Isaac Asimov: Short Stories Vol.1

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Isaac Asimov Short Stories Vol.1
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    Short Stories Vol.1
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Complete Stories
By Isaac Asimov

FOUNDATION, DOUBLEDAY, and the portrayal of the letter F are trademarks of Doubleday, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc.

All of the characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

This volume contains the complete contents of the previously published collections Earth Is Room Enough, Nine Tomorrows, and Nightfall and Other Stories.

This edition copyright (c) 1990 by Nightfall, Inc.

All Rights Reserved

Printed in the United States of America

ISBH 0-385-41606-7


Introduction vii

The Dead Past 3

The Foundation of S.F. Success 41

Franchise 43

Gimmicks Three 57

Kid Stuff 62

The Watery Place 73

Living Space 77

The Message 89

Satisfaction Guaranteed 91

Hell-Fire 104

The Last Trump 106

The Fun They Had 120

Jokester 123

The Immortal Bard 135

Someday 138

The Author's Ordeal 146

Dreaming Is a Private Thing 149

Profession 162

The Feeling of Power 208

The Dying Night 217

I'm in Marsport Without Hilda 239

The Gentle Vultures 250

All the Troubles of the World 263

Spell My Name with an S 277

The Last Question 290

The Ugly Little Boy 301

Nightfall 334

Green Patches 363

Hostess 376

"Breeds There a Man . . . ?" 408

C-Chute 438

"In a Good Cause-" 468

What If- 489

Sally 500

Flies 515

"Nobody Here but-" 521

It's Such a Beautiful Day 531

Strikebreaker 550

Insert Knob A in Hole B 561

The Up-to-Date Sorcerer 563

Unto the Fourth Generation 575

What Is This Thing Called Love? 582

The Machine That Won the War 593

My Son, the Physicist 598

Eyes Do More than See 602

Segregationist 605

I Just Make Them Up, See! 610

Rejection Slips 613


I have been writing short stories for fifty-one years and I haven't yet quit. In addition to the hundreds of short stories I have published, there are at least a dozen in press waiting to be published, and two stories written and not yet submitted. So I have by no means retired.

There is, however, no way one can publish short stories for this length of time without understanding that the time left to him is limited. In the words of the song: "Forevermore is shorter than before."

It is time, therefore, for Doubleday to pull the strings together and get all my fiction-short stories and novels, too-into a definitive form and in uniform bindings, both in hard and soft covers.

It may sound conceited of me to say so (I am frequently accused of being conceited), but my fiction generally has been popular from the start and has continued to be well received through the years. To locate any one story, however, that you no longer have and wish you did, or to find one you have heard about but have missed is no easy task. My stories appeared originally in any one of many magazines, the original issues of which are all but unobtainable. They then appeared in any of a multiplicity of anthologies and collections, copies of which are almost as unobtainable.

It is Doubleday's intention to make this multivolume collection definitive and uniform in the hope that the science fiction public, the mystery public (for my many mysteries will also be collected), and libraries as well will seize upon them ravenously and clear their book shelves to make room for Isaac Asimav: The Complete Stories.

We begin in this volume with two of my early collections from the 1950s, Earth Is Room Enough and Nine Tomorrows.

The former includes such favorites of mine as "Franchise," which deals with the ultimate election day; "Living Space," which gives every family a world of its own; "The Fun They Had," my most anthologized story; "Jokester," whose ending I bet you don't anticipate if you've never read the story before; and "Dreaming Is a Private Thing," concerning which Robert A. Heinlein accused me of making money out of my own neuroses.

Nine Tomorrows, the personal favorite of all my collections, contains not one story I don't consider to be excellent examples of my productions of the 1950s. In particular, there is "The Last Question," which, of all the stories I have written, is my absolute favorite.

Then there is "The Ugly Little Boy," my third-favorite story. My tales tend to be cerebral, but I count on this one to bring about a tear or two. (To find out which is the second-favorite of my stories, you'll have to read successive volumes of this collection.) "The Feeling of Power" is another frequently anthologized piece and is rather prophetic, considering it was written before anyone was thinking of pocket computers. "All the Troubles of the World" is a suspense story and "The Dying Night" is a mystery based, alas, on an astronomical "fact" now known to be quite mistaken.

Then there is a later collection included here, Nightfall and Other Stories, which features "Nightfall," a story that many readers and the Science Fiction Writers of America have voted the best science fiction story ever written (I don't think so, but it would be impolite to argue). Other favorites of mine are " 'Breeds There a Man . . . ?' ", which is rather chilling; "Sally," which expresses my feelings about automobiles; "Strikebreaker," which I consider much underappreciated; and "Eyes Do More than See," a short heartstring wrencher.

There'll be more volumes, but begin by reading this one. You will make an old man very happy, you know.


New York City

March 1990



Volume 1

The Dead Past

Arnold Potterley, Ph.D., was a Professor of Ancient History. That, in itself, was not dangerous. What changed the world beyond all dreams was the fact that he looked like a Professor of Ancient History.

Thaddeus Araman, Department Head of the Division of Chronoscopy, might have taken proper action if Dr. Potterley had been owner .of a large, square chin, flashing eyes, aquiline nose and broad shoulders.

As it was, Thaddeus Araman found himself staring over his desk at a mild-mannered individual, whose faded blue eyes looked at him wistfully from either side of a low-bridged button nose; whose small, neatly dressed figure seemed stamped "milk-and-water" from thinning brown hair to the neatly brushed shoes that completed a conservative middle-class costume.

Araman said pleasantly, "And now what can I do for you, Dr. Potterley?"

Dr. Potterley said in a soft voice that went well with the rest of him, "Mr. Araman, I came to you because you're top man in chronoscopy."

Araman smiled. "Not exactly. Above me is the World Commissioner of Research and above him is the Secretary-General of the United Nations. And above both of them, of course, are the sovereign peoples of Earth."

Dr. Potterley shook his head. "They're not interested in chronoscopy. I've come to you, sir, because for two years I have been trying to obtain permission to do some time viewing-chronoscopy, that is-in connection with my researches on ancient Carthage. I can't obtain such permission. My research grants are all proper. There is no irregularity in any of my intellectual endeavors and yet-"

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