The Thunder Child

Science Fiction and Fantasy
Web Magazine and Sourcebooks

Radio Drama
Science Faction

A Is For
"Stand By For Mars!"
A Is For

Recommended Reading

A Is For Asimov: The F & SF Essays
Compiled by Averil Chase

History as discovered through Asimov's essays.


  • Free download: TOC and Annotated index for Asimov on Science Fiction (1981) PDF.
  • Visit: Isaac Asimov on Everything: The Asimov Quote Book
  • Visit: Asimov On Everyone Essays Index

    Isaac Asimov wrote 399 non-fiction essays for The Mystery of Fantasy and Science Fiction. His first essay, "The Dust of Ages," appeared in the November 1958 issue and the series continued uninterrupted until his death in 1992.

    It was perhaps the launching of Sputnik by the Russians on October 4, 1957 that spurred Robert Mills, editor of Venture Science Fiction, to ask Asimov to contribute his science column - originally for that magazine - but Asimov commented that it was because non-fiction essays had always been quite popular in sf magazines (in particular those of Willy Ley).

    Venture Science Fiction folded after four issues, and Mills moved the column over to F&SF where it remained.

    The first collection of essays collected from the F & SF work (as that magazine is normally called) is Fact and Fancy, and features essays from 1958 through 1961.

    F & SF Essay Collections:
  • Fact and Fancy
  • View from a Height
  • Adding a Dimension
  • Of Time, Space & Other Things
  • From Earth to Heaven
  • Science, Numbers and I
  • The Solar System and Back
  • The Stars in Their Course
  • Left Hand of the Electron
  • The Tragedy of the Moon
  • Of Matters Great & Small
  • The Planet That Wasn't
  • Quasar, Quasar, Burning Bright
  • The Road to Infinity
  • The Sun Shines Bright
  • Asimov on Science Fiction
  • Counting the Eons
  • X Stands for Unknown
  • The Subatomic Monster
  • Far as Human Eye Could See
  • The Relativity of Wrong
  • Out of Everywhere
  • The Secret of The Universe
  • 1962

    This is the case for the earliest collections - not all of Asimov's essays are included. It is only in later years that each essay Asimov wrote for that year, appears in the collection in the succeeding year. [When we get to the book in which that first occurs, we'll let you know.]

    In these pages, we will take you through each and every essay collection from the pages of S & SF, beginning with Fact and Fancy (1962). We'll discuss various topics:

  • Asimov's evolving writing style
  • Biographical facts he reveals with his writing
  • What was happening in the world in each year
  • The state of science and discovery in each year

    We will also provide an ever-growing index of the people that Asimov references in each of his essays. This will start out as an online index, and upon completion will be available as a PDF.

    Currently, this index features names from the first 3 book collections (2/1/06)

    Asimov's Evolving Writing Style
    In these essays, written from the 1st, 2nd and 3rd years of his column from F & SF, Asimov doesn't indulge in the 2-3 paragraph autobiographical prologues with which he favors us later on. Only once in a while is there such a prologue here, and its only two or three lines at most.

    Biographical Facts
    Since there are no long prologues, there aren't as many biographical facts revealed, but there are a certain number as we'll detail in the main portion.

    The World of 1958-1961
    In 1951, an international group of scientists proposed that 1957-1958 should be termed an International Geophysical Year. A solar maximum was to take place, and countries should lose no time in preparing research to conduct during that time.

    The countries co-operated at first, but then national pride began to take each of the major countries with space aspirations (and German scientists from WWII) wanted to be the first to reach the stars.

    On October 4, 1957, Russia shocked the world by being the first to launch a satellite into space, the Sputnik. American pride was hurt, and very quickly a rush began to increase the concentration of the sciences in school curriculums.

    In 1958, when Asimov began writing his essays, science fiction on television was very scarce. The popular children's programs Space Patrol and Tom Corbett, Space Cadet had gone off the air in 1955 to be replaced with Westerns. 1950s science fiction movies were mostly of the atomic fear type, such as Them!, or of invasions from outer space such as The Thing From Another World.

    The Mercury Program officially began with the names of the Mercury 7 astronauts released on April 9, 1959. (Testing also included women - the Mercury 13. However, the rules of selection were soon changed to require astronauts to be jet pilots, so that the women, all pilots with thousands of hours in the air, and despite the fact that they passed the same tests as the men, were never seriously considered. Articles on applicant Jerrie Cobb did appear in Life magazine in August 1960, and in various other newspapers and magazines of the time, so Asimov must have known about her and the Mercury 13.)

    The State of Science
    Will be discovered as we go through Asimov's essays in chronological order.

    So, begin with

  • Fact and Fancy and return to the site frequently to learn of new updates. Or sign on to our mailing list and we'll send you an announcment.

    All quotes maintain their original copyright and are presented here for research, reference and review.
    Thanks to Doubleday for permission to use selected quotes.

    Click on the icons for new features in The Thunder Child.
    Radiation Theater: 1950s Sci Fi Movies Discussion Boards
    The Sand Rock Sentinel: Ripped From the Headlines of 1950s Sci Fi Films

  • All text © 2006 The Thunder Child unless otherwise credited.
    All illustrations retain original copyright.
    Please contact us with any concerns as to correct attribution.
    Any questions, comments or concerns contact The Thunder Child.