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Literature / George and Azazel

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The George and Azazel series is a collection of loosely connected short stories by Isaac Asimov. Mostly written in The '80s, they feature the author (that is, Asimov himself) listening to the stories of a guy named George who can (allegedly) summon a two-centimeter tall demon named Azazel, who can perform wishes for him (or rather, for his friends). Unfortunately, the demon is a bit of a Literal Genie (not out of malice, but due to lack of knowledge about Earth), so the results tend to be a case of Gone Horribly Right. The guy never wishes anything for himself, which is why he is always broke, and the author often ends the story with him either paying George's bar bill, or loaning him money which will never be returned.

Contains examples of:

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: The possible future pictured in "Saving Humanity"
  • Always Need What You Gave Up: In "Writing Time", a man gets the gist of never having to wait... except it turns out the time he was waiting was needed for him to think.
  • Author Avatar: It's never stated in the stories, but Asimov has said that the narrator is meant to be himself, though all he does in the stories is get insulted by and act as Straight Man to the man whose stories he's reporting.
  • Beauty Is Bad: In "The Eye of the Beholder", a homely woman who lost all her generosity and kindness once Azazel made her beautiful.
  • But Liquor Is Quicker: "The Evil Drink Does" has a lady who is too strictly raised to interact with men. George recommends alcohol, but it turns out her metabolism is too sensitive.
  • Can't Hold His Liquor: "The Evil Drink Does" is about a woman who is too self-restrained, and who can never relax because even one drink makes her really sick. Well, George calls for the Azazel, and they remake her metabolism. The problem is, she acquires such a taste that the new metabolism makes her really fat due to overconsumption.
  • Chick Magnet: "To the Victor" has Azazel remake a person's biochemistry to increase pheromone output.
  • Clarke's Third Law: Azazel is a demon in some stories, and a Sufficiently Advanced Alien in others.
  • Dead End Job: The Chairman of the Club of Diminishing Returns.
  • Depending on the Writer: In this case, Depending on the Publisher, Azazel is either a demon or a Sufficiently Advanced Alien.
  • Equivalent Exchange:
    • "The Smile That Loses" has a man's smile transferred to a photo, and as a result he gets sick.
    • "Writing Time" has Azazel helping a man who complains of always having to wait for doctors or taxis. Azazel puts the world in order for him, but states the Second Law of Thermodynamics cannot be bypassed — he simply spread the entropy all over the Solar System, including by shortening the Sun's life.
  • Framing Device: George narrates his stories to the writer while in a restaurant.
  • Gone Horribly Right: The routine for stories:
    • "One Night of Song": A man wishes for his ex to sing perfectly for one night, cannot listen to anything else afterwards.
    • "To the Victor": A man is made into a Chick Magnet. The girls attracted to him are so jealous of each other that he is forced into choosing the strongest one.
    • "The Evil Drink Does": A girl has her metabolism adjusted to handle alcohol better. The new metabolism processes it all into fat.
    • "Writing Time": A man has the world adjusted to give him time for writing. Turns out all the time he spent waiting was required for him to think.
    • "He Travels the Fastest": A man has his mind adjusted to desire traveling, because his wife complained he doesn't take her anywhere. He does take her to place, but strictly for the sake of travel instead of allowing her the time to shop she actually wants.
    • "The Eye of the Beholder": A homely and charitable woman wants to become beautiful for her similarly looking husband's sake. Once she does, she loses all her kindness and leaves the husband for a handsome jerk. The old man didn't find her new looks an improvement.
    • "The Fights of Spring": A nerd is giving an ability to dodge any blow. Problem is, it's keyed to adrenaline, meaning he also dodges his girlfriend's embrace.
  • Historical In-Joke: "He Travels the Fastest" ends with Sophocles on the Moon after the Apollo 13 incident.
  • Inconvenient Summons: Half the stories have one for Azazel. Sometimes it's from the card table, sometimes from a speech...
  • In Vino Veritas: In "The Evil Drink Does", George suggests that a rather straitlaced woman, who is worried about being a perpetual virgin, should loosen up a bit by getting drunk, only to be told that a single drink makes her violently ill. He then asks Azazel to adjust her body chemistry so that alcohol becomes a "healthful food" for her. This results in her becoming thoroughly uninhibited. Unfortunately, due to its having actual nutritive value and to the quantity she drinks for years afterwards, she also becomes morbidly obese.
  • The Jinx: How Menander from "Saving Humanity" started. He describes a lot of disasters like bad weather around him.
  • Large Runt: Theophilus from "To the Victor" describes how a guy 7 by 5 feet and all muscle visited him and stated that he and his three brothers are going to be very displeased if he won't choose their sister out of all the girls who are after him. When Theophilus asks whether the brothers resemble him, the other guy states he is short and weak due to a childhood disease, and his brothers are "fine figures of men" a couple of feet taller.
  • Lilliputians: Azazel is two centimeter tall and, presumably, so are others of his race.
  • Literal Genie: Azazel grants wishes that start off looking like exactly what the person wants but end up being the person's worst nightmare. For example, in "To the Victor", a man with no self-confidence wants to be irresistible to women. He ends up being chased everywhere by women, and in the end is engaged to a woman built like a linebacker because he's too afraid of her (and her equally massive brothers) to turn her down.
  • Living Lie Detector: The detective from "The Mind's Construction" ends up as one due to becoming more sensitive to gland output.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: In "Galatea", Azazel brought a statue of a man to life, but apparently, George didn't explain the concept of erection to him.
  • Love Is in the Air: "To the Victor" is about a guy who has problems with girls, so Azazel boosts his pheromone production.
  • Necro Non Sequitur: "More Things on Heaven and Earth" has a guy who's supposed to die a year after accepting the position of a certain club's chairman. Azazel tries making him immune to all things on Earth... cue a meteorite through the heart.
  • No Man of Woman Born: In "More Things on Heaven and Earth", one person is supposed to die one year after accepting some important position. George calls Azazel, who makes it so nothing on Earth can harm him. Once the person is convinced that this is the case, he accepts the position. One year passes and he gets a meteorite through his heart.
  • Our Demons Are Different: Azazel is just out to help people... but his poor understanding of humanity and rather incompetent human intermediary tend to cause it to fail hilariously. Though he may actually just be a Sufficiently Advanced Alien. Also, he's only two centimeters tall, and George may be making him up.
  • Our Slogan Is Terrible: One story features the slogan "Shrink the Stink!" which is then inexplicably successful.
  • Own Goal: "The Two-Centimeter Demon" has George ask the Azazel to make his friend a better basketball player. The demon adjusts the reflexes to the point that the ball always flies into the basket as soon as it touches the guy's hands... problem is, George, while explaining the rules, forgot to mention that you're only supposed to hit one of the baskets. Once the coach almost strangles the poor player, he's forced to quit.
  • Perfection Is Addictive: "One Night of Song" is about a man who wished for his ex to sing perfectly for one night. The narrator claims that the woman herself never sang afterwards, but for the audience, they had it far worse. He, himself, cannot listen to any music now, and as for the guy whose idea it was, he has to walk around with earplugs.
  • Pheromones: "To the Victor" has Azazel grant the power to produce these to a man who has problems with girls. The girls are all so jealous of each other that he ends up forced to marry the strongest one.
  • Psychoactive Powers: One story involves an irritating atheist given a Jet Pack and told that it's powered by his belief in science and logic. The problem is, those who see him flying call it a miracle, and convince him it's one too, making him incapable of using it again.
  • Pygmalion Plot: The appropriately titled "Galatea" has a Gender Flip.
  • Self-Deprecation: The stories always begin with the author having lunch with George, who constantly insults him and then proceeds to run out on the check (sometimes even borrowing money from Asimov) at the end of the story. In fact, just in case the reader missed it (the stories never explicitly state that the narrator is Asimov himself), he makes a point of saying so in the introduction to the anthology.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Alien: 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. His role in the story is to cause some crazy personal disaster in the interests of helping someone out.
  • Super Gullible: "The Mind's Construction" is about a police detective who believes the most ridiculous stories told by the suspects (like a shop robber saying that the owner gave him a gun and started putting money in his pockets). The titular demon makes him a Living Lie Detector to compensate... causes some problems with his girlfriend, but that's another matter.
  • Unreliable Narrator: One of the central conceits of the stories is that they're being told to an Author Avatar of Asimov by an Unreliable Narrator who may or may not just be making them up entirely.
  • Walking Techbane: Menander from "Saving Humanity" wants to save humanity after years of causing damage as The Jinx, so Azazel remakes him into a Jinx for computers only, so that one day he can help avert an A.I. Is a Crapshoot scenario.