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The Isaac Asimov Quotebook

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Asimov on Science and Science Fiction:

[Books][Coining Terms] [Eye Sci Fi][Science Fiction][Science and Technology] [SF Writers][Superman]

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on Science Fiction

Science fiction can be defined as that branch of literature which deals with the reaction of human beings to changes in science and technology.
"How Easy to See the Future!," Natural History, April 1975
Asimov on Science Fiction, pg. 62

Science fiction stories are extraordinary voyages into any of the infinite supply of conceivable futures.
"Extraordinary Voyages," IASFM, Mar-Apr 1978
Asimov on Science Fiction, pg. 9

We can define "sci-fi" as trashy material sometimes confused, by ignorant people, with S.F. Thus, Star Trek is S.F., while Godzilla Meets Mothra is sci-fi.
"The Name of Our Field," IASFM, May-Jun 1978
Asimov on Science Fiction, pg. 13

Science fiction writers foresee the inevitable, and although problems and catastrophes may be inevitable, solutions are not.
"How Easy to See the Future!," Natural History, April 1975
Asimov on Science Fiction, pg. 65

While some looked forward to the advance of science and technology as the means by which a Utopia might be produced on the Earth, others feared the consequences of change and foresaw nightmare. From the beginning, then, science fiction has swung between the two poles of optimism and pessimism.
"Science Fiction and Society,"
Originally titled: "Science Fiction: Real-Life Mirror of Social Change"
Prism, January 1974
Asimov on Science Fiction, pg. 84

The first clear indication that it was the people who wrote and read science fiction who lived in the real world, and everyone else who lived in a fantasy, came on August 6, 1945, when the world discovered that an atomic bomb had been exploded over Hiroshima.
"How Science Fiction Came to be Big Business,"
(originally titled "Call it SF or Sci-Fi, It's Big!"),
The 1980 World Year Book, World Book Encyclopedia, 1980
Asimov on Science Fiction, pg. 100

What's importance about science fiction, even crucial, is the very thing that gave it birth-the perception of change through technology. It is not that science fiction predicts this particular change or that that makes it important, it is that it predicts change.
"My Own View," The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Holdstock, ed., 1978
Asimov on Science Fiction, pg 5.

It is change, continuing change inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the word as it will be - and naturally this means that there must be an accurate perception of the world as it will be. This, in turn, means that our statesmen, our businessmen, our Everyman, must take on a science fictional way of thinking, whether he likes it or not or even whether he knows it or not. Only so can the deadly problems of today be solved.
"My Own View," The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Holdstock, ed., 1978
Asimov on Science Fiction, pg 5.

Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinder critics and philosophers of today- but the core of science fiction, its essence, the concept about which resolves, has become crucial to our salvation if we are to be saved at all.
"My Own View," The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Holdstock, ed., 1978
Asimov on Science Fiction, pg 5.

Much as I liked the stories of the Campbell era and much as I enjoyed contributing to them myself, it was of the earlier 1930s that I dreamed. It wasn't Heinlein that was the epitome, to me, of science was Jack Williamson's The Legion of Space, it was E. E. Smith's Galactic Patrol, it was Nat Schachner's "Past, Present and Future," it was Charles R. Tanner's "Tumathak of the Corridors."
"Golden Age Ahead," IASFM, June 1979
Asimov on Science Fiction, pg. 114

The ultimate machine is an intelligent machine and there is only one basic plot to the intelligent-machine story - that it is created to serve man, but that it ends by dominating man.
"The Myth of the Machine," Science Fiction: Contemporary Mythology, ed Warrick, et al.
Asimov on Science Fiction, pg. 137
Robot Visions, pg. 440

It [science fiction] is untrustworthy as a source of "facts," since these may be wrong, or at least out of date. There is nothing wrong, however, with science fiction as a way of arousing interest in doesn't matter whether the scientific background of a science fiction story is accidentally wrong through ignorance, deliberately wrong through the exigencies of the plot, or simply out-of-date through the progress of science. If the story is interesting, it can be used...that's the educational value of science fiction; that is what makes it a learning device. It stimulates curiosity and the desire to know.
"Learning Device," IASFM, August 1979
Asimov on Science Fiction, pg.37

Teaching science may not be the primary function of science fiction, but mis-teaching it should be anathema to it.
"By No Means Vulgar," IASFM, Sep-Oct 1978
Asimov on Science Fiction, pg. 33

...Mars was considered older than Earth, and Venus was considered younger than Earth. It made for excellent science fiction. If you wanted an advanced, decadent, dying civilization you went to Mars. If you wanted a primitive dangerous world, you went to Venus.
"Learning Device," IASFM, August 1979
Asimov on Science Fiction, pg. 36

A piece of science fiction writing may be good fiction and yet bad science fiction.

There is an extra ingredient required by science fiction that makes literary and dramatic virtue not entirely sufficient. There must, in addition, be some indication that the writer knows science.

"What Makes Good Science Fiction?," TV Guide, December 24, 1977
Asimov on Science Fiction, pg. 241

The dullness of fact is the mother of fiction.
"Introduction," Fact and Fancy, pg. 11. 1962

The distance of the moon from the earth and from the sun: the sizes and motions of the three bodies are facts. To deduce therefrom the visions of an eclipse of the sun by the earth, as seen from the moon, is no lie, even though no such sight has yet been seen by the corporeal eye of a living man. The very fact that it is basic truth, not yet fully revealed, makes it far more fascinating than any lie could be. It is fancy.
"Introduction," Fact and Fancy, pg. 12. 1962

In the old days of science fiction, when writers had much more of the leeway that arises out of scientific innocence, a "new element" could always be counted on to get a story going or save it from disaster. A new element could block off gravity, or magnify atoms to visible size, or transport matter.
"The Element of Perfection," F & SF Magazine,
A View From A Height, pg. 63. 1963

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