Is Anyone There?

Is Anyone There?

This book has the subtitle "Speculative Essays on Time Travel, The Future, Flying Saucers, L.S.D., Life on Other Worlds and Lots More" And if anyone at that time (the late 50s and the early 60s) knew much or anything about those topics it was Asimov.

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is not distilled from Asimov's column in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, but rather from various periodicals (including Mademoiselle!), lectures and papers. Also atypical is the large proportion of speculation: in the second section "Concerning the More or Less Unknown," seven essays are devoted entirely to predicting some aspect of the future, and five more concern extraterrestrial life.

It is like an old friend and every time I pick it up it reminds me of times and conversations that I treasure to this day.

Some of my impression may be due to personal bias in favor of Asimov essays wherein he explains scientific, mathematical, or historical fact; essays of this type comprise the first part of this collection ("Concerning the More or Less Known", about half of the book's total length). These essays pretty closely resemble Asimov's essays for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction at the time, and as I enjoy those tremendously, I found them comfortable and illuminating. Aside: I should note in particular Chapter 13, "Our Evolving Atmosphere" (am I the only person for whom such titles resurrect horrific memories of primary school textbook pabulum?), published in 1966 for the science annual of the World Book Encyclopedia spoke frankly about the greenhouse-gas consequences of massive carbon dioxide releases into the atmosphere as a result of human activities. (For the curious, the two radio sources, CTA-21 and CTA-102, for which Asimov held out hopes--"highly unlikely" ones, as he put it--as beacons constructed by extraterrestrial intelligences appear to have faded almost completely in notoriety, but continue to be studied as examples of "Gigahertz Peaked Spectrum" radio sources.) The second half of part two, "Future Life", is, I'm sad to say, mostly a fairly dull effort at prognostication. Asimov's enthusiasm for actual science fact, so effectively communicated in the first part of the book, contextualizes his wistfulness and makes it palatable to readers who (like Asimov) are easily irritated by know-nothingism (also see Chapter 33, "The Cult of Ignorance"). Matter over Mind ("That Odd Chemical Complex, The Human Mind"; The New York Times Magazine, 1966-07-03) 2. I Remember, I Remember ("Pills to Help Us Remember?"; The New York Times Magazine, 1966-10-09) 3. A Pinch of Life (Science World, 1957-03-05) 9. A Science in Search of a Subject (The New York Times Magazine, 1965-05-23) 21. ("Hello, CTA-21--Is Anyone There?"; The New York Times Magazine, 1964-11-29) 23. The World's Fair of 2014 ("Visit to the World's Fair of 2014", The New York Times Magazine, 1964-08-16) 27. The Cult of Ignorance ("The By-Product of Science Fiction"; Chemical and Engineering News, 1956-08-13) 34.

However, even if some of these info bits were not my cuppa, I appreciated their presence in the collection because they contributed to the building toward the final essays which were (by necessity) based on supposition. My favorite bits were the later sections, which included and essay of Asimov's thoughts on what life would be like for humans in 1990.

The last section, where he talks about Science Fiction itself, is the only part I would be likely to read again.

Isaac Asimov was a Russian-born, American author, a professor of biochemistry, and a highly successful writer, best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books. Professor Asimov is generally considered one of the most prolific writers of all time, having written or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards. Clarke, was considered one of the "Big Three" science-fiction writers during his lifetime. He penned numerous short stories, among them "Nightfall", which in 1964 was voted by the Science Fiction Writers of America the best short science fiction story of all time, a title many still honor.

  • Nonfiction

  • Rating: 3.84
  • Pages: 320
  • Publish Date: November 1st 1980 by Ace Books
  • Isbn10: 0441374174
  • Isbn13: 9780441374175