Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Today is the 25th anniversary of Isaac Asimov's death

Isaac Asimov died at the age of 72 on 6th April 1992. His death was a great loss to the world.

I enjoyed reading his Science Fiction novels and stories very much; I bought an old 2-volume pack of his autobiography at a big discount a while back, and found In Memory Yet Green and In Joy Still Felt just as good.

I like information, and these books are packed with it. He describes his early life so well that reading about it made me feel as though I had grown up in a poor area in 1930s New York myself.

I like the way he puts his life into the context of the times; he comes to realise that while his family were poor, they were not destitute like others in the Depression era. He also puts his life and personality into the context of other people's; he is balanced and objective when interpreting his earlier behaviour and explaining himself to his readers.

I like the way he uses these books to pay off his old debts – of both kinds. Better late than never. He thanks a teacher who let him go on the school outing even though he hadn't qualified, and he thanks a professor who had shown favouritism towards him. He also pays back a few people he had grudges against.

I like the way he makes the small stuff, the petty details of his life, seem fascinating. I enjoyed reading about the food that he ate and the books that he read.

I like his honesty when he says that a lot of people couldn't stand him, and that he failed to get into medical school because of the offensive way he behaved at the interviews. Of course, he wrote this as a rich, famous, adored and successful author who had moved on and could afford to look back with amusement at his past failures and deficiencies; he could offset the bad with the good.

Asimov had quite a sense of humour too; these books are full of amusing anecdotes. I particularly like the story of how a publishing company lost him as a new client, a potential huge cash cow, because of the offensive behaviour of a publisher's wife: she offended Asimov by talking non-stop in a stream of consciousness way and helping herself to food from his plate.

It is annoying to see him dismiss metaphysical subjects though. He was very reductionist when it came to witches. If only he had lived long enough to read some of these articles, he might have changed his mind!

It is very sad that he did not consider himself to be a good writer – by his own standards. He is actually one of the all-time greats in his field.

It is good to know that he seems to have been reasonably contented with his life.

I wonder what he would have thought of the robot films made from his books. I was very disappointed with them.

I wonder what he would have thought of the Internet.

Asimov was an exceptionally prolific writer who spent most of his time on the job - he produced close to 500 books - yet he did fit in a few holidays and business trips. I know that he made a visit or two to London. He mentions coming across what he calls a 'boulevard' (this was actually The Mall) while exploring the area around his hotel, and seeing a procession with the Horse Guards in attendance passing by.

I like to imagine Isaac Asimov standing there, enjoying the pageantry and looking down the long vista towards Buckingham Palace. That is a good mental image to finish this article with.