Isaac Asimov

Topics: Isaac Asimov, Science fiction, Science fiction magazine Pages: 14 (4368 words) Published: January 28, 2013
Isaac Asimov, the pre-eminent popular-science writer of the day and for more than 40 years one of the best and best-known writers of science fiction, died yesterday at New York University Hospital. He was 72 years old and lived in Manhattan. He died of heart and kidney failure, said his brother, Stanley. Mr. Asimov was amazingly prolific, writing nearly 500 books on a wide range of subjects, from works for preschoolers to college textbooks. He was perhaps best known for his science fiction and was a pioneer in elevating the genre from pulp-magazine adventure to a more intellectual level that dealt with sociology, history, mathematics and science. But he also wrote mysteries, as well as critically acclaimed books about the Bible, physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, limericks, humor, Shakespeare, Gilbert and Sullivan, ancient and modern history, and many other subjects. Mr. Asimov's first book, "Pebble in the Sky" (Ballantine), a science-fiction novel, was published in 1950. His first 100 books took him 237 months, or almost 20 years, until October 1969, to write. His second 100, a milestone he reached in March 1979, took 113 months, or about 9 1/2 years -- a rate of more than 10 books a year. His third 100 took only 69 months, until December 1984, or less than 6 years. "Writing is more fun than ever," he said in a 1984 interview. "The longer I write, the easier it gets." He once explained how he came to write "Asimov's Guide to Shakespeare" (Crown). It began, he said, with a book called "Words of Science." " 'Science' led to 'Words on the Map,' " he remarked, "which took me to 'The Greeks,' which led me to 'The Roman Republic,' 'The Roman Empire,' 'The Egyptians,' 'The Near East,' 'The Dark Ages,' 'The Shaping of England' and then 'Words From History.' It was an easy jump to 'Words in Genesis,' which brought on 'Words From the Exodus.' That led me to 'Asimov's Guide to the Old Testament,' and then 'The New Testament.' So what was left except Shakespeare?" His usual routine was to awake at 6 A.M., sit down at the typewriter by 7:30 and work until 10 P.M. In "In Memory Yet Green," the first volume of his autobiography, published in 1979, he explained how he became a compulsive writer. His Russian-born father owned a succession of candy stores in Brooklyn that were open from 6 A.M. to 1 A.M. seven days a week. Young Isaac got up at 6 o'clock every morning to deliver papers and rushed home from school to help out in the store every afternoon. If he was even a few minutes late, his father yelled at him for being a folyack, Yiddish for sluggard. Even more than 50 years later, he wrote: "It is a point of pride with me that though I have an alarm clock, I never set it, but get up at 6 A.M. anyway. I am still showing my father I'm not a folyack." He Learns to Read, Then Teaches Sister Isaac Asimov was born Jan. 2, 1920, in the Soviet Union, near Smolensk, the son of Judah and Anna Rachel Berman Asimov. He was brought to the United States in 1923 and was naturalized in 1928. He taught himself to read before he was 5 years old, using the signs on his Brooklyn street. A couple of years later, with a little help from his father, he taught himself to read Yiddish. When he was 7, he taught his younger sister to read. He skipped several grades and received a high-school diploma when he was 15. After discovering science fiction on the magazine rack in his father's store -- and overcoming his father's objections to fanciful subject matter -- he tried writing science fiction himself and sold his first story when he was 18. The story, "Marooned Off Vesta," ran in the October 1938 issue of Amazing Stories. Three years later, in 1941, he sold a story called "Nightfall" to Astounding Science Fiction, then the top magazine in the field. It was edited by John W. Campbell Jr., whose ability to find talented writers was largely responsible for what is considered the Golden Age of science fiction in the 1930's and 40's. Almost 30 years after...
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