Life of the Very Greatest

Every fan has their opinion about who the greatest science fiction writer of all time was. There are arguments to be made for Clarke and Heinlein, of course, as men who paved the way for SF to escape its limited niche.

Bradbury was famously revered as the “greatest sci-fi writer in history” by that very specific song.

But in my opinion, these guys, though great, exist in the shadow of the Colossus: Isaac Asimov, even thirty years after his death, towers above the writers in the genre in the same way that Campbell (before he got all weird and started believing in pseudoscience) towers above the editors.

And with the dearth of clear greats among the modern writers (perhaps Andy Weir might do it?), his stature has only grown larger and more mythical.

Asimov’s autobiography is entitled I, Asimov, and I’d read it about twenty years ago. Back then, however, I wasn’t a writer, and therefore wasn’t really able to appreciate the magnitude of his achievements. I still remember enjoying the book because Asimov’s writing style–particularly his nonfiction style–is eminently readable.

So I sat down to reread this one, and was reminded once again how well he used to write. There are few people whose nonfiction I enjoy as much as I do Asimov’s. It has aged much, much better than his fiction has. Today’s writing is a bit different from what would work for a 1940s era male SF fan (almost all SF fans were male back then), which means that his writing would probably work best for kids aged 10-16. Of course, this reflects the prose only, as the ideas haven’t lost an iota of their power, or stopped being a reflection of the prodigious intellect that produced them.

Reading I, Asimov is like having 600 pages of Asimov’s essays on writing, the writing life and simply observations on the world as it was in his day, and I challenge anyone to read this and not end up thinking: “I wish I’d met the man”.

A lovely read and one which took me a lot less time to finish than most 600-page books. Recommended.

Gustavo Bondoni is a novelist and short story writer whose latest science fiction book is a thriller set on a newly colonized world. It’s called (in Asimovian one-word-title tradition) Colony, and you can check it out here.

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