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Literature / The Return of the Black Widowers

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Published in 2003 and edited by Charles Ardai, this book represents the last collection of the Black Widowers written by Isaac Asimov. Each of the previous collections included twelve stories that had previously only been published in magazines and anthologies. Only six new stories had been written by the time he Died During Production, preventing him from finishing the collection.

So the book was entrusted to Ardai, who selected ten "best of" the previously written Black Widower stories, reprinted two additional Black Widower Homages that were commissioned for Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, reprinted the "Birth of the Black Widowers" section from I Asimov A Memoir, and convinced Harlan Ellison to provide a foreword (who, in turn, requested "The Woman In The Bar" be included in the collection).

Works in the collection:

Tropes from the collection:

  • Accidental Misnaming: One of the stories shared by Harlan Ellison in the foreword, is that he would call Dr Asimov and pretend to be different people, who would typically get the name wrong, saying Emisov or Akisov.
  • Affectionate Nickname: During the foreword, Harlan Ellison ends his story by calling Dr Asimov "The Good Doctor".
  • Anthology: This book represents the sixth and last collection of the Black Widowers mysteries.
  • Book Ends: The foreword starts by talking about how Harlan Ellison is still calling Isaac Asimov for advice, despite it being ten years since he was alive. At the end of the foreword, Ellison says that he’ll send Asimov our best when he calls again.
  • Billed Above the Title: Several font sizes are used, and "Isaac" is printed relatively small compared to "Black Widowers", but "Asimov" takes up a quarter of the cover by itself. Much larger than the full name of the work or the small spider that appears on the cover.
  • Covers Always Lie: This book has a mostly plain cover, with a small picture of a spider to reference the Animal Metaphor of their club name.
  • Death Is a Sad Thing: Because Dr Asimov died in 1992, it was known that no additional stories would be added to the Black Widowers files. For this 2003 book, Harlan Ellison writes a pain-filled foreword, about how he still calls Asimov for advice, even ten years later.
  • Dedication: Charles Ardai dedicated this book to Dr Asimov, of course, and to the people who control his estate.
    For Isaac, with love; for Janet, Janet, and Otto, with thanks; and for Michael, because I promised.
  • Disney Owns This Trope: Any time Harlan Ellison’s name appears in the book, it is followed by the registered trademark symbol.
  • Funetik Aksent: In the foreword, Harlan Ellison included a number of phonetically spelled words, such as "howzabout", "gardyloo", and "c'mon".
  • Greatest Hits Album: Out of the sixty Black Widowers stories previously published in collections, ten were chosen as the "best of" the series.
  • Homage:
    • The foreword, written by Harlan Ellison, celebrates the life and writings of Isaac Asimov. Harlan addresses the reader directly, sharing side remarks, self-deprecation, and rambling anecdotes, the same style of narration Dr Asimov would commonly use in his nonfiction.
    • "The Men Who Read Isaac Asimov", by William Brittain, is included under the literal header of "Homage". The story itself directly references Dr Asimov’s prolific writings, and the characters within attempt to Defictionalize the Black Widowers, by having monthly dinners together with the aim of solving problems with conversation.
    • "The Last Story", by Charles Ardai, a new story that takes place in the Black Widowers universe, is included under the header of "Commemoration". The story itself talks about an anthology, with a famous author-turned-editor, who had recently died. The publishers naturally wish to honour the author and publish the anthology, but the story submitted by Dr Asimov is missing, and leaving it out would mean the anthology was one story short.
  • Orphaned Series: This collection was only half-finished when Dr Asimov's death prevented the additional stories being written. To subvert this trope, the Asimov Estate gave Charles Ardai permission to edit a satisfying conclusion to the series.
  • Pastiche: "The Men Who Read Isaac Asimov", by William Brittain, directly references Dr Asimov’s prolific writings, and the characters within attempt to Defictionalize the Black Widowers. The host has invited a guest with a puzzle, and together they try to solve it. Naturally, it is the person who serves their drinks who solves the puzzle for them.
  • Second-Person Narration: The foreword by Harlan Ellison addresses the reader directly, with side remarks, Self-Deprecation, and rambling anecdotes, the same style of narration Dr Asimov would use in his nonfiction.