In Memory Yet Green Critical Context - Essay

Isaac Asimov

Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Science fiction is often perceived as a distinctly minor literary form with little, if any, literary value. It was originally published in pulp magazines by writers who wrote for a penny a word or less. If they were to make a living, they had to strive for quantity rather than quality and had, of necessity, to give up all thought of revision in favor of writing new stories. In Memory Yet Green reinforces that stereotype to some extent. Asimov states that he seldom revises more than once and that he wrote for as little as one-half cent per word. He also writes, however, that he went through a long apprenticeship under the tutelage of Campbell. In fact, the relationship between Campbell and Asimov is reminiscent of that of Maxwell Perkins and his writers. Although Campbell and Asimov were not striving for the same kind of literature as Perkins and F. Scott Fitzgerald were, they were working together to improve the writing of a beginning author. Asimov’s subsequent success as a writer of nonfiction also serves to dispel the science-fiction stereotype. For that matter, any reader of In Memory Yet Green will see that he is a serious stylist, interested in clarity, smoothness, and organization.

Asimov does not write about other science-fiction writers as much as he writes about himself, but he does show at least that many of the other writers were also interested in improving their work. Clifford D. Simak, for example, asked Asimov for stylistic advice, and at least part of the reason that the Futurians and other fan clubs existed was to exchange criticism. While In Memory Yet Green deals with many aspects of Asimov’s life, its most important focus is on the world of science fiction. It serves to show that science fiction is both more important and more artistic than many modern readers realize.