Review of 'Asimov on Science Fiction'

Asimov on Science Fiction by Isaac Asimov

asimov_on_science_fiction.jpg “Asimov on Science Fiction” is a collection of short essays written by Asimov, often for magazines or as book introductions, on the subject of Science Fiction covering aspects of it's history, thoughts on various writers, the art of writing and he even muses on his own work. The works are divided into themed chapters: “Science Fiction in General”, “The Writing of Science Fiction”, “The Predictions of Science Fiction”, “The History of Science Fiction”, “Science Fiction Writers”, “Science Fiction Fans” (including fandom), “Science Fiction Reviews” and, finally, “Science Fiction and I”. When reading one has to be very much aware of the time it was written (1980) and the times of which it talks with only the earliest big Science Fiction blockbusters having hit the cinemas (Star Wars) and Asimov's early career in writing for so-called “pulp” magazines. It is quite a biased insight focusing mostly on the dominant American influence on Science Fiction and quite male-dominated. For example, he contends (over and over again) that Science Fiction really kicked off in 1926 with the first Science Fiction (American) pulp magazine Amazing Stories which was published by Hugo Gernsback then in subsequent magazines that came and went. In fact, one does get a bit tired when he re-iterates this point over and over again throughout the book. The other fairly contentious affirmation is that in order to be called (written) Science Fiction a story must feature verifiable or at least logical scientific fact or extrapolation. You can't just make stuff up without an explanation, he contends, it must make sense not only in the context of the story but also logically. This might mean that most modern Science Fiction books would not qualify with this fairly strict definition.

That Asimov was remarkably intelligent and erudite, I feel, is beyond contention but it is obvious here that he is also quite opinionated and arrogant though, to be fair, he also freely admits this but also makes no apologies. He tries to be upfront about his biases. His perspective on the genre is quite interesting and does offer some insights into the early days of modern Science Fiction fandom and publishing. Modern sensibilities might see him as a sexist dinosaur but I think there can be little doubt that his influence is still strongly felt in the Science Fiction we know today which now dominates in the cinema and on television though still suffers from quite a modest readership.

Though the book is quite tedious with many of the same themes returned to again and again, there are some tidbits here that modern fans of the genre would find interesting bringing to mind the axiom: “The more things change, the more things stay the same” regardless of what you might think.

Rating: “Really good but I have some issues”

Review Date: 2022-09-18

Genre: Non-Fiction

Publisher: Avon Books

Publication Date: 1981

ISBN: 0380585111

Other reviewed books by Harlan Ellison, and Isaac Asimov:

Other reviewed books by Isaac Asimov: