Summers as a teenager can be hard when you live in isolation. We weren’t on the moon, or in a distant country this time, but it was close enough. In those pre-Internet days, living somewhere new, in a community that required a vehicle to get anywhere, meant a lot of time alone. I’m not sharing this to garner sympathy, but to establish the setting.
What I did have were my books. By that point, I had become somewhat of a book hoarder. Most I read, but some I would buy just because I knew some day I should read them. Amongst that stack was Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series.
I’d read some Asimov by that point, but mostly the “Asimov presents…” kind of books, not unlike “Alfred Hitchcock presents…” and other collected books. A famous author’s name sponsoring a series by younger writers. I knew Asimov’s name, I knew he was an icon, but perhaps still smarting from my first experiences with another icon, Clarke, I never quite got into him. Every few months I’d try, pulling out that first volume and trying to read it, but I never got past the first part of Foundation. Don’t laugh, but for some reason the names Hari Seldon and Salvor Hardin would get mixed in my head – the HS and SH, in such close proximity (story-wise) left me confused on those early attempts.
And then it happened. I actually remember the day (it was in July of 1990), laying on my bed, bemoaning to myself the fact that I had nothing to read when my hand fell on a copy of Foundation. I picked it up, bored enough to stab it one more time.
Twelve hours later I finished it. Maybe, unlike Rama, I needed to be in the right mental place to appreciate it. Maybe my frustration and boredom was enough to push me past the edge, encouraging me to keep moving forward. What I do know is that in the following months, I read everything I could find by Asimov. These days, some like to look back and trivialize his books, comparing the fiction he produced decades ago with today’s standards. I don’t think that’s fair, and it was that summer that he was firmly established in my pantheon of Science Fiction writers.