Isaac Asimov: Envisioning the Future of Our Own Humanity
“If it brings me humanity, that will be worth it. If it doesn’t, it will bring an end to striving and that will be worth it, too. ” (The Bicentennial Man 22).
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Isaac Asimov, a dreamer who with humble beginnings pushed science fiction into the beginnings of reality. There is no one quite like Asimov. He has written more on more subjects, and better on more subjects, and more unexpectedly on most subjects, and in more ways on more subjects, than anyone else in the field.
He writes poetry, limericks, short stories, novels, essays, articles, nonfiction books, trilogies, jokes and so on-more of them than anyone else could imagine (The Bicentennial Man 1). With all his intelligence, and all his heart, he fought for a world in which his ideas could become reality. His humanity was found in his struggle to educate us all, encouraging us to expand our horizons beyond our own lack of knowledge. This fact is alluded to in an article he wrote to Newsweek in the 1980s, “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been.
The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge’” (“A Cult of Ignorance” 19). His view of the world included us understanding. His oppression was caused by our ignorance. Isaac Asimov was born sometime between October 4, 1919 and January 2, 1920 (In Memory Yet Green 1). His parents did not remember the exact date of his birth but claim it to be around that time. He himself celebrated it on January 2nd (In Memory Yet Green 1).
He was born to Anna Rachel Berman Asimov and Judah Asimov, a Jewish Russian couple. At the age of three, his whole family immigrated to the United States to the city of Brooklyn, New York (Biblio). Asimov graduated high school early, starting college and writing his first published novel which he completed by the end of college (http://psu. edu). Asimov was a man who spent his entire life writing. His earliest writings were found in magazines. His friend and publisher John W. Campbell saw his early stories as rough but promising (http://psu. edu).
The story that really launched his career was Nightfall. Nightfall was a simple story, written about how a society could potentially collapse if great change occurs even if that change is not inherently negative. In Nightfall and Other Stories, he writes, “The writing of ‘Nightfall’ was a watershed in my professional career … I was suddenly taken seriously and the world of science fiction became aware that I existed. As the years passed, in fact, it became evident that I had written a ‘classic’” (Nightfall and Other Stories). His career and fame continued to grow as the years passed.
Beginning in 1942 and ending in 1945 he worked for the Philadelphia Naval Air Experimental Station (Biblio). During this time he started work on five novelettes and four novellas that are now known as the Foundation Trilogy. Of the trilogy, Charles Elkins of DePauw University wrote, “Among SF series, surely none has enjoyed such spectacular popularity as Isaac Asimov’s Foundation stories” (http://psu. edu). The Foundation series received numerous awards for its quality and content, eventually ending up in a Hugo award for Asimov (WorldsWithoutEnd).
In the Foundation series, through the use of science fiction he tackled the issues he was passionate about. In his novel Pebble in the Sky he writes about racism. The story is written in the view of humans of other worlds holding a prejudice against Earth-dwellers because they “simply do not like the Earth” (http://psu. edu). He also tackled another issue that lays claim to how he lived his life. In book three of the foundation series, The Mayors, he begins to describe a religion that focuses on science (Foundation).
As an atheistic humanist minority in a culture that was vastly overpoweringly theist, the best approach he took to tackling the issue of religion was through science fiction. As an educator at heart, he just wanted us to challenge the status quo with what we understand. In The Mayors, the religion of science worships a mythical galactic spirit. It is strikingly similar in some respects to modern religion, as this storybook religion had both a prophet, a story of how it all began, and a book of rules to live by (Foundation).
His views on religion can be read inside the stories that he wrote. The life of Asimov cannot simply be summed up in a short phrase or story. He was an influential writer, attacking literature in many different writing formats. He fought for the rights of others, shaping our belief systems through the use of storytelling. He pushed for greater desire to learn in all of us, by writing of a robot that learned to become human (The Bicentennial Man 22). The call to be human and to remind us to be human was the goal of Asimov.