Anniversary

It was one of those moments that sticks with you.

Not one of the big ones, mind, the ones that everybody is supposed to remember: Martin Luther King’s assassination, Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk, the Columbine shootings, Challenger exploding. No, this was one of the little ones, the ones that mean something to only a few people, or even only one.

In my case, I was popping into the Burger King on El Camino Real in Sunnyvale, and something in a newspaper vending machine caught my eye. There it was, on the front page of the San Jose Mercury News: Isaac Asimov had died.

His death wasn’t entirely a surprise by any means. He had been ill for quite some time. Forward the Foundation was being serialized in Asimov’s Science Fiction with the understanding that he might die before it was finished, and he had given up his essay column in F&SF. Still—

I think what I miss most is his science writing. Of all the things he wrote, his explanations of science have proven the most ephemeral, because science moves ever forward. New things become known, and old perspectives change. The past twenty years have seen enormous advances, particularly in astronomy. Why, we even have a space probe orbiting Vesta, the setting for Asimov’s first sale. (No word from NASA on whether or not the wreck of the Silver Queen has been spotted.) How wonderful it would be to settle in to an easy chair and read the Good Doctor waxing eloquent about string theory or Uranus, the rings of Saturn in all their incredible complexity, or small robots indefatigably working their way across the Martian sands.

As for me, I’m grateful: grateful to have been enlightened and entertained; grateful for brief, fleeting contacts; grateful for endless summer days, cat in lap and book in hand; and grateful to have my life improved by this remarkable man.

Let me then propose a toast as we all raise our glasses of Martian Jabra water: Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the irreplaceable author we used to have.

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