You may have some difficulty reading this, since you’ve been dead for over 21 years, but I hope somehow this tribute finds its way to you nonetheless. I just wanted to say thanks, however belatedly, for your books and the way they influenced me.
I started reading science fiction in the early 1970s, and by then you were a giant in the field. I read dozens of your short stories, and some of your novels including Foundation, Fantastic Voyage, The Gods Themselves, The End of Eternity, The Naked Sun, and others. Later I read some of your nonfiction books and essays and some of your non-SF fiction, including The Union Club Mysteries and Azazel.
In fact, I read more stories written by you than by any other author. (Of course, there are more stories written by you than any other SF author!)
In the late 1980s or very early 1990s I had the opportunity to attend one of your speeches—a great thrill for me since I was then thinking of becoming a writer. You had traveled (by train, of course, since you never flew) to my area to speak in a lecture hall.
Alone on stage, you began speaking in your thick Brooklyn accent. “I’ve done a number of these things already, so to save time, I’ll ask the questions you would ask, and then answer them. First question: Dr. Asimov, how did you come to write so many books? Well, I type ninety words a minute and before I knew it, I’d written five hundred books. If someone wants a 5000 word short story, I type 5000 words and stop; with any luck, I’m at the end of a sentence.”
You gave advice to budding writers like me that day also. “My first draft is my final draft. I don’t believe in rubbing words together until they sparkle in the sunlight. As my good friend, the late Bob Heinlein said, ‘They didn’t want it good; they wanted it Wednesday.’”
It was a great hour-long lecture, and you kept the audience laughing the whole time. But that was just one hour. Your impact on my life goes much deeper.
Your SF stories are based on sound science, and your characters confront bedeviling problems that spring from unalterable facts. The science is a central part of each story. I’ve strived for that in my stories as well.
Moreover, your tales are celebrations of science. I don’t recall any stories where science leads humanity irrevocably astray. Even your dystopian works end with hope for the future. That’s true of my writing, too.
Others have spoken of your clear, uncluttered style of writing, and you’ve acknowledged that yourself. My critique group tells me my style is similar at times.
Looking back over the list of my published short stories, I think I can see your influence in each one, to some extent. Alas, I don’t type ninety words a minute, and I labor over several drafts, so I will never equal the quantity of your output. But it’s my dream to write a story someday that approaches the quality of your fiction.
Here’s to you, Dr. Isaac Asimov! Thank you.
Steven R. Southard