- An anthology of 18 stories
- Published by Graffton Books
- First published in 1989
- A collection of many genres
- 511 pages
For fifty years, Isaac Asimov has entertained and inspired with his science fiction tales. In this anthology, eighteen authors pay tribute to the good doctor and his myriad creations. And what better way to celebrate an author than with stories of their own . . ?
It’s no secret that I hold Isaac Asimov in high esteem. His works are part of what got me into science fiction, and are still a major influence on my own storytelling. Just ask anyone I run sci-fi RPGs for. Even those who don’t enjoy the man’s work can’t argue with the volume of his output. Foundation, The Caves of Steel, I, Robot. These are all classics of the genre, and yet are only the tip of the Asimov iceberg. Its hardly a surprise then, that the fiftieth anniversary of his first story ‘Marooned Off Vesta’ was celebrated in style. I doubt there are many authors who can boast a similar anthology.
The authors involved in this anthology reads like a veritable who’s who of science fiction history. It opens with a foreword by Ray Bradbury, starts with a story by Ben Bova, and ends with a novella by Orson Scott Card. Along the way are familiar names such as Robert Silverberg, Harry Turtledove, Frederik Pohl, and Harry Harrison. Some of these are authors I’ve read before, but almost every name in here is someone I’ve heard of. Many are authors I’ll be looking into a little further.
The only theme binding these stories together is Asimov. Ben Bova, Connie Willis and Frederik Pohl all take a look at how Asimov has affected the world, either in alternate histories, or a theoretical future. These three stories do border on sycophancy, but as it’s explicitly a celebration of the man, I’m inclined to give them a pass. Harry Harrison and George Alec Effinger both bring their own literary creations into Asimov’s worlds, with mixed results. Effinger’s story is an odd word-of-mouth hand-me-down that doesn’t quite work for me, while Harrison’s entry leaves me in no rush to reencounter the Stainless Steel Rat. Many of the other authors here expand on an Asimov short story, including a visit to the crime-solving Black Widowers from Edward D. Hoch.
The stories that brought me to this collection are, in a happy coincidence, the best. Because when other authors are let loose in Asimov’s playground, what I really want to see is their take on Foundation. Harry Turtledove’s ‘Trantor Falls’ tells of the last battle of the Galactic Empire, and the fall of the capital to a barbarian warlord. It’s a short but effective piece that fills in a crucial gap in the larger narrative. ‘Foundation’s Conscience’ by George Zebrowski takes place five hundred years after Foundation and Earth and is a clever examination of Hari Seldon’s legacy, and how history has a tendency to mythologise real people. Orson Scott Card’s ‘The Originist’ drags a little, but is otherwise a wonderful tale of academic rivalry and the birth of the Second Foundation.
Most of the stories here are on the pleasant and forgettable end of the spectrum, but there’s something good in all of them. And, as with all good anthologies, I walk away with a few more authors to keep an eye out for. Isaac Asimov may no longer be with us, but with a a legacy of work and the authors he inspired, I don’t think he’ll be forgotten any time soon.