. He began writing his first science fiction story,
"Cosmic Corkscrew", in 1937, but failed to finish it until June
1938, when he was inspired to do so after a visit to the offices of
Astounding Science Fiction. He finished "Cosmic Corkscrew" on
June 19, and submitted the story in person to Astounding editor
John W. Campbell two days later. Campbell rejected "Cosmic
Corkscrew", but encouraged Asimov to keep trying, and Asimov did so.
Asimov sold his third story, "Marooned
Off Vesta", to
Amazing Stories magazine in October, and it appeared in the
March 1939 issue. He continued to write and sometimes sell stories
to the science fiction pulps.
In 1941, he published his 32nd story, "Nightfall",
which has been described as one of "the most famous science-fiction
stories of all time".
In 1968 the Science Fiction Writers of America voted "Nightfall" the
best science fiction short story ever written.
In his short story collection
Nightfall and Other Stories he wrote, "The writing of
'Nightfall' was a watershed in my professional career ... I was
suddenly taken seriously and the world of science fiction became
aware that I existed. As the years passed, in fact, it became
evident that I had written a 'classic'".
"Nightfall" is an archetypal example of
social science fiction, a term coined by Asimov to describe a
new trend in the 1940s, led by authors including Asimov and
Heinlein, away from
space opera and toward speculation about the
By 1941 Asimov had begun selling regularly to Astounding,
which was then the field's leading magazine. From 1943 to 1949, all
of his published science fiction appeared in Astounding.
In 1942 he published the first of his Foundation stories—later
collected in the
Foundation and Empire (1952), and
Second Foundation (1953)—which recount the collapse and rebirth
of a vast
interstellar empire in a universe of the future. Taken together,
they are his most famous work of science fiction, along with the
Robot Series. Many years later, due to pressure by fans on
Asimov to write another,
he continued the series with
Foundation's Edge (1982) and
Foundation and Earth (1986), and then went back to before the
original trilogy with
Prelude to Foundation (1988) and
Forward the Foundation (1992). The series features his fictional
Psychohistory in which the future course of the history of large
populations can be predicted.
positronic robot stories—many of which were collected in
I, Robot (1950)—were begun at about the same time. They
promulgated a set of rules of
ethics for robots (see
Three Laws of Robotics) and intelligent machines that greatly
influenced other writers and thinkers in their treatment of the
subject. One such short story, "The
Bicentennial Man", was made into a
The 2004 film
I, Robot, starring
Will Smith, was based on a script by
Jeff Vintar entitled Hardwired, with Asimov's ideas incorporated
later after acquiring the rights to the I, Robot title.
It is not related to the I, Robot script by
Harlan Ellison, who collaborated with Asimov himself to create a
version that captured the spirit of the original. Asimov is quoted
as saying that Ellison's screenplay would lead to "the first really
adult, complex, worthwhile science fiction movie ever made". The
screenplay was published in book form in 1994, after hopes of seeing
it in film form were becoming slim.
Besides movies, his
Robot stories have inspired other derivative works of science
fiction literature, many by well-known and established authors such
Roger MacBride Allen,
Gregory Benford and
David Brin. These appear to have been done with the blessing,
and often at the request of, Asimov's widow
In 1948 he also wrote a
spoof chemistry article, "The
Endochronic Properties of Resublimated Thiotimoline". At the
time, Asimov was preparing his own doctoral
dissertation, and for the oral examination to follow that.
Fearing a prejudicial reaction from his graduate school evaluation
Columbia University, Asimov asked his editor that it be released
pseudonym, yet it appeared under his own name, anyway, because
of a mistake by the publisher. During his oral examination shortly
thereafter, Asimov grew concerned at the scrutiny he received. At
the end of the examination, one evaluator turned to him, smiling,
and said "Mr. Asimov, tell us something about the thermodynamic
properties of the compound thiotimoline". The stuttering Asimov was
sent out of the room then. After a 20-minute or so wait, he was
summoned back into the Examination Room and congratulated as "Dr.
In 1949, the book publisher
Doubleday's science fiction editor Walter I. Bradbury accepted
Asimov's unpublished novelette "Grow Old Along With Me" (40,000
words) for publication, but requested that it be extended to a full
novel of 70,000 words. The book appeared under the Doubleday imprint
in January 1950 with the title of
Pebble in the Sky. The Doubleday company went on to publish five
more original science fiction novels by Asimov in the 1950s, along
with the six juvenile
Lucky Starr novels, under the pseudonym of "Paul French".
Doubleday also published collections of Asimov's short stories,
The Martian Way and Other Stories in 1955. The early 1950s also
Gnome Press company publishing one collection of Asimov's
positronic robot stories as
I, Robot and his
Foundation stories and novelettes as the three books of the
Foundation Trilogy. More positronic robot stories were
republished in book form as
The Rest of the Robots.
When new science fiction magazines, notably
Galaxy Magazine and
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, appeared in the
1950s, Asimov began publishing short stories in them as well. He
would later refer to the 1950s as his "golden decade". A number of
these stories are included in his
Best of anthology, including
The Last Question (1956), on the ability of humankind to cope
with and potentially reverse the process of
entropy. It was his personal favorite and considered by many to
be equal to
Nightfall. Asimov wrote of it in 1973:
Why is it my favorite? For one thing I got the idea all
at once and didn't have to fiddle with it; and I wrote it in
white-heat and scarcely had to change a word. This sort of
thing endears any story to any writer.
Then, too, it has had the strangest effect on my
readers. Frequently someone writes to ask me if I can give
them the name of a story, which they think I may have
written, and tell them where to find it. They don't remember
the title but when they describe the story it is invariably
The Last Question. This has reached the point where I
recently received a long-distance phone call from a
desperate man who began, "Dr. Asimov, there's a story I
think you wrote, whose title I can't remember—" at which
point I interrupted to tell him it was The Last Question and
when I described the plot it proved to be indeed the story
he was after. I left him convinced I could read minds at a
distance of a thousand miles.
In December 1974, the former
Paul McCartney approached Asimov and asked him if he could write
the screenplay for a science-fiction movie musical. McCartney had a
vague idea for the plot and a small scrap of dialogue; he wished to
make a film about a rock band whose members discover they are being
impersonated by a group of extraterrestrials. The band and their
impostors would likely be played by McCartney's group
Wings, then at the height of their career. Intrigued by the
idea, although he was not generally a fan of
rock music, Asimov quickly produced a "treatment" or brief
outline of the story. He adhered to McCartney's overall idea,
producing a story he felt to be moving and dramatic. However, he did
not make use of McCartney's brief scrap of dialogue, and probably as
a consequence, McCartney rejected the story. The treatment now
exists only in the Boston University archives.
Beginning in 1977, Asimov lent his name to
Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine (now
Asimov's Science Fiction) and penned an editorial for each
issue. There was also a short-lived Asimov's SF Adventure Magazine
and a companion Asimov's Science Fiction Anthology reprint series,
published as magazines (in the same manner as the stablemates
Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine's and
Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine's "anthologies").
During the late 1950s and 1960s, Asimov shifted gears
somewhat, and substantially decreased his fiction output (he
published only four adult novels between 1957's
The Naked Sun and 1982's
Foundation's Edge, two of which were mysteries). At the same
time, he greatly increased his non-fiction production, writing
mostly on science topics; the launch of
Sputnik in 1957 engendered public concern over a "science gap",
which Asimov's publishers were eager to fill with as much material
as he could write.
Meanwhile, the monthly
Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction invited him to continue
his regular non-fiction column, begun in the now-folded bimonthly
Venture Science Fiction Magazine, ostensibly dedicated to
popular science, but with Asimov having complete editorial
freedom. The first of the F&SF columns appeared in November 1958,
and they followed uninterrupted thereafter, with 399 entries, until
Asimov's terminal illness. These columns, periodically collected
into books by his principal publisher,
Doubleday, helped make Asimov's reputation as a "Great
Explainer" of science, and were referred to by him as his only
pop-science writing in which he never had to assume complete
ignorance of the subjects at hand on the part of his readers. The
popularity of his first wide-ranging reference work,
The Intelligent Man's Guide to Science, also allowed him to give
up most of his academic responsibilities and become essentially a
Asimov wrote several essays on the social contentions of his
time, including "Thinking About Thinking" and "Science: Knock
The great variety of information covered in Asimov's writings
Kurt Vonnegut to ask, "How does it feel to know everything?"
Asimov replied that he only knew how it felt to have the reputation
of omniscience—"Uneasy". (See In Joy Still Felt, chapter 30.) In the
introduction to his story collection
Thomas Pynchon admitted that he relied upon Asimov's science
popularizations (and the
Oxford English Dictionary) to provide his knowledge of
It is a mark of the friendship and respect accorded Asimov by
Arthur C. Clarke that the so-called "Asimov-Clarke Treaty of
Park Avenue", put together as they shared a cab ride along
Park Avenue in
New York, stated that Asimov was required to insist that Clarke
was the best science fiction writer in the world (reserving second
best for himself), while Clarke was required to insist that Asimov
was the best science writer in the world (reserving second best for
Thus the dedication in Clarke's book Report on Planet Three (1972)
reads: "In accordance with the terms of the Clarke-Asimov treaty,
the second-best science writer dedicates this book to the
second-best science-fiction writer."
In addition to his interest in science, Asimov was also
greatly interested in history. Starting in the 1960s, he wrote 14
popular history books, most notably The Greeks: A Great Adventure
Roman Republic (1966), The
Roman Empire (1967), The Egyptians (1967) and The Near East:
10,000 Years of History (1968).
Asimov's Guide to the Bible in two volumes— covering the
Old Testament in 1967 and the
New Testament in 1969— and then combined them into one
1,300-page volume in 1981. Complete with maps and tables, the guide
goes through the books of the
Bible in order, explaining the history of each one and the
political influences that affected it, as well as biographical
information about the important characters. His interest in
literature manifested itself in several annotations of literary
Asimov's Guide to Shakespeare (1970), Asimov's Annotated
Paradise Lost (1974), and The Annotated Gulliver's Travels (1980).
Asimov was also a noted mystery author and a frequent
contributor to Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. He began by writing
science fiction mysteries such as his Wendall Urth stories but soon
moved on to writing "pure" mysteries. He only published two
full-length mystery novels but he wrote several stories about the
Black Widowers, a group of men who met monthly for dinner,
conversation, and a puzzle. He got the idea for the Widowers from
his own association in a stag group called the Trap Door Spiders and
all of the main characters (with the exception of the waiter, Henry,
who he admitted resembled Wodehouse's Jeeves) were modeled after his
Toward the end of his life, Asimov published a series of
limericks, mostly written by himself, starting with
Lecherous Limericks, which appeared in 1975. Limericks: Too
Gross, whose title displays Asimov's love of
puns, contains 144 limericks by Asimov and an equal number by
John Ciardi. He even created a slim volume of
Sherlockian limericks (and embarrassed one fan by autographing
her copy with an impromptu limerick that rhymed 'Nancy' with
'romancy'). Asimov featured
Yiddish humor in
Azazel, The Two Centimeter Demon. The two main characters, both
Jewish, talk over dinner, or lunch, or breakfast, about anecdotes of
"George" and his friend Azazel. Asimov's Treasury of Humor is both a
working joke book and a treatise propounding his views on
humor theory. According to Asimov, the most essential element of
humor is an abrupt change in point of view, one that suddenly shifts
focus from the important to the trivial, or from the sublime to the
Particularly in his later years, Asimov to some extent
cultivated an image of himself as an amiable lecher. In 1971, as a
response to the popularity of sexual guidebooks such as
The Sensuous Woman (by "J") and
The Sensuous Man (by "M"), Asimov published The Sensuous Dirty
Old Man under the byline "Dr. 'A'", but with his full name
prominently displayed on the cover.
Asimov published two volumes of autobiography:
In Memory Yet Green (1979) and
In Joy Still Felt (1980). A third autobiography, I. Asimov: A
Memoir, was published in April 1994. The epilogue was written by his
Janet Asimov a decade after his death.
It's Been a Good Life (2002), edited by Janet, is a condensed
version of his three autobiographies. He also published three
volumes of retrospectives of his writing,
Opus 100 (1969), Opus 200 (1979), and Opus 300 (1984).
Star Trek creator
Gene Roddenberry developed a unique relationship during Star
Trek's initial launch in the late 1960s. Asimov wrote a critical
essay on Star Trek's scientific accuracy for
TV Guide magazine. Roddenberry retorted respectfully with a
personal letter explaining the limitations of accuracy when writing
a weekly series. Asimov corrected himself with a follow-up essay to
TV Guide claiming despite its inaccuracies, that Star Trek was a
fresh and intellectually challenging science fiction television
show. The two remained friends to the point where Asimov even served
as an advisor on a number of Star Trek projects.
Much of Asimov's fiction dealt with themes of
paternalism. His first robot story, "Robbie",
concerned a robotic
nanny. "Lenny" deals with the capacity of
robopsychologist Susan Calvin to feel
maternal love towards a robot whose positronic brain capacities
are those of a 3-year-old. As the robots grew more sophisticated,
their interventions became more wide-reaching and subtle. In "Evidence",
the story revolves around a candidate who successfully runs for
office who may be a robot masquerading as a human. In "The
Evitable Conflict", the robots run humanity from behind the
scenes, acting as nannies to the whole species.
The Robots of Dawn and
Robots and Empire, a robot develops what he calls the
Zeroth Law of Robotics, which states that: "A robot may not
injure humanity, nor, through inaction, allow humanity to come to
harm". He also decides that robotic presence is stifling humanity's
freedom, and that the best course of action is for the robots to
phase themselves out. A non-robot,
time travel novel,
The End of Eternity, features a similar conflict and resolution.
The significance of the Zeroth Law is that it outweighs and
supersedes all other Laws of Robotics: if a robot finds himself in a
situation whereby he must
murder one or more humans (a direct violation of the
First Law of Robotics) in order to protect all of humanity (and
preserve the Zeroth Law), then the robot's positronic programming
will require him to commit murder for humanity's sake. Only highly
advanced robots (such as Daneel and Giskard) could comprehend this
The Foundation Series (which did not originally have robots), a
scientist implements a semi-secret plan to create a new
galactic empire over the course of 1,000 years. This series has
its version of
Platonic guardians, called the Second Foundation, to perfect and
protect the plan. When Asimov stopped writing the series in the
1950s, the Second Foundation was depicted as benign protectors of
humanity. When he revisited the series in the 1980s, he made the
paternalistic themes even more explicit.
Foundation's Edge introduced the planet
Gaia, obviously based on the
Gaia hypothesis. Every animal, plant, and mineral on Gaia
participated in a shared consciousness, forming a single super-mind
working together for the greater good. In Foundation and Earth, the
protagonist starts searching for the
Earth, thinking that there he could find the answer of why he
decided, in Foundation's Edge, that
Galaxia was the right choice to take.
Gaia is one of Asimov's best attempts at exploring the
possibility of a collective awareness, and is compounded further in
Nemesis, in which the planet Erythro composed primarily of
prokaryotic life has a mind of its own and seeks communion with
Foundation and Earth introduces robots to the Foundation
universe. Two of Asimov's last novels,
Prelude to Foundation and
Forward the Foundation, explore their behavior in fuller detail.
The robots are depicted as
covert operatives, acting for the benefit of humanity.
Another frequent theme, perhaps the reverse of paternalism, is
The Currents of Space takes place on a planet where a unique
plant fiber is grown; the agricultural workers there are exploited
by the aristocrats of a nearby planet. In
The Stars, Like Dust, the hero helps a planet that is oppressed
by an arrogant interplanetary empire, the Tyranni.
Often the victims of oppression are either Earth people (as
opposed to colonists on other planets) or robots. In "The
Bicentennial Man", a robot fights prejudice to be accepted as a
The Caves of Steel, the people of Earth resent the wealthier
"Spacers" and in turn treat robots (associated with the Spacers) in
ways reminiscent of how whites treated blacks, such as addressing
robots as "boy".
Pebble in the Sky shows an analogous situation: the Galactic
Empire rules Earth and its people use such terms as "Earthie-squaw",
but Earth is a theocratic dictatorship that enforces
euthanasia of anyone older than 60. One hero is Bel Arvardan, an
upper-class Galactic archaeologist who must overcome his prejudices.
The other is Joseph Schwartz, a 62-year-old 20th century American
who had emigrated from
Europe, where his people were persecuted (he is quite possibly
Jewish), and is accidentally transported forward in time to
Arvardan's period. He must decide whether to help a downtrodden
society that thinks he should be dead.
Yet another frequent theme in Asimov is
rational thought. He invented the science-fiction
mystery with the novel The Caves of Steel and the stories in
Asimov's Mysteries, usually playing fair with the reader by
introducing early in the story any science or technology involved in
the solution. Later, he produced non-SF mysteries, including the
Murder at the ABA (1976) and the "Black
Widowers" and "Union Club" short stories, in which he followed
the same rule. In his fiction, important scenes are often
essentially debates, with the more rational, humane—or
One of the most common impressions of Asimov's fiction work is
that his writing style is extremely unornamented. In 1980, science
James Gunn, professor
English at the
University of Kansas wrote of
Except for two stories—"Liar!"
are not stories in which character plays a significant part.
Virtually all plot develops in conversation with little if
any action. Nor is there a great deal of local color or
description of any kind. The dialogue is, at best,
functional and the style is, at best, transparent.... The
robot stories—and, as a matter of fact, almost all Asimov
fiction—play themselves on a relatively bare stage.
Gunn observes that there are places where Asimov's style rises
to the demands of the situation; he cites the climax of "Liar!" as
an example. Sharply drawn characters occur at key junctures of his
storylines: In addition to
Susan Calvin in "Liar!" and "Evidence", we find
Arkady Darell in
Elijah Baley in
The Caves of Steel and
Hari Seldon in the Foundation prequels.
Asimov was also criticized for the general absence of
sexuality and of
extraterrestrial life in his science fiction. Asimov once
explained that his reluctance to write about aliens came from an
incident early in his career when Astounding's editor
John Campbell rejected one of his early science fiction stories
because the alien characters were portrayed as superior to the
humans. He decided that, rather than write weak alien characters, he
would not write about aliens at all. Nevertheless, in response to
these criticisms he wrote
The Gods Themselves, which contains aliens, sex, and alien sex.
Asimov said that of all his writings, he was most proud of the
middle section of The Gods Themselves, the part which deals with
Hugo Award-winning novella "Gold",
Asimov describes an author clearly based on himself who has one of
his books (The
Gods Themselves) adapted into a "compu-drama", essentially
computer animation. The director criticizes the fictionalized
Asimov ("Gregory Laborian") for having an extremely nonvisual style
making it difficult to adapt his work, and the author explains that
he relies on ideas and dialogue rather than description to get his
Others have criticised him for a lack of strong female
characters in his early work. In his autobiographical writings he
acknowledges this, and responds by pointing to inexperience. His
later novels, written with more female characters but in essentially
the same prose style as his early SF stories, brought this matter to
a wider audience. For example, the August 25, 1985 Washington Post's
"Book World" section reports of Robots and Empire as follows:
In 1940, Asimov's humans were stripped-down masculine
portraits of Americans from 1940, and they still are. His
robots were tin cans with speedlines like an old
Studebaker, and still are; the Robot tales depended on
an increasingly unworkable distinction between movable and
artificial intelligences, and still do. In the Asimov
universe, because it was conceived a long time ago, and
because its author abhors confusion, there are no computers
whose impact is worth noting, no social complexities, no
genetic engineering, aliens,
clones, sin or sex; his heroes (in this case
R. Daneel Olivaw, whom we first met as the robot
protagonist of The Caves of Steel and its sequels) feel no
pressure of information, raw or cooked, as the simplest of
us do today; they suffer no deformation from the winds of
the Asimov future, because it is so deeply and strikingly
Be that as it may, a considerable portion of such criticism
boils down to the charge that Asimov's works are simply dated. More
precisely, some details of Asimov's imaginary future technology as
he described in the 1940s and 1950s have not aged well. He, for
example, described powerful robots and computers from the distant
future as still using
punch cards or
punched tape and engineers using
slide rules. In one dramatic scene in
Foundation and Empire, a character gets the news by buying a
paper at a
In addition, his stories also have occasional internal
contradictions: names and dates given in
The Foundation Series do not always agree with one another, for
example. Some such errors may plausibly be due to mistakes the
characters make, since characters in Asimov stories are seldom fully
informed about their own situations. Other contradictions resulted
from the many years elapsed between the time Asimov began the
Foundation series and when he resumed work on it; occasionally,
advances in scientific knowledge forced him to revise his own
Other than books by Gunn and Patrouch, there is a relative
dearth of "literary" criticism on Asimov (particularly when compared
to the sheer volume of his output). Cowart and Wymer's Dictionary of
Literary Biography (1981) gives a possible reason:
His words do not easily lend themselves to traditional
literary criticism because he has the habit of centering
his fiction on plot and clearly stating to his reader, in
rather direct terms, what is happening in his stories and
why it is happening. In fact, most of the dialogue in an
Asimov story, and particularly in the Foundation trilogy, is
devoted to such exposition. Stories that clearly state what
they mean in unambiguous language are the most difficult for
a scholar to deal with because there is little to be
In fairness, Gunn's and Patrouch's respective studies of
Asimov both take the stand that a clear, direct prose style is still
a style. Gunn's 1982 book goes into considerable depth commenting
upon each of Asimov's novels published to that date. He does not
praise all of Asimov's fiction (nor does Patrouch), but he does call
some passages in
The Caves of Steel "reminiscent of
Proust". When discussing how that novel depicts night falling
New York City, Gunn says that Asimov's prose "need not be
ashamed anywhere in literary society".
Although he prided himself on his unornamented prose style
(for which he credited
Clifford Simak as an early influence), Asimov also enjoyed
giving his longer stories complicated
narrative structures, often by arranging chapters in non-chronological
ways. Some readers have been put off by this, complaining that the
nonlinearity is not worth the trouble and adversely affects the
clarity of the story. For example, the first third of The Gods
Themselves begins with Chapter 6, then backtracks to fill in earlier
(John Campbell advised Asimov to begin his stories as late in the
plot as possible. This advice helped Asimov create "Reason,"
one of the early Robot stories. See In Memory Yet Green for details
of that time period.) Patrouch found that the interwoven and nested
The Currents of Space did serious harm to that novel, to such an
extent that only a "dyed-in-the-kyrt
Asimov fan" could enjoy it. Asimov's tendency to contort his
timelines is perhaps most apparent in his later novel
Nemesis, in which one group of characters live in the "present"
and another group starts in the "past", beginning fifteen years
earlier and gradually moving toward the time period of the first
Donald Palumbo, an English professor at
East Carolina University, published Chaos Theory, Asimov's
Foundations and Robots, and Herbert’s Dune: The
Fractal Aesthetic of Epic Science Fiction. This includes a
review of Asimov's narrative structures that compares them with the
scientific concepts of
chaos. Palumbo finds that though the traditional interests of
literature (such as
characterization) are often somewhat lacking or even absent, a
fascination with the
metaseries remains. He determines that the purposeful
complexities of the narrative build unusual symmetric and
recursive structures to be perceived by the mind's eye. This
volume contains some of the most scholarly and in-depth criticism of
Asimov to date.
John Jenkins, who has reviewed the vast majority of Asimov's
written output, once observed:
It has been pointed out that most science fiction writers
since the 1950s have been affected by Asimov, either
modeling their style on his or deliberately avoiding
anything like his style.
Asimov, Isaac. In Memory Yet Green. "The date of my birth,
as I celebrate it, was January 2, 1920. It could not have
been later than that. It might, however, have been earlier.
Allowing for the uncertainties of the times, of the lack of
records, of the
Julian calendars, it might have been as early as October
4, 1919. There is, however, no way of finding out. My
parents were always uncertain and it really doesn't matter.
I celebrate January 2, 1920, so let it be."
"Notes From Curator: Isaac Asimov".
Seiler, Edward; Jenkins, John H. (2008-06-27).
"Isaac Asimov FAQ" (HTML). Isaac Asimov Home Page.
Retrieved on 2008-07-02.
Freedman, Carl (2000), Critical Theory and Science
Fiction, Doubleday, pp. 71
"Isaac Asimov Biography and List of Works" (HTML).
Retrieved on 2008-03-05.
Asimov, Isaac (1994). I. Asimov: A Memoir. New York:
Doubleday. pp. 475–476.
Asimov, Isaac (1994), I, Asimov: A Memoir, New York:
Doubleday, pp. 380
Isaac Asimov (1980). In Joy Still Felt: The Autobiography of
Isaac Asimov, 1954-1978. Doubleday/Avon. p. 217,302.
Asimov, Isaac (1994). I. Asimov: A Memoir. New York:
Doubleday. pp. 500.
Asimov, Isaac. In Memory Yet Green. "There are three very
simple English words: 'Has,' 'him' and 'of.' Put them
together like this—'has-him-of'—and say it in the ordinary
fashion. Now leave out the two h's and say it again and you
Asimov, Isaac (2002). Janet Asimov. ed. It's Been a Good
Life. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books. pp. 12.
Gunn, James (1982). Isaac Asimov: The Foundations of
Science Fiction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 12–13,
Isaac Asimov Interview with Don Swaim (1987)
Asimov, Isaac (1994). I. Asimov: A Memoir. New York:
Doubleday. pp. 129–131.
Asimov, Isaac (1979). In Memory Yet Green: The Autobiography
of Isaac Asimov, 1920-1954. Garden City, New York:
Asimov, Isaac (1994). I. Asimov: A Memoir. New York:
Doubleday. pp. 125–129.
Asimov, Isaac (1992). Asimov Laughs Again. New York:
^ White (2005), pp. 83 and 219–20
^ Asimov, Isaac. I. Asimov, a Memoir, New York,
Doubleday, 1994, pages 376-377.
"Asimov FAQ". 2004-09-27.
Retrieved on 2007-01-17.
"Locus Online: Letter from Janet Asimov". 2002-04-04.
Retrieved on 2007-01-17.
^ Isaac Asimov, "The Way of Reason," in In Pursuit of
Truth: Essays on the Philosophy of Karl Popper on the
Occasion of his 80th Birthday,, ed.
Paul Levinson, Humanities Press, 1982, pp. ix-x.
Asimov, Isaac (1995). I. Asimov: A Memoir. New York: Bantam.
Asimov, Isaac (1995). I. Asimov: A Memoir. New York: Bantam.
b Asimov, Isaac (1996). Yours,
Isaac Asimov, edited by Stanley Asimov.
Asimov, Isaac (1991). Isaac Asimov's Treasury of Humor.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. pp. 346-347.
Asimov, Isaac (1988), Prelude to Foundation, Bantam Books,
Spud, The Invincible.
"Isaac Asimov: The Good Doctor". Bewildering Stories
Retrieved on 2007-05-13.
"Isaac Asimov Obituary". quotes
The New York Times, April 7, 1992 edition.
Retrieved on 2007-05-13.
Michael Sampson (2004-01-14).
"The Bottom of Things".
Retrieved on 2007-01-17.
"Isaac Asimov FAQ, Part 1". 2001-02-09.
Retrieved on 2007-01-17.
Asimov, Isaac (1991), Puzzles of the Black Widowers, Bantam
Gunn, James (1980-07), "On Variations on a Robot", Isaac
Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine: 56–81
Asimov, Isaac (1994), I, Asimov: A Memoir, New York:
Doubleday, pp. 250
"Review of The Gods Themselves".
Retrieved on 2007-05-13.
^ Asimov, Isaac (1952),
The Currents of Space, explanation of "kyrt"
"Review of an Asimov biography, The Unauthorized Life".
Retrieved on 2007-05-13.
Including all titles, charts, and edited collections, there
are currently 515 items in Asimov's bibliography--not counting his
individual short stories, individual essays, and criticism. For his
100th, 200th, and 300th books
(based on his personal count), Asimov published
Opus 100 (1969), Opus 200 (1979), and Opus 300 (1984),
celebrating his writing; he did not choose to do this for his 400th
book, however. Asimov's writings span across all major categories of
Dewey Decimal Classification except for
For a listing of Asimov's books in chronological order within
his future history, see the
Foundation Series list of books.
Fantastic Voyage series
"Greater Foundation" series
The Robot series was originally separate from the Foundation
series. The Galactic Empire novels were originally published as
independent stories. Later in life, Asimov synthesized them into a
single coherent 'history' that appeared in the extension of the
Original Foundation trilogy:
Extended Foundation series:
Further Extended Foundation series — Second Foundation
Lucky Starr series
Norby Chronicles (With Janet Asimov)
Norby, the Mixed-Up Robot (1983)
Norby's Other Secret (1984)
Norby and the Lost Princess (1985)
Norby and the Invaders (1985)
Norby and the Queen's Necklace (1986)
Norby Finds a Villain (1987)
Norby Down to Earth (1988)
Norby and Yobo's Great Adventure (1989)
Norby and the Oldest Dragon (1990)
Norby and the Court Jester (1991)
Novels not part of a series
Novels marked with an asterisk * have minor connections to the
Short story collections
List of short stories by Isaac Asimov
I, Robot (1950),
The Martian Way and Other Stories (1955),
Earth Is Room Enough (1957),
Nine Tomorrows (1959),
The Rest of the Robots (1964),
Through a Glass, Clearly (1967),
Nightfall and Other Stories (1969),
The Early Asimov (1972),
The Best of Isaac Asimov (1973),
Buy Jupiter and Other Stories (1975,
The Bicentennial Man and Other Stories (1976),
The Complete Robot (1982)
The Winds of Change and Other Stories (1983),
The Alternate Asimovs (1986),
The Best Science Fiction of Isaac Asimov (1986)
Robot Dreams (1986),
Robot Visions (1990)
Short story collections
Collections of columns from the
Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction
Fact and Fancy (1962)
View from a Height (1963)
Adding a Dimension (1964)
Of Time, Space, & Other Things (1965)
From Earth to Heaven (1966)
Science, Numbers and I (1968)
The Solar System and Back (1970)
The Stars in Their Courses (1971)
Left Hand of the Electron (1972)
The Tragedy of the Moon (1973)
Of Matters Great & Small (1975)
The Planet that Wasn't (1976)
Quasar, Quasar, Burning Bright (1977)
Road to Infinity (1979)
The Sun Shines Bright (1981)
Counting the Eons (1983)
X Stands for Unknown (1984)
The Subatomic Monster (1985)
Far as Human Eye Could See (1987)
The Relativity of Wrong (1988)
Out of the Everywhere (1990)
The Secret of The Universe (1990)
Atom: Journey Across the Subatomic Cosmos (1991)
Opus 100 (1969),
The Sensuous Dirty Old Man (A collection of
Limericks, Two Gross (More limericks)
Asimov's Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology
Opus 200 (1979),
Our Federal Union (1975), ISBN 0-395-2283-3
Isaac Asimov's Book of Facts (1979),
The Roving Mind (1983) (collection of essays). New edition
Prometheus Books, 1997,
Opus 300 (1984),
TV and film appearances
Stranieri in America 1988
Oltre New York 1986
Voyage to the Outer Planets and Beyond 1986
Target... Earth? 1980
The Dick Cavett Show 1970
The Nature of Things 1969
News" coverage of
Apollo 11, 1969, with
Fred Pohl, interviewed by
Tell The Truth", CBS, approximately 1968, playing the "real"
ARTS Network talk show hosted by
Studs Terkel and
Calvin Trillin, approximately 1982. Other guests included
Harlan Ellison and
Frost" interview program, August 1969. This is the show in
which Frost asked Asimov if he had ever tried to find God and,
after some initial evasion, Asimov answered, "God is much more
intelligent than I—let him try to find me."
^ Cite error: Invalid
<ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named
- In Joy Still Felt (1980,
- I. Asimov: A Memoir (1994).
ISBN 0-385-41701-2 (hc),
ISBN 0-553-56997-X (pb).
- Yours, Isaac Asimov (1996), edited by Stanley Asimov.
- It's Been a Good Life (2002), edited by Janet Asimov.
Goldman, Stephen H., "Isaac Asimov", in Dictionary of
Literary Biography, Vol. 8, Cowart and Wymer eds., (Gale
Research, 1981), pp. 15–29.
Gunn, James. "On Variations on a Robot",
IASFM, July 1980, pp. 56–81.
- Isaac Asimov: The Foundations of Science Fiction
- The Science of Science-Fiction Writing (2000).
Исаак Озимов (Russian); Айзек Азимов (Russian); French,
Paul (pseudonym); Dale, George E. (pseudonym)
Russian-born American novelist, short story author,
essayist, historian, biochemist, textbook writer, humorist
|DATE OF BIRTH
January 2?, 1920?
|PLACE OF BIRTH
|DATE OF DEATH
April 6, 1992
|PLACE OF DEATH