The Bicentennial Man and Other Stories

Judy-Lynn del Rey,

And the swath she is cutting in our field

Here I am with another collection of science fiction stories, and I sit here and think, with more than a little astonishment, that I have been writing and publishing science fiction now for just three-eighths of a century. This isn't bad for someone who only admits to being in his late youth-or a little over thirty, if pinned down.

It seems longer than that, I imagine, to most people who have tried to follow me from book to book and from field to field. As the flood of words continues year after year with no visible signs of letting up, the most peculiar misapprehensions naturally arise.

Just a few weeks ago, for instance, I was at a librarian's convention signing books, and some of the kindly remarks I received were:

"I can't believe you're still alive!"

"But how can you possibly look so young?"

"Are you really only one person?"

It goes even beyond that. In a review of one of my books [ASIMOV ON CHEMISTRY (Doubleday, 1974), and it was a very favorable review.] in the December 1975 Scientific American, I was described as: "Once a Boston biochemist, now label and linchpin of a New York corporate authorship-"

Dear me! Corporate authorship? Merely the linchpin and label?

It's not so. I'm sorry, if my copious output makes it seem impossible, but I'm alive, I'm young, and I'm only one person.

In fact, I'm an absolutely one-man operation. I have no assistants of any kind. I have no agent, no business manager, no research aides, no secretary, no stenographer. I do all my own typing, all my own proofreading, all my own indexing, all my own research, all my own letter writing, all my own telephone answering.

I like it that way. Since I don't have to deal with other people, I can concentrate more properly on my work, and get more done.

I was already worrying about this misapprehension concerning myself ten years ago. At that time, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (commonly known as F amp; SF) was planning a special Isaac Asimov issue for October 1966. I was asked for a new story to be included and I obliged [That story was THE KEY, and it appears in my collection ASIMOV'S MYSTERIES (Doubleday, 1968).], but I also wrote a short poem on my own initiative.

That poem appeared in the special issue and it has never appeared anywhere else-until now. I'm going to include it here because it's appropriate to my thesis. Then, too, seven years after the poem appeared, I recited it to a charming maiden, who, without any sign of mental effort, immediately suggested a change that was so inevitable, and so great an improvement, that I have to get the poem into print again in order to make that change.

I originally called the poem I'M IN THE PRIME OF LIFE, YOU ROTTEN KID! Edward L. Ferman, editor of F amp; SF, shortened that to THE PRIME OF LIFE. I like the longer version much better, but I decided it would look odd on the contents page, so I'm keeping the shorter version. (Heck!)

The Prime of Life

It was, in truth, an eager youth

Who halted me one day.

He gazed in bliss at me, and this

Is what he had to say;

"Why, mazel tov, it's Asimov,

A blessing on your head!

For many a year, I've lived in fear

That you were long since dead.

Or if alive, one fifty-five

Cold years had passed you by,

And left you weak, with poor physique,

Thin hair and rheumy eye.

For sure enough, I've read your stuff

Since I was but a lad

And couldn't spell or hardly tell

The good yarns