Isaac Asimov

Space Cadet.  To me, an honorific. I wear the label with pride.

This man, as much as any other, is to blame.

Adolescence is a time of great change.  For boys, our bodies begin changing, causing all kinds of trouble.  Growth spurts cause perfectly good pants to become high-waters, barely broke in shoes to become unbearable, and our voices begin cracking at the most inopportune times.  Hair starts growing in places it’s never been before.   Hormones begin their rampages, making it difficult to concentrate on anything for any length of time.   For all that distraction, however, something managed to wedge it’s way into my mind, and hasn’t left.

I figured out at the beginning of this turmoil that I didn’t believe the stuff I was being told in the various churches we attended as a family when I was a child.  I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I knew something wasn’t quite right with the sky daddy, his boy, and that really odd character, the ghost.  I only knew I didn’t believe it, but I would not have been able to defend that view if I had been seriously challenged about it.  I knew this even then, so I usually avoided telling anyone I was “that way”.  (It’s funny, sort of, that I could admit to myself at age 12 that I was an atheist, but it would take another 25 years before I could admit to myself that I was gay)

I began haunting the library.  I stumbled across the writings of Isaac Asimov, and in short order I was hooked.  Hooked on science fiction.  At the time I found him, Asimov had been writing since the 1940’s, and there was a treasure trove of material to catch up on.  One of the really lucky things for me, was that no only a science fiction writer, Asimov was also a scientist!  So while much of his work was fiction, it often never strayed far from science fact.  He would weave real science into his stories in such a way that I ended up learning more from him than from much of my schooling.  He was also a prolific “real” science writer, and as I chased down more of his work, I inevitably absorbed the love of science that is firmly with me even today.   One interesting (to me, anyway) contradiction of Asimov was that although his stories often took place on distant planets, and involved interstellar travel by spaceship,  he would not fly in an airplane.  If he needed to travel, it was by train.  He was a scientist, knew the intricacies of what made an aircraft fly, but as a mere mortal human being, he would not board one.  That was one of the traits that endeared him to me.  That, and his way of writing general science books in an accessible manner, always being considerate and respectful of the “Gentle Reader”.

The recent hit movie “I, Robot”, is based on an Asimov story of the same name.  The movie takes great liberties with the book’s storyline, and sets the story in the near future, rather than the distant.  I need to re-read “I, Robot” , the original, to see just how much made it to the movie.  I’m thinking only the name of the robotics company, USR, and Susan Calvin, but there may be more.  I know the idea of the robots taking over to “protect” mankind is the plot of one of Asimov’s stories, but I don’t recall if it was actually in “I, Robot”.

I recently found a site on the internet (sorry, I didn’t bookmark it) that had the entire “Robot” and “Foundation” series available as text files.  I’ve downloaded the robot series, and the later tied-in Foundation series, and am reading them on the computer now.  Someone must have scanned the books into their computer using an OCR program of some kind, because there’s some odd misspellings in the texts.  It even made the first novel in the series, “Caves of Steel”, impossible to read.  I had to jump to the second in the series, and start there.  (btw, I’ve got all the books somewhere, so I’m not cheating.  I’ve paid for them, they’re just in boxes in the garage somewhere, and this is easier!)

So.  Space Cadet Jim is reliving some of his turbulent teen years, seeing the stories with adult eyes and a greater personal knowledge base.  I remember the broad outlines of some of what I’ve read so far, but it’s almost like reading them for the first time.

R. Daneel Olivaw

I’m on Aurora right now, the first human planet settled from Earth.  Earth’s Plainclothesman Elijah Baley is attempting to solve the “murder” of one of only two humaniform robots in existence.  His partner is R. Daneel Olivaw, the other humaniform robot, acting as his able assistant, but in this story taking a minor role.  (Daneel becomes more than just a robot at the end of the Foundation series) There to protect Baley, he and R. Giskard must help solve the case, all the while following the three laws of robotics.    All is not as it seems, and the interstellar intrigue threaten to derail the investigation and endanger Earth itself!