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Isaac Asimov, 1920-1992
by Robert J. Sawyer
First published in the May 1992 issue of Alouette: The Newsletter of the Canadian Region of SFWA.
Isaac Asimov called himself "The Good Doctor," and referred to his audience as "gentle readers." His death wasn't unexpected. Word of his failing health had been circulating in the SF community for many months. Nonetheless, the actual news that he was gone hit hard. Isaac Asimov, who didn't fly, didn't drive, didn't like to travel at all, has embarked on his final journey.
I met Asimov once. In the summer of 1985, when I was in New York City doing work for CBC Radio, I managed, after considerable wrangling, to get Asimov to agree to be interviewed for one hour. Exactly one hour; more than that he would not countenance away from his writing. Even then, even seven years ago, he knew he had more that he wanted to say than he'd ever have time to commit to paper, and any distraction from that process was resented. I'll never forget that hour, one of the highlights of my life. We sat side by side on his couch in his Manhattan penthouse and talked . . .
. . . talked of the origin of the robot stories; of the genesis of the Three Laws; of his relationship with his mentor, John W. Campbell, Jr.; of his profound belief in rationality, and his absolute pacifism; of his pride in the magazine that bears his name; of the exquisite joy he found in writing.
"If I make myself and my readers happy, in that order, then I'm pleased," he said. He cared not at all that critics often dismissed his work. He knew his audience loved what he was doing, knew that his classic novels including The Caves of Steel and Foundation and his short works including "Liar!" and "Nightfall" would be remembered and enjoyed for decades to come.
Almost 500 books bear his name; his legacy is greater than that of almost any other 20th-Century writer. Across the entire world, millions of gentle readers mourn the passing of The Good Doctor.
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