Form and Content

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Isaac Asimov is one of the best-known and most prolific science-fiction writers in the genre’s history. His name is found at the top of any list of the most widely read authors of the twentieth century. The fiction and nonfiction volumes which he has written or edited number in the hundreds, while his shorter pieces and articles are too numerous to be cataloged by anyone other than an assiduous bibliographer.

Asimov began keeping a personal diary as a teenager, making his first entries in early 1938. He continued this habit throughout much of his life, with the result that he published in 1979-1980 two autobiographical volumes based upon the diaries. These two titles chronicle his life from birth to 1978. The first, In Memory Yet Green: The Autobiography of Isaac Asimov, 1920-1954 (1979), considers his childhood in Brooklyn as the son of Russian immigrants, his early education, his student years at Columbia University (where he earned a Ph.D. in chemistry), and his World War II experiences as a chemist at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. This first volume also surveys his early interest in science fiction and his initial efforts at writing. Asimov was encouraged by the legendary John Campbell, editor of Astounding Science Fiction, and this first volume documents the writing of Asimov’s masterpiece “Nightfall” and the publication of his books I Robot (1950), Pebble in the Sky (1950), Foundation (1951), Foundation and Empire (1952), and Second Foundation (1952).

In Joy Still Felt, the second autobiographical volume, is the recounting of Asimov’s years as a fully established and successful writer who rapidly moved from success and acceptance in science-fiction circles to the status of a major writer of both fiction and nonfiction works with a national, then international, audience. The volume is divided into five parts, each developing the story of his life in chronological fashion from 1954 to 1978. Within each part, successive chapters provide a narrative which links together the major events of his literary production, the concerns of his personal life, and the increasing demands of his career as a public figure. In addition, each chapter is divided into subsections which deal with specific events in his life.

Asimov opens In Joy...

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(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Fielder, Jean, and Jim Mele. Isaac Asimov, 1982.

Gunn, James. Isaac Asimov: The Foundations of Science Fiction, 1982.

Miller, Margorie M. Isaac Asimov: A Checklist of Works Published in the United States, 1972.

Patrouch, Joseph F., Jr. The Science Fiction of Isaac Asimov, 1974.

Shusser, George E. Isaac Asimov: The Foundations of His Science Fiction, 1979.

Wolheim, Donald A. The Universe Makers, 1971.