Dear Gentle Doctor

The following letter was written to the late Dr. Isaac Asimov when I was a college freshman. By this time, I was heavily influenced by his epic Foundation trilogy, Robot series, and countless other works. Although I regret not making a photocopy of my final letter, I’ve reconstructed it from my old draft. Undoubtedly, his typewritten and signed Post-it Note reply is one of my most cherished mementos.

Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov

Dear Gentle Doctor

Dear Gentle Doctor,

I have finally gotten a letter to you! Finally had ample time to compose and send it, that is. Not that I am perpetually occupied; rather, college work has slowed sufficiently.

Undoubtedly, you are my favorite author. (And undoubtedly, this is the billionth time you’ve heard this, so I won’t ask you not to groan.) I have read all of your science-fiction books published by Ballantine, except The Early Asimov: Book One and those in the Lucky Starr adventures for the reason that I don’t possess them or the knowledge of their prices so I can order them. (Perhaps your pull in the literary galaxy can dislodge this information, if not a catalog, from its orbit and transport it to my mailbox.) I have also read quite a number of your anthologies, the first two of your wife’s and your Norby adventures, and Fantastic Voyage. (I am currently thrilled by your Fantastic Voyage II.) Books I possess yet haven’t gotten to read yet include Azazel, Opus 300 and four of your mystery books. So you see, your writing to me is comparable to a drug. It is almost addictive.

Yet despite this, or perhaps because of this (I did use Foundation’s Edge in a sophomore high school term paper and Foundation and Earth in a junior high school term paper), I managed to enter a respected college (M.I.T.’s rival, R.P.I.). Although my attention to your SF remains strong, my involvement in it has somewhat diminished, particularly in my science-fiction writing. (Yes, I consider myself an able writer.)

I constricted my field of topical vision, in the beginning, to a point where your monumental ideas of Foundation, Robots, Eternals, and such, would be outside the picture yet consistent with that Asimovian Realm. I wanted and still want to create an original universe within, yet barely touching, your Realm. Almost like designing a building without altering, calling attention to, or being dependent upon, its context. (I am a freshman five-year architecture student.) Quite a challenge. (Both as writer and student.)

Yet, as I read more of your works, the challenge to create that universe seems to grow in intensity. As a high school sophomore, prior to encountering the first in a chain reaction of Asimov novels, Foundation Trilogy, I had developed concepts of a metric or decimal time system, and a 3D polar-coordinated mapping system. But after reading Foundation Trilogy, I discover that you describe these concepts in detail. I developed the concept of an enormous evolving super-computer called UNIEC (pronounced “unique”), the Universal Network Information-Expansion Compu-plex, to find your Multivac in a multitude of your short stories. I even developed an electronic book-sized and book-shaped parallelopiped fitted with screen and control buttons that could access via ultrowaves an unlimited number of texts from libraries, called a teletext, only to find the telebook described in your “The Fun They Had.”

It is both a bit discouraging and encouraging. Discouraging that, oh no, another good idea has been taken and had been taken decades ago. (It would seem that I copied your ideas rather than developed the same ones independently. So I consequently reinstate a search for another good idea.) And encouraging that I developed notions very similar to the great Gentle Doctor himself. (I must be doing something right!)

Presently, I have an idea not yet found in your Realm, assuming the idea has substance. And I am confident it has enough. I just hope that I am not so absorbed in becoming an architect that my rather insecure hold on science-fiction writing is entirely released. [An awkward silence permeates the room as the Asimov fan pauses to reflect on his last statement. After a slight shudder more psychological than physical, he picks up the pen once more…]

So, Gentle Doctor…

You have been an inspiration,
A bit of an irritation.
I wish you well.
Continue to sell.
I’ll praise each new creation.

But wait a minute…

I am not quite done so please,
Sit still. Put me at ease.
What novel creation
Will follow Foundation?
By chance, the Galaxia series?

Thank you wholeheartedly for the thought-provoking, moving and merely entertaining works I have so far read (especially those of science fiction), some of which acted as worthwhile obstacles, all of which has become an integral part of me.

Your Gentle and Sincere Reader,
Jay Manaloto

(The End?)

* * *

23 December 1988

Dear Mr. Manaluto,

Thank you for your very interesting letter. I think you will forgive me if I merely acknowledge without truly answering for the understandable reason that I am well behind on my current novel and you would want it to take precedence.

Isaac Asimov

* * *


[1] The “idea not yet found in [his] Realm” refers to my sci-fi Biofusion concept.

[2] The playful conclusion pokes fun at Dr. Asimov’s infamous fascination with limericks.

[3] Although I don’t recall the exact date on which I mailed my letter to Dr. Asimov, I have the lingering impression that I sent it in autumn with little expectation that he’d reply. But weeks or months later, he did! At first, I was disappointed that he misspelled my name and I cursed myself for not inking my name more clearly. But over the years, I’ve grown to smile at the genuine humanness of his reply.

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