Friday, January 21, 2011

December 1936

In December 1936, Asimov's father sold his third candy store and bought his fourth. The new store was at 174 Windsor Place, in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, about 4.8 miles southwest of Decatur Street.

It was further west than any other home the Asimovs had ever lived in, and just two short blocks from Prospect Park.

Asimov says in his biography tht it was this store that he remembered best. It was in the middle of the street.

"When one entered the door, one found a store broader (left and right) than it was deep. Near the left wall was the cigar counter, with the cash register at the end away from the door. The cash register marked the nerve center of the store, and my father was usually behind it, and a little to the left, where a bare patch of counter was the place where money was handed in and and change handed out.

On the wall behind the cash register were the vertical slots in which packs of cigarettes were kept in a definite order. In those days, all cigarettes were regulars, there were no king-size, no filter tips. The individual packs cost 13 cents, except for a few "mavericks" that cost 10 cents. They also sold individual cigarettes for a penny a piece.

At right angles to the cigar counter was the candy counter, laden with a variety of penny candies in three rows, each in its open box. There was a fourth row on top where the candy bars were kept, a nickel a piece for "wealthy kids."

It was the candy counter that was Asimov's job at each of these stores.

Next to the candy counter was a small aisle, and across from it, in the right half of the store, was that "vanished piece of Americana," the soda fountain. There was the refridgerator with its large cylindrical containers of ice cream, the containers of various syrups, which could be pumped in squirts into glasses and over ice crream, the electric stirrers that made the malted milks, the faucets out of which carbonated water wuld emerge, the platform for clean glassware, and the sink for watching the dirty glassware.

This was Asimov's father's domain.

On the right wall was the magazine stand, which, of course, Asimov knew by nheart.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

September, 1936

Asimov begins his second year at Columbia, now taking courses at Morningside Heights.

For the first time in his 11-year long school career, he was attending a school outside Brooklyn. Each day he took the subway to the end of the line, 14th Street and 8th Avenue, then changed to another subway and went up to 116th street, , then walked to class through (and up) Morningside Park. (The western side of the park was called Morningside Heights because there were lots of stairs in that area.

The whole trip took a little over an hour, each way.

Asimov spent the time reading the newspaper, because he'd become interested in politics. He was a fan of F. D. Roosevelt.

He took his first course in chemistry in this year, and fell in love with it, so much so that if hadn't been assuming he was going to end up being a doctor, he would immediately have thought of being a chemist. However, as the year progressed, and after a biology professor made fun of him in front of the entire class (having a "pleasant sense of tact" as Asimov put it) he switched his major to chemistry. He was still expecting to become a doctor - as that's what his father expected of him - but he was beginnig to have serious doubts.





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Monday, January 17, 2011

Opus 100: Asimov's first 100 books

I'm going to be providing, as far as possible, the original jackets of Asimov's first editions. I've already started with Pebble in the Sky and I, Robot. Before I go any further, let me provide a list of Asimov's first 100 books.

He writes about them in Opus 100 (his 100th book) but i got this list from Asimov online: A List of Isaac Asimov's Books

(The formatting might not look too hot, for those on the Kindle. If you want to print out the list (and the link I provide has all of Asimov's books, not just these 100, go to the link via your computer to print it out.)

1 Pebble In The Sky Doubleday 1950
2 I, Robot Gnome Press 1950
3 The Stars, Like Dust-- Doubleday 1951
4 Foundation Gnome Press 1951
5 David Starr, Space Ranger Doubleday 1952
6 Foundation and Empire Gnome Press 1952
7 The Currents of Space Doubleday 1952
8 Biochemistry and Human Metabolism Williams & Wilkins 1952
9 Second Foundation Gnome Press 1953
10 Lucky Starr and the Pirates of the
Asteroids Doubleday 1953
11 The Caves of Steel Doubleday 1954
12 Lucky Starr and the Oceans of Venus Doubleday 1954
13 The Chemicals of Life: Enzymes,
Vitamins, and Hormones Abelard-Schuman 1954
14 The Martian Way and Other Stories Doubleday 1955
15 The End of Eternity Doubleday 1955
16 Races and People Abelard-Schuman 1955
17 Lucky Starr and the Big Sun of
Mercury Doubleday 1956
18 Chemistry and Human Health McGraw-Hill 1956
19 Inside The Atom Abelard-Schuman 1956
20 The Naked Sun Doubleday 1957
21 Lucky Starr and the Moons of Jupiter Doubleday 1957
22 Building Blocks of the Universe Abelard-Schuman 1957
23 Earth Is Room Enough: Science Fiction
Tales of Our Own Planet Doubleday 1957
24 Only a Trillion Abelard-Schuman 1957
25 The World of Carbon Abelard-Schuman 1958
26 Lucky Starr and the Rings of Saturn Doubleday 1958
27 The World of Nitrogen Abelard-Schuman 1958
28 The Death Dealers (A Whiff of Death) Avon 1958
29 Nine Tomorrows: Tales of the Near Future Doubleday 1959
30 The Clock We Live On Abelard-Schuman 1959
31 Words of Science, and the History Behind
Them Houghton Mifflin 1959
32 Realm of Numbers Houghton Mifflin 1959
33 The Living River Abelard-Schuman 1960
34 The Kingdom of the Sun Abelard-Schuman 1960
35 Realm of Measure Houghton Mifflin 1960
36 Breakthroughs in Science Houghton Mifflin 1960
37 Satellites in Outer Space Random House 1960
38 The Wellsprings of Life Abelard-Schuman 1960
39 The Intelligent Man's Guide to Science Basic Books 1960
40 The Double Planet Abelard-Schuman 1960
41 Words from the Myths Houghton Mifflin 1961
42 Realm of Algebra Houghton Mifflin 1961
43 Life and Energy Doubleday 1962
44 Words in Genesis Houghton Mifflin 1962
45 Fact and Fancy Doubleday 1962
46 Words on the Map Houghton Mifflin 1962
47 The Hugo Winners Doubleday 1962
48 The Search For The Elements Basic Books 1962
49 Words from the Exodus Houghton Mifflin 1963
50 The Genetic Code Orion Press 1963
51 The Human Body: Its Structure and
Operation Houghton Mifflin 1963
52 Fifty Short Science Fiction Tales Collier 1963
53 View from a Height Doubleday 1963
54 The Kite That Won the Revolution Houghton Mifflin 1963
55 The Human Brain: Its Capacities and
Functions Houghton Mifflin 1964
56 A Short History of Biology Natural History Press 1964
57 Quick and Easy Math Houghton Mifflin 1964
58 Adding a Dimension Doubleday 1964
59 Planets For Man [9] Random House 1964
60 The Rest of the Robots Doubleday 1964
61 Asimov's Biographical Encyclopedia of
Science and Technology, 1st Ed. Doubleday 1964
62 A Short History of Chemistry Doubleday 1965
63 The Greeks: A Great Adventure Houghton Mifflin 1965
64 Of Time and Space and Other Things Doubleday 1965
65 The New Intelligent Man's Guide to
Science Basic Books 1965
66 An Easy Introduction to the Slide Rule Houghton Mifflin 1965
67 Fantastic Voyage Houghton Mifflin 1966
68 The Noble Gases Basic Books 1966
69 Inside The Atom (3rd revised edition) Abelard-Schuman 1966
70 The Neutrino: Ghost Particle of the Atom Doubleday 1966
71 The Roman Republic Houghton Mifflin 1966
72 Understanding Physics, Volume I Walker 1966
73 Understanding Physics, Volume II Walker 1966
74 Understanding Physics, Volume III Walker 1966
75 The Genetic Effects of Radiation U.S. AEC 1966
76 Tomorrow's Children: Eighteen Tales of
Fantasy and Science Fiction Doubleday 1966
77 The Universe: From Flat Earth to Quasar Walker 1966
78 From Earth to Heaven Doubleday 1966
79 The Moon Follet 1967
80 Environments Out There Scholastic/Abelard-Schuman 1967
81 The Roman Empire Houghton Mifflin 1967
82 Through a Glass, Clearly New English Library 1967
83 Is Anyone There? Doubleday 1967
84 To the Ends of the Universe Walker 1967
85 Mars Follet 1967
86 The Egyptians Houghton Mifflin 1967
87 Asimov's Mysteries Doubleday 1968
88 Science, Numbers, and I Doubleday 1968
89 Stars Follet 1968
90 Galaxies Follet 1968
91 The Near East: 10,000 Years of History Houghton Mifflin 1968
92 The Dark Ages Houghton Mifflin 1968
93 Asimov's Guide To The Bible, Volume I Doubleday 1968
94 Words from History Houghton Mifflin 1968
95 Photosynthesis Basic Books 1969
96 The Shaping of England Houghton Mifflin 1969
97 Twentieth Century Discovery Doubleday 1969
98 Nightfall and Other Stories Doubleday 1969
99 Asimov's Guide To The Bible, Volume II Doubleday 1969
100 Opus 100 Houghton Mifflin 1969

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1936

Seth Low had been in existence for ten years, but it closed after Asimov's first year there. "Columbia University simply put an end to it. Why I don't know, but I'm not paranoid enough to think it was on account of me."

In his second year he, and the boys who attended Seth Low, were moved to the main campus at Morningside Heights in Manhattan.

In June 1936, Asimov, 16 years old, was given a summer job (requested by his father of one of his candy store customers) to work as unskilled labor, "pulling out lengths of rubberized fabric from a huge roll suspended on hooks at one end of a long, measured-off table, cut fixed lengths of it, pile one length on top of another, put down a length of slicked paper every ten lengths, then fold them up ten lengths at a time."

It was very dull work, but earned Asimov $15 a week ("a full fifteen dollars, for there were no payroll deductions in those days - no wittholing tax, no social security.")

He also had to continue to work, for no pay but of course room and board, at the candy store.

He had the job for ten weeks, which earned him enough tuition for his next year (sophomore) of college.



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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Asimov's Ouvre: 2. I, Robot, Gnome Press, 1950


The second book that Isaac Asimov ever had published was I, Robot, by Gnome Press in 1950. It was actually an anthology of short stories, all featuring his positronic robot series.

The edition of I, Robot shown here sold at auction at icollector.com for $1,200.

Asimov's Ouvre: 1. Pebble in the Sky


Isaac Asimov's first published novel, by Doublday Science Fiction.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

1935: School at Seth Low College

Asimov, in his chapter on Seth Low (ch 14) doesn't give any dates, so just assume it's sometime during the latter half of 1935, whenever school began in New York back then.

Asimov very rarely mentions his sister in his biography (I think the only time he does so is when she gets married) and mentions his brother, some 8 years or so his junior, only slightly more frequently. He tells the story of how it was he who took his brother to his first day of school - when he was old enough to go, and how Stanley got along so much easier, not only with his peers at school but also with his parents.

Asimov went to City College for 3 days - took a physical exam for which he was labeled PD - poorly developed - and an IQ test, which apparently astonished his profssors, and they wanted to test him so more, when he got a letter from Seth Low College, which his father opened.

The letter asked Asimov why he had failed to show up for registration. His father called the school immediately and explained they didn't have the money for tuition. He was immediately offered a $100 scholarship for his freshman year, "to be repaid at our leisure", and a job with the National Youth Administration (NYA) that would net him a further $15 a month.

So Asimov went to Seth Low, which was located in the Boro Hall section of Brooklyn, about 4 and a half miles due west of the Decatur Street candy store. He took the subway there and back. It cost 5 cents, one way.

According to Asimov, writing in 1979, "In those days, of course, subways were clean and safe, charged five cents a trip, and were terribly crowded. If you want dirt and danger you have to pay for it, so nowadays the fare is fifty cents and no one takes the subway who can avoid it."


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Friday, January 7, 2011

90 Words A Minute? Ha!

On many occasions, but specifically on page 147 of his autobiography,In Memory Yet Green, Asimov says he can type 90 words a minute.

He couldn't, you know.

"I've been typing fairly constantly ever since [his father gave him his first typewriter at age 15] and I can now do 90 words a minute for hours at a time. (To be perfectly truthful, I've sacrificed accuracy for speed, and I don't pretend I don't make errors. I just strike over or x out."

And since in order to find out how many words a minute a person can type, the number of mistakes they make is factored in, he obviously didn't do 90 words a minute, but rather perhaps 60 or 50. On one occasion, Asimov actually makes the statement that he doesn't adjust his typing speed for errors, but that doesn't matter. He may have claimed to do 90 words a minute, but he didn't!

Once he was typing, he had "much more incentive to writ."

It was not until 1936 that he tried to write a science fiction story. He doesn't remember much about it except that "there was a great deal of talk about the fifth dimension at the start and that later on there was some catastrophe that destroyed photosynthesis." He also could remember one sentence out of the whole story, "Whole forests stood sere and brown in mid-summer."

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