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.

                                                                  -Isaac Asimov (mini bio from several books)

I 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.

I 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.

Asmiov 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).  

He 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.

Left: R. Daneel Olivaw, featured in the Robot novels. Right: Lt. Cmdr Data's positronic brain is based on Asimovs ideas.

If 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.

His 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.

On 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 of Thrones

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!