about | contact | disclaimer | home   


Isaac Asimov FAQ, Part 1/4

FAQ for alt.books.isaac-asimov

This document answers frequently asked questions about Isaac Asimov and
his works.  It is posted periodically to the Usenet newsgroups
alt.books.isaac-asimov, alt.answers, and news.answers, and is available
via anonymous FTP at rtfm.mit.edu as the files:

If you don't have anonymous FTP capabilities, send mail to
mail-server@rtfm.mit.edu, subject ignored, with the following message in
the body text:
   send usenet/alt.books.isaac-asimov/Isaac_Asimov_FAQ,_Part_1_4
   send usenet/alt.books.isaac-asimov/Isaac_Asimov_FAQ,_Part_2_4
   send usenet/alt.books.isaac-asimov/Isaac_Asimov_FAQ,_Part_3_4
   send usenet/alt.books.isaac-asimov/Isaac_Asimov_FAQ,_Part_4_4

For help on the mailserver, send a message with the subject "help".

It is also available via anonymous FTP at clark.net as the files:

The latest WWW edition of this FAQ can be found at Verio Mid-Atlantic via
the URL <http://www.clark.net/pub/edseiler/WWW/asimov_FAQ.html>

Compiled by Edward Seiler (edseiler@clark.net) and John H. Jenkins
(tseng@blueneptune.com).  Special thanks to Soh Kam Yung, Mark Brader,
Matthew P. Wiener, and Colin Cutler for their contributions.

This FAQ is organized as follows (questions whose answers have changed
since the last posting of the FAQ are marked with an asterisk).

Table of Contents:

1. For starters
 1.1  Just how many books did Asimov write?
 1.2  Where can I get a list of all of Asimov's books? Is there an FTP
      site for this information?
 1.3  Where can I get Asimov's fiction on the net?
 1.4  Where else can I find Asimov stuff on the net?
 1.5  I would like to buy a certain book by Asimov, but I can't
      find it anywhere.  Can you help me find it?

2. Biographical (non-literary)
 2.1  How do you pronounce "Isaac Asimov"?
 2.2  Is Asimov really dead?  When did he die?  Where is he buried?
 2.3  When and where was he born?
 2.4  Who are the other members of his family?
 2.5  Was he married? Did he have any children?
 2.6  Where did Asimov live, attend school, and work during his life?
 2.7  What are the titles of Asimov's autobiographies?  Where can I get
 2.8  What books and articles about Asimov have been written by others?
 2.9  What religious beliefs did Asimov have?
 2.10 Did Asimov do anything other than write all day and all night?
 2.11 Is it true that Asimov had a fear of flying?
 2.12 What other notable quirks, fears, and pet peeves did Asimov have?

3. Biographical (literary)
 3.1  When did he start writing?
 3.2  What was his first published story?
 3.3  What awards did he win for his writing?
 3.4  What is Asimov's last book?
 3.5  Of his own work, what were Asimov's favorite and least favorite novels?
      What were his favorite and least favorite stories?

4. The Foundation/Robot Series
 4.1  What is this _Forward_the_Foundation_ I keep hearing about?
 4.2  Did Asimov *really* write _Forward_the_Foundation_?  Didn't he die
      before it was done, so somebody else really wrote it up from
 4.3  What about the contradictions between _Forward_the_Foundation_ and
      other Foundation books?
 4.4  Is it true that a new Foundation Trilogy written by three different
      authors is being published? How could the publisher be allowed to
      do such a thing?
 4.5  What is the chronological order of the Foundation books?
 4.6  What is the order in which the Foundation books should be read?
 4.7  _Foundation_and_Earth_? What book is that? Why can't I find it on
      sale in a bookstore?
 4.8  Whatever happened to the Solarians, who mysteriously disappeared
      in _Robots_and_Empire_?
 4.9  What is the significance of the ending of _Foundation_and_Earth_?
 4.10 Why do Asimov's books give two reasons why the Earth becomes 
 4.11 Did Asimov write the Foundation books with any plan in mind?
 4.12 Is Data from "Star Trek:  The Next Generation" an Asimovian robot?
 4.13 What *are* the Laws of Robotics, anyway?

5. Other writings
 5.1  What is the relationship between the movie "Fantastic Voyage" and
      Asimov's novel?
 5.2  What did Asimov write besides the Foundation and robot books?
 5.3  What is the source of the title of the novel
 5.4  Is there an index of his science articles for the Magazine of
      Fantasy and Science Fiction (F&SF)? Of his editorials in Isaac
      Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine (IASFM)?
 5.5  What is the Asimov-Clarke treaty?
 5.6  There's this really neat story by Asimov which I would like to
      read again, and I can remember the title; could you tell me
      where to find it?
 5.7  There's this really neat story by Asimov, but I can't remember the
 5.8  I'd like to hear some opinions about some of Asimov's books.  Do
      you have any?
 5.9  What is the title of the essay that Asimov wrote concerning the
      ultimate self-contained, portable, high-tech reading device of the
      future which turns out to be a book?

6. More Than Books...
 6.1  What records, audio tapes, videotapes, and software are available?
 6.2  Have any of Asimov's books or stories been made into a movie or
      television series?


1. For starters

1.1 Just how many books did Asimov write?

Short answer:

An awful lot.  Hundreds.

Long answer:

Well, it depends on how you count them.

For example, the most complete Asimov bibliography which Asimov himself
had a hand in preparing is the catalogue in _I._Asimov:_A_Memoir_.  It
lists 469 items, including 2 wall posters and a calendar (which some
people might not be inclined to count as "books").  It also lists 117
science fiction anthologies, none of which are entirely by Asimov, and
many of which include no stories by him (and so some people might be
inclined not to count *these*).  There are also books which are almost
entirely written by someone else (the _Superquiz_ books,
_From_Harding_to_Hiroshima_, the _Book_of_Facts_) which Asimov counted
because he had an extensive role in the editing of the book.  Some books
are counted more than once if Asimov did extensive work on later editions
(such as the _Biographical_Encyclopedia_).  And, of course, Asimov
recycled many of his stories and essays so that they appeared in more than
one collection, and some books are nothing but recyclings of older books.

On the other hand, the catalogue in _I._Asimov:_A_Memoir_ is not
complete.  Near the end of his life, Asimov's ill health kept him from
keeping careful track himself of all the books he published, and so some
books were left out of the catalogue.  Some books, of course, were
published after _I._Asimov:_A_Memoir_ and so are not listed there.  Ed
Seiler's list of books (see below) includes numerous titles missing from
the catalogue in _I._Asimov:_A_Memoir_, and ends up with a count of
somewhat over 500.

And then there are books like Harlan Ellison's
_I,_Robot:_The_Illustrated_Screenplay_.  It is based on Asimov's work and
his name is listed on the title page together with Ellison's, but the
actual work on the screenplay is virtually all Ellison's, and it was
published in book form after Asimov's death, which makes it difficult to
know if Asimov himself would have counted it.  Does it count as an
"Asimov" book?

So about the only definitive answer that can be provided at this point is:
An awful lot.  Hundreds.


1.2 Where can I get a list of all of Asimov's books? Is there an FTP
    site for this information?

Asimov published lists of his books periodically throughout his life, in
his three Opus books (_Opus_100_, _Opus_200_, _Opus_300_) and his three
autobiographical volumes (_In_Memory_Yet_Green_, _In_Joy_Still_Felt_, and

The lists in _Opus_100_, _Opus_200_, _Opus_300_, _In_Memory_Yet_Green_,
and _In_Joy_Still_Felt_ include an official number for the books listed,
indicating the order of publication.  The catalogue in
_I._Asimov:_A_Memoir_ does not number the books listed and is known to be
incomplete.  Official numbers for the books not listed in the other
volumes are not available.

As of the time of his death, Asimov had published some two hundred books
without official numbers.  Many of these can be found by going through
such sources as _Books_In_Print_ or the Library of Congress card catalog
which can be accessed by telnet to locis.loc.gov during the hours (U.S.
Eastern Time) 06:30-21:30 Monday-Friday, 08:00-17:00 Saturday, 13:00-17:00
Sunday], or by the LC MUMS Z39.50 Server,

However, since Asimov often did not count as "his" books those on which a
publisher merely slapped his name, and because a number of his books were
published in limited editions by obscure presses, these sources cannot be
taken as complete.  The compilation of a truly complete list is not a
casual undertaking.

Lists of his known books and short stories are archived and available via
anonymous ftp at clark.net, in the directory /pub/edseiler/asimov.  The
information is also available via the World Wide Web in the directory
http://www.clark.net/pub/edseiler/asimov/WWW.  Any omissions or errors
should be reported to Edward Seiler (edseiler@clark.net) or John H.
Jenkins (tseng@blueneptune.com).  Here are the current contents of

asimov_big_list.txt:    A list of all known editions [that is, known by
                        me, the list compiler, ES] of Asimov's books.
                        This is an ASCII file, up to 132 chars. per line,
                        including title, publisher, year of publication,
                        number of pages, size, Library of Congress call
                        number, Dewey number, ISBN, and Library of
                        Congress card catalog number.  (183k)
asimov_big_list_by_title.txt: The "big list" in alphabetical order by
                              title.  (183k)
asimov_catalogue.txt:   A catalogue of Asimov titles, arranged by categories
                        in the same fashion as in his autobiographies. (49k)
asimov_titles.txt:      A list of Asimov's books in order of authorship,
                        as known or estimated.  (48k)
short_story_list.txt:   A list of Asimov's short stories, in order of
                        publication, cross-referenced to list which of
                        Asimov's collections they can be found in.  (36k)
trantorian_empire.txt:  A list of worlds mentioned in the Foundation
                        series.  (5k)

And in http://www.clark.net/pub/edseiler/asimov/WWW:

asimov_big_list.html:          Same info as in asimov_big_list.txt.
asimov_catalogue.html:         Same info as in asimov_catalogue.txt.
asimov_titles.html:            Same info as in asimov_titles.html.
asimov_big_list_by_title.html: Same info as in asimov_big_list_by_title.txt.
short_fiction_guide.html:      More detailed information than in 
                               short_story_list.txt; includes an alphabetical
                               index of titles.

The anonymous ftp site, sflovers.rutgers.edu archives sf-related material
and contains a general Science Fiction resource guide.  A bibliography of
books (copyrighted by John Wenn, jwenn@world.std.com) by Isaac Asimov and
Janet Asimov can be found there, as well as those on other writers.  (The
list on Asimov is less comprehensive or detailed than the ones given

The files are:



1.3 Where can I get Asimov's fiction on the net?

All of Asimov's work, fiction and non-fiction, was under copyright at the
time of the Good Doctor's death.  Under current U.S. law, these copyrights
will not expire prior to 2042, although the relevant laws may change
between now and then.

As a result, none of Asimov's fiction is legally available on the net
without the permission of his estate.

Voyager, a company that published (among other things) excellent
soft-copies of literary works, produced electronic copies of
_The_Complete_Stories_, volumes one and two.  These two books between them
include 86 pieces of Asimov's short fiction, including most of his best
stories. These used to be available for online purchase, but Voyager has
since been sold to Learn Technologies, and Learn will not be selling these
two titles.

Nothing else is currently available legally via the net.  In particular,
none of the Foundation series can be downloaded.


1.4 Where else can I find Asimov stuff on the net?

Following is a list of some Internet sites containing Asimov related material.

An audio file (1.2 Mb) at the Vincent Voice Library, Michigan State
University, where Asimov talks for an audience about his writing and his

A transcript of the audio file.
Note:This transcript is an unofficial one and may be removed without
warning if relevant authorities object to its inclusion in a public

An article by Isaac Asimov on Saving the Earth.

Speeches Asimov gave on the Impact of Science on Society.

A chronology of Asimov's Susan Calvin stories, robot novels, galactic
empire novels and Foundation series.


1.5 I would like to buy a certain book by Asimov, but I can't
    find it anywhere.  Can you help me find it?

If the book is in print, you can probably have your local bookstore order
it for you if they do not have it in stock.  Or you can turn to an online
bookstore.  Two of the largest are Amazon <http://www.amazon.com/> and
Barnes and Noble <http://www.barnesandnoble.com/>.  If the book is out of
print, there are a number of possibilities to explore:

  -- Try used bookstores in your area.  To find them in the U.S., try
either your local Yellow Pages directory, or on the Web, a business
directory such as Big Yellow <http://www.bigyellow.com/>, searching for
book dealers, used and rare.

  -- Library and community book sales in your area may be a good source of
bargain used books.

  -- The Usenet newsgroups rec.art.books.marketplace,
rec.arts.sf.marketplace, alt.marketplace.books, alt.marketplace.books.sf,
alt.marketplace.collectables, and alt.books.isaac-asimov sometimes list
Asimov books for sale.

  -- There are a number of sites on the Web that sell used books.  Both
Bibliofind <http://www.bibliofind.com/> and the Advanced Book Exchange
<http://www.abebooks.com/> represent large numbers of independent used
book dealers, and are good sources for hard-to-find books.  The
Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America
<http://www.abaa-booknet.com/> and The Virtual Book Shop
<http://www.virtual.bookshop.com/> specialize in rare and collectible
books.  Sometimes you can find good deals at these sites, while in some
cases the prices can be very high.  In the UK there is the Internet Book
Shop <http://www.bookshop.co.uk/>.  Powell's Book Store
<http://www.powells.portland.or.us/search/general.html> is a large store
in Oregon that has a website.  Amazon <http://www.amazon.com/> now lists
out-of-print books in its online catalogue; you place an order, and they
will notify you via e-mail within six months if they locate a copy of the
book.  You have the option to decline the purchase if the price that they
quote is too high, or if for any other reason you don't want to buy the

  -- There are many book search services that will notify you when they
have found books that you are looking for.  The searches are free, but
their profit is built in to the prices of the books that they find.


2. Biographical (non-literary)


2.1 How do you pronounce "Isaac Asimov"?

"EYE'zik AA'zi-mov".  "AA'zi-mof" is also OK.  The name is spelled with an
"s" and not a "z" because Asimov's father didn't understand the Latin
alphabet clearly when the family moved to the U.S. in 1923.  One way to
remember this pronunciation is the pun from _The_Flying_Sorcerers_ by
Larry Niven and David Gerrold:  "As a color, shade of purple-grey", or "As
a mauve".  Asimov wrote a poem ("The Prime of Life") in which he rhymes
his surname with "stars above"; someone else suggested amending the poem
to rhyme it with "mazel tov", which he thought an improvement.

Asimov's own suggestion, however, as to how to remember his name was to
say "Has Him Off" and leave out the H's.


2.2 Is Asimov really dead?  When did he die?  Where is he buried?

Asimov died on April 6, 1992 of heart and kidney failure.  His body was
cremated and his ashes scattered.


2.3 When and where was he born?

Asimov was born (officially) January 2, 1920, in the town of Petrovichi
(pronounced peh-TRUV-ih-chee), then in the Russian Soviet Federated
Socialist Republic (czarist Russia no longer existed, while the USSR
hadn't formed yet) and now in Russia.  It can be found at latitude 53.58
N, longitude 32.10 E, about 400 km. southwest of Moscow and some 16 km
east of the border between Belarus and Russia.  Born to Jews in the early
days of the RSFSR, there are no accurate records, however, and it is
possible that he may have been born as early as October 4, 1919.

Asimov's birthdate was temporarily changed by his mother to September 7,
1919 in order to get him into school a year earlier.  When, several years
later, he discovered this, he insisted that the official records be
changed back.  January 2, 1920 was the date he personally celebrated
throughout his life.

His family left the Soviet Union on January 11, 1923 and arrived in New
York City February 3.

Please note that the date given on the first page of the hardcover edition
of Asimov's last autobiographical book, _I._Asimov:_A_Memoir_ is a
typographical error (January 1, 1920), but the mistake was corrected in
the paperback edition.  Asimov's other books leave no possible doubt that
the date he celebrated as his birthday was January 2.


2.4 Who are the other members of his family?

He was the son of Judah Asimov (1896-1969) and Anna Rachel Berman Asimov
(1895-1973), who were married in 1918.  Asimov was named Isaac after his
mother's father, Isaac Berman.  He has a sister Marcia (born Manya in
1922) and a brother Stanley (1929-1995).

His father saved the money earned from several jobs during his first three
years in the U.S. and bought a candy store in Brooklyn, which his parents
ran for the next forty or so years.

Marcia married Nicholas Repanes in 1955 and has two sons, Larry and Richard.

Stan became a journalist and rose to vice president in charge of editorial
administration for Newsday.  Stan died of leukemia on August 16, 1995.  He
and his wife Ruth were the parents of Eric and Nanette, both journalists,
and Daniel, a mathematician.  Dan Asimov may be found on the net, but does
NOT wish to be bothered with inquiries about Isaac, so please leave him


2.5 Was he married? Did he have any children?

Asimov met Gertrude Blugerman on a blind date on Valentine's Day, 1942,
and they were married five and a half months later, July 26, 1942.  They
had a son David (b. 1951) and a daughter Robyn Joan (b. 1955).  They
separated in 1970 and their divorce became effective on November 16, 1973.

Isaac first met Janet Opal Jeppson when he signed an autograph for her at
an SF convention on September 2, 1956.  He was suffering badly (and
silently) from a kidney stone at the time, which gave her the impression
that he was an unpleasant person.  He later claimed to have absolutely no
recollection of that first meeting.  They next met on May 1, 1959, when
Janet attended a mystery writers' banquet as a guest of Veronica Parker
Johnson and was seated with Isaac.  That time the mutual attraction was
immediate.  When Isaac and Gertrude finally separated in 1970, he moved in
with Janet almost at once, and they were married at Janet's home by an
official of the Ethical Culture Society on November 30, 1973.  Asimov had
no children by his second marriage.


2.6 Where did Asimov live, attend school, and work during his life?

When the Asimov family came to the United States in 1923, they moved into
their first apartment at 425 Van Siclen Avenue, in the East New York
section of Brooklyn.  In the summer of 1925 they moved one block away to
an apartment at 434 Miller Avenue.  They moved half a mile eastward in
December 1928 to another apartment at 651 Essex Street, above the second
candy store bought by his father.  In early 1933, they moved to an
apartment on Church Avenue, and after a brief stay there they moved to an
apartment above yet another family candy store, at 1312 Decatur Street, in
the Ridgewood section of Brooklyn.  In December of 1936, Asimov's father
sold his third candy store and bought his fourth, at 174 Windsor Place, in
the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, and the family moved to a house across
the street.

In May of 1942, Asimov left New York to work at a wartime job at the
Philadelphia Naval Yard, and there he rented a room in someone else's
house at 4707 Sansom Avenue, until September, when soon after getting
married he and Gertrude moved into an apartment at 4715 Walnut Street. 
When the lease ran out they moved to another apartment in Philadelphia at
Wingate Hall in December.  They moved back to New York in September 1945,
and in November he was inducted into the army.  In the army he spent a
week at Fort Meade, Md., and was then stationed at Camp Lee, Virginia
until March of 1946, when he was transferred to the island of Oahu.  He
returned to the states in May, and after his discharge from the army in
July, he and Gertrude moved into a small apartment in Brooklyn on 213 Dean
Street in September 1946.  In September of 1947 they moved to the
downstairs apartment of his parents' house on Windsor Place, and in July
of the next year moved to Apartment 9-C of the Stuyvesant Town complex on
273 First Avenue.  They moved to Boston in May 1949 to an apartment at 42
Worcester Square, and quickly moved again in July to an apartment in the
suburb of Somerville.  In May 1951 they moved to an apartment at 265
Lowell Street, in Waltham, Mass.  They moved two miles to the south to a
house at 45 Greenough Street in West Newton, Mass. in March 1956.

In July 1970, he separated from his wife and moved back to New York,
staying at the Oliver Cromwell Hotel.  After his divorce from Gertrude in
November 1973, he married Janet and moved into her apartment.  They moved
to the Park Ten apartments in April 1975, to a 33rd floor apartment
overlooking Central Park, where they lived together until his death in

Asimov began his formal education in the New York Public School system in
1925 at PS182, and transferred to PS202 when the family moved in 1928.  He
continued on to East New York Junior High School 149 in September 1930,
where he was placed in the rapid advance course, and graduated in June
1932.  He entered tenth grade at Boys High School in the fall, and
graduated in the spring of 1935.  After attending City College for only a
few days, he switched to the Brooklyn campus of Seth Low Junior College,
which provided him with a scholarship of one hundred dollars.  The college
closed after his freshman year, so he continued at the parent institution,
Columbia University, at the Morningside Heights campus.  He graduated from
Columbia with a B.S. in Chemistry in 1939.  After his applications to all
five New York City medical schools were rejected, he applied for the
master's program in chemistry at Columbia.  After he was rejected for the
master's program, he convinced the department committee to accept him on
probation.  After one year the probation was lifted, and he earned his
M.A. in Chemistry in 1941.  He continued on at Columbia in a Ph.D.
program, and after the gap in his research that lasted from 1942 through
1946 (due to his wartime job and his army), he earned his Ph.D. in
Biochemistry in May 1948.

Asimov started working in his parents' Essex Street candy store in 1929,
when his mother became unable to work a full day due to her third
pregnancy, and learned the steady work habits that would stay with him for
the rest of his life.  After his freshman year of college, he had a summer
job at the Columbia Combining Company, where he cut and folded sheets of
rubberized fabric.  During his sophomore year he held a National Youth
Administration job working for a psychology professor, and as a junior and
senior his NYA job was as a typist for a sociology professor.  Throughout
the period of 1929 to 1942, he continued to work at the family candy
store.  He worked as a junior chemist at the Philadelphia Navy Yard from
May 1942 to October 1945, together with fellow science fiction authors
Robert Heinlein and L. Sprague de Camp.  In 1948 he obtained a
postdoctoral position at Columbia, researching antimalarial compounds.  In
June of 1949 he took a job as instructor of biochemistry at the Boston
University School of Medicine, and was promoted to assistant professor in
December 1951.  He was promoted to associate professor, which provided him
with tenure, in July 1955.  He gave up his teaching duties and salary at
the School of Medicine in 1958 , but retained his title, so that on July
1, 1958, he became a full-time writer.  (He was fired, he said, for
choosing to be an excellent lecturer and science writer, rather than be a
merely mediocre researcher.)  In 1979, the school promoted him to the rank
of full professor.


2.7 What are the titles of Asimov's autobiographies?  Where can I get them?

_In_Memory_Yet_Green_ covers the period from 1920-1954. 
_In_Joy_Still_Felt_ spans the time from 1954-1978.  These two volumes were
published by Doubleday in 1979 and 1980, with paperback editions following
a year later.  They are currently out of print, and thus your best bet for
finding them is to check used book stores, science fiction conventions,

_I._Asimov:_A_Memoir_ was published by Doubleday in March 1994, and covers
his entire life, written in 166 brief chapters arranged in roughly
chronological order.

_Yours,_Isaac_Asimov_, a collection of excerpts from letters he had
written over the years, edited by his brother Stan and published by
Doubleday in October 1995, also provides a great insight into Asimov's
personal and professional life.

In addition, the three Opus books (_Opus_100_, _Opus_200_, and
_Opus_300_), _The_Early_Asimov_, _Before_the_Golden_Age_, and
_Asimov_Laughs_Again_ contain substantial autobiographical material, and
Asimov talks a great deal about himself and his life in many of his other
books, particularly in anecdotes found in his essays in the Magazine of
Fantasy and Science Fiction and his editorials in Isaac Asimov's Science
Fiction Magazine (which has since been renamed Asimov's Science Fiction.