I have a confession to make: Isaac Asimov warped my brain as a kid. Warped it so completely, in fact, that I still can’t quite identify all of the damage.
I have a confession to make: Isaac Asimov warped my brain as a kid. Warped it so completely, in fact, that I still can’t quite identify all of the damage. Strangely enough, I haven’t read some of his longer works – the Foundation books, specifically, are some of those classics that I’ve never made time for– but I gobbled up all kinds of short stories when I was a young nerdling, and Asimov’s were some of my favorites.
I’ve found, over the years, that many of my tastes aren’t quite to be trusted, though, so every now and then I like to check back in on old favorites, to see how my perceptions of them have changed over time.
I thumbed through “I, Robot,” with the intention of performing just such an objective re-assessment.
Unfortunately for me, I turned right to a Powell and Donovan story, and forgot all about objectivity.
I’m guessing that a fair percentage of the audience isn’t immediately familiar with all of Asimov’s recurring short story characters, so I’ll offer a brief synopsis. Powell and Donovan are a duo of expert freelance troubleshooters who specialize in solving mysteries surrounding or involving robots. Armed with science and witty banter and awesome team dynamics, they get inside the heads of all sorts of robotic problem kids.
I obviously have a severe weak spot for these guys. If possible, it’s gotten WORSE with time.
However, with what little remains of my inner literary critic, I’ve come to an interesting conclusion about some of the stories in “I, Robot,” and about Asimov in general. As a kid, I was awed by shiny machines and sparkling outer space and the some of the deeply pervasive and heavy-handed philosophical themes that pervaded Asimov’s fiction (and mid-century science fiction in general.) In a lot of ways, I’ve got a much more critical approach to some of said themes now, and there are quite a few of them that I’d like to see deconstructed and addressed with more updated and layered sensitivities.
But where my love of all things fantastically scientific has grown more cautious, my love of Asimov’s characters themselves has just grown. I’m not exactly sure what to make of this, except to note that while Asimov’s stories were a product of their time (albeit a progressive and unique product) his characters reveal a more enduring aspect of his contributions to fiction.
Theories about robots may come and go, but people don’t change nearly as quickly. This is both depressing and heartening to see in action in real life, but I choose to take comfort in it when it comes to fiction.
Especially where Asimov is concerned.