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Literature / Tales of the Black Widowers

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Published in 1974, this book represents the first collection of the Black Widowers written by Isaac Asimov. Most of the stories were originally published in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, but three stories are brand-new, published here for the first time ever!

The Dedication is given to the three sources of inspiration for the series, along with a special note about the changes suggested by his editor to the stories. The introduction explains how the Trap-Door Spiders, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, and David Ford each inspired the creation of the Black Widowers. Each story is followed by a short afterword to explain how the story was written/changed and how fans had responded to the stories.

Works in the collection:

Tropes from the collection:

  • The Annotated Edition: This collection has an introduction to explain the inspiration for the series, and an afterword for each story to explain more details about the publication.
  • Anthology: This book represents the first collection of the Black Widowers mysteries.
  • Covers Always Lie:
    • There are several different covers for this book, due to foreign language printings and reprintings, but most tend to feature a spider to reference the Animal Metaphor of their club name.
    • The Italian translation by Mario Fois retains the spider, but moves it next to the author's name. The book's image is of a tea cup and tea pot.
    • The Spanish translation by Alianza Editorial neglects the spider, but has an eye looking through a keyhole.
    • The French translation by Michèle Valencia has several men dressed in identical fancy red suit jackets sitting down in a fancy restaurant. Only inaccurate due to the private room that the Widowers mention.
    • The Persian translation by Farzaneh Taheri neglects the spider, but has a man walking down a fancy staircase.
    • The Portuguese translation by Ulisseia retains the spider, and places it in front of a leather armchair with a crystal ashtray holding a cigar.
    • The first Dutch translation by Heleen ten Holt features a very unusually drawn spider as the cover. The second translation by Heleen ten Holt neglects the spider, but has a man seated in a comfy armchair in front of the fire to imply the armchair detective nature of the stories.
    • The Kindle edition features an army of robots and rundown city buildings. Remember, this is a series with no Science Fiction whatsoever.
  • Design Student's Orgasm: One of the covers features a large spider, with seven human faces (one for each of the members) instead of eyes.
  • Grand Staircase Entrance: The cover of the Persian translation has a man in a suit walking down a wide fancy staircase.
  • Hardboiled Detective: invoked Discussed Trope in the introduction, where Dr Asimov contrasts this type of Mystery Fiction with Hercule Poirot, which is his favourite type of mystery.
  • Orwellian Retcon: Dr Asimov admits that he's rewritten several of the stories compared to their original printing, mostly due to the way the stories sound redundant when describing characters the same way in short succession.
  • Sci Fi Ghetto: invoked Discussed Trope in the introduction, where Dr Asimov talks about readers who write him questions about why a Science Fiction writer thinks he can write about Shakespeare, why a chemist thinks he can write about history, why a Shakespeare scholar would bother with Science Fiction, why a historian would bother writing chemistry essays, and so on, ad nauseam it would seem.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Strictly Formula: The Black Widowers club stories had an obvious formula that allowed Dr Asimov to create the rest of the script as a logic puzzle. The Widowers meet in the Milano with a guest. They drink, then dine, waited upon by Henry. The guest is interviewed and a mystery revealed. The Widowers discuss possible solutions, all are shot down by the interviewee. Then Henry asks one or two questions before revealing the answer. The general formula is always intact, but usually played with. Henry doesn't even solve the first case; he was the criminal in question. Several cases have the guest around to confirm the solution to a mystery presented by one of the other members.
  • Tagline:
    • "Fascinating tales of mystery by the master of science fiction."
    • "Detection in the classic tradition by the world's master storyteller."
    • "The master of science fiction now creates fascinating tales of mystery."
  • This Is a Work of Fiction: During the introduction, Dr Asimov admits that the Black Widowers club is based on the Trap Door Spiders club (which he joined after moving back to Manhattan), but then immediately clarifies that readers should not assume any of the characters or events are based on anything other than his own imagination.