The Asimov Story

OK, folks, you asked for it, so now I'll share it.

The year was 1983.  My best friend at the time, Haig, was a huge Trekkie. This was just after the Star Trek movie "The Wrath of Khan" had come out, and there was a Trek convention (actually, I believe it was a Creation Convention) in Boston that summer, with Walter Koenig (who plays Chekov in the film) scheduled to be the guest of honor.  So, we decided to go - his father drove us up there (we were both in High School at the time), and we made a day of it.

The convention was OK; but more interesting to me was the used book dealers that were there.   As an avid reader, I have been haunting used bookstores since I was very young; my dad used to take me with him when he went looking for books.   So, while Haig was in trying to get Koenig's autograph, I wandered out of the main convention hall into the entrance hall, where most of the used book dealers were.  My dad had recently given me a copy of Asimov's new Foundation series novel, "Foundation's Edge", as a confirmation gift (I was raised Catholic), and I was hoping to find a copy of it for him (my parents were separated and in the process of divorce at the time).  

One of the small dealers, right at the very entrance to the convention hall, had a very nice hardcover copy for sale, which I purchased for a good price (I suspect it was a remainder).   The dealer and I then struck up a conversation about the book, which was the first Foundation series book written in nearly 30 years.  After about 5 minutes or so, a third man joined the conversation as I was expressing my opinion that it wasn't one of Asimov's better works.  This third man, a small, elderly fellow with gray hair and thick glasses, began really egging me on, wanting to know why I felt this way, and very much taking a devil's advocate point of view on the subject.

Now, you have to understand, being raised in an Italian/Irish family in Massachusetts, I talk with my hands.   So, in short order, the conversation became quite animated; I became more and more adamant about my opinion of the book, with this third man making comments like, "Really?  Why is that?", and "Is that so?".  (The dealer, by this time, had become very quiet, for reasons that would soon be obvious.)   Finally, I said, "Look, Asimov really copped out on the ending.  It was contrived, and it felt like a 'quick fix' for a story that felt like it was going nowhere in the first place.   It's been 30 years since the last Foundation book, and this is the best he could do?  I expected better from him." 

All this time, I have the copy of the same book in my hands, waving it in the air for emphasis.  As those last words came out of my mouth, I looked down at the book and pointed at it because, like most hardcovers, it has the author's picture on the back of the slip cover...and as in doing so, I realize, the man I'm talking to is the man who is pictured there.  It dawns on me that yes, I just told Isaac Asimov, one of the finest sci-fi writers ever, that his most recent book was awful.

My jaw must have been hanging open at this point, because Asimov got this big, stupid grin on his face.  He reached up, took the book out of my hand, and said, "What's your name?"  I mumbled my first name name to him, and he quickly wrote something inside on the first page, then handed it back to me.   I read the inscription he'd put there, which said, simply, "To ****, I promise that the next book will address all of your concerns.   Thanks for the great discussion.   All the best, Isaac Asimov"   I managed to mumble my thanks and shake his hand, as he gave me that stupid grin again, and walked into the main convention hall without another word.

I was still standing there five minutes later, dumbfounded, when Haig came running out of the convention hall looking for me, shouting, "Hurry! Asimov is here! He just walked in!"   And before I could say anything, the book dealer, who was just as flabbergasted as I was, answered, "He knows.  He just told him his book sucked!"

fallentower fallentower
41-45, M
50 Responses Dec 17, 2008

So... Did the next book answer your concerns? I myself have recently got into the prophets of science fiction and decided to start with Jules Verne. I will get to Asimov in time. Just curious about this book is all.

It was kind of strange I like that

Great story! Treasure it to the end of your days.

This is a great story

O wow you got to meet Issac!

Very awesome

Dont knowif I already read this, but I bought it on Kindle anyway. You're a great salesman. AE Van Vogt was my favorite, but Asimov is good anytime.

I could see myself getting into that situation.

You lucky lucky bastard. I am consumed with envy.

That is a great story! I love the Foundation series. It was the first sci-fi I had ever read before. Funny thin is, I'm re-reading the foundation series for like the 50th time and I just started Foundation's Edge the other night!!

Wow. That must have been incredible/ embarrassing. I love Asimov. I love how all his stories blend into one epic time line. What a treasured memory.

There probably would have never been a "Terminator" if there hadn't been "I Robot."

I used to subscribe to his monthly sci/fi magazine. He didn't put many of his stories in the magazine. He featured a lot of new writers. What he wrote mostly was the editorials. In one of his editorials he had a great explanation of how English became the choice of many writers to write in. He explained how so many languages have influenced English over the years that you can come up with dozens of words that mean the same thing but each one has a slightly different flavor that the writer can use to color his writing with. It was so many years ago that I read it that I'm having a hard time remembering the rest of it. I read all the great sci/fi writers of the time and I can't recall any of them writing about the internet.

WOW, pure awesome. And Asimov was classy. It probably meant more to him that a 16 year old was trying, was interested, and was willing to give an opinion. Really. That is... just, I envy you. I felt like I was the book dealer...

Wonderful experience and are you writing yourself? You should be.

That is a great story. I love Asimov, graduated from the same University he went to, and met him at a presentation he gave there when I was a student -- but I never told him his book sucked ;-)

Now that is a story. I did not know there was a new book, I loved the orginal Foundation series. I am kind of torn about reading the new book.

For a while there, Asimov and Clarke made up about half of the great ideas, both fiction and non-fiction. It's interesting how humble people like that are. It always seems like the smartest guy in the room is the one asking questions, not answering them.

Awsome encounter, an Im betting he enjoyed every minute of your opinion. <br />
Thanks for sharing.

What an absolutely delightful story! Not only do you tell it well, getting the reader to live it right along side you, but it's endearing and sweet. <br />
<br />
I agree that Asimov was likely enjoying experiencing an honest discourse rather than head-bobbing appreciation that tends to go hand in hand with success. What a hoot that had to be for him.<br />
<br />
Oh, and congrats on sticking to your guns and being able to openly express your opinions (even to Asimov, when necessary).

dr asimov could take as well as he gave. it reminds me of the story when he didn't get up to acknowledge a fan's accolades, till he suddenly realized it was f. murray abraham, and not only stood up, but blurted out something about him killing mozart. ;) he likely enjoyed it -- asimov was a fun man, and you reacted perfectly! thanks for telling us your wonderful story! (i got an autograph too, but my story is nothing like yours!)

Too cool.

Loved the story!! ^_^

Yes, that is a great story, an "awesome" story. Please remember that Asimov himself wrote that his reader could observer how his writing style improved or did not improve since "NIghtfall," his first published novella. You have to have a thick skin to be a novelist and go on tours. You just can' be Nixon. N'est pas?

It is nice to know that Asimov has a sense of humor. Many famous people tend to be full of themselves.

Great story and well written. Avid readers make better writers. I have never read Asimov; but I have friends that are serious fans.

Awesome story!<br />
<br />
I never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Asimov, although I have remained a huge fan of his books for over 30 years (can you tell by my handle? both versions of A.Darell's name smashed together).<br />
I also want to second the recommendation of the Robot series for those young'uns who haven't gotten to it yet. I'll be looking through your posts for some more good reads!<br />
<br />
Just as an aside, we did run into Walter Koenig at a con a few years ago - literally. My spouse was wearing a sword, turned quickly, and caught him right between the legs. oops!

That is a fabulous story. I've got an Asimov story, too...<br />
<br />
Scene: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, 1976<br />
<br />
ISAAC ASIMOV: Hello. Mind if I sit here.<br />
ME: No. Uh, no.<br />
ISAAC ASIMOV: Thanks.<br />
ME: Wow.<br />
ISAAC ASIMOV: Were you just at the lecture?<br />
ME: Yes. You're... It was good. Um. But you believe in reincarnation?<br />
ISAAC ASIMOV: No, not the way it's usually described. Perhaps as more of a racial memory than a punctuated consciousness... But I've always been fascinated by the possibility... I could be anything, anyone. I could come back as a beautiful girl.<br />
ME: (thinking about that) Um. What color would your hair be?<br />
ISAAC ASIMOV: (laughs) Red.

Such a great experience! Authors really appreciate the truth about their work, especially someone has accomplished as Asimov. Good for you! I loved the way you related the story.

~*GIGGLE*~ OPEN wide thy mouth... Insert Foot. hahaha! Great story and told awwwwsumley! :)

(laughs) Great story.

My novel is with literary agents, if you meet me criticise all you like. I am desperate for someone to express an opinion on the last chapter and from a Catholic; that would be really good! lol. <br />
<br />
Good writers are that sensitive, we just want feedback; good and bad. As long as it is constructive criticism then that helps us improve our writing. I have strangely enough been writing a little on a Star Trek site! Just for my own amusement and to show the Trekkies how creative I am! lol. I write comedy and so I took the site by storm. Live long and fester! lol.

Wow! I get all goosebumpy reading this.:) Sheer drama in real life. How lucky you are! Asimov! One of my favorites!

i envied you for having the chance to meet one of my favorite science writers of all time! but, that as awfully good for you to tell him what you think of his latest book!<br />
<br />
by the way, i don't go for asimov's fiction stories; i'd prefer his non-fiction works: the brain; an intelligent man's guide to natural sciences and physial sciences ones (in separate volumes); etc.<br />
<br />
again, congratulations!!!

Wow that's a great story and really funny. He's sneaky but that's such an awesome conversation to have had. I love it!

OMG That's awesome! Hey, I think its better to speak the truth than just fawn over someone and tell them what they want to hear. I love it! I love Asimov, too. That is a great story, one for the ages.

Fabulous story. One for the grandkids for SURE!

Somebody has stolen your story along with many others from experience project. They have published your story online and are collecting royalties. follow this link

I love this story! I love Isaac Asimov. I think he and Carl Sagan should still be alive to write their stories.

looks like a came in late here-- but as it's already been said: awesome story!! truly priceless--lol!<br />
and ya know-- foundation's edge wasn't my favorite, either. lol ;)

Hell, that was really great. Being really that blunt in front of him (well, even if you don't know it was him).<br />
<br />
Ever thought of being a critic..?

Hiya fallentower,<br />
Or should I say "Bill the cat?" - I never met Asimov, but discovered his book way back in the 60s...and enjoyed, for the most part, what he wrote...he will be sadly missed.<br />
Regards,<br />
Bizarre Suzanne

some folks take criticism and grow, stupid people just rebel against it.<br />
<br />
great story

Underneath - Thanks so much! I don't know if at that age, I would have been so blunt if I'd actually recognized him. He's a great author, no doubt about that.<br />
<br />
Thanks, autimom. :-)<br />
<br />
Whuttup - I know he appreciated it by the comment he left in my book. Thanks!

Wow, I would love the opportunity to make an *** of myself in front of some of my favorite authors. But then again, I think it's great how you voiced your opinion. People think critics are an author's enemy, but without critics the work suffers. If everyone is a yes-man fan, the author has no direction for improvement. <br />
<br />
Good story.

This made me smile, FT. What a cool story.

This is such an awesome story. Awe. Some. He must have loved hearing your honest opinion. I think I have only read some of his short stories, but you've inspired me to get some of his books.

Krypton - of course I do! And by the way, Asimove was right - the next book, "Foundation and Earth", did address my complaints about "Foundation's Edge" (he was already working on it at the time of our discussion). I highly recommend you read them both, along with the two prequels, "Prelude to Foundation", and "Forward the Foundation". But before you do, I highly recommend reading Asimov's Robot series; the follow on Foundation books will make more sense if you do.

That is the best story ever. I bet Asimov enjoyed hearing an honest opinion. I haven't read beyond the basic three of the Foundation series, but I have heard mixed reviews of them. I hope you still have the book!!!

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I rather think he enjoyed seeing me make an *** out of myself as well. He was just waiting for me to realize who he was. The book dealer had it figured out way before I did, but I think he was enjoying the show too!

No, I think he wanted honest feedback.

By the way...Foundation's Edge. Was that the one with the Mule?