"Paul Levinson's It's Real Life is a page-turning exploration into that multiverse known as rock and roll. But it is much more than a marvelous adventure narrated by a master storyteller...it is also an exquisite meditation on the very nature of alternate history." -- Jack Dann, The Fiction Writer's Guide to Alternate History

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Postcard from Isaac Asimov to Me - From 1979

I posted my blog about Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman and Isaac Asimov in several other venues last night, including the Daily Kos, where a good discussion emerged about the impact of Asimov and his Foundation series. In the course of that discussion, a commentator - under the name of "thatvisionthing" - mentioned that he had written to Asimov with a question about the Foundation trilogy back in high school, and was thrilled to receive a reply.

This reminded me of the postcard I, too, had received from Isaac Asimov, back in 1979. I had sent him a copy of one of my first published scholarly articles - "Foundation and Dune: Science Fiction Rooted in Fundamental Concerns," published in Media and Methods, long since defunct. Asimov replied that-

Well, you can see for yourself below, in the scan of the postcard I just put on Daily Kos and here as well for my Infinite Regress readers. This exchange began an intermittent 12-year conversation with Asimov, mostly via phone and letters and postcards, with one brief meeting at an American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in New York. Probably the best-known result of this conversation was the Preface I asked Asimov to write for my first published book, In Pursuit of Truth: Essays on the Philosophy of Karl Popper in 1982, which he graciously agreed to do for the publisher's lofty payment of $100.

But this postcard has always meant the most to me. In later exchanges, which I'll get around to scanning and uploading sooner or later, Asimov referred to me as "Paul". But there is nothing like the first, and this "Dear Professor Levinson"...

More about Isaac Asimov and my philosophy-of-science fiction in the above interview


Because of that postcard, and because Asimov is to this day my all-time favorite author, I was especially pleased when Booklist gave my novel The Consciousness Plague the following review -

 photo THECONSCIOUSNESSPLAGUE5_zps8e1b18e3.jpg

See also my essay, Foundation, Dune, and LaPlace's Demon


Anonymous said...

I have a postcard from Isaac Asimov too. It's right here, and it looks very much like yours. Mine was dated Feb. 14, 1976.

I wrote him a fan letter when I was 15 and I thought it was pretty cool when he replied.

I won't sell it.

Paul Levinson said...

Good to "meet" you - welcome to Infinite Regress - and glad to hear it (that you have an Asimov postcard).

He was one in a million - an author who truly cared about his readers as much as his words. He appreciated each and every one of them - that's why he answered every letter.

I'll never sell my Asimov postcards and letters, either.

Anonymous said...

I posted my note from Isaac Asimov a bit later in your Daily Kos diary at http://www.dailykos.com/comments/2008/10/14/35213/539/66#c66. The note is dated 14 November 1975 and says:

"Although the Foundation books appeared in the 1950s, the stories were written in the 1940s. I began the series when I was 22 years old.

"I modelled the material on my readings of history and I cannot lay claim to any deep thought. If Professor Bell's thoughts run parallel to mine, I am sure that is perfectly coincidental.

"I cannot lay claim to any deep thoughts even now. I know nothing of psychology, sociology or any of the soft sciences and you must simply take the FOUNDATION as you find it.

Isaac Asimov"

I think the book I had asked him about was one assigned in a college class I had at the time, Daniel Bell's "The coming of post-industrial society: a venture in social forecasting." I think... but that was 33 years ago and I regret to say that I remember very little of either book now.

It's a joy to look at this letter again and to remember the thrill it gave me when I received it all those years ago, and to see it side by side with your post card.

Thanks all around,


Paul Levinson said...

And thank _you_, tvt - for coming over here and posting that great recollection and note of history.

In addition to Asimov's other extraordinary virtues, he was an author of astonishing modesty - "I cannot lay claim to any deep thought" - and he was one of the deepest thinkers of this or any time.

Phil Rossi said...

This is totally far out. Thanks for sharing :)

-Phil Rossi

Ricardo Cárdenas said...

Wow, Paul, it must´ve been great to keep a direct communication line with Isaac Asimov! I remember the first time i read Foundation series, when i was sixteen; actually, i started out with Empire and Foundation. The concept of psychohistory will always be one of my favorite things ever, and I´m almost completely sure it´s amongst the top ten fictional ideas ever deviced.

Paul Levinson said...

My pleasure, Phil - and, welcome to Infinite Reg!

Kid Entropy - Foundation and Empire may be the best book in the trilogy...
(though Second Foundation is a very close second)...

Unknown said...

I too hd recieved a post card from Isaac Asimov, unfortunetly, over the years I somehow lost it.

Paul Levinson said...

Who knows, it may turn up someday.