SOLARIS RISING 2 Countdown To Launch (T minus 6 Days): the astounding Isaac Asimov

The short story form is one of the staples of science-fiction and, arguably, has given it its greatest expression, and they continue to be popular to this day.

Solaris Rising 2 is the latest in our popular series of SF short stories from some of the biggest names in genre - and it's less than a week to go until it launches at Waterstones Gower Street in London with Ian Whates, Paul Cornell, James Lovegrove, David Mercurio Rivera and Martin Sketchley discusses what makes short stories so entertaining and such a feature in the history of SF.

So we're talking about our favourite SF short stories all this week on the Solaris blog. Next up we have Solaris desk editor David Moore with another of the all-time greats from one of the true masters of the form...

It always starts with your parents, doesn't it? Mum and Dad were both voracious readers, and both fans of genre, although their tastes differed; I owe McCaffrey to Mum, for instance, and Heinlein to Dad. I’d struggle to tell you what my first introduction to SF was – it was so very long ago – but my first great love was, without a doubt, Isaac Asimov.

Asimov dominated my attention for years: the Foundation books, the Elijah Baley series, whatever I could get my hands on. But in particular, I loved his short fiction. He was a spectacularly prolific creator of short fiction, both as a writer and anthologist, and I read every collection I found under his name. And he wrote about short fiction with an earnestness and a love that was entirely contagious: his glosses on his early career in The Early Asimov (or Eleven Years of Trying), telling his many obstacles and frustrations on his way to success, almost certainly led to my being here today.

And of Asimov’s many, many short works, I’d have to say it was the classic Liar! that stands out most in my memory. An early appearance of the great Susan Calvin – still, to my mind, the model on which discussions about “strong female characters” in genre fiction should be based – it uses the cold, logical brain of a machine to explain one of the most human of crises, that of lying to spare others’ feelings. 

It’s such a basic lesson, and a paradox that we struggle with our entire lives, and my very young mind was faintly blown by the idea of exploring it from the point of view of a robot. It’s this simple humanity, and the tension between humanity and science, that to me is what science fiction should be about. And reading some of the most cutting-edge fiction about machine logic and behaviour, you also realise it was seventy years – a human lifetime – ahead of its time.

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