Ossus Library Index
Non Fiction Index



Edited by Stanley Asimov
(1996, Main Street Books)


A sampling of letters from Asimov to many people, including many of his fans, showing his beliefs and opinions in life.


-- 2nd reading (trade paperback)
December 4th, 2018 to January 8th, 2019


Asimov was from a more optimistic era, when things seemed a lot simpler. I love his writing style, though I also enjoy other authors who create more complicated stories. His attitudes are unabashed and unashamed, though they show the era in which he lived. I don’t think he’s like the current era, with its pessimism, isolationism and political correctness. He knew he was popular; there was no use being humble about it. So he took advantage of it, and he gave back to the scientific and SF community. What struck me most was the way he described SF vs sci-fi, his attitude about writing -especially in the way everything makes sense at the end and how most of his characters are intelligent, and the fact that he responded to almost every single letter he received.

Spoiler review:

I feel a connection with Asimov He was the first author that I became obsessed over, trying to read every SF book he’d ever written. I don’t think I even came close. But I’ve read his classics, from the Robot novels, the Galactic Empire novels, and of course the Foundation novels -all of them. I’ve also read The Gods Themselves, which is truly inspiring, and The End of Eternity, which is very similar in several aspects, to George Orwell’s 1984. I’ve also read a lot of his short fiction, even before I started recording the books that I’ve read, which eventually morphed into this website.

Some of my writing resembles Asimov’s in style, in that, as he writes in one letter, everything makes sense in the end, he doesn’t need swearing and sex, and he has no real villains -only people who have opposing points of view, and who think they are right. After all, most people in this world are not out to destroy it or become tyrants. They just disagree with other people, and those disagreements can lead to very bad consequences.

I wrote to Asimov once, though I never got a response. I guess I was one of those few who didn’t get an answer, or my letter went astray.

The letters in this book deal with a great many subjects. Many of the letters are only a couple of lines, but others go into more depth. It’s a very interesting slice into his public persona, and I wonder how much of it is truly how he was in his personal life, as well. It seems that he was quite the flirtatious womanizer, but I wonder if that was just appearances He obviously had a dirty mind, to which his limericks testify. I liked the fact that he protected his mind above all else, not allowing it to be influenced by alcohol, drugs or tobacco. I understand his atheism, though it’s hard to let go of God. I adore the way he defended science, because it truly is self-correcting, and I deplore the way it’s been under attack for so long now.

I don’t think Asimov would have liked the world that has emerged since his death. The way everyone can become a critic, without any training or credibility, and the way nations have become more isolationist, even as the internet has made it smaller. It’s the opposite of his vision of a Galactic Empire united through scientific pursuits.

I think his most influential ideas on me are reflected in three letters. In one, he describes SF vs sci-fi, where the former endorses thinking, and the latter allows mind-numbness. The second is where he describes his writing style, as I mentioned above. In the third, he encourages everyone to think, and keep thinking. Those three aspects still permeate my life, even though the world has changed, and no longer believes in those principles I can only hope that somebody like him can emerge in the near future, someone who has a vision of a good future, that can rise above the jingoism that we see in the world today, and bring about a peaceful future dedicated to self-improvement.


-- First reading (trade paperback)
January 26th to 30th, 1998


This was such familiar territory, I'm sure I'll read this again and again.  I felt as if I was peering into Asimov's study, watching his life go by, and he didn't mind.  Now I have to read his biography!


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