{4.5/5} “It seems to me, then, that the best one can do is to present one’s story as a struggle between sides which are both mixtures of good and evil (thus placing it somewhere between the extremes of utopia and dystopia), and don’t make the odds overwhelming in either direction. One can then proceed to make one’s point without being forced into a happy ending and under conditions of maximum excitement and reader uncertainty. The reader will not only be uncertain as to how his side will win, but if it will win, or even, perhaps, which is truly his side.”

Gold by Isaac Asimov was published in 1995. It’s a collection of the last science fiction stories he wrote before his death, along with some articles about SF and some articles about writing SF.

“Cal” — Cal is a robot who does things around the house to help his master. His master is a writer, and one day Cal has the thought that he would like to be a writer too. So his master upgrades his programming so that he has all the vocabulary, spelling, and grammar he needs. When he starts writing stories, he’s not very good — but he gets better.

The story is told from Cal’s point of view. Cal is in some way unlike other robots — he has different ideas. This is a great story, with an interesting ending.

“Gold” — Willard is directing a production of Shakespeare’s King Lear, but there are no actors. It’s all done by computer. There are people behind the scenes creating the characters, the background, and the music. It’s a great success, and Willard is approached by a science fiction author who wants him to adapt his book. The author is willing to give Willard two hundred gold pieces just for considering his novel.

The author is based on Asimov himself. Like all authors, he would like to be remembered. Asimov died over 20 years ago and you can still find his books in the bookstore, so he’s doing all right. Would he like to be remembered by a larger group of people who sees a movie based on his book? Certainly. There haven’t been any great movies based on Asimov’s work yet, but it could still happen. (See my comments on I, Robot here.)

A few of the stories are short short stories that end with a pun or something similarly silly. These ones aren’t my favourite, but the rest of them are worth reading.

The second part of the book contains articles on topics such as robots, the existence of extraterrestrials, starships, and the golden age. These articles (most or all) were written as introductions to anthologies.

The third part of the book contains articles on topics such as dialogue, plagiarism, plot, and writing for younger readers. These articles (most or all) were written as editorials for Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine.

In Asimov’s nonfiction he always has something interesting to say. He says it clearly and with some humour.

Asimov is one of my favourite authors — you can’t go wrong picking up one of his books. If he’s one of your favourites, you’ll want to read this collection. If not, I recommend you try Foundation or I, Robot or The Gods Themselves or Nightfall and Other Stories.

This entry was posted on Friday, January 3rd, 2014 at 7:43 pm and is filed under Reviews of books. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply