YMMV / Isaac Asimov

  • Fanon Discontinuity: Foundation and Earth is basically just an excuse for a big crossover with the Robots series and doesn't make much sense compared to the earlier Foundation books.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: "Trends", one of his earliest short stories, is really uncomfortable to read at any time from the 1980s onward. When it was written in 1939, the idea that a plurality of Americans would deny science outright in favor of religious fundamentalism, and be a powerful lobby, was ludicrous. Nowadays, the controversy shows up in state governments every few years. Moreover, in the story, the mob comes to its senses after the hero risks his life to go into space. In reality, fundamentalists, being fundamentalists, never change their mind no matter how much evidence they are confronted with. Asimov himself lived to see some of this: in the 1980s, he, along with several other scientists, wrote an essay presenting the facts and exhorting the public not to fall for creationism. It didn't work.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: In "Blind Alley", a man shows what he calls "A Galactic fad of three years ago; which means that it is a hopelessly old-fashioned relic this year". A high-tech disco ball as an example of In-Universe Deader Than Disco. In 1945.
  • Misaimed Fandom: One of Asimov's favorite stories, "The Martian Way", was a way of using his claustrophilia as an attack on Joseph McCarthy. In it, a McCarthy counterpart named "Joseph Hilder" is almost able to become Global Administrator at the cost of space development. Nuclear "proton micropiles" are used to produce energy almost for free, and are used in pumped steam rockets to colonize the solar system - so Hilder whips up scare reports on how space travel will eventually turn the Earth into a desert. Asimov's Martians, being immune to Space Madness due to their upbringing as claustrophillic Space People, are able to make a three-year trip to Saturn, retrieve a cubic mile of ice from its rings, and return in time to make a complete fool of a visiting bureaucrat who previously stated for the record that Earth cannot spare a single drop of its one and a half quintillionnote  tons of water. As an attack on McCarthy, it flopped. As an attack on modern-day environmental alarmism, it works. The ironic part is that Asimov was an outspoken environmentalist.
  • Science Marches On: When robots and computers actually arrived, they didn't work anything like he predicted (though it's worth noting that most other writers of the time were even more off base). People reading it today might mistakenly think this is a mistake on his part; obviously, it isn't, since there was nothing to use for reference at the time. When he started writing, basic computer theory was still being developed, and the electronic computer hadn't been invented yet. Notable especially for what he thought would be easy and what would be hard are quite different. He thought in 2061 we'd still be using vacuum tubes but have self-aware AI. He didn't think the equivalent of a modern integrated circuit chip would be invented until after tens of thousands of years of refinement.
    • To the point where he wrote about pilots plotting hyperspace courses using sextants, reference books and slide rules. On the other hand, while computers were still room-filling behemoths, he envisioned a society in which no one learned to do basic math because everyone had cheap, portable calculating devices.
    • This trope mostly applies to his fiction, though, as all his non-fiction writings about science, especially his chemistry works, are considered to have been very accurate and consistent with contemporary understandingnote .
    • In A Pebble in the Sky there's an extended section describing the role of proteins as genetic material. The book was published in 1950, two years before the definite experiment which proved that DNA was the genetic material.
    • One short story centered around the fact that only one suspect would consider outside of a building to be a safe place to hide undeveloped film, the researcher who lived on Mercury, which had no day/night cycle and therefore would not recall that the sun rises on Earth and would ruin the film. A few years after that was published, astronomers proved that Mercury did rotate (albeit very slowly, three times per year, producing one local day every two years), unintentionally making this Conviction by Counterfactual Clue. Later printings included author's notes to the effect that he wanted to fix this but couldn't figure out how to do it without rewriting the entire plot.
    • Whenever this happened, he joked that the scientists should have gotten it right to begin with, and he didn't see why he should have to change his work because of their mistakes.
  • Tear Jerker: The Ugly Little Boy- A child nurse is brought in by Mega Corp. Stasis Inc. to care for their latest "experiment", a neanderthal child brought to the present via unstable time travel, but has to be kept in an enclosure because the method of time travel cannot remove the person pulled from their time from the area. Everyone except the nurse treats the poor kid like an animal at worst, and at best a curious experiment, despite him being as intelligent as a slightly-below-average human child. The nurse eventually thinks of the boy as her own child and attempts to remove him from the enclosure, but this fails and both are returned to the boys original time. Their fate is unknown (though expanded upon in the 1991 novel Child Of Time).
    • The ending to The Bicentennial Man (NOT the atrocious movie adaptation). Andrew sacrifices his android immortality and undergoes a procedure to make his brain decay like a human would. In return, mankind officially accepts him as a human being rather than just a machine. As he lies dying, Andrew clings to his personhood that he fought so long to get, but as his last conscious thoughts fades, all he can think of is Little Miss, the daughter of his original owner, who had first named him Andrew and treated him like a person...
  • Values Dissonance: At least two cases in "Dreaming is a Private Thing":
    • The recruitment procedure for dreamers seems to be a guy scouting playgrounds for the most Cloudcuckoolander kids ever, and then approaching them to strike a conversation. Today, a person behaving like that would have ran a risk of being mobbed before he could explain he simply wants to talk to the kid's parents.
    • On the other hand, a man seriously claiming that a few bits of porn are "a deadly danger for the moral fiber of the nation" is more likely to represent some over the top Moral Guardians than a government department with real power.
  • Values Resonance: To most people in 1956, when The Last Question was first published, coal and oil seemed an endlessly abundant source of energy, and Uranium-powered nuclear fission even more endlessly abundant than them. So, in a strange way, the message in the story that no energy source, certainly not oil and Uranium as mentioned in the story, is truly inexhaustible precedes much of the environmental movements that will only start to gain widespread support in the 1970s.