Isaac Asimov has left his fingerprints on every work of
social science fiction that has ever been published.
I. The early life of Isaac Asimov.
II. All authors leave fingerprints on their works.
A. Individual style
B. Individual tone
III. Occasionally an author is creative enough and lucky enough to create something new.
A. Greeks/Poetry, Dickinson/punc., etc.
IV. One of these authors is Isaac Asimov.
V. He created his genre, Social Science Fiction.
A. SSF is, in Mr. Asimov's words, "that branch of literature which is
concerned with the impact of scientific advance upon human
beings."As such, it follows rules he developed.
VI. These rules mirror IA's personal style. They reflect him.
A. Look at how IA writes
1. Commentary on style, etc.
VII. Many of these characteristics can be seen in other works of SSF.
A. A. C. Clarke, R. Bradbury
VIII. SSF, being IA's creation, is in itself an extension of IA's personal beliefs, and, consequently, of his style. By necessity, all SSF writings must reflect IA. IA's fingerprints are thus on all SSF works.
IX. Thesis statement
Isaac Asimov was born in Russia on or around January 2, 1920. In 1923 his family moved to Brooklyn in the United States. In the U.S. Isaac's father worked in a knitting factory and as a door-to-door salesman. However, neither of these careers worked out, and he decided to make a gamble. He invested all the money he had saved in a candy store. When the store opened in 1926, Isaac was just six years old. However, he quickly learned to enjoy the magazines that the store sold, especially Astounding. This magazine was Isaac's initiation to science fiction (Asimov 1: 63-67).
When he was sixteen, Isaac attempted to have his first story published. It was called Cosmic Corkscrew, and it was not very good. He submitted it to Astounding, and it was rejected. However, John Cambell, the editor to whom Isaac submitted the story, was very helpful. He took about an hour of his time to talk to Isaac about the problems the story had and encouraged Isaac to try again. Over the course of five more rejections, Cambell continued to help Isaac and eventually got Isaac through his slow start. Isaac later claimed that Cambell was the man who kept him from quitting (Asimov 1: 198-207).
When Isaac hit his stride, some of his works were published in Astounding. Most of these early works were short stories, which were what Mr. Cambell was looking for at that time. So, buoyed by both Mr. Cambell's early rejection letters and then later by his own successes, Isaac began work on something new for Mr. Cambell. On August 11, 1941, Isaac started work on his first Foundation story (Asimov 1: 312). This story was the ushering in of a new era for science fiction.
All writers leave fingerprints. Writers leave fingerprints on the pages of their stories and in the words of their books. An author's identity is hidden in his/her fingerprints. The style he/she uses, the tones he/she conveys, and the pictures he/she paints all reflect the personal characteristics of a particular writer. These things, in turn, are created from past teachings and from the necessities required by different genres. Because of this, each and every writer on Earth has his/her own individual preferences, and no matter what they do, their ideas and their beliefs shine through to be seen by whomever knows what to look for.
However, not all types and styles of writing have been characterized. This means that not all types of fingerprints have yet been seen, because part of what makes a writer's fingerprint is the category in which he/she is writing. A countless number of undiscovered literary techniques lie waiting to be used. New vocabulary, new punctuation, and even new genres lie hidden, waiting to be found, and because we do not know what these undiscovered characteristics are, we cannot identify all types of fingerprints.
Throughout history, many different authors have expanded literature's horizons by discovering some of these previously unknown characteristics. The ancient Greeks advanced poetry, Edgar Allen Poe introduced mystery stories, Emily Dickinson explored punctuation, and Asimov created Social Science Fiction.
Social Science Fiction, which, as Asimov describes it, is, "that branch of literature which is concerned with the impact of scientific advance upon human beings," (Olander and Greenberg 98) is quite possibly the newest literary branch there is. Science Fiction itself has only existed since Jules Verne and the late 1800s. Social Science Fiction, despite being introduced in 1941, was not well developed until the publication of the first Foundation novel, in 1951. And even then it was a study fraught with trouble.
Look for instance, at Mr. Asimov's writing in the original Foundation Trilogy. Holistically, it is very capable, providing an unusual intimacy between the reader and the writer and an inestimable link between the reader's heart and the characters. However, it has some serious problems. The characters and their dialogue are Mr. Asimov's biggest problem. His characters are all very flat. In every situation there is a good guy, a bad guy, and someone somewhere in-between. And in every situation the good guy acts the same way, the bad guy acts the same way, and the person in the middle serves as a protagonist. The dialogue the characters use is also inappropriate. According to Charles Elkins, a noted science fiction critic, "Asimov's ear for dialogue is simply atrocious. The characters speak with a monotonous rhythm and impoverished vocabulary characteristic of American teenagers' popular reading in the Forties and Fifties," ('qtd' Olander and Greenberg 97).
Basically, Mr. Asimov wrote a story about humans in the future dealing with problems brought on by technological advances. That is what makes it Social Science Fiction as opposed to plain Science Fiction. But what makes it Asimov as opposed to another writer is its fingerprints. And Isaac Asimov's fingerprints are smeared all over the Foundation series just as they are spread across all other Social Science Fiction books. They cover everything that comes even remotely close to his main idea.
Look what Mr. Asimov started with. He based his Foundation stories in the future, where nine-tenths of all science fiction stories are set. He started with the assumption that humanity, as a whole, is not going to change much over the next hundred thousand years. He began with technological advances that are only dreamed about today. And then he put everyday people into that situation and wrote about how they reacted.
The tone he used was an almost condescending one, one that led the reader into the story at the reader's pace, one that tried to get the reader to believe. He wrote in very calm tones, only drawing on the dramatic fever that was constantly at his disposal when it was most important. He showed remarkable restraint, waiting until just the right moment to light the fire and sharpen the contrast.
The pictures he created were not very defined. Isaac would draw a room with his words, and instead of seeing everything at a glance like Jules Verne, the first Science Fiction writer, did, he revealed it at a more human pace, showing everything as it happened. The reader would be put in a spaceship and would suddenly find himself sitting on a chair or looking out a window that Mr. Asimov had just created. In the Foundation novels, the reader finds himself being left with options, allowed to imagine scenes he wants to see or forget what he does not care for. Mr. Asimov's creations were very open.
The overall voice that Isaac used was also very compelling. It was as though Isaac had the power to transport the reader into the body of a character, to feel the emotions running beneath the surface, and all the while to keep the reader always aware that he was free to agree or disagree with Mr. Asimov's ideas.
Mr. Asimov's writings are about freedom. His particular fingerprints are not just poor dialogue and flat characters, because that has changed over the years. His true fingerprints remain as they've always been. His desire to let the reader see as the character sees and to let the reader feel as the character feels remains. His techniques of writing, his personal fingerprints, may have lost some details over the years, but their essence remains the same.
Isaac's fingerprints tell who he is, and because he was the first, they tell what Social Science Fiction is. Social Science Fiction is exactly what Mr. Asimov's definition of it said it was, the interaction between humanity and technology. But because he was the first, the style in which any Social Science Fiction is written is very close to the style that Mr. Asimov used, if not identical. Think about it. Almost all Social Science Fiction stories, like Mr. Asimov's, deal with abstract images. Only a few Social Science Fiction stories are as thorough in detail as Mr. Verne was.
Compare Mr. Asimov to some other authors. For instance, Arthur Clarke and one of his books, 2001. This book is definitely a Social Science Fiction book, as it focuses on human interaction with technology. It, while having more concise description than Mr. Asimov's Foundation, is still fairly vague so far as physical descriptions are concerned. And, like the Foundation, it is very careful as to when to heighten suspense. And like Isaac's first masterpiece, it leaves room for the reader to be creative.
Compare Mr. Asimov to Ray Bradbury. Mr. Bradbury, is, in many ways, the anti-Asimov. Where Asimov is calm and reasoning, Bradbury is excitable and argumentative. Where Isaac uses one dimensional characters, Mr. Bradbury uses complex figures that change very perceptibly (Asimov 224). But when it comes to Social Science Fiction, a little bit of Asimov can easily be seen. Mr. Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, one of his few ventures into the social side of science fiction, gives the reader room to dream, just like Asimov's Social Science Fiction. And the physical description used by Mr. Bradbury is limited in Fahrenheit 451, except in a few key instances, just like Asimov's Social Science Fiction. And finally, Fahrenheit 451 is one of Mr. Bradbury's more patient books, with the necessary emotions saved for the perfect times.
Mr. Clarke is, admittedly, much like Mr. Asimov so far as their natural styles are concerned. Because of this it is easy to make comparisons and see similarities in any of their works. But Mr. Bradbury, who normally has a quite different style from Mr. Asimov, is very similar to Isaac's style when it comes to Social Science Fiction. Mr. Asimov's fingerprints shine through.
So far as Social Science Fiction goes, Mr. Asimov has been consistently mirrored by others. It is not because Mr. Asimov is the best, or is particularly good, but primarily because he was the first. Social Science Fiction, being Isaac's creation, is, in essence, an extension of his personal beliefs and, consequently, of his style. By necessity all works of Social Science Fiction must follow the path that Mr. Asimov set. All works must then reflect Mr. Asimov's beliefs, and that means that Isaac's style has been imposed on every single work of Social Science Fiction ever written. That means that Isaac Asimov has left his fingerprints on every work of Social Science Fiction that has ever been published.
Asimov, Isaac. Asimov on Science Fiction: Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1981.
__________. Foundation: New York, NY: Avon Books, a division of The Hearst Corporation, 1973.
__________. Foundation and Empire: New York, NY: Avon Books, a division of The Hearst Corporation, 1973.
__________. In Memory Yet Green the autobiography of Isaac Asimov, 1920 ~ 1954: Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1979.
__________. Nemesis: New York, NY: Doubleday, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc., 1989.
__________. Second Foundation: New York, NY: Avon Books, a division of The Hearst Corporation, 1973.
Verne, Jules. Around the World in 80 Days: New York, NY: Waldman Publishing Corp., 1989.
_________. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Toronto, Canada: Airmont Publishing Company, Inc., 1963.
Writers of the 21st Century Series Isaac Asimov. eds. Joseph D. Olander and Martin Harry Greenberg. New York, NY: Taplinger Publishing Company, Inc., 1977.