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Saturday, July 17, 2004
Truly Remarkable

By Steven Taylor @ 12:10 pm

Anyone who has done any serious writing can’t help but be awed by these numbers (I know they mean more to me know than when I read about his writings when I was a teen):

By the time he died in 1992, at the age of 72, Asimov had published more than 470 books, ranging from science-fiction classics to annotated guides of great literature to limerick collections to The Sensuous Dirty Old Man, a defense and celebration of lechery. “His first 100 books took him 237 months, or almost 20 years, until October 1969, to write,” his New York Times obituary observed. “His second 100, a milestone he reached in March 1979, took 113 months, or about 9 ½ years—a rate of more than 10 books a year. His third 100 took only 69 months, until December 1984, or less than 6 years.” By the end, Asimov achieved the Grand Slam of book writing, turning out at least one volume for each of the 10 classifications in the Dewey Decimal System.

That’s a lot of words (none of which, I suspect, were written on computers-and even if some were, most weren’t) and a lot of work.

I have only ever read his fiction (a considerable amount of it, although by no means all of it). There was a point that I would have dubbed him my favorite scifi author, and he still ranks. At any rate, I must admit the following rings true:

In fact, the rap on Asimov the fiction writer is that his stories are too simple, too obvious, too easy to be the stuff of great literature. In Wired, the science-fiction writer Cory Doctorow recently described Asimov’s work as “proto-fiction … from a time before the field shed its gills and developed lungs, feet, and believable characters.” True. But if Asimov is so easy, why do so many people—including Alex Proyas, the director of I, Robot, and the movie’s screenwriters, Akiva Goldsman and Jeff Vintar—keep getting him so wrong?

It strikes me as a rather valid question.

Source: Isaac Asimov - How I, Robot gets the science-fiction grandmaster wrong. By Chris Suellentrop

  • Outside The Beltway linked with The Prolific Isaac Asimov

Click here to go to the main page.


  1. I have read nearly all the fiction. Most of it I enjoyed while reading it, sometimes very much, yet after a few weeks I would find myself puzzling over why it left me feeling rather unsatisfied. There is also the problem of some other very prolific writers; some books are simply much better than others. Some seem like toss-offs to me.
    Still, some of his ideas have changed the world of science fiction in a significant way that other, better writers have not been able to do. So there is a definate legacy there.

    Comment by Meezer — Saturday, July 17, 2004 @ 12:37 pm

  2. In terms of sheer enjoyability, no author has ever ranked as high as Asimov for me. From his (natch) sci-fi, to his mysteries, to his layman’s books on science….Asimov was just the sort of writer that made you turn the pages, and anxiously look for another book.

    Plus, his personality really shone though in so many of his books, and it was one of his best features.

    Comment by Jon Henke — Saturday, July 17, 2004 @ 2:26 pm

  3. Didn’t I read this same Suellentrop swill a year ago? I had a strange feeling of deja vu.

    Asimov also stated he’d be perfectly fine with the government assigning each of us unique numbers and having our information on file, so he sure wasn’t perfect.

    Comment by The Lonewacko Blog — Saturday, July 17, 2004 @ 2:45 pm

  4. He had a sense of humor about his writing, too, and included himself as a minor character in Murder at the ABA.

    Comment by Brian J. — Saturday, July 17, 2004 @ 4:41 pm

  5. I usually try to say things more intelligent than this… but after reading those numbers that only thing that comes to mind is:

    Holy Crap!

    Comment by Paul — Sunday, July 18, 2004 @ 1:08 am

  6. My favorite Asimov anecdote is something that allegedly happened at a gathering at his house. He was sitting with his back to the room, typing away, and his wife joked that the only part of him she ever saw was the back of his head. Asimov stopped typing, turned around, said “Dear, we have two children", turned back and resumed writing.

    Comment by Kyle Haight — Sunday, July 18, 2004 @ 9:29 pm

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