The Early Asimov Volume 3 - By Isaac Asimov

To the memory of

John Wood Campbell, Jr. (1910-1971) for reasons that this book will make amply obvious


After 'Time Pussy' there followed a two-month period during which I wrote nothing.

The reasons were twofold. In the first place, Pearl Harbor put the United States in the war the day I wrote Time Pussy,' and those first two months after the debacle were too disastrous and heartbreaking to allow much in the way of fiction composing.

If that in itself weren't enough, the time had come to try, once again, the qualifying examinations that would, or would not, grant me permission to do research. I very much felt myself to be dangling over the abyss. A second failure to pass would probably mean an end for me at Columbia. Consequently, during those hours when I wasn't working in my father's candy store or hanging over the radio, I had to be studying. There was time for nothing else at all.

Hedging my bets rather desperately, I registered for graduate work at New York University, just in case I did not pass once again. After I took my qualifying examinations, at the end of January 1942, I actually attended a few classes at N.Y.U. while waiting for the results to be announced. - But I won't keep you in suspense. On Friday, the thirteenth of February, the results were announced. I had passed, this time.

During the interval between the taking of the qualifying examinations and the annunciation, I managed to do 'Victory Unintentional.' This was a positronic robot story that was a sequel to 'Not Final!' which had not been a positronic robot story. Obviously I was trying to ride the series notion all I could, in the hope of surer sales.

I submitted it to Campbell on February 9, 1942, and if I thought Campbell would find himself unable to reject a series story, I was roundly disabused. Nor was he so impressed by 'Nightfall' and by my 'Foundation' series as to find himself incapable of making the rejection a severe one.

On February 13, the very day of my passing into the sacred list of those permitted to do research toward their Ph.D., my spirits were somewhat dashed when I received 'Victory Unintentional' back with a cryptic rejection, which consisted of the following, in toto, 'CHSC2CH2CH2SH.' Campbell very well knew that this was the formula for 'butyl' mercaptan,' which gives the skunk its smell, and I very well knew it, too, and Campbell very well knew I knew.

Oh, well! I managed to sell it anyway, to Super Science Stories under its post-Pohl editor, on March 16, 1942, and it appeared in the August 1942 issue of that magazine. Though I did not include it in I, Robot, I did include it, of necessity, in The Rest of the Robots.

After that, though, there came another dry period, the longest I was ever to experience. Once 'Victory Unintentional' was finished, fourteen months (!) were to pass before I turned back to the typewriter. It was not the conventional 'writer's block,' of course, for that I have never experienced. Rather, it was the coming of a vast, triple change in my life.

The first change was the fact that I was now beginning chemical research in earnest under Professor Charles R. Daw-son. Research is a full-time job and I still had to work it around, somehow, my duties in my father's candy store,.so there was bound to be very little time for writing.

Then, as though that weren't enough, a second change took place simultaneously -

In January 1942 I joined an organization called 'The Brooklyn Writers' Club,' which had sent me a postcard of invitation. I took the invitation to be a recognition of my status as a 'writer' and I couldn't possibly have refused.

The first meeting I attended was on January 19, 1942. It turned out to be rather pleasant. I welcomed the chance to get my mind off the qualifying examinations and the war disasters (though I remember spending part of that first meeting discussing the possibility that New York might be bombed).

Most of the members of the club were no further advanced in the profession than I was; nor were any of them, aside from myself, science fiction writers. The chief activity consisted of reading from our own manuscripts so that criticism from the others might be invited. Since it was quickly discovered that I read 'with expression,' I became chief reader, a role I enjoyed. (It was to be eight years yet before I