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Isaac Asimov was born
in the Soviet Union to his great surprise. He moved quickly to correct the
situation. When his parents emigrated to the United States, Isaac (three years
old at the time) stowed away in their baggage. He has been an American citizen
since the age of eight.
Brought up in
Brooklyn, and educated in its public schools, he eventually found his way to
Columbia University and, over the protests of the school administration,
managed to annex a series of degrees in chemistry, up to and including a Ph.D.
He then infiltrated Boston University and climbed the academic ladder, ignoring
all cries of outrage, until he found himself Professor of Biochemistry.
Meanwhile, at the age
of nine, he found the love of his life (in the inanimate sense) when he
discovered his first science-fiction magazine. By the time he was eleven, he
began to write stories, and at eighteen, he actually worked up the nerve to
submit one. It was rejected. After four long months of tribulation and
suffering, he sold his first story and, thereafter, he never looked back.
In 1941, when he was
twenty-one years old, he wrote the classic short story "Nightfall" and
his future was assured. Shortly before that he had begun writing his robot
stories, and shortly after that he had begun his Foundation series. What was
left except quantity? At the present time, he has published over 440 books,
distributed through every major division of the Dewey system of library
classification, and shows no signs of slowing up. He remains as youthful, as
lively, and as lovable as ever, and grows more handsome with each year. You can
be sure that this is so since he has written this little essay himself and his
devotion to absolute objectivity is notorious.
Asimov (mini bio from several books)
was struggling to figure out how to start this blog, so I decided to let the good
doctor do it for me. Today, April 6th, marks the 20th anniversary of Isaac
Asimov's death, and I thought I would celebrate his life by spreading the word.
He is without a doubt my favorite author, and many people consider him
to be the best science fiction author of all time.
entered the world of Asimov's writing through the introduction given by Orson
Scott Card in his novel Enders Game,
where he mentions it as an influence in his writing. I enjoyed Enders Game so much (one of my favorite books) that I went out and
bought Foundation. I've been an Asimov
fan ever since.
is best known for his Robots, Empire, and Foundation series; which started
out as an individual series, and later merged into one massive universe
divided into 15 books, and encompassing 25,000 years in the fictional universe.
He also has several solo novels, including standouts: The Gods Themselves and The End of Eternity. Most of his works
are examples of social science fiction, where the stories are more about
society and human nature than gadgets and tech wizardry (though there
still is plenty gadgets involved).
coined such terms as Robotics, and the positronic brain, and introduced the
Three Laws of Robotics. When explaining the gadgets, theories, or the
galaxy of the future; he does so in a
way that the average joe will understand it, and at the same time
won't fall apart when scrutinized by people with a
more scientific background. In the end it makes the worlds he's
created that much more alive, and I think a lot of that can be attributed to
his own scientific background. There's a
reason why, even though some of his novels are 60-70 years old, they still hold
up so well today.
R. Daneel Olivaw, featured in the Robot novels. Right: Lt. Cmdr Data's
positronic brain is based on Asimovs ideas.
there's one criticism that I could lend to his writings, it's that there
are several character archetypes that are repeated in his novels. Others
have laid criticism saying similar things about his lack of focus on
individual characters. Be that as it may, I've not once
been disappointed by one of his books, and I don't know if I can say
the same thing about another writer, artist, or performer.
novels have fundamentally changed the way I think about the future, technology,
and the universe. In fact, while playing Mass Effect 3 I was deeply
influenced by his writings when making my final choice.
the big screen:
The book I, Robot is actually
a collection of short stories about the early creation of A.I. and humaniod
robots. The movie does share some
characters and a few plot elements from several of the stories; but the overall
story and Will Smith's Character where
not from an Asimov book. The movie is a
bit more on the action side than Asimov's stories, but it still maintained some
of the key social themes he wrote about. The Detective style of the movie
closely mimics that of the robot trilogy starting detective Elijah Bailey and
R. Daneel Olivaw.
The movie Bicentennial Man is
based on a short story by the same name, and stars Robin Williams. It's a robot trying to be and do more than
was originally intended for it. I
haven't read the story yet, the movie
was ok. This story is referenced as a
fairy tale in a later Asimov book
A quick look at IMDB, and it appears
that The Caves of Steel (Robot series) and Foundation are both in
development for big screen adaptations.
I have high hopes for both, but think I Foundation would lend
itself better to a TV series a la Game
Where to start?
Looking at getting in to some of Asimov's books? I, Robot or Robot Dreams or the
Complete Robot is a good starting point, these books are all collections of short stories set in the early days of Robotics, and each essentially contains
the same stories with a few minor differences.
The stories are all very enjoyable and give you a taste of his writing
style. Due to the short length. if
you don't enjoy it, you won't have invested too much time.
I'd also recommend Foundation as a good starting
point, I think it's his book that has the most mass audience appeal (including
non sci-fi fans), and it's where I started.
If you're going to read the Foundation series, I highly recommend reading them in the order
in which they were written, rather then the chronological order of the fiction. And it wouldn't be a bad idea to switch to the Robot books (starting with I,
Robot) after reading Second Foundation (the third book in the
series), as after that book he starts
really tying the fiction of the three series together.
Already a fan of Asimov, what's your favorite book? If you're not, I hope you'll give him a try!