The Dragon and Chips series

Classic SF - Isaac Asimov

One of the Grand Masters of SF, Asimov was a huge influence on my decision to write science fiction. So how did I discover him?

I was about 12 years old, we were living in Spain, and I'd read all the books on my own shelves three or four times over. So, like bored 12-year-olds the world over, I decided to scour my parents' shelves for reading material. Amongst the long-forgotten tomes I discovered three dog-eared paperbacks: A set comprising Isaac Asimov's Foundation Series.

I have to say that the covers were not inspiring. As far as I can remember they were the Panther editions which looked like this:

th_AsimovFoundation.jpg th_AsimovFoundationEmpire.jpg th_AsimovSecondFoundation.jpg

At the time I thought they were engineering textbooks, which just goes to show the harm an abstract cover can do to a book. Maybe they were 'serious college student' editions - even now I get odd looks if people spot a robot or a spaceship on the cover of a book I'm reading, so who knows what kind of prejudice SF readers were subjected to in the 70's. Anyway, I was that desperate for reading matter (we had no TV) I carried the first off and made a start on it.

I think I surfaced two days later, blinking owlishly as I emerged from the vast galactic sweep Asimov portrays in this series. My love of science fiction was born, and from that day on Planet Earth would seem claustrophobic, parochial and insignificant.

I blame the Foundation series for my not writing anything in the science fiction field for the next fifteen years. How could any beginning writer hope to compete with these books? It's a fact that many authors first started writing after reading a piece of trash and realising they could do better. (Which is why you should read indiscriminately if you want to be an author.) The problem with that theory is, the more groundbreaking classics you read the smaller and smaller becomes the desire to compete.