Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Asimov's Autobiography

Isaac Asimov's autobiography was published in two volumes.

In Memory Yet Green (1920-1954)
In Joy Still Felt (1954 - 1978)

Each of these volumes was well over 800 pages. Why did Asimov choose to break up the volumes in the year 1954.

Well, it was in 1954 that he turned 35. As he says in the intro to Volume 2:

I had reached mid-life, for I was approachimg my 35th year, halfway to three-score and ten. (Asimov was an atheist, but for some reason the fact that the bible said people should live to age 70 weighed upon him.

[From The Phrase Finder: The span of a life. In the days that this was coined that was considered to be seventy years.

Origin

Threescore used to be used for sixty, in the way that we still use a dozen for twelve, and (occasionally) score for twenty. It has long since died out in that usage but is still remembered in this phrase.]


I had reached what seemed to be the peak of possible--and it wasn't enough.

In my professional career as a chemist, I had finally achieved professorial status, but my position was very low-paying and I didn't see that I could possibly advance either in renumeration or reputation very much beyond the point I had reached.

In my professional career as a writer, I had become a first-rank science fiction writer as early as 1941, but even after more than a decade of constant success both in magazine short stories and and in hard-cover novels, my earnings as a writer were moderate, and I didn't see any possibility of increasing them further, or of gaining any reputation outside the constricted boundaries of science fiction.

I had, in short, reached a blank wall, a dead in.

And yet I managed to overleap the blank wall and burrow through the dead end and to reach both an income and a reputation which to me, in 1954, would have been inconceivable. The story of how I I did this is contained in this second volume...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Isaac Asimov Collection at Boston University

In the book Yours, Isaac Asimov, a small percentage of his letters are collected together, divided by theme. The first theme is, of course, letters, and editor Stanley Asimov shares a few of the letters that Asimov wrote mentioning the fact that Boston University wanted to collect all his papers - not only his books but also his rough drafts, his letters, and any scraps of paper.

It wasn't strictly just for him... the University wanted to establish archives of all prominent authors who had attended the school or who had worked there.

West Virginia Libraries has a site dedicated to him: http://www.libraries.wvu.edu/exhibits/asimov/

and

here's what's in the Boston Archives.

Or go here and do a search on Isaac Asimov:
http://www.bu.edu/dbin/archives/index.php

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Asimov Quote #2

Also from Yours, Isaac Asimov.

"I write in order to teach and in order to make people feel good (for I am wedded to the theory that learning is the most enduring pleasure.)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Asimov Quote #1

New feature.

"Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived."

(pg 316, Yours, Isaac Asimov, edited by Stanley Asimov

The letter quoted, and we're not told who it's to:

22 Feb 1966
"I'm working on my Bible book. I've just reached the part where the Israelites have been seduced into apostasy by the Moabite women (in the Book of Numbers), and Moses gets all self-righteous about the wickedness of the women who deliberately seduced the poor, innocent Israelites (except that Moses ordered the slaughter of all the Israelites without mercy.)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

New publishing schedule

I've been very remiss in maintaining a regular schedule with the encyclopedia Asimova. That changes today, when publishing will be on a three-day a week schedule.

So, Monday, Wednesday and Friday for posts. I may or may not post on the weekends as my whimsy takes me, but definitely Mon, Wed and Fri.

So, next post is on Monday! I'll be going through Asimov's biography and sharing info gleaned, among other features.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Asimov and the US's anti-intellectualism

"Keeping up with the Jones's" is not an exclusively American fault, I don't think, but it is more apparent in the US than anywhere else in the world. The US is an affluent society and we, as people, have been taught from day one that we mustn't wait for anything we want, we must run right out and get it. And if we can't afford it, well, that's what credit cards are for.

With the result that today, in 2010, most people (who haven't already lost their jobs) are one or two paychecks away from losing their home. Most people have no savings at all, and if they lose their job, they're pretty much out of luck. (Well...they were. Now that people can get unemployment benefits forever, perhaps not so much. Although I'm not sure how much money people get...some kind of percentage of their salary.)

In any event, back to Asimov. In July, 1959, his article, Battle of the Eggheads appeared in that month's issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine.

Here's how he opened the article:

After the Soviet Union placed Sputnik I into orbit on October 4, 1957, the egghead (to use a term invented by blockhead) gained a sudden, unaccustomed respect here in the United States. Suddenly everyone was viewing American anti-intellectualism with alarm.

It has therefore always tickled my vanity that I wrote an article deploring anti-intellectualism a year and a half before Sputnik. (By-product of Science Fiction,, Chemical and Engineering News, Aug 13, 1956).

In it, I disapproved vehemently of those factors in American culture which seemed to me to be equating lack of education with virtue and to be making it difficult for young people to reveal intelligence without finding themselves penalized for it.


You're asking what does this post have to do, so far, with the "Keeping up with the Jones's" topic with which I prefaced this post.

I'll get to that tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Egghead was a term invented by a Blockhead

When Isaac Asimov first started writing science essays for the magazines, he wrote straightforward articles - as you can see if you check out his first science anthology book, Only a Trillion (featuring essays from Amazing and other magazines), and his first Fantasy and Science Fiction essay anthology, Fact and Fancy. By his second year as a regular contributor to F&SF (1960), he had taken to starting each essay wtih a couple of paragraphs of personal anecdtote - and he kept to that ever since, and its one of the things that make people like his essays so much.

In "Battle of the Eggheads", published in July 1959, Asimov makes it clear what he thinks of people who refer to intelligent people in derogatory ways:

"After the Soviet Union placed Sputnik I in orbit on October 4, 1957, the egghead (to use a term invented by a blockhead) gained a sudden, unaccustomed respect. Suddenly everyone was viewing American anti-intellectualism with wild alarm."