At 15 he graduated high school. At 19 he had a Bachelor of Science degree.
More than 500 books, 90,000 letters and 1600 essays have his name on it. Solitude was Isaac Asimov’s default. It took persistence from his family and friends to persuade him to take a break or vacation.
Asimov is widely recognized for the Foundation universe, made up of the Robot series, the Galactic Empire Series, and the Foundation Series. His imagination was inspired by the science fiction he read as a child, the science he studied as an adult. His writing was honed with John Campbell, editor of Astounding Science Fiction, where Asimov published one of his first short stories.
His father never approved of Sci-Fi, but Asimov didn’t put much stock in his father’s values. Including Judaism. Being raised Jewish, Asimov had a healthy concern for humanity, but he eventually denied anything that science couldn’t prove, including the existence of God.
A humanist. A rationalist. That’s what he called himself. The future of humanity was his concern; less about the future of technology and more about the future of our collective psyche. The fusion of morality, human potential, and technological wonder all came together in Asimov’s stories, especially in his Foundation universe.
The Robot Series
The Foundation universe starts with the Robot Series. Asimov loved robots. In fact, he coined the terms “robotics” and “positronic.” His robots were inspired by the Sci-Fi he read as an 11 year-old-boy. Some of his first published short stories feature positronic robots and how they interact with humans. Asimov developed The Three Laws of Robotics that would guide these robot-human interactions through all of the stories he wrote.
And there were a lot of stories. In the Robot Series specifically, there are 38 short stories and 5 novels. The stories aren’t always consistent, but they all happen in the same universe. Through them, Asimov worked out the kinks of what a world shared by humans and robots would look like.
The first novel is I, Robot, a collection of short stories set in the 21st century. Then Asimov accelerates thousands of years into the future and introduces us to Elijah Baley and his robot partner, R. Daneel Olivaw. Through 4 novels they solve mysteries and debate heavy questions of morality when humans aren’t the only sentient beings.
Series includes: I Robot, The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun, The Robots of Dawn, Robots and Empire.
The Galactic Empire Series
Then the robots almost completely disappear. Asimov wrote about a Galactic Empire in three Novels in the early 50s. He never intended them to be a series, but tied them together in the 80s.
In the Galactic Empire, Earth has turned radioactive and humanity expands throughout the Milky Way. Instead of robots, readers are treated to spaceships, hyper drives, futuristic weaponry and a lot of galactic intrigue.
Series includes: The Currents of Space, The Stars Like Dust, Pebble in the Sky, Blind Alley (short story).
The Foundation Series
Asimov stretches his narratives over thousands of years in the Foundation series. It begins with Hari Seldon, a man who discovers how to predict the course of humanity’s future with a discipline he developed called “psycohistory.”
Hari predicts the fall of the Galactic Empire and a 30,000 year dark age. But there’s hope in his calculations that the dark age could be restricted to 1000 years. To ensure that best possible outcome, Hari gathers the brightest artists and scientists, and launches them into the far reaches of the Milky Way.
This group is the Foundation. Readers follow the future that Hari predicted at each intersection with the Foundation, where ancient mysteries are revealed and give humanity the choice to steer in the best direction.
Series includes: Prelude to Foundation, Forward the Foundation, Foundation, Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation, Foundation’s Edge, Foundation and Earth.
500 Other Books
Asimov wrote much more than the Foundation universe. In fact, for a period of 30 years, he wrote mostly non-fiction. He was a scientist and a philosopher. Learning always came easy to Asimov, so he continuously applied his mind to new subjects. He wrote great commentaries on physics, the Bible, and natural history. Humour wasn’t beyond him either, writing multiple collections of dirty limericks.
It’s said that Arthur C. Clarke and Asimov had a treaty of sorts. Asimov would always defer to Clarke as the #1 Sci-Fi writer, while Clarke would always defer to Asimov as the #1 Science writer.
There was no doubting Asimov’s passion. His dedication will either serve as inspiration or tempt feelings of inadequacy. Either way, his footprint will be seen for many generations.