Isaac Asimov to Planet Stories, Spring 1942
Return of the Prodigal
174 Windsor Place
Brooklyn, New York
It is with great reluctance that I begin pounding Ye Old Typewriter with intent (both malicious and aforethought) to perpetrate another letter to the Vizigraph. As is well-known in science-fiction circles, I am constitutionally averse to publicity. The white-hot glare of the spotlight makes me shrink like any violet. I've got an overcoat with special flaps on it to hide my face in when passers-by whisper to one another, "There goes Asimov!" Yes, and I've got a hat with a special steel lining to deflect the bricks that the passers-by then throw in my direction.
Anyway, I mean it. For once I'm going to be serious, and concise, too. I believe there is a story somewhere in this issue that has been perpetrated by me, and I guess that's enough Asimov for one sitting.
Besides, there's always at least one wise guy who's sure to write in. "Dear Editor: Asimov's letter was better than his story" (damn fool) and so you can bet I'm going to write a lousy letter.
So, without wasting any more time, here goes.
Dear Gifford: What makes you think the name Asimov is a jaw-breaker. It's pronounced exactly as spelled, except that the "s" is sounded as a "z". All the vowels are short and the accent is on the first syllable. Pronounce it a few times and see—only not where anyone can hear you, or they'll drag you in for muttering obscenities. They still remember me out West, you see.
As for the rain-barrel, you're right in saying there isn't much rain in Texas. However, occasionally, we get some of the overflow from one of your frequent Los Angeles cloudbursts, and the barrel comes in handy to float down stream in. And don't tell me it doesn't rain in California, because I don't listen to Bob Hope for nothing.
Dear Mrs. Wells: I've been measuring six feet off against the wall and shadow-boxing at it, and, to be frank, I don't like it. Couldn't you trade your husband in for a five-footer? They're so much easier to handle, Margie—for you and for me. However, I reject with disdain the suggestion that I'm softening up with regard to women in science-fiction stories. I'm still agin them—but only, be it remarked, in science-fiction stories. But don't, please don't, say I'm a woman-hater. I don't care for myself, but there are at least seventy-five girls out here in the metropolitan area that would laugh themselves into blue fits of apoplexy if I were called a woman-hater in their hearing. I don't want that to happen. I'd have to find seventy-five more.
Dear Wellington: Well, well, so the guy that licked Napoleon is taking pot-shots at me. It's quite an honor. On the other hand, James, aren't you being slightly unfair? I imagine there exist people in this world (low-grade morons, undoubtedly) that would call my junk, "junk," after reading it; but you're the first that calls my junk, "junk," before reading it. Come, come, Iron Duke, that is not cricket. Is that the game as its played on the playing-fields of Eton?
And that crack about "if he is trying to be an author"—that is the unkindest cut of all. (That is Shakespeare, James. Julius Caesar to be exact. Marc Antony says it in his "Friends, Romans, Countrymen" speech. Aren't I cultured?)
If, forsooth! For three years, I try to convince myself that I am an author. I've argued with myself, pleaded with myself, and finally, just when I'm beginning to concede that perhaps I am after all, along comes James, and starts me doubting all over again.
But I'll tell you, James, I'm making a comfortable living out of my writing, and that's what some undiscriminating people might call strong circumstantial evidence in my favor. Of course, you and I know better, but in the words of George Bernard Shaw, who are we against the great majority.
Dear Readers in General: I think the readers of Planet Stories are the most intelligent group of young men and women in the world. As I look about me upon your fresh, shining faces I am overcome with ecstasy at the thought of being one of you. If the young men will form a line, I will hand out cigars. If the young married women will form a line on the other side with their babies; I will kiss their babies (wash faces first, please). If the young unmarried women will form a line in the center I will kiss them, and all married women that are young enough and have husbands that are not six feet tall may join them.
This glowing tribute, dear Readers, has nothing to do with the fact that I have a story in the current issue. It is thoroughly disinterested. Still, heh-heh, before throwing brick-bats, just remember the cigars I handed out and the babies and others I have kissed.
Ed. Note: Mrs. Wells didn't scare Mr. A. as much as we thought. He was just girding his loins, biding his time, and—not incidentally—turning out the very superior lead story that begins on page 2.
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