Anachan's Corner

One woman's journey through marriage, motherhood, and the classroom…

Rediscovering Asimov

Written By: Anachan - Sep• 04•15

Recently, our high school library went through a purge, prior to its being moved to a different school. Piles of books were stacked by the entrance or on a particular set of shelves, waiting for students (or teachers) to adopt them and take them to new homes.

In the course of this, I managed to get my hands on the entire collection of Isaac Asimov books the school possessed.

The fact that they ended up in the discard pile wasn’t tremendously surprising; I would have been surprised if anyone had checked them out in years. Most of the youth I knew either didn’t read for pleasure or read more modern books, viewing Asimov as outdated and irrelevant. (Besides, who wants to read science fiction, anyway?)

I had read a little Asimov in high school, myself, but I had not been such a devotee as to have read the entire series. But with all but the final Foundation book in my grasp, I decided it was time to remedy this situation . . . or do as much as one summer would permit, sandwiched in between getting daughters to and from summer programs, getting daughters ready to go to college, and spending all my chore time listening to Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Tales on audio . . .

I had forgotten what a fun tale Asimov could tell.

The books may be classed as science fiction, but, as Asimov himself would tell you, science fiction is much more than stories about spaceships and speculation. From his introduction to his collection of mystery (yes, mystery!) short stories, entitled Asimov’s Mysteries (another acquisition from the discard pile):

There is a tendency for many people who don’t know any better to classify science fiction as just one more member of the group of specialized literatures (sic.) that include mysteries, westerns, adventures, sport stories, love stories, and so on. This has always seemed odd to those who know science fiction well, for s.f. is a literary response to scientific change, and that response can run the entire gamut of the human experience. Science fiction, in other words, includes everything.

The Foundation series, for instance, includes not only improbable science, but adventure and suspense. It includes insights not just into man’s hope for the future of technology but also insights into human nature and politics. His mysteries contain technology yet to be discovered, but they are first and foremost mysteries, with all the elements of the classic tale.

One particular tale I remembered from my youth was not to be found on the library shelf: The End of Eternity. Unwilling to miss what I remembered as being the best story of all, I picked it up on my audio book subscription and listened eagerly. It did not disappoint. While the entire world is so centered around a scientifically fictional situation that it is impossible to ignore the fact it is science fiction, the book brings up so many thought questions that I almost had the feeling I was listening to Ray Bradbury, without half of the inner dialogue. What do you do when you decide that the inner beliefs you have held your whole life are called into question? What is the nature of the relationship between men and women? Who gets to decide what is best for mankind? If you could have no wars in the world, at the price of the world’s technological advancement, would it be worth it?

I have met people who look down on those who enjoy science fiction and fantasy. While I have not understood exactly why this is the case, I suspect they look upon fans of these kinds of books as those who are trying to escape the “real world”, rather than facing life as it is. I do not believe this is necessarily the viewpoint of these readers. It is simple to make a connection between a story based on family relationships in the modern or even historical world and one’s life, but it takes a more open mind to make a connection between a fantasy or science fiction story and a real life situation. It allows readers to explore difficult themes without making the situation hit close to home. We can theorize without feeling personally threatened.

With half a dozen (or more) Asimov books still waiting for me on my shelf, I look forward to many more hours enjoying the alternate universe he created and pondering the themes and messages found therein.

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