Isaac Asimov

By: Jerrold Freitag
January 2, 2014


Writer, teacher, scientist ISAAC ASIMOV (Isaak Yudovich Ozimov, born between October 4, 1919 and January 2, 1920; died 1992) cured my science fiction anxiety. I thought the appeal of sci fi was about running away from all things human in favor of science and technology. However, a few years ago when I had to brush up sciences for a teaching assignment, I found his Introduction to Chemistry (etymologies in a chemistry book!). Asimov taught me what chemistry teachers never did: science is a humanist’s playground. In 1950’s I, Robot, Asimov gave us the robot to show how:

1. A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law. (I, Robot, 1950)

I started reading his fiction, and now I get it: Science fiction authors aren’t escapists, but travelers to those far-out distances it takes to see. Peering into the elemental, the microscopic and the galactic is good yoga for compassion. The nothingness (space) all around calls for the warmth that huddling together brings.

GOLDEN-AGE SCI-FI at HILOBROW: Golden Age Sci-Fi: 75 Best Novels of 1934–1963 | Robert Heinlein | Karel Capek | William Burroughs | E.E. “Doc” Smith | Clifford D. Simak | H.P. Lovecraft | Olaf Stapledon | Philip K. Dick | Jack Williamson | George Orwell | Boris Vian | Bernard Wolfe | J.G. Ballard | Jorge Luis Borges |Poul Anderson | Walter M. Miller, Jr. | Murray Leinster | Kurt Vonnegut | Stanislaw Lem | Alfred Bester | Isaac Asimov | Ray Bradbury | Madeleine L’Engle | Arthur C. Clarke | PLUS: Jack Kirby’s Golden Age and New Wave science fiction comics.


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Todd Haynes, John Hope Franklin, Roger Miller.

READ MORE about members of the New Gods Generation (1914-23).