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Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Asimov: portrait of a supergamma

The man who set the stage for modern science fiction in so many ways:
If you wanted to construct the most productive writer who ever lived, based solely on first principles, the result would look a lot like Asimov. He emerged in the pulp magazines of the 1930s, which rewarded writers who could generate reams of publishable prose on demand; he eventually learned to produce serviceable material after only two drafts. Asimov was a rapid typist; he was fond of enclosed spaces and hated to travel; he had a prodigious memory; and he specialized in popular science texts that could be researched straight from the dictionary, encyclopedia, or other common reference books.

When the playwright David Mamet was asked about his writing routine by John Lahr in The Paris Review, he said, “I’ve got to do it, anyway. Like beavers, you know. They chop, they eat wood, because, if they don’t, their teeth grow too long and they die. And they hate the sound of running water. Drives them crazy. So, if you put those two ideas together, they are going to build dams.” One could say much the same about Asimov, whose existing tendencies were enlarged—by fame, a receptive audience, and supportive publishers—into a career that bears the same relation to the output of most writers that the Great Wall does to the work of the average beaver.

When you consider Asimov’s treatment of women, you find an identical pattern. As a young man, he was shy and romantically inexperienced, which was reflected in the overwhelming absence of female characters in his fiction. He openly stated that his relationship with his first wife was sexually unfulfilling, and it was shortly after his marriage that his fingers began to rove more freely. While working as a chemist at the Philadelphia Navy Yard during World War II, he liked to snap women’s bras through their blouses—“a very bad habit I sometimes can’t resist to this day,” he recalled in 1979—and on at least one occasion, he broke the strap.

After the war, his reputation as a groper became a running joke among science fiction fans. The writer and editor Judith Merril recalled that Asimov was known in the 1940s as “the man with a hundred hands,” and that he “apparently felt obliged to leer, ogle, pat, and proposition as an act of sociability.” Asimov, in turn, described Merril as “the kind of girl who, when her rear end was patted by a man, patted the rear end of the patter,” although she remembered the episode rather differently: “The third or fourth time his hand patted my rear end, I reached out to clutch his crotch.”

It was all framed as nothing but good fun, as were his interactions with women once his success as an author allowed him to proceed with greater impunity. He writes in his memoirs of his custom of “hugging all the young ladies” at his publisher’s office, which was viewed indulgently by such editors as Timothy Seldes of Doubleday, who said, “All you want to do is kiss the girls and make collect calls. You’re welcome to that, Asimov.” In reality, his attentions were often unwanted, and women found excuses to be away from the building whenever he was scheduled to appear.
Given the psychosexual issues and socio-sexual shortcomings of Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and Arthur C. Clarke, it's not at all hard to understand why the two or three generations of boys who grew up reading them, and were influenced by them, featured so many sexually maladjusted individuals.

I think I was fortunate in that although I read all three of them, I was much more influenced by their contemporary, Jerry Pournelle, who, despite his prodigious IQ, was the only socio-sexually normal one of the four of them. Even as a boy, the two things that most struck me about Asimov was a) his infelicitous names for his characters, and b) his total inability to describe women or intersexual relations.

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83 Comments:

Blogger RobertDWood January 08, 2020 12:16 PM  

I am blessed to have grown up with Orsen Scott Card and the mixed bag of the Star Wars EU during formative years.
These types of men reek of sulfur when the writing is read aloud. Audiobooks turned me off of Asimov and Heinlein both.

Blogger rognuald January 08, 2020 12:25 PM  

So here we have examples of gamma authors and Tom Clancy seems like a Delta author. Are there examples of alpha and bravo authors/fiction? I know little about him, but maybe Hemingway as an alpha?

Blogger Owen January 08, 2020 12:28 PM  

Card is a national treasure, whatever his flaws.

Blogger xevious2030 January 08, 2020 12:28 PM  

Brings his abject hatred of the Mule into focus.

Blogger thechortling January 08, 2020 12:31 PM  

Read a lot of Edgar Rice Burroughs growing up. Asimov was a bore. Heinlein was tolerable. I read Donaldson's Thomas Covenant BS and was so turned off of scifi, I ended up moving on to L'amour. I'd never thought of it in terms of ssh but it makes sense.

Blogger Desdichado January 08, 2020 12:33 PM  

Louis L'Amour is the quintessential alpha author.

Blogger Unknown January 08, 2020 12:35 PM  

I witnessed his groping in person at our college radio station in the early 1980s. Asimov spoke on campus and agreed to do the interview if the young woman from the student newspaper came along and sat next to him. She ended up practically on his lap in the small studio. It struck me at the time as pretty creepy.

Blogger The Course of Empire January 08, 2020 12:38 PM  

Is it any wonder Asimov's son turned out to be a pedophile.

Blogger cecilhenry January 08, 2020 12:38 PM  

There have been insinuations about Arthur C Clarke who lived in Sri Lanka and his sexual behavior.


He said many comments which appear to support pedophilia, and evidently had a reputation in this regard.


https://www.independent.co.uk/news/arthur-c-clarke-case-investigated-1145468.html

Blogger Unknown January 08, 2020 12:49 PM  

I did not ever think of R.A.H. as being a Gamma. He graduated Canoe U. and would have served his 20 if fate had not thrown him a curve. His relationship with his wife,(what little I've read of it), seems far more involved and mature than Asimov's. And, his female characters are anything but stereotyped women of the age. Not sure, where Gamma comes from. Sigma, I'd agree with.

Blogger Keith January 08, 2020 12:49 PM  

>Card is a national treasure

I used to live in his home town, and it was cool seeing his regular column in the local community paper.

Blogger Zaklog the Great January 08, 2020 12:54 PM  

Apparently as soon as President Trump converts to Judaism his comments on the Billy Bush tape will be swept under the rug.

I read a lot of Asimov as a kid. Not sure how it shaped my thinking and personality. I fear I was once a gamma, but if so, I seem to have found my way out. If I have no other evidence, I’ve been commenting here for 4-5 years and Vox has not yet banned me.

Blogger Scott January 08, 2020 12:54 PM  

Every scene written by Isaac Asimov:

Scientist: "I'm a scientist, dammit! Do what I tell you!"

Newspaperman: "I can't do that! I'm a newspaperman, dammit!"

The newspaperman and scientist rush each other, grab their shoulders, and glare each other down.

A third man enters the room and breaks them apart.

Politician: "Enough of that you fools! I'm a politician, dammit!"

Blogger tublecane January 08, 2020 12:58 PM  

I didn't grow up reading any of the three, but in young adulthood was heavily into Heinlein. It was obvious to me the sex was screwy in Moon Is a Harsh Mistress and Stranger in a Strange Land. There's no way one could fail to notice, I think, unless he were young and naive.

One thing I did read as a kid was Piers Anthony. His Xanth novels have this elaborate way of dealing with the sex issue by calling it the Adult Conspiracy for the uninitiated. On their wedding nights characters "summon the stork," which isn't mechanically described. But we are told that there's something very special about a woman's choice of underwear. Which led to one entry in the series being titled the Color of Her Panties. My parents didn't appreciate it.

That series was relatively kid-friendly. Another had a character shower in front of a female houseguest to assure she knew he had developed you-know-what.

Blogger Henry Lee January 08, 2020 12:59 PM  

Your three were the greats of my primary Sci-fi days. I read a lot of Asimov and some Clarke but found them dry and lacking depth of characterization. I learned a lot from Asimov's non-fiction books. One of them had Pi to the then known largest number of digits. A colleague and I used different computers (this was the 60's) and different formulae to see how many iterations it took before the various methods differed.

Heinlein was the only author whose books I have ever bought new in hardback until "I Will Fear No Evil". After that, only "Friday" and "J.O.B." were of any interest to me. His later novels were too far out. I still reread his earlier adult novels from time to time. To me, Heinlein is like Stephen King and Robert B. Parker. You read him for the dialog and interaction of characters rather than the story.

Blogger Desdichado January 08, 2020 1:02 PM  

It makes me wonder if there is something about the upbringing and culture of the Diaspora Jews that tend to drive them towards gamma behavior. Their superiority cult tends to make them entitled and pushy, and their assumed superiority when they know at some level that they don't have the goods tends to make them brittle and self-conscious. The two together makes for loads of gammas in larval stage. The fact that they also tend to have stereotypically brash, pushy, entitled mother figures probably finishes the job for an awful lot of them.

Blogger tublecane January 08, 2020 1:09 PM  

Kingsley Amis, who definitely knew how to write female characters, had a book about sci-fi called New Maps of Hell. Or not about sci-fi as such, but about what interested him as a fan. Which definitely wasn't the hard side.

Anyway, he commented upon how the sex subject was left largely unexplored. Authors willing to turn society inside out, but not the sex part. No men laying eggs stories, for instance. This was in like 1959, mind you.

The reason I bring it up is because Amis might not have been aware what kind of weirdos he was dealing with. It would be difficult for socio-sexual losers to write about sex as they did politics or technology, because if they were honest about how they'd prefer things to be, they'd lose the audience. If they took as a starting point reality as it is, they'd fail for lack of understanding.

Blogger Rex Leroy King January 08, 2020 1:16 PM  

Poul Anderson was nearly as prolific, a better writer at every level, and depicted the sexes reasonably well, given his libertarian leanings.

Blogger Rex Leroy King January 08, 2020 1:17 PM  

Desdichado wrote:It makes me wonder if there is something about the upbringing and culture of the Diaspora Jews that tend to drive them towards gamma behavior.

Why strive to find an answer in nurture when there are obvious answers in nature?

Blogger Longtime Lurker January 08, 2020 1:20 PM  

Apparently Asimov never got his ass kicked when he needed it most.

Blogger Scott January 08, 2020 1:31 PM  

After reading Starship Troopers, I find it difficult to believe Heinlein was anything lower than Delta.

Blogger Doktor Jeep January 08, 2020 1:34 PM  

Never could get into Asimov.

But reading that, I just realized why gammas are "subject experts". It's so they get high enough status through their expertise to operate with impunity. Harvey Weinstein for example.
Too bad many of them choose subjects that nobody cares about, or are by those involved total sausage fests. For the latter case, if there is just one woman around the gamma who thinks he the expert...or king...will act like he's entitled.

Blogger rycamor January 08, 2020 1:35 PM  

The first Asimov story I read as a kid was "The Stars, Like Dust." I still regard it fondly as representing sci-fi's innocent period. A nice action space opera with a little wholesome romance and intrigue. The protagonist was a decent Delta fellow who had to step up and be the hero. In some ways I think it even inspired Star Wars.

Unfortunately, it set me up with very unrealistic expectations of Asimov, which were to be progressively more disappointed, as his twisted psyche began to reveal itself more in each later story. By the time I got to the end of the Foundation series I was almost sick of all sci-fi. Thank God the only Heinlein stories I read as a kid were the juvies.

Blogger Stilicho January 08, 2020 1:39 PM  

Mule-y Sue Asimov

Blogger Brick Hardslab January 08, 2020 1:40 PM  

Asimov was a chore to read. Heinlein's sexual crap was off putting And if skim over it if I could. He had a weird thing for incest and I couldn't wrap my head around what his character was thinking.

Blogger Desdichado January 08, 2020 1:53 PM  

Rex Leroy King wrote:Why strive to find an answer in nurture when there are obvious answers in nature?

Because of Israeli men, who are much less gamma in general.

Blogger Snidely Whiplash January 08, 2020 2:02 PM  

Unknown wrote:His relationship with his wife,(what little I've read of it), seems far more involved and mature than Asimov's.
Heinlein was in an open marriage, and was into swinging and group sex. He also had an obsession with incest, verging well into the pathological.

Clarke was not subject to "insinuation". He was a well-known pederast who moved to Sri Lanka because it was easy to buy young boys there without attracting the attention of the police.

Blogger God Emperor Memes January 08, 2020 2:03 PM  

Do Alphas write fiction? Most of the obviously-Alpha books I've seen are sports autobiographies.

Blogger JohnofAustria January 08, 2020 2:03 PM  

Same, Burroughs was awesome. Ditto L'amour.

Blogger rycamor January 08, 2020 2:08 PM  

The Golden Age of sci-fi was when editors restrained the writers from revealing what was really going on in their freakish minds. That ended in the 60s, and we can easily see the results.

Now, to be fair there has been plenty of good SF without sexually twisted gamma wish fulfillment or worse, but very little of it gives a young man a realistic idea of how the sexes interact. Which is why no father should let his son read a steady diet of only sci-fi.

Blogger Longtime Lurker January 08, 2020 2:09 PM  

@21: Read The Cat Who Walked Through Walls. You'll see what Vox meant.

Blogger YehudaL January 08, 2020 2:11 PM  

@Desdichado that's a great analysis. These people get on my (Israeli) nerves whenever I read about them, mostly on this site.

Having said that, off to the ADL with you, raciss antisemite.
Noticing interesting patterns is not who you are, or so I've heard.

Blogger Constantin January 08, 2020 2:18 PM  

The character of Susan Calvin makes a whole lot of sense now.

Vox is right, pay close enough attention to how an author treats his female characters and their relationship to men in his books, and you can make a fairly accurate assessment of his position in the SSH. I'll stick with my "low-brow" Science fiction books, with masculine protagonists and actual female characters, thank you very much mr. Asimov.

Blogger VD January 08, 2020 2:35 PM  

I did not ever think of R.A.H. as being a Gamma.

The way Heinlein's characters would overreact and melodramatically threaten to break up a relationship every time a woman said or did anything that could be considered to have disrespected him was textbook Gamma masquerading as Alpha.

Even as a high school reader, I was rolling my eyes and wondering what the hell was wrong with the guy. Notice, too, that despite the male melodramatics, all of the relationships are forever. Because Gamma.

Blogger Michael D. January 08, 2020 2:42 PM  

What I've read of Asimov was remarkably dry and shallow. Summaries of his novels make them sound great, but actually reading them is another thing entirely. Just compare Foundation with (thematically somewhat similar) Dune. It's like comparing airport romance novel with Tolstoy.

Blogger Nate73 January 08, 2020 2:47 PM  

Once in awhile I'll see a clip from a Star Trek episode and be reminded just how weird and awkward sex was portrayed on there. By the time Voyager rolled around it had gotten so bad it was basically clown world.
Example: In "Blood Fever" a vulcan character goes through Pon Farr which is eerily similar to Asimov (long period of asexuality followed by uncontrollable sexual urges). He awkwardly asks out Torres, she refuses, but not before she bonds with him mentally so then she has the same thing. Tom declares he won't take advantage of her in her frenzied state despite his feelings toward her, then it all wraps up with Torres beating the vulcan into unconsciousness to clear out the bad feelz.

And this is just one episode.

Blogger CarpeOro January 08, 2020 2:49 PM  

Looking back, while I thought Asimov was okay I was never stoked that there was a new book out by him. Same with Heinlein. Jerry Pournelle I bought as soon as I saw them and would peruse used book shops for his and some other author's works (H. Beam Piper, REH, ERB, Alan Burt Akers).

The only reason I can think that they didn't trigger gut instinct to avoid is that I read books that my father had by them. Not the later trash from Heinlein but earlier stuff (probably fell in his YA ouvre).

Blogger Azure Amaranthine January 08, 2020 2:51 PM  

A gamma can still write a Nietzschean alien war scenario, it's just less of a common target. Heinlein may not have been a gamma, but he was definitely a deviant and he let it show.

Asimov turned me off, being usually so dry and pointedly devoid of human interaction. Him being unable to have normal human relationships or abide by basic standards of decency is unsurprising.

Clark struck me as some kind of perv a chapter or so into Rendezvous with Rama, although not overtly, there was just something wrong and gross about his characters and aliens both. Took it back to the library and never picked up any work by him again.

One of those wrote a story about colonists so genetically bottlenecked, or perhaps mentally unstable, that a father and son both saw each other as copies of themself and the son killed the father because of something along the lines of "there's only space for one of me" or whatever particularly fucked up reason. I forget which one of them, but it stank of sulfur even to young me enough to turn me away from the big three yet again. Patricide because of self-insecurity isn't anything any normal young man wants to read, and those who might appreciate it should by no means be allowed to.

Easily my favorite sort of sci-fi fell into Burroughs territory, stuff like a captive gladiator simultaneously saving a woman and winning his freedom in an alien colosseum, fighting giant genetically modified preying mantids and other creatures. Second in line were things like Slaan by Vogt, who often covered very interesting scenarios and while likely not alpha had very charming characterization and relationships when he bothered to go into any detail on it.

Blogger Newscaper312 January 08, 2020 3:05 PM  

@30 rycamor
I have enjoyed some SF shows with M/F relationships, ones that appealed to sane female viewers -- Farscape, Babylon 5.
So I would like some SF with a bit of a romance, but is is few and far between at lest with a male protagonist.
A couple of times I have tried female SF authors touted for that, but couldn't stomach it -- too much just a romance novel with an SF setting.

I always think it is funny -and terribly unjust- that men are always labeled the skirt-chasing horndogs, but its is *women* who are the ones who LOVE the whole 'torn between two lovers' garbage.

Blogger Hank Archer January 08, 2020 3:08 PM  

Chesterton would certainly give Asimov a battle for the title "most productive writer who ever lived."

Blogger Oswald January 08, 2020 3:18 PM  

I read Adolf Hitler.

Blogger Unknown January 08, 2020 3:19 PM  

Card also seemed to understand that nationhood matters.

His future doesn't include a humanity fully unified under a multicultural banner. Rather, he articulates an association of planets that retain distinct and sovereign nationalities.

Blogger Mr.MantraMan January 08, 2020 3:27 PM  

Speaking of possible pervs in case you gents don't peruse twitter, Cerno is going on about Paul Krugman tweeting that Krugman thinks his computer was hacked and CP was placed on it by Qanon.

Blogger Careless Whisper January 08, 2020 3:28 PM  

they also tend to have stereotypically brash, pushy, entitled mother figures

"Son of a bitch" is the previous generation's term for gamma, I'm convinced.

Blogger Akulkis January 08, 2020 3:43 PM  

"It makes me wonder if there is something about the upbringing and culture of the Diaspora Jews that tend to drive them towards gamma behavior. Their superiority cult tends to make them entitled and pushy, and their assumed superiority when they know at some level that they don't have the goods tends to make them brittle and self-conscious."

Yeah. Study of the Talmud.


It's primarily a book of arguments and counter-arguments. And these back and forth arguments are to the point of splitting hairs. And nothing is more gamma than splitting hairs. (Why yes, that rule makes sense, but, not for my special situation, for which there should be either a codified exception, or even a wholesale reversal of the law, for I am the secret philospher-king! Bow down and kiss the bottoms of my sandals!!!one!!!)

After Judea was taken into captivity by the Babylonians, the priests (tribe of Levi) were all killed off. So, in their place, the judicial class took over as the community leaders. You'll notice that the Talmud is full of all sorts of arguments and counter-arguments.

And they study the Talmud as a book with MORE importance than not only the "Written Torah" (i.e. what we call the Old Testament) but even the Pentateuch, which includes Leviticus, which is THE BOOK of the Law.

And so, their society was taken over by the lawyers/judges/lawgivers as the ONLY authorities on anything.

Study of the Talmud leads to:
A) "Two Jews/Three Opinions"

B) Your Jewish neighbor, being annoyed about some minor thing you do, or about your yard, rather than talking to you about it so you can come to a mutually satisfactory solution, instead, as a first step, either
1) Calls the police
or
2) Files a lawsuit (and your summons becomes the first time that you're even given a hint that your neighbor is unhappy about whatever it is).

Now pile pilpul on top of that, which has become a way of life for the "wandering," "rootless" Ashkenazi tribe as a perverse survival strategy of deliberately antagonizing the locals over issues both great & small to instill and strengthen tribal identity.

Why do women need "equal rights" in the workplace? Because wives of Hassidic Jews HAVE to work because the most devout Hassidic Jews refuse to do so.

Why do we have insane divorce laws? Because Jewish women want them, and Jewish men want them for their daughters.

Ditto for no-limits abortion.

Women in the workplace, divorce, and abortion are all foundational principles in Jewish culture. Divorce seems to have been a major cultural value, as it is mentioned in both the Old Testament as being granted only because of rampant pig-headedness, and Jesus makes a similar observation in the New Testament.

Blogger Akulkis January 08, 2020 3:44 PM  

Continued


Not to mention the fact that for the first 150 years of our country, relatively small percentages of the population voted for President or other federal office holders because the federal government had so little impact on their lives that few Americans even cared who was President during many election years.

And why?

Because Jewish culture is so pre-occupied with a law for this and a law for that, that they literally cannot abide by the thought of people doing what they please (unless the law is something like bans on pornography, or liquor sales on Sunday... or anything else that they can sell to degrade the population they are living amongst. Then all of a sudden, they turn from lovers of even micro-managing laws to veritable anarchists.

The whole society is gamma gravy on top of a serving of gamma with a big old scoop of gamma for desert.

Look no further than Hollywood, the newspaper business, TV producers & directors, the financial industry (which had relatively light regulations when American banks were run by gentiles. But once the financial sector became mostly Jewish-run, it suddenly NEEDED a law for every damned aspect because any freedom was interpreted as a license to swindle and commit wholesale fraud).

When they talk about how people can't manage their own affairs, they're not talking about the average American, or even the typical poor American.
They're talking about themselves.

Blogger Silly but True January 08, 2020 3:59 PM  

Card was certainly an entertaining writer but there are odd off-putting ticks in his stories as well; particularly the naked shower duel with Bonzo and the fact that the entire Agatha-Christie-like plot hook of Speaker for the Dead was Marcos’ disintegrating testicles rendering him infertile. I don’t know what these say about Card and this was before my knowledge of sci-fi authors’ personal lives; I wrote it off at time as author just trying to be edgy.

Blogger Akulkis January 08, 2020 4:03 PM  

"I always think it is funny -and terribly unjust- that men are always labeled the skirt-chasing horndogs, but its is *women* who are the ones who LOVE the whole 'torn between two lovers' garbage."

The only two US Presidents who have presented that image are Kennedy and Clinton.

And Miles W. Mathis presents good evidence of both of them being gay.

Now... Gay men generally ARE horndogs (but towards other men, not women).

When they try to pass as straight, they think that normal men think of and behave towards women they same way they (gay men) think of and behave towards other gay men.

Blogger Bernard Korzeniewicz January 08, 2020 4:19 PM  

The Heinlein's Starship Troopers I have had read as a kid was the translation censored by old Polish commie state.
Just for that I braved his other books.
But Assimov "Fundation" tasted like Julies Verne for retards.

Blogger God Emperor Memes January 08, 2020 4:48 PM  

More than Elron?

Blogger Newscaper312 January 08, 2020 4:50 PM  

@1 RobertDWood @3 Owen and @42 Unknown

I think Card's Speaker for the Dead is probably the finest SF true 'sequel' I have ever read, a highly moving followup to a great book, Ender's Game, that successfully makes a major change of gears and transcends its predecessor. And it ends in a way that the lesser quality followups are not really needed.

Note for others, Ender's Game was not just a YA novel, and, yes, the movie dumbed the story down into an anti-war message when the book was far, far more nuanced than that, with a conflict that was tragic in large part because it *was* necessary given what was known.

Blogger Old Griz January 08, 2020 4:57 PM  

The Heinlein juveniles are good because he was constrained by by his editors to leave sex out of them. Once he was unleashed, the sex and romance just got weird. My biggest problem with Heinlein is that the stories held together until suddenly, when the story had reached novel length, the plot would just awkwardly reach an end. The last 10% of his books often sucked.

Blogger Zaklog the Great January 08, 2020 5:05 PM  

@40 Chesterton would certainly give Asimov a battle for the title "most productive writer who ever lived."

And Chesterton will be read long after Isaac Asimov is almost entirely forgotten. Speaking of Chesterton, a sampling of his poetry, as performed by myself.

Blogger Jeroth January 08, 2020 5:07 PM  

Speaking of gammas, Paul Krugman is claiming that a rogue agent is using his computer to download child porn:

Well, I’m on the phone with my computer security service, and as I understand it someone compromised my IP address and is using it to download child pornography. I might just be a random target. But this could be an attempt to Qanon me.

It’s an ugly world out there.


This is almost as flimsy as the Eichenwald tentacle porn defense.

Blogger KeaponLaffin January 08, 2020 5:34 PM  

Have you read other Piers Anthony? The guy is a definite perv. He wrote a short story where it's culturally accepted that a father takes his daughter's virginity. I read him as a young guy too.
Reread his stuff. The guy is a creep.

Blogger Pierre January 08, 2020 5:38 PM  

When I was a teenager I read lots of Asimov but quickly got sick of it because the man just can't write a proper character. Fortunately there are much better writers.

Blogger RedJack January 08, 2020 5:49 PM  

Piers Anthony was decent, till I got really got creeped out by his treatment of sex. Poul Andersen is good.

RAH seemed like he should have being locked up. The man like his girls young and related to him.

Asimov.. Well I liked some of his stuff, but it seemed like an alien trying to write about humans. Which I guess is gamma. His foundation series is classic gamma secret king stuff.

Blogger Sologamer January 08, 2020 5:59 PM  

Curious whether Jack Vance would be considered a gamma. He worked as a carpenter long into his writing career, was happy married, seems like a non-perv and nice guy, if eccentric.

Blogger lazarus long January 08, 2020 7:04 PM  

Heinlein was [Epsilon]

Blogger Damelon Brinn January 08, 2020 7:22 PM  

The first Asimov story I read as a kid was "The Stars, Like Dust." I still regard it fondly as representing sci-fi's innocent period.

Yes, that's a solid little story of the older sci-fi style. Written in 1952, the middle one of the Galactic Empire trilogy. He wrote the original Foundation Trilogy about that time, and a couple years later the first two Elijah Bailey books. All those are straightforward stories with characters that tend to be likable, if not particularly deep.

When he came back to both Foundation and Elijah in the 80s, both got much weirder. Seems like he focused on the characters much more, and they tended to be off-putting and unrealistic, making the stories suffer. Even the robots started to suck.

Blogger John Rockwell January 08, 2020 8:06 PM  

Exhibit 101 on why gammas shouldnt even be able to marry.

Blogger John Rockwell January 08, 2020 8:12 PM  

Those women who would become said mother figures shouldnt even be considered in marriage.

Such Women need to be shunned in the Marriage market place.

Blogger JG January 08, 2020 9:06 PM  

My first science fiction book was "Green Hills of Earth" by Heinlein, a Christmas gift when I was eleven. I read pretty much everything he wrote. I also read almost everything Clark wrote as well, but never really liked Asimov.

RAH, yeah, what a perv. I knew something was off with Clark when he suddenly moved to Sri Lanka.

Blogger Greg Hunt January 08, 2020 9:27 PM  

Amazon recommends Zane Grey for Louis L'Amour readers. Any opinion?

Based upon the above, I'm looking at Louis L'Amour right now. Don't know what to read first as a starter. Recommendations?

Blogger Joe January 08, 2020 9:47 PM  

Lots of good stuff here, thanks for the posts.
Took me back.
To all those who pointed out loosening constraints on writers ruined writers...props to you. You're correct.
Regarding the talent:
Vance was a talented writer, showed flashes of brilliance (short stuff is his best, IMHO), downside, he's too Dunsanian, let Dunsany do Dunsany. He also had too much violence against women in his work. A kind of inversion of Tolkien's eucatastrophy, very disturbing to me. Tried to read the Lyonesse Triology (great idea), threw it down after the first volume. Very perverse
Asimov was a creep, saw him as a teenager at PMC College, I remember trying to be impressed, but thinking, "My dad and his friends would not like this guy." My mom didn't like him either. Very weird vibes from the audience also. His best fiction was his detective stories, I remember reading The Gods Themselves and thinking how much it sucked. It won a Hugo, who here has read it? Very depressing book.
Props to all who mention ERB and Louie L'amour (also Zane Grey), great writers. Westerns/historical fiction are really close to Fantasy/Heroic Fiction; read, Year of the Horsetails, or, The Religion; you'll see.
ACClark also sucks
As does L Sprague de Camp. He almost single handedly ruined Fantasy, fucked it up to this day.
Robert H was a loon
REH is an unappreciated legend. Get the DelRay volumes of his work, start from Kull and go forward, and you'll have the development of a soul before you. Dad was an occultist (he's the black guy in Kull), mom was a Cathoic (Howard was a Catholic/crypto-Catholic).This dynamic conflict informed his work. His works end with the heroic fiction of El Borak (The Swift), probably Howard's best work. Basically, a Texas Catholic (Francis Xavier Gordon, note the Jesuit influence) seeks adventure; I wonder, who could that Texas Catholic be?
Great stuff here, thanks for the posts.

Blogger Joe January 08, 2020 9:48 PM  

Zane Grey ROCKS!

Blogger Rex Little January 08, 2020 9:49 PM  

Heinlein's characters would overreact and melodramatically threaten to break up a relationship every time a woman said or did anything that could be considered to have disrespected him

Vox, could you cite an example of this? I've read almost everything Heinlein wrote (except most of what came after Number of the Beast) and can't remember any such. Granted, it's been decades since I read most of them, and my memory is no better than you'd expect at my age.

If you can just mention a book title, I can probably dig it out of my collection and find the incident.

Blogger Joe January 08, 2020 9:56 PM  

Riders of the Purple Sage - Grey (it's all good)
https://booklovinmamas.com/best-louis-lamour-books/ - For Louie. Read them all, it's all good.

Blogger Nostromo January 08, 2020 9:57 PM  

Card is fomulaic, but so is coca-cola. If it's a good formula, don't eff with it.

Blogger Hammerli 280 January 08, 2020 10:17 PM  

@52: I agree. Heinlein's YA books were masterful. After Starship Troopers...well, he went off the rails. I'm not sure I'd describe him as Gamma, but he had definite Gamma tendencies. Notably pedestalizing women.

Dr. Pournelle impressed me. Greatly. A truly formidable intellect.

Although I have to say that the writer who influenced me most was Doc Smith. For good or ill.

Blogger Robert Pinkerton January 08, 2020 10:55 PM  

I am told that Heinlein was a Freemason. Is this accurate? If yes, what kind of bearing might that have on his writing?

Blogger Vaughan Williams January 09, 2020 12:24 AM  

Ralph Rene was either a Sigma or a Delta with an unusually high lay count. In the 1950's or 60's, he told me, he attended a party where Isaac Asimov was the featured guest. He got kicked out of the party for physically grabbing Asimov by the throat and ordering him to stay away from the girls. Rene was no blushing prude, he said Asimov was sexually fondling and harassing "young girls". I was naive at the time. I said "you mean young women?" No, he really meant girls. "Like, in their teens?" He just looked at me. I didn't know enough then, but I know that look now. When he said young girls, he MEANT young girls. Not teenage women. But even people who are your friends and generally believe you, can have a hard time believing something that is far outside their experience.

Blogger Vaughan Williams January 09, 2020 12:26 AM  

@58 your description of Vance sounds Delta to me.

Blogger OvergrownHobbit January 09, 2020 2:02 AM  

@64 Zane Grey is fantastic. If I could stand Westerns (Hate the setting) he'd be like popcorn.

Don't forget Peter Grant. If you live old school Westwrns, he's the ticket.

https://www.amazon.com/Brings-Lightning-Ames-Archives-Book-ebook/dp/B07VLTBJ7M

Blogger VD January 09, 2020 5:06 AM  

If you can just mention a book title, I can probably dig it out of my collection and find the incident.

The Cat That Walked Through Walls.

Blogger VFM #7634 January 09, 2020 7:27 AM  

If you wanted to construct the most productive writer who ever lived, based solely on first principles, the result would look a lot like Asimov.

So a supergamma is unusually good at writing walls of text. Got it.

Blogger Beardy Bear January 09, 2020 8:53 AM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger flyingtiger January 09, 2020 2:45 PM  

Asimov was quick on his feet. Someone told me that at a Chicago Con, Asimov grabbed his girlfriend's breasts. When Asimov saw that he was about to be punched by my friend, Asimov ran like hell. We often wondered how many other times this happened to Issac.

Blogger Akulkis January 09, 2020 3:25 PM  

@flyingtiger

Conclusion: Asimov knew very well that what he was doing was considered far outside the bounds of acceptable behavior.

I never had an interest in SF, so never read any of his SF or anyone else's SF works, other than stuff I was required to read in school --some Jules Verne and some story about hunting dinosours with the aid of a time machine and a floating walkway, and some guy who steps on a butterfly on a hunt 200 million years ago returning to the present to find that the election results were flipped (yeah, even as a 5th grader, I thought the point the author was trying to make was totally -- pointless).


I did read several of his books of science essays. Since they were just about technical subjects, his perversity never had a way to make it into those books.

I tended to shy away from any sort of sexual or romantic stuff even through high school. I wonder, had I read any of Asimov's fiction, if I would then have rejected his science essay books out of hand.

Blogger MrNiceguy January 09, 2020 5:01 PM  

Translation: "There's child porn on my computer. I know I didn't put it there because it's of girls."

Blogger rcocean January 09, 2020 5:46 PM  

"Asimov was a bore"

Yep. Thought he was inferior to Dick, Heinlein, and Bradbury. Prolific and intelligent but no soul.

Blogger VFM #7634 January 09, 2020 7:02 PM  

Rene was no blushing prude, he said Asimov was sexually fondling and harassing "young girls". I was naive at the time. I said "you mean young women?" No, he really meant girls. "Like, in their teens?" He just looked at me.

@72 Vaughan Williams
Wouldn't surprise me if Joe Biden was an Asimov fan.

Blogger Daniel January 11, 2020 6:04 PM  

His main characters and villains and many secondary characters were always incredible competent.
I do not know much about his life, i happen to love adam reith and kirth gersen

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