Feb 5, 2017

Ideal Vision

I own this other edition
I've been forced to take a reflective turn ever since I decided to use my favorite science fiction authors as templates for fictional characters in the Exode Saga. Back in the 1970s, when I became a fan of stories written by Isaac Asimov and Jack Vance I had very little interest in them as writers or as individual human beings: all I wanted was their mind-stretching fiction. I'm still not particularly interested in them as people, so I've never bought their auto-biographical books. Frankly, I prefer to think of them as magical beings who crafted magical stories... I don't want to know them as mundane humans with warts and petty foibles.

Forced to Learn
However, even while trying to avoid learning about Asimov and Vance as fallible human beings, I have not been able to prevent myself from discovering a thing or 2 about their lives as writers. First of all, here in the age of the interwebs, vast amounts of information about these two authors is right at my finger tips and impossible to completely ignore. However, my greatest downfall is that I bought a copy of Gold, the cover of which teases, "The last words from SF's grand master."

Newly released by the Dead Widowers.
Original cover art by Robert Maguire.
Gold begins with a fun science fiction short story about a robot named Cal who writes fiction. The book is divided into three parts. The first part is called "The final Stories". After 'Cal', there is nothing particularly memorable until the last story which is called 'Gold'. I blame Gold the book, 'Cal' and the story 'Gold' for pushing me towards turning Asimov into a character in the Exode Saga. It is good to have excuses for one's bad behavior.

Asimov wrote himself into 'Gold'. Actually, the analogue of Asimov in 'Gold' is named Gregory Laborian. Similarly, although less obviously, Asimov is a character in 'Cal': the mystery writer (Mr. Northrop) who owns the robot named Cal. Northrop and Laborian are both alternate versions of Asimov that might have existed in another Reality. If Asimov could have the fun of writing himself into stories, then surely his fans should be able to do the same.

Ideal Vision
Two copies of Asimov!
Currently, for A Search Beyond, I'm busily putting words into the mouth of Asimov's replicoid. As a fan of Asimov, I don't want to make Asimov's replicoid say anything that I can't imagine the real Asimov would have said.

However, in some sense the Asimov's replicoid is his own "man". As an artificial life form, he began with all of the memories from the original biological Asimov, but some things were changed. For example, I imagine that Asimov's obsession with writing was toned down. The Asimov replicoid was created for a purpose, and that purpose could not have been fulfilled were the replicoid constantly writing. In the Exode Saga, the Asimov replicoid is an idealized version of Asimov, created to play a role in a story.

As an example of the danger I face of putting improper words into Asimov's mouth, I point to a review of The End of Eternity by Rich Horton. In that book review, Horton suggested: "Asimov's ideal vision, as presented in this book and elaborated in his Foundation/Empire books, is of a human-dominated galaxy." This claim is an example of conflating
1) a reader's opinion, arising from reading fiction written by Asimov, with
2) Asimov's personal beliefs.

In Gold, part two is called "On Science Fiction" and part 3 is "On Writing Science Fiction". In part two there is an essay called "The All-Human Galaxy". In that essay, Asimov described the struggle that he had with John Campbell over the "proper" way to depict human-alien interactions and relationships in science fiction stories. When he started writing stories set in an "all-human galaxy", Asimov did not believe that humans "need to get to the stars before" aliens. Asimov had simply discovered that by setting his stories in an all-human galaxy he did not have to keep dealing with Campbell's inconvenient beliefs and editorial judgements about aliens.

Isaac's Universe
I suspect that Asimov believed that artificial life forms are much more likely to spread through the galaxy than is any flimsy type of biological organism such as we humans. I think Asimov liked the idea of humans constantly exploring new domains of knowledge, but the idea that humans should dominate a galaxy that is filled with many forms of life was Campbell's idea, not Asimov's. In fact, in part 2 of Gold is another essay called "Inventing a Universe". In that essay, Asimov describes a fictional universe ("Isaac's Universe") that he devised which features humans and five other intelligent species co-existing the galaxy.

Future Mystery
For the Exode Saga, the Asimov Replicoid is made use of for his ability to explore the AR Simulation. In the end, he may very well decide to remain inside that simulation, preferring that lost universe to our own. I'm already getting hints from Yōd that the Asimov replicoid might have already made that choice.

Related reading: more fiction with Asimov as a character

Next: a look back at The Palace of Love
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