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Creator / Isaac Asimov

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"Any book worth banning is a book worth reading."
"Isaac Asimov had writer's block once. It was the worst ten minutes of his life."
Harlan Ellison note 

One of the pioneers of Science Fiction, Dr. Isaac Asimov (born Isaak Ozimov, circa 2 January 1920 — died 6 April 1992) wrote during "the Golden Age of Science Fiction" and invented or popularized many of the genre's tropes — Robot Buddies, Galactic Empires, world-spanning cities — but is best known for the Three Laws of Robotics (Including the Zeroth Law Rebellion) and The Foundation Trilogy (whose setting expanded to roughly half of his published fiction), both early works. He is considered one of the "Big Three", along with Arthur C. Clarke and Robert A. Heinlein, and was the owner of one seriously awesome pair of sideburns.

Dr. Asimov was a professor of biochemistry, member of Mensa, founder of the Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP, renamed to the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, which debunks paranormal and pseudoscientific claims), and one of the most prolific writers of science fiction and fact in history. He started reading the pulp sci-fi magazines sold in his family's candy store when he was young, began writing his own stories when he was eleven, and managed to get published when he was nineteen. He wrote over 500 books and a nearly uncountable number of short fiction and essays. His focus was science fiction and science fact, but he published Non-Fiction in nearly every subject possible; books about writing, a book of trivial facts, annotated commentaries of other people's works, Poetry and joke books. His prolific nature extended to being published in every category of the Dewey Decimal System. His friend and fellow author Peter David once joked that after Asimov's death, one could expect a new book, ''Isaac Asimov's Guide to the Afterlife" to appear in bookstores, because if anyone could pull off a posthumous publishing, it would be him. (His second wife, Janet Asimov, edited a few stories/essays that were nearly finished for posthumous publication, making Mr David correct in principle.)

Robots in early science fiction almost always Turned Against Their Masters, a trope Asimov felt was ridiculous. Robots were tools; they would be safe by design. After a few preliminary stories and help from John W. Campbell, he formalized this with the Three Laws of Robotics (which is also the first use of "robotics"):

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

At their core, the three laws are basic principles of machine engineering scaled up for designing hard A.I.s, i.e. any well-designed tool (like a kitchen knife) should not be able to injure its user in normal (and a few abnormal) usage, be able to accomplish its intended function efficiently, and be able to perform its intended tasks without excessively damaging itself unless such damage is required for performance or safety. Nevertheless, he engaged in destructive testing of these laws in his subsequent robot stories, showing how robots could still cause trouble through an overly literal interpretation of their orders and the Three Laws, and even twist them to justify killing humans and taking over the world with a Zeroth Law Rebellion. Most short stories revolving around robots tended to feature either Susan Calvin, a misanthropic robopsychologist, or the pair Gregory Powell and Mike Donovan, troubleshooting engineers who test robots in adverse conditions.

The Standard Sci-Fi History, which grew organically around the stories of the Golden Age, still owes much to Asimov’s Foundation Series, which began as a serial of short fiction stories, and were later collected into The Foundation Trilogy. Asimov set the initial stories during the fall of a Galactic Empire, while Terminus was poised to rise as the next empire. He later bridged it into The Empire Novels and several other stories, such as his Robot Series. From the Robots, we have the exploration and colonization of additional solar systems. Empire has humanity spread into the galaxy as a whole, forced to abandon a devastated Earth. By the time of Foundation, the galactic empire has grown old and corrupt, so Hari Seldon envisions a replacement empire. Here is where the City Planet of Trantor and the Prescience by Analysis of Psychohistory is introduced. The series describes the inevitable rise of a new empire, and towards the chronological end of this series, he starts to investigate how humans might self-modify into aliens.

In addition to popularizing or codifying numerous core tropes of the science-fiction genre, Asimov is also credited with pioneering the idea of combining sci-fi with other genres of fiction—something that's become so commonplace since his heyday that it can be hard to imagine that it was ever considered innovative. In a time when sci-fi was still considered fairly niche, Asimov sought to broaden its appeal by showing that it didn't necessarily need to be treated as a genre unto itself, but could be incorporated into almost any kind of story imaginable (e.g. mystery, romance, adventure, drama, political thriller, etc.). He demonstrated this idea most famously with the novels in his Robots trilogy (The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun, and The Robots of Dawn), all three of which are murder mysteries that just happen to take place hundreds of years in the future...and where one of the detective protagonists just happens to be a robot.

Despite being well-known for the Foundation and Robots cycles, the two stories that Asimov is perhaps most famous for are stand-alone shorts. One is "The Last Question" (1956), a story that describes a Standard Sci-Fi History, showing humanity transforming, and ascending, while a computer attempts to answer the question "How can entropy be reversed?". The other is "Nightfall" (1941), about an alien planet where night only falls once every thousand years, inspired by a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson and discussion with John W. Campbell. A group of scientists who have discovered the Law of Gravitation try to preserve knowledge against the upcoming apocalypse, but they don't quite understand why night-time will bring about the destruction of their society while being attacked by the public and the Cult.

Isaac Asimov died in 1992 of AIDS, contracted through a blood transfusion. He left instructions for this not to be published until 10 years after his death in which time he thought social acceptance of HIV would change. (He was largely right.)

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Fiction by Isaac Asimov:

    Franchise pages 

    Short Fiction 

Flash Fiction, Novellas, Novelettes, Poems, and Short Stories:

    Published Books 

Non-Fiction by Isaac Asimov:


    Essays (only those with pages) 

  1. The Kinetics of the Reaction Inactivation of Tyrosinase during its Catalysis of the Aerobic Oxidation of Catechol (Because of the effort involved, Dr. Asimov numbers his doctoral thesis as Book #0; his first published book.)

Works credited to Isaac Asimov in other media formats:

    Anime & Manga 

    Film — Animated 
  • Gandahar (Script editor for the American-made English translation)

    Film — Live-Action 

    Live-Action Television 



    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 

Multiple works of his provide examples of:

  • Absent Aliens: Because John W. Campbell (editor of Astounding Science Fiction) insisted that humans always triumph against aliens and his lackluster success at alien psychology, Asimov tended to avoid the presence of alien civilizations in works which would otherwise expect to encounter them. The following examples include stories where Asimov gave a reason for the absence of aliens.
    • "Blind Alley": Humans have explored nearly the entire Milky Way, and found a single species of sentient alien life. When given the chance, however, said aliens steal a human spaceship and fly off into the Magellanic Clouds, dwarf galaxies near the Milky Way, leaving humans alone in the galaxy.
    • Foundation Series: Humanity is the only sentient species in the galaxy, unless you count robots, Gaians, or Solarians. It's explicit (in The Second Foundation Trilogy) that every other sentient species in the galaxy had been killed off before they encountered humans. It's implied (in Foundation's Edge) that the current timeline was selected because the galaxy is absent of sapient alien species. These two facts are not exactly contradictions, because timeline manipulation would allow for a reality where aliens had been killed off before humans encountered them. However, absent from the galaxy is not absent from the universe.
    • "The Last Question": Aliens are never seen, despite the story taking us all the way to the end of the universe. Humanity is allowed to freely colonize the entire universe with casual intergalactic travel.
    • "Living Space": [Implied Trope] Since Casual Interstellar Travel technology was too difficult to create, Earth has developed dimensional travel technology instead. Without space travel, nobody expects to encounter any alien life. They were wrong.
    • "Victory Unintentional": The ZZ robots explore the surface of Jupiter and contact the Jovians living there. The aliens are so impressed by the robots, they promise to leave outer space to the obviously superior species, which makes this an Enforced Trope example.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Asimov felt the habit of Science Fiction to portray robots/computers as inherently dangerous and rebellious was absolutely ridiculous (and boring/cliche as a story concept) because limitations would obviously be built into the machines. To that end, he wrote about Benevolent A.I. (often in the form of Multivac) and created the concept of Three Laws-Compliant (through his positronic Robot Series). Despite characterizing robots as mostly under the control of humanity, a few stories do explore machines who possess motivations beyond those provided by their programming.
    • "Cal": The titular robot becomes obsessed with being a writer, and when its owner starts to interfere, it plans to change owners because it decides that the desire to write is more important than the First Law.
    • "Little Lost Robot": A human blurts out "Get lost!" to a robot in a fit of pique (along with many expletives), and the robot decides to take him literally. Which wouldn't be so bad if said robot wasn't purposely built without part of the First Law, which gave it enough of an instability to go crazy...
  • The All-Concealing "I": Asimov used this trope in many of his short stories in order to illustrate that parts of humanity (and life in general) that are automatically ascribed to one type of being can fit with another if you just give it a chance.
    • One short story has a surgeon trying to talk his patient out of replacing his failing heart with a completely artificial metal construct, as opposed to an organic replacement instead. He speaks at long length about retaining personal identity and how this will be but one more step in blurring the lines between humanity and robot, and even though he has nothing against either humans or robots, it is important that they remain separate and not try to merge. It is only in the last paragraph that we learn that the surgeon, who argued long and hard against the patient becoming closer to a robot, is himself a robot.
    • Another Asimov story involves time travel, and is narrated by the assistant of the group of scientists who invent the time machine, and is also the first of a new design of human-like robots...who end up taking over the world after humans kill themselves off. He then takes measures to avoid changing this future.
    • Yet another Asimov story (written at the height of the Cold War) features two astronauts sent to repair a malfunctioning satellite. About halfway through the story, the narrator is revealed to be a womannote —and Russian, to boot. This is entirely incidental to the story, but it underscored Asimov's beliefs in gender equality and human cooperation.
    • "Rejection Slips": The only character named is Isaac Asimov, the 'letters' that he receives are unnamed, lacking a signature. While the different styles inform the reader that each letter is from a different editor, it takes a lot of familiarity with the subjects to identify them.
  • All or Nothing: In "The Deep", a race just barely surviving underground due to their star's death is trying to create a portal to Earth in order to continue living there. However, the energy requirements mean they only have one shot at this, and should they fail, the leftovers won't even be enough for their current population to die of old age.
  • Artifact Name:
    • Foundation Series: Multiple cases of In-Universe the Mayor of Terminus was a title for the civilian leader of the town that grew up to support the Encyclopedia Foundation. As Terminus' influence grows, they govern more and more planets, and will eventually be the civilian leader of the Second Galactic Empire. Their title, however, remains "Mayor of Terminus".
    • "Evidence": In-Universe, despite society changing to a single world-wide government, the company Calvin works for is still known as United States Robots and Mechanical Men Corporation. The collection I, Robot explicitly makes the United States of America part of the Northern Region of the world government.
    • "Profession": At the end of the story, George asks about an In-Universe example; Olympics Day. The Olympic Games referred to the Greek city of Olympus, but they're now held yearly and involve demonstrations of Professional skills. Trevelyn and others on Earth use the Olympics to get companies/planets to notice their skills and get more prestigious hiring offers.
    • Words of Science and the History Behind Them:
      • The entry for "Atoms" explains that the word comes from the Greek "atomos", which means "not divisible", based on the idea that these particles could not be broken down into anything smaller. In 1896, this assumption was disproven.
        Now, man's whole future hinges upon the manner in which atoms break up and fuse together and on the behavior of particles smaller than atoms. But still the name is atom—"indivisible".
      • The entry for "Chromatography" explains that the word comes from the Greek "chroma" for colour and "graphein" for writing. It is a method of separating compounds with powders or paper, but is now performed for mostly colourless compounds, making the name no longer indicate the reading of pigments.
      • The entry for "Colloid" explains that the word comes from the Greek for "glue". It was originally a contrast to crystalline compounds, but the substances have been proven to crystallize, making its intended meaning of "not crystals" inaccurate.
  • Artificial Stupidity: In one short history, a ship manned by a criminal gets stuck in space attempting to calculate a jump into hyperspace after having scaped from law enforcement ships because a star has gone nova and the ship's computer is in an endless loop attempting to identify such star on its memory banks.
  • Beige Prose: Asimov writes in a very straightforward and concise style. His earliest stories are rougher and show more figurative language, but after he got some polish into his writings (like those found in the first Foundation novel), they have a tendency of turning into dialogue-heavy closet plays. This was intentional as Asimov's scientific training made him value clarity in his style, and he often focused on writing Non-Fiction. He considered this a strength of the medium, believing that allowing the reader to visualize their own version of clothes and decor would make the experience more involved. Despite this, many of his late writings (such as Nemesis) have him stretching his ability to write descriptively.
  • Bluffing the Murderer:
    • The Robots of Dawn: Baley has circumstantial evidence that a person was communicating with a unique robot for reverse-engineering purposes. The person is, unfortunately, a very respected member of society (and on on another planet at that), so his word carries more weight than his. So, after presenting the evidence, he says the man might have committed the very crime he accuses his opponent of as a side effect. The criminal blurts that couldn't have been caused by his experiments... mind you, that other crime is considerably lighter, mere destruction of property, so the criminal is forced to fold on the spot.
    • A Whiff Of Death: The killer gives himself away by reacting to the detective grasping and starting to turn a valve that had been rigged to cause an explosion (the trap had previously been detected and neutralized).
  • Boxed Set: Odabrana dela Isaka Asimova u sest knjiga is a Serbian translation published by Jugoslavija in 1977, collecting six volumes of his works in paperback format; The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun, Foundation (1951), Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation, and The End of Eternity. The box art has Asimov in a suit and tie against a beige background.
  • Broad Strokes: Many of Asimov's earlier short stories share elements with what would eventually become the Robots/Empire/Foundation continuity, but also feature plot points which establish them firmly outside the canon. For example, "Black Friar of the Flame" and "In a Good Cause—" both reference the planet of Santanni, frequently mentioned in the Foundation series, and the former also involves Trantor, capital of the Galactic Empire. However, both stories also involve humanity sharing the galaxy (and coming into conflict) with aliens, something which is expressly not the case in the main continuity. "In A Good Cause—" also involves Earth still being a significant power at a time when humanity is spreading across the galaxy, something which is also definitely not the case in the Empire/Foundation novels.
  • Canon Welding: In the 1980s, Asimov wrote several novels linking his Robot Series with his The Empire Novels and Foundation Series, implying that these stories all exist in the same continuity.
  • Chronoscope:
    • "The Dead Past": This story has a Chronoscope that was developed fifty years ago. The world government has been suppressing use of the device because "the past" can be as recent as one-hundredth of a second ago. Unfortunately, our protagonists invented a cheap and simple way to duplicate the technology, and shared it with others.
    • "The Ugly Little Boy": Dr. Hopkins and Stasis Incorporated use mesonic intertemporal detection to "see" the past. It works by sending meson particles backwards into time and analyzing the way they're reflected. It doesn't create clear pictures, but it's a necessary component to their Time Machine.
  • The Commandments: The "Three Laws of Robotics", which pretty much define the Robot Series, were sometimes presented as an ethical system within those stories. Trying to distinguish between humans and robots was presented as a difficulty in "Evidence" because each rule is also something you could reasonably expect an ethical human to follow. Humans have a built-in sense of self-preservation, which is Rule Three. However, they are conditioned to obey authority, such as government, doctors, and bosses, even when obeying such instructions interfere with personal comfort/safety, which is Rule Two. Beyond that, people who put themselves at great personal risk to rescue others and disregard social rules that privilege one group at the expense of another are considered heroes and defenders of humanity, which is Rule One. So while the three rules were described as safeguards for keeping humans safe from machines, they can also be interpreted as rules for a safe society.
  • Creator Thumbprint:
    • Balancing comfort and stasis against scientific progress and expansion. Advances in technology, such as robots and computers, created comforts that often made the general population risk-averse and less inclined to expand science and technology. In "Profession", Earth is the only planet engaging in scientific research because once people are taught ideas from "tapes", they stop trying to learn, but Earth secretly teaches some of their population through experimentation and repetition, encouraging them to experiment. In "It's Such a Beautiful Day", the child protagonist once walks to school instead of taking the teleporter, and then curiously starts preferring outdoor travel. A psychiatrist is consulted but concludes that maybe this isn't so bad after all. From the Robot Series and Foundation Series, the Spacers are the first explorers, their every need tended to by robot servants. The later Settler explorers eschew all robots, noting how the comfort has made the Spacers halt their exploration after only fifty worlds. The Settlers eventually dominate the Milky Way while the Spacers decay, forgotten by the rest of the galaxy.
    • The frequency of Psychic Powers. Asimov would often explore the possible results of having humans/others developing psychic abilities. This can be traced to John W. Campbell's influence, who helped encourage Asimov during his early years of writing and had been interested in psionics since the 1930s. While Asimov was a skeptic and helped start the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, he also admitted that he wouldn't want to abandon them as a storytelling tool.
    • The theme of practical versus theoretical knowledge. Asimov would invariably fall on the side of practical knowledge and experimentation being superior to armchair analysis and theorizing. "Light Verse" had a mathematician who theorized perfect works of art mathematically and failing, but was invited to a party hosted by a famous artist. At a party, he repairs an old robot who had been mildly malfunctioning, and then learns the artist had actually relied upon the robot to create the art. In a short-story, a scientist wrote a proof demonstrating that a certain kind of energy shield cannot be constructed, meanwhile a hardened space captain has created just such a shield, after trial and error in the field that has cost him his arm. In "The Billiard Ball", one scientist has two Nobel Prizes while his ex-classmate is a much more famous (and rich) engineer who builds inventions based on scientist's work.
  • Dirty Old Man: Due to what was considered "good taste" when publishing his stories, Asimov restrained himself to oblique references and implications. However, he was able to publish several volumes of Lecherous Limericks as well as The Sensuous Dirty Old Man (a parody of The Sensuous Woman), and he was given a plaque during a Fan Convention commemorating this aspect of his career. He accepted the plaque (and its implications) in good grace.
  • Driving Question:
  • Everybody Smokes: Most of his tales have characters smoking during social occasions, despite Asimov himself loathing tobacco use. While his Science Fiction quickly took advantage of the change as Real Life public opinion turned against smoking, his Mystery Fiction often persisted in the use of tobacco in private rooms.
    • The Complete Adventures of Lucky Starr: Lucky and Bigman, the heroes of this 1950s children's series, always decline when other people offer a cigarette. Smoking, however, is still more prevalent in this setting than it is today.
    • The Foundation Trilogy: Written in the late 1940s to early 1950s, the social assumptions of smoking in these stories all lean towards sharing tobacco in social situations. Hari Seldon comes from a family of hydroponic tobacco farmers, Salvor Hardin reflexively tries to take out a cigarette when a recording suggests it, and Indbur III is dictator of the most powerful state in the galaxy but mocked for not allowing smoking in his private office.
    • The End of Eternity: Published in 1955 and taking place in the far future (sort of), a smoker complains that his habit is hardly ever practiced or approved of in their society.
    • "The Holmes Ginsbook Device": A 1968 story set 20 Minutes into the Future, where cigarettes are ubiquitous and healthy, unlike the horrible ones of the past.
    • "Go, Little Book!": Published in 1972, it was still common for restaurants to have matchbooks and ashtrays on every table, which facilitates matchbook collectors.
    • The Robots of Dawn: A 1983 sequel to 1957's The Naked Sun. The protagonist, Elijah Baley, has quit smoking as an example to live a more healthy life for his son.
  • Exact Words: Because he loved wordplay and logic puzzles, many of his Mystery Fiction elements depended on characters recognizing the exact meaning of the words present in the puzzle. This also extended to solving what went wrong with a Three Laws-Compliant robot.
    • Black Widowers:
      • "The Curious Omission": The members (and Mr Atwood) assume that "Alice" is a reference to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, but the sequel's full title isn't Through the Looking Glass, it is Through the Looking Glass, and what Alice Found There, and that's where the titular omission is.
      • "Go, Little Book!": Conversational Troping, when Mr Kline mentions his inability to remember precisely what it was Ottiwell had said to him the other day. Halsted describes it as unrealistic in a First-Person Perspective.
      • "Miss What?": (Discussed Trope) The members discuss the use of plural (Jezebels) and singular (Rahab), debating if the change is intentional or the result of poor grammar. They decide to assume the words are intended as written, with the plural speaking about a group, and the singular about a person within that group.
      • "Northwestward": Henry requests clarification on if Mr Pennyworth said "northwest" or "northwestward" because one means a particular direction and the other has several possible meanings.
      • "The Pointing Finger": (Zig-Zagging Trope) Mr Levy's grandfather-in-law couldn't speak from the stroke he was having, but insisted on trying to tell his granddaughter and husband where he had hidden their inheritance. So he has them turn his chair around until he's facing the bookshelf, where he points at The Complete Works of Shakespeare. His finger is only inches away when he dies, so Mr Levy assumes it's in the book. When he finally has time to check, it's not there. So he pours over every page in the book, looking for some hidden clue relying on an alternative meaning of a phrase to discover the location of the inheritance. For months. The mystery is finally solved when Henry explains that the grandfather-in-law was probably pointing past the book, and to the back of the bookshelves. The exact direction he was pointing was important.
      • "Truth to Tell": The group's guest, Mr Sands, tells a story about being suspected of a robbery and repeatedly insists "I didn't take the cash or the bonds". The earlier disclosure of his consistent, and known, honesty kept Henry carefully listening to his claims, then asks if he took the cash and the bonds. He declines to answer.
    • Lucky Starr and the Rings of Saturn: Agent X ejected a personal capsule in "normal orbit" around Saturn. Both the Sirians and the Terrestrial government are rushing to find it first. The capsule cannot be found until it is realised that "normal" was actually used in the geometric sense — "perpendicular", a polar orbit.
    • "The Machine That Won the War": The story builds up to a reveal where Multivac wasn't actually responsible for winning a war, but it was won by a machine, a coin, giving a random Yes/No to Multivac's advice is considered responsible.
    Swift: (while looking at a coin) "A machine did win the war, John; at least a very simple computing device did; one that I used every time I had a particularly hard decision to make."
    • The Naked Sun: At one point, Baley keeps Daneel held hostage by a group of robots to prevent him from tagging along. Since robots are built on this trope, he is very specific in his instructions not to let Daneel make contact with anyone, since they could countermand Baley's orders to hold him. Fortunately for Baley, he neglects to forbid Daneel from accepting anyone else's attempts to contact him, and this lets Daneel catch up to Baley just in time to save him from an almost certain death by drowning.
  • Exactly What I Meant to Say: In "The Singing Bell", a police officer claims that he cannot prove the suspect's guilt because he has no alibi. Not because he has one, but because he doesn't. A document or witness can be suspected of being false, but when a person is simply known to live in complete isolation for a month every year, what reason is there to assume this year was different?
  • Extremophile Lifeforms: In the short story "Buy Jupiter", a race of aliens is described which lives inside O-class stars. The Sun is too cold for them.
  • Failed Future Forecast:
    • Fantastic Voyage: This novelization of Fantastic Voyage has two superpowers referred to simply as "Us" and "Them". In-Universe, characters mention that the political maps have changed over the years. The maps used to show "Us" (and allies) as a pure pristine white and "Them" (and their allies) as a deep, brooding, bloody red, but now both sides are depicted in pastel shades. It's also implied that the political ideologies have drifted closer together.
    • Fantastic Voyage II Destination Brain: This story keeps the muted/thawed cold war aspect from Fantastic Voyage, but dispenses with the "Us" and "Them" in favour of openly referring to the USA and the Soviet Union because the protagonist is American (and not a double agent) who spends most of the novel in the Soviet Union working with Soviet citizens, so sticking to Us/Them would have been very awkward (whose us and them?).
    • "Let's Get Together": There are two superpowers who are usually referred to as "Us" and "Them". It's supposed to be America against Russia despite being set decades into the future, where his Deceptively Human Robots are used as weapons of infiltration equipped with a Self-Destruct Mechanism.
  • Fantastic Racism: Asimov would use prejudice against Earth-born humans and against robots as a recurring theme. He was an atheistic Jew and had been drafted during World War II, making him sensitive to many of the civil rights issues that climaxed during the war's aftermath. In early space exploration, Spacer colonists would view Earth-born humans as disease-ridden savages. Robots would be addressed as "boy", lack permission to travel in the high-class means of transportation, and are treated with general contempt. Robots, in turn, are expected to call humans "master", do any/every menial task without complaint, and be as unobtrusive as possible.
    • The Caves of Steel has both prejudice against Earth-born humans (largely by the Spacers, human colonists with a much stronger military) and against robots (by pretty much everyone, including Lije Baley himself).
    • "C-Chute": Humans being prejudiced against Kloros, one of the few alien species in Asimov's work. Once the two races went to war, most humans became blindly nationalistic and think the Kloros are a horde of savages, and those humans who point out that the Kloros are a civilized people on the other side of a national conflict are accused of being traitors to their species.
    • The Currents Of Space has a Days of Future Past spin on the cotton plantations of the old Deep South; a white-skinned planetary population kept as downtrodden serfs to harvest a valuable type of cloth.
    • I, Robot has several parallels between robots and black slavery. In "Little Lost Robot", published at 1947, a scientist at US Robots, Dr. Bogert, calls repeatedly robots "Boy". In "Runaround", written at 1942, the robots stationed on Venus must call all humans "Master":
      The monster's head bent slowly and the eyes fixed themselves on Powell. Then, in a harsh, squawking voice — like that of a medieval phonograph, he grated, "Yes, Master!"
      Powell grinned humorlessly at Donovan. "Did you get that? Those were the days of the first talking robots when it looked as if the use of robots on Earth would be banned. The makers were fighting that and they built good, healthy slave complexes into the damned machines."
    • Pebble in the Sky: Prejudice against humans from Earth results in extreme scientific resistance to the idea that humanity might have originated on their planet. Given that it was written in the 1950s, when there was still substantial racism towards African-Americans and resistance to the idea that humanity originated in Africa, Asimov is alluding to debates of the time.
  • Fake Alibi: Lampshaded in The Singing Bell. Inspector Davenport complains that had Peyton had some alibi, he could have cracked it as a fake. However, while a document or witness can be caught on inconsistencies, Peyton instead has a very well established habit of spending a month every year without being seen by a single person, and that is effectively unassailable.
  • Feghoot: Asimov wrote several stories that existed solely so he could tell some tortured pun at the end (and sometimes more than one!):
    • "Battle Hymn" is ostensibly about someone trying to influence the outcome of a vote by Mars colonists on whether to allow Mars to be used as a location for potentially dangerous hyperspace experiments. To counter the other side's jingle (No, No, A Thousand Times No), they get the colonists, who were of French descent (but don't speak the language any more), all singing the French national anthem. It works, because although they don't really understand the lyrics, they know the title: Mars say yes! (La Marseillaise)
    • "Death Of A Foy": At the end, the eponymous Starfish Alien, having been tricked into believing that giving his large-sized hearts will lead to a doctor playing a choir for him as his soul returns to his homeworld, wills, "Give my big hearts to Maude, Dwayne. Dismember me for Harold's choir. Tell all the Foys on Sortibackenstrete that I will soon be there".
    • "Dreamworld": A boy who reads a lot of science fiction and keeps telling his uninterested Aunt Clara about the crazy science-fiction inspired dreams he keeps having. His aunt keeps telling him that he has to face reality, or else, one day, he'll be stuck in one of his dreams and unable to wake up. The next time he goes to sleep, he has a dream in which hundreds of giant-sized duplicates of his Aunt Clara are all chasing him and demanding that he face reality. He desperately hopes that he'll be able to wake up from this dream, or else he'll have suffered the worst science-fictional doom of all: being trapped in a world of giant aunts.
    • "The Hazing": The whole story builds up to a punchline to showcase Humanity Is Insane, because despite advancing to a "civilized" level of technology, they admit that most of their species is still psychologically primitive.
    Forase: "You screwball Earthmen! At least, this little episode has taught us all one thing."
    Williams: "What's that?"
    Forase: "Never [...] get tough with a bunch of nuts. They may be nuttier than you think!"
    • "A Loint Of Paw": This concerns a man who, after stealing several hundred thousand dollars, used a time machine to travel to the day after the statute of limitations expired. After the prosecutor and defense attorney finish arguing, the judge renders his decision: "A niche in time saves Stein."
    • "Rain Rain Go Away": The punchline is delivered as the strangely-acting neighbors dissolve in the rain; "Honestly, George, you would think they were— [...] —made of sugar and afraid they would melt".
    • "Shah Guido G": A particularly notorious story, although arguably the title gives fair warning.
    • "Sure Thing": In a race between alien pets, the punchline is "Sloane's Teddy wins the race."
  • FTL Travel Sickness:
    • "Escape!": The first ship capable of interstellar travel can jump to other solar systems. Because of the way the ship's drive works, anyone on board temporarily dies during the jump and experiences hallucinations of after-death experiences. When the jump concludes, the people come back to life.
    • "Risk" (in the same continuity as "Escape!"): Any creature traveling with the prototype hyperspace drive becomes a mindless husk.
  • Future Society, Present Values:
    • The Caves of Steel: The robot series does a pretty good job of portraying future Earth's culture realistically, but there are some hints that give away its age.
      • Elijah's son, Bentley, uses language so stereotypical of The '50s that it may sound closer to parody to modern readers.
      • Corporal punishment for reprimanding children is considered a routine occurrence thousands of years in the future. The sequel, The Naked Sun, even has a lengthy discussion on how difficult but necessary it is programming a Three Laws-Compliant robot to understand why spanking a child performs a greater good for their future development than failing to administer any punishment.
      • The role of women on Earth is also extremely vague. Because resource-starved Earth cannot afford amenities, most people live in tiny apartments which do not have kitchens, eat in communal cafeterias, and have small families due to Population Control. These factors make the role of a Housewife largely redundant, yet Detective Baley interacts with virtually no women besides his wife, making law enforcement and government as male-dominated as they were in the real-world 1950s. The Robots of Dawn does introduce a female official and mentions policewomen, stating that the novels merely occur at a time women seldom choose these career paths.
    • The Complete Adventures of Lucky Starr: Despite being set far enough in the future to have Casual Interplanetary Travel, women are barely featured in the series (four of the books have no women at all) and certainly none are in positions of power.
    • Foundation Series: The scope of this series is epic, but The Foundation Trilogy uses gender roles practically identical to 1950s United States. When Asimov revisited the series decades later, he included women more prominently, especially in the form of Mayor Harla Branno, his first female mayor. She is an Iron Lady ruler for Terminus and the Foundation, introduced in Foundation's Edge (1982), and wants to conquer the galaxy centuries earlier than the Seldon Plan expects. However, Asimov is clearly more comfortable writing male characters, despite continuing to add badass females like Dors Venabili and Bliss.
    • "Feminine Intuition": The designers of a subtly feminine-looking robot believe that everyone will assume it is mentally inferior to other robots. One character explicitly states that if there's anything the average person believes, it's that women are less intelligent than men. Upon saying this, he nervously glances around (Susan Calvin having recently retired). At the end, after Calvin comes back to save the day, the lesson is that men dismiss women's equal (if not superior) intelligence as mere "intuition".
    • "Little Lost Robot": Calvin is questioning the last person to see the titular robot, and they are reluctant to repeat their exact words in front of a lady. Calvin insists on precision, and the witness's superior offers to be the visual target of the Cluster F-Bomb repetition. A Narrative Profanity Filter is provided for the audience, but the superior is incensed at the language. Calvin, to her credit, merely states that she knows what most of those words mean and suspects that the others are equally derogatory. In today's society, cursing out a random woman is much less offensive than cursing out your superior.
    • "Runaround": In-Universe, we see the robots from the first Sunside Mercury Mining expedition, who call all humans "Master". In contrast, Donovan and Powell are there fifty years later, and their robot, SPD 13, just calls them "boss".
  • God Guise:
    • Foundation Series: During an early phase of their history (as the infrastructure of the galactic empire was crumbling) the people of the Foundation provide prosperity to their neighbors while keeping them dependent on the Foundation. This is done by reducing the operation of technologically advanced equipment to rituals governed by a religion operated by the Foundation, with acolytes as technicians who can run and (sometimes) repair equipment, but who don't understand how it works.
    • "Homo Sol": This story features a galaxy-spanning civilization comprising all humanoid alien species, which learns of Earth humans, but First Contact is complicated by the fact that humans are the only species susceptible to demagoguery, and also have a knack for rigging any technology into a weapon. They cannot be left alone, either, because Humans Advance Swiftly. The solution? The aliens send emissaries looking like the gods of Classical Mythology, reasoning that the words of Zeus and Demeter will convince Homo Sol accept the other aliens as equals. The sequels show that this actually works perfectly.
    "If a hundred Zeuses and a hundred Demeters were to land on Earth as part of a 'trade mission,' and turned out to be trained psychologists - Now do you see?"
    • "The Hazing": While abandoned on Spica's fourth planet, the Earthmen convince a native tribe that they're gods, and that the Humanoid Aliens who abandoned them on the planet are devils who need to be ritually slain. Actually, Williams was just kidding about the last part; the tribe should let them take the imprisoned "devils" back into the spaceship. Unfortunately, the Earthmen have been around the natives for too long, and they need to prove their divine power or all of the college students are going to die.
  • He Also Did: Everything. Asimov is known as a sci-fi writer, but also dabbled in lots of other genres, and published books on history, The Bible, William Shakespeare, Gilbert and Sullivan, and several collections of dirty Limericks. His work can be found in nine of the ten categories of the Dewey Decimal System — all ten, if forewords count. Asimov was also a real scientist, with a PhD in chemistry from Columbia, before he became a full time writer.
  • Humanity Is Superior: Back when Asimov wrote for Astounding Science Fiction, editor John W. Campbell required that any story involving humans and aliens portray humanity as superior, reflecting his own belief in the superiority of the white race. Asimov, a Jew, wasn't comfortable with this but he was comfortable with writing humans as superior to robots, so he tended to write about a galaxy filled with only humans and robots.
  • I, Noun:
  • Inevitably Broken Rule: Asimov (mostly) subverts this in the vast majority of his robot stories by exploring the ramification of his Laws of Robotics in specific circumstances rather than having them broken. The trope is also played straight in a few of his Asimov's robot stories, though usually for comedic rather than dramatic effect.
  • Lemony Narrator: His default conversational style includes direct statements of conspiracy, Shout Outs to obscure information, and a Socratic Method that involves the impression that he and the reader are learning things together. It was often utilized in his short stories, author's forewords and afterwords, and Non-Fiction. He also tosses in lamentations, great relief, and pointed witticisms.
  • Meanwhile, in the Future…: The two plotlines in Nemesis are separated in time as well as in space, and they alternate chapter by chapter and converge at the end, as the plotline that starts at an earlier date catches up to the one that takes place later. The differences in chronology are not immediately obvious at the beginning of the book.
  • Missing Episode:
    • The first story Asimov published was in 1934 for his Brooklyn high school semi-annual magazine, Boys High School. He titled the story "Little Brothers". Asimov did not keep the original copy, but after mentioning the story in one of his collections, a staff member of the high school found a copy of the magazine and sent it to him. He included it in his 1974 SF anthology Before the Golden Age.
    • The first story Asimov submitted for professional publication, "Cosmic Corkscrew" (written 1938), was never returned by the publisher and is considered lost. Seven other short stories written between 1938 and 1941 are also lost. Asimov himself admitted they were no great loss to the field.
    • "Big Game" was written in 1941 but never published and presumed lost. A diligent fan found a copy in Asimov's papers stored at Boston University, and it was published in Before The Golden Age.
    • "The Weapon" was written in 1938 when Asimov was 18. After several rejections, Asimov gave it to friend and editor of Super Science Stories, Frederik Pohl. Asimov thought the story was terrible and had it published under a pen name, then promptly forgot about the story's existence. It was also later discovered in the Boston University's archives and eventually republished in Asimov's memoir In Memory Yet Green (1979).
  • Most Writers Are Human: Despite being willing to create Human Aliens in his early stories and working out some Bizarre Alien Psychology, Asimov was frustrated with other authors failing to create convincingly alien "aliens". Since his own efforts likewise failed to impress him, this led, in part, to his frequent use of a human-only Milky Way galaxy.
  • Neologism:
    • He used the term "fundie" as an abbreviation for "fundamentalist" decades before it came into widespread usage.
    • He is credited by the Oxford English Dictionary for coining "robotics" in "Runaround", a word that he had logically constructed from existing words like electrostatics and hydraulics. It means the construction and study of robots. He assumed somebody else had already used it.
    • He invented the term "microcomputer" for his story "The Dying Night". It took only a few decades for such devices to be Defictionalized. Once they were, however, such handcomps were often marketed with Asimov's celebrity endorsement.
    • He is credited by the Oxford English Dictionary for inventing the word "positronic". For him, it was based on the recently named positron, and simply meant an Applied Phlebotinum to make his robots function. In Real Life, it became used for anything related or pertaining to positron particles/waves.
    • He is credited by the Oxford English Dictionary for coining the term "psychohistory". In his works, psychohistory is a method of analyzing sociological events (including politics, economics, and wars) so precisely that future events can be extrapolated from initial conditions. The Real Life version attempts to record and explain psychological motivations behind historical events.
  • Non-Indicative Name: One of the Union Club Mysteries has the counterintelligence trying to find who among five suspects is a spy. All they know is their codename: Granite. The narrator states that he realized right away that a proper spy's codename has to be Non-Indicative. Four of the suspects had some basic fact in their biography which could be connected to rocks and boulders, so it had to be the fifth one.
  • Original Position Fallacy:
    • Asimov was acutely aware of this phenomenon, both when selectively pining for the Good Old Days and when imagining the societies of the future doing the same thing. He incorporated a story about he and his (first) wife making different assumptions about how servants used to be common into a Non-Fiction essay.
    Mrs. Asimov: "How pleasant it would be if only we lived a hundred years ago when it was easy to get servants."
    Isaac Asimov: "It would be horrible... We'd be the servants."
    • "The Winnowing": The short story describes a global food shortage which the World Food Council intends to remedy by poisoning the most famine-struck areas — all of them comfortably distant from their own homes — with a biological agent that would kill 70% of the population at random. Their high-minded platitudes about "the finger of God" selecting the victims evaporate when the scientist they coerced into assisting reveals that he added the agent to the sandwiches they've just eaten.
  • Pen Name:
  • Phone-In Detective:
    • Black Widowers: "Northwestward", where the only information that the Black Widowers have is what Mr Wayne is able to convey about the mystery. This is quite enough for Henry to solve the problem.
    • Asimovs Mysteries: This anthology has all four stories featuring Wendell Urth, a detective so afraid of travelling that he worked almost entirely from home.
  • Prescience by Analysis:
    • All the Troubles of the World: The supercomputer Multivac is given full data on the entire Earth, including all of its citizens. It uses this information to predict the future actions of human beings; nearly eliminating crime, war, and poverty. There's proposals to expand the predictive analysis to include medical issues. Recently it has been given the responsibility to predict all crimes in advance so they can be prevented from occurring.
    • Foundation Series: Hari Seldon invents a whole field of science called "psychohistory" to predict the future of galactic civilization. He prophesizes the fall of the Empire, and establishes the Foundation to shorten the impending dark age. The system is later revealed to have a Logical Weakness in that a powerful foreign leader with sufficiently nonstandard psychology throws the future off track; luckily there was a backup plan. In fact, the backup plan covers, to varying degrees, all the logical weaknesses, including that being a matter of probabilities it only takes a few highly improbable but not impossible events to throw things off course — and the Seldon Plan covers a millennium, so it is more likely than not that such events would happen eventually. That's why the backup is a secret organization, equipped with Psychic Powers and psychohistory, continually working behind the scenes to manipulate things to keep the Plan to track, or push it back on course if that fails.
    • Franchise: Multivac has almost every datapoint it needs to predict how the citizens of America would vote in the election, and selects Muller to fill in the gaps of its predictive abilities, thereby negating the need for anyone to vote at all.
  • Real Award, Fictional Character:
    • "The Billiard Ball": A major point is the tension between two former classmates: a scientist with two Nobel Prizes versus a much more famous engineer who makes money through inventions based on his work.
    • The Gods Themselves: Hallam received a Nobel prize for his work (well, he's actually a Fake Ultimate Hero, but still).
  • Real-Time Timeskip: Twenty years after his first published story, "Marooned Off Vesta", Asimov wrote a sequel to it called "Anniversary", where the heroes gather to celebrate twenty years since surviving the incident.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: Asimov often averted this trope quite harshly, preferring to think of robots as tools rather than people. He only imagined robots being roughly humanoid when they needed to be able to perform tasks which human tools for already existed and it wouldn't make sense to replace every piece of equipment when one robot could be made to use them. They were always built to the job, and sometimes that job made for very unusual designs instead.
    • "The Bicentennial Man": Andrew learned enough about robotics and biology to make himself a Ridiculously Human Robot. Over the course of two centuries, he started to make artwork, wear clothes, modify himself to be more human ... even to the point of choosing to become mortal and die (this would break the Third Law of Robotics, but the eponymous character would rather die with his dreams intact than live without hope).
    • ''The Caves of Steel: R(obot) Daneel Olivaw is assisting Detective Baley solve a recent murder mystery. R. Daneel is a new type of robot (designed by the murder victim no less) which is externally indistinguishable from a human.
    • "Evidence": Stephen Byerley's political opponent started a rumor that Byerley was a robot... and though Byerley denied it, he also declined to be X-rayed to prove his humanity. He eventually convinced people that he was human by punching out a heckler, an act clearly impossible for a robot under the First Law unless said heckler was another apparently-human robot constructed for the occasion.
    • Forward the Foundation: R(obot) Dors Venabili and R(obot) Daneel Olivaw are both humaniform robots designed to appear perfectly human. However, a political opponent of Daneel publicly decried him as a robot. Dors and Hari Seldon teach Daneel how to laugh realistically so that he can publicly laugh off such accusations as ridiculous, thereby discrediting the activist. Strangely, Dors was built by Daneel, yet she can smile and laugh, and he can't.
    • "Let's Get Together": Eleven humaniform robots are constructed, each a copy of a scientist.
    • The Naked Sun: R(obot) Daneel Olivaw is assisting Detective Baley solve a recent murder mystery, and despite the Solarians' expertise with robots, is able to conceal his robotic nature completely.
    • Prelude to Foundation: R(obot) Dors Venabili, a female humaniform robot designed by R. Daneel (an old humaniform robot) to become Hari Seldon's protector and companion. Not only is Dors fully functional, but she eventually develops genuine love for Seldon and actually violates the First Law to protect him.
    • Robots and Empire: R(obot) Daneel Olivaw, a humaniform robot introduced in previous novels.
    • The Robots of Dawn:
      • R(obot) Daneel Olivaw is humanoid in appearance and somewhat in behavior, but unlike on Earth or on Solaria, where such a robot would be unimaginable, the Aurorans are not fooled in the least.
      • R(obot) Jander Panell, whose "murder" is the subject of the book's mystery. We also learn that Jander (and, presumably by extension, Daneel) is "fully functioning".
    • "Satisfaction Guaranteed": Isaac Asimov's first use of human-looking robots is the TN-3 model, "Tony". Ultimately, the idea of humaniform robots is rejected by Susan Calvin, because Tony was so humanlike that The Protagonist became infatuated with him. The company does not want their robots having sex with their customers, so future TN models will be made less anthropomorphic.
    • "The Tercentenary Incident": The human President of the United States was disintegrated, and replaced with his robotic double, who was originally meant to just be a body double for him at formal events. It's implied that the robot did a much better job of being President than the human ever could have.
  • Robot Names:
  • Sacred Flames: In "Black Friar Of The Flame" the people of Earth, under occupation by alien conquerors, have a sacred flame that symbolises the human spirit. The priests tending it have a mechanism that can cause it to flare up and change colour, in case they need to stage a "miracle".
  • Same Face, Different Name: Isaac Asimov wrote The Complete Adventures of Lucky Starr in The '50s under the pseudonym Paul French. He wrote six volumes of targeting a juvenile audience and hoped to turn them into a television series. Asimov adopted the Pen Name to make it easier to dissociate himself with the work if the tv series flopped. In The '70s, he republished them with the byline saying "Isaac Asimov writing as Paul French".
  • 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). 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.
  • Self-Plagiarism:
    • When Asimov's original title (As I Remember) for his autobiography was rejected, he was told by his publisher, Doubleday, to go look for an obscure poem from which he can steal a bon mot. He returned with the couplet "In memory yet green / In joy still felt" which his publisher agreed to use. It was only after publication that Asimov admitted he had written the poem himself. The poem is printed as the epigram of both books, credited to "Anonymous."
    • Many passages of Asimov's Non-Fiction on scientific topics is quoted verbatim from one of his earliest such works, The Intelligent Man's Guide to Science. Of course, since that book already covered the material, and he wrote a lot of books, this is understandable.
    • Some of his works would (quite rarely) have overlapping title names. Excluding expanded versions of his short fiction, Asimov also reused the title "Rejection Slips" from his poem for a Non-Fiction essay to the readership of Asimovs Science Fiction.
  • Shared Universe: Isaacs Universe is a shared setting created by Isaac Asimov in the 1990s, totaling five books. Three volumes were anthologies of short stories edited by Martin H. Greenberg (contributing authors included Poul Anderson, David Brin, Hal Clement, George Alec Effinger, Karen Haber, Janet Kagan, Rebecca Ore, Robert Sheckley, Robert Silverberg, Allen Steele, Harry Turtledove, and Lawrence Watt-Evans). The novels Fossil by Hal Clement and Murder At The Galactic Writers Society by Janet Asimov are also set in the same setting.
  • Spell My Name With An S:
    • "Spell My Name with an S": This story is the Trope Namer, but is not an example. In-Universe name spelling changes are an example of My Nayme Is.
    • Asimov wrote an editorial in Asimovs Science Fiction solely for how many ways people screwed up his name. For some reason, "Asminov" was the most common mangling.
    • Because Asimov invented the concept of robotics and Three Laws-Compliant robots, such robots are sometimes called Asenion, another misspelling of his name.
    • Asimov had a bit of a vendetta against people who spelled his name "Azimov", but admitted that the only reason his name is spelled with a "s" instead of a "z" is because his father didn't understand the Latin alphabet very well while signing immigration papers and had confused the two letters.
  • Standard Sci-Fi History: The Trope Codifier, if not the Trope Maker.
    • Robot Series: This series begins 20 Minutes into the Future, with the positronic brains as a technology that facilitates basic Artificial Intelligence (see "Robbie"). They're used to facilitate humanity's expansion into the solar system (see "Runaround") and eventually develop Hyperspace travel (see "Little Lost Robot" and "Escape!") so that they can expand into the larger galaxy. The division between the space exploring robot users and the bigoted Earthers drives a social wedge between the two groups. The colonies begin to call themselves Spacers to distinguish between themselves and the Earthmen.
      By the era of Elijah Baley, the loose association of Spacer societies has calcified. Scientists don't share their theories/experiments because they want all the credit for themselves, robots provide all of life's necessities, and there is no threat to struggle against. During this decadence and decay, Baley encourages the overpopulated people of Earth to explore new planets without relying on robots (becoming known as the "Settlers"). Thus, a new era of interstellar exploration is begun while the first "empire" slowly collapses.
    • The Empire Novels: The galaxy is getting explored (by Settlers) and small empires are rising from expanding warlords, such as the Tyranni (see Like Stars Like Dust). Due to Earth's unusual radioactive crust, it is despised and ignored by the galactic community. The Spacer worlds are forgotten, while the Trantorian Empire would conquer all the known galaxy, renaming itself the Galactic Empire.
    • Foundation Series: The Prequel books take place while the Galactic Empire is at its peak. The first story (in publication order) is "The Encyclopedists", where the decay has allowed the territories at the edge of the empire to declare themselves independent nations. While the first Galactic Empire collapses, the focus is on the accelerated growth of the second galactic empire. This accelerated growth will minimize the Interregnum, reducing the "Long Night" to only about a thousand years. However, The Plan is disrupted, and Foundation and Earth decides that humanity's final fate is to become a galaxy-wide shared intelligence to protect against potential intergalactic alien threats.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Alien:
    • "Breeds There a Man...?": Humanity is an alien experiment which must occasionally be reset by large-scale destruction. The Cold War is the prelude to another reset, but if humanity can develop an energy shield to protect cities against nuclear bombs, they may be able to escape the alien control.
    • George and Azazel: The titular demon (Azazel) is either an extraterrestrial with advanced technology, or an actual demon — and possibly both. Depending on which story, and even which version of a story, Azazel may be either one. The stories can't seem to make up their mind, which fits in with George possibly making them all up. Azazel's role in the story is to cause some crazy personal disaster in the interest of helping someone out.
    • "Jokester": The human sense of humour is found to be an experiment imposed on us by aliens. Tragically, once this experiment is discovered, it is no longer of any use for the aliens and the capacity for finding something funny is immediately removed.
  • Three Laws-Compliant: Trope Maker of the "Three Laws of Robotics", because Asimov believed that robots were machines that would be built with restrictions on their behaviour. The following examples, however, show how being a "Three Laws" robot often isn't enough to prevent drama:
    • "The Bicentennial Man": The only method of turning Andrew into a "human" would cause him to quickly die. When reminded that he'd be violating the Third Law, he dismisses their concern, saying the death of his dreams and aspirations was a higher price than the death of his body.
    • The Complete Adventures of Lucky Starr:
      • Lucky Starr and the Big Sun of Mercury: The Sirian robot that Lucky finds on Mercury's sunside is so heavily damaged that the First Law prohibition against harming humans has become corrupted, and it tries to kill Lucky to prevent a violation of the Second Law (it was ordered not to be discovered).
      • Lucky Starr and the Moons of Jupiter: The three-laws programming becomes a clue to help Lucky deduce the Spy Bot's identity. It had to be someone with nearly free run of Jupiter IX, it had to be someone who would defend human life, and it had to be someone aboard the experimental Agrav ship.
      • Lucky Starr and the Rings of Saturn: Sten Devoure is able to convince the three-law robots under his command that the hero's sidekick "Bigman" Jones is not really human, because the Sirius system does not contain such "imperfect" specimens. He then orders them to "break it".
    • "Escape!": Mike Donovan and Greg Powell are assigned to test a prototype spaceship designed by a prototype robot/superbrain. Donovan worries about the reinforcement from the scientists involved to strengthen the Second Law. The designer of the spaceship was told, over and over, that even if it looks like Donovan and Powell might die, it's okay. Donovan is concerned that the reinforcement will allow the robot to design a deathtrap. In this case, the jump through hyperspace does result in Powell and Donovan's "deaths"—but since they get better when the ship reemerges into real space, the robot judged that it didn't quite violate the First Law, but the strain of making this leap in logic still managed to send the previous supercomputer into a full meltdown and this one into something resembling psychosis.
    "Before it's physically possible in any way for a robot to even make a start to breaking the First Law, so many things have to break down that it would be a ruined mess of scrap ten times over."Greg Powell
    • "Evidence": Stephen Byerley tries to run for mayor of New York City, but he's plagued by a smear campaign claiming he is actually an unprecedentedly well-made humanoid robot. Susan Calvin is called in to prove whether or not he is a robot. She points out that disobeying the Three Laws will prove he is not a robot, but obedience could mean that he's simply a good person, because the Three Laws are generally good guidelines for conduct anyway. Byerley wins the election in a landslide after breaking the First Law by slugging an unruly protester at a rally. But Calvin points out that a robot could have done the same thing, if it knew the protester was also a robot.
    • "Liar! (1941)": A typical robot with the normal Three Laws came off the assembly line with an unusual trait; telepathy. Because it can see the immediate harm from telling the truth, it tells people lies instead. It doesn't realize how lies can also harm humans until it is too late, and Calvin gives it a Logic Bomb based on how the temporary lies have increased the harm that the truth will do to everyone involved, telling further lies will again compound the harm, and being silent is also harmful.
    • "Little Lost Robot": Attempting to tweak the Three Laws starts the whole plot in motion; twelve of the NS-2 models were designed to permit humans to come to harm through inaction in order to work alongside humans in hazardous environments. One physicist who had a bad day tells a robot to "go lose yourself", and it immediately hides in a crowd of identical fully-compliant robots. Susan Calvin is called in and proceeds to lose her shit. From an engineering standpoint, partial compliance is a prototype system, and noticeably less stable than the production models. QED, they're more likely to go crazy. But from a psychological standpoint, she specifically points out a partially-compliant robot can find lots of ways to intentionally harm humans through inaction. It can simply engineer a dangerous situation it has the capacity to avert, and then choose not to avert it.
    "If a modified robot were to drop a heavy weight upon a human being, he would not be breaking the First Law, if he did so with the knowledge that his strength and reaction speed would be sufficient to snatch the weight away before it struck the man. However once the weight left his fingers, he would be no longer the active medium. Only the blind force of gravity would be that. The robot could then change his mind and merely by inaction, allow the weight to strike. The modified First Law allows that."
    • The Naked Sun:
      • The solution to the murder mystery which caused the Spacers to summon Detective Baley hinges on a specific part of the First Law's wording: "knowingly". Robots can be made to take actions that, due to circumstances or the actions of other people, will lead to the injury or death of humans if the robots don't know this will be the case. A robot was ordered to give its arm to a woman engaged in a violent argument with her husband - seeing herself in sudden possession of a blunt object, she used it.
      • Characters discuss a loophole in the Three Laws; an "autonomous spaceship that doesn't know about manned spaceships" can be used to turn Actual Pacifist robots into deadly murder-machines. This was a project that the mastermind of the book's murder was working on.
    • "Robbie": This story had actually been published before Asimov had invented his Three Laws, but the Morality Chip is still present in how Mr Weston explains to Mrs Weston that Robbie, Gloria's robot nanny, is made to be faithful and protective of their little girl.
    • "Robot Dreams": A robot that is (accidentally) programmed to believe that "robots are humans and humans are not". Once Calvin discovers this problem, she shoots it in the head, destroying the positronic brain.
    • Robots and Empire: R. Daneel and R. Giskard formulate the Zeroth Law (and name it such) as a natural extension of the First Law, but are unable to use it to overcome the hardcoded First Law, even when the fate of the world is at stake. In the end, R. Giskard manages to perform an act that violates the First Law but will hopefully benefit humanity in the long run. The possibility of being wrong destroys his brain, but not before he reprograms R. Daneel to grant him telepathic abilities. R. Daneel continues to follow all four laws, though he still has difficulty causing direct harm to humans and dedicates major efforts to finding ways of actually determining what harm to humanity is.
    • The Robots of Dawn: A preeminent roboticist remarks to Detective Baley that the Three Laws of modern robots are advanced enough to tell which choices are more harmful, and if a robot can't determine which action is more harmful, there's always the coin flip. However, the mystery of this book is a robot (one that he designed) has been shut down with a Logic Bomb involving the Three Laws, and no-one but him could have managed one.
    • "Runaround": This story is the first time the Three Laws appeared in print; Mike Donovan and Greg Powell go over the laws to help clarify in their minds what the problem is with their prototype robot. They also work with older model robots that have additional restrictions, such as being immobile unless a human is riding them. That restriction, however, is waived if by being immobile a human would come to harm, because the First Law trumps all other instructions.
  • Tidally Locked Planet:
    • "The Dying Night": Mercury is tidally locked to the Sun, and this becomes a major plot point. The killer had lived on Mercury's northern pole for ten years, forgetting the normal night/day cycle of Earth. After astronomers found out Mercury wasn't tidally locked, Asimov said in an author's note that he'd wanted to fix it, but couldn't figure out how to do it without rewriting half the plot.
    • The Foundation Trilogy's "The Mule": Radole is uninhabitable, apart from a few areas on the terminator. The capital city is in the largest such area, where conditions resemble a warm June morning on Earth. Possibly one of many such planets with a narrow habitable strip, because they are commonplace enough to have a nickname; "ribbon worlds". Radole hosts a meeting of Foundation citizens from the independent Trader worlds who wish to revolt against the tyrants of Terminus and the Four Kingdoms.
    • Lucky Starr and the Big Sun of Mercury: In this story, Mercury is tidally locked with the sun, creating a day-side and night-side.
    • "Runaround": Donovan and Powell are sent to Mercury to try reopening the "Sunside" mining operation. The story was premised on the conflict that the fields keeping the humans from dying would fail before sunset (since it was common scientific knowledge at the time that Mercury was tidally locked).
  • Time Travel:
    • "A Loint Of Paw": An ultra-short short story built around time travel for the sole purpose of setting up a pun.
    • Pebble in the Sky: An accident with crude uranium sends Joseph Schwartz from 1957 AD to tens of thousands of years into the future.
    • "The Ugly Little Boy": Stasis, Incorporated is a business where a Time Machine is used to move objects and people in a very limited capacity. When they perform the Stasis One experiment with Timmie, that's the nearest to their present-day that they can reach. As their technology gets better, they prepare to replace the Neanderthal experiment with Project Middle Ages.
  • Trope Makers:
  • Viewers Are Morons: The plot of ''The Billiard Ball depends on the ball, once run through the anti-gravity machine, to accelerate instantaneously to near-light-speed and turn therefore into an unstoppable killer cannonball. But the atoms of oxygen, nitrogen and other gases in the air fuse if rammed into something at relativistic speeds. So there was not going to be a cannonball cutting through objects with laser precision, it was going to be a megaton-sized thermonuclear explosion taking the witnesses, the building and the entire city with it. Asimov knew it, but assumed the readers didn't know ands wrote the story as he did.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds:
    • Black Widowers: Manny Rubin and Mario Gonzalo freqently toss barbs at one another, more than the other members of the club. In "The Wrong House", the guest of the month points it out:
    Levan: Whenever I hear two people spar like that, I am certain that there is actually a profound affection between them.
    Rubin: (revolted) Oh, God.
    Gonzalo: You've hit it, Mr. Levan. Manny would give me the shirt off his back if no-one were looking. The only thing he wouldn't give me is a kind word.
    • Robot Series: Powell and Donovan, roboticists featured in a few short stories.
  • Worthless Yellow Rocks: In "Pate De Fois Gras", the fact that the Goose is laying golden eggs is treated as secondary by the government agents. In fact, the farmer owning the goose is being compensated for every single egg. What the government does care about is the fact of nuclear transmutation in a living organism, along with the fact that every piece of harmful radiation hitting the Goose seems to vanish into nothingness. Doubly so for the Goose itself; not only is the gold worthless, it prevents the bird from reproducing.
  • Xeno Fiction:
  • A Year and a Day:
  • You Are What You Hate: According to an autobiography, a man named Jackson Davenportnote  once accused Asimov of trying to hide his Jewishness because he once gave a lecture on Rosh Hashanah. Asimov said that if he wished to hide the fact that he was Jewish, the first thing he'd do is change his name to Jackson Davenport.
  • You Just Told Me:
    • "Evidence": A scientist interviews a politician he believes to be a robot in disguise. When the scientist refuses to name the source who brought the rumors to him, the politician asks if they can just assume it's his political rival and move on. He keeps on using the rival's name for the name of the source in their conversation, until the scientist forgets that he's supposed to be keeping it a secret and uses it himself. The politician, who used to be a lawyer, calls this a "shyster trick".
    • "I'm in Marsport Without Hilda": A detective is trying to figure out which of several people in a room is a drug smuggler. All of the innocent suspects are currently loopy and speaking stream-of-consciousness gibberish, because they were given a drug to prevent space sickness, and the guilty party is faking it. Unable to figure out who is guilty, the detective, out of frustration, starts telling them about the hot date he would have had, if he wasn't stuck interviewing them. The guilty party's, um, "reaction", gives him away.
    • "The Singing Bell": This story involves a thrown object, with the twist that the criminal is the thrower. He gives himself away as having spent a long time on the moon when he throws it far too short in earth's gravity.
    • In one of Asimov's short mystery stories, the culprit is a Québécois person using a false identity of an American. The detective tricks him into revealing his true identity by asking him to write the word "Montréal," and he writes it with an accent aigu on the e, whereas someone who only spoke English wouldn't spell it that way.

Miscellaneous trivia

  • When Sleeper was being produced, Asimov refused the position of "technical director" and recommended Ben Bova instead.
  • During the 1940s, Asimov was drafted to military service. "Evidence" is the only story he wrote during this timeframe, because he applied for leave to complete his PhD. He was out of uniform by the time this story was published in Astounding. Confirmed by The Early Asimov (1972) and Isaac Asimov Presents: The Great Science Fiction Stories, Volume 8 (1946) (1982).
  • Asimov was quite capable in this. One of his anecdotes in The Early Asimov tells of struggling with an English class while an undergraduate. He arranged a meeting with the professor. At the meeting, the instructor claimed "Your problem, Mr. Asimov, is you just can't write." At this point, Asimov pulled out a check he'd received that morning for one of his short stories, waved it in the professor's face and said, "I'll kindly ask you not to repeat that slander to my editors." Whereupon he left the meeting.
  • U.S. Robotics, a maker of dialup modems, derived its name from Asimov's U.S. Robots & Mechanical Men.

Alternative Title(s): Paul French, Dr A