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This Day In History, 1992: Death of Isaac Asimov

On April 6, 1992, in the early morning hours, Isaac Asimov passed away. At the time, it was reported that his death was due to kidney failure. Ten years later, his wife Janet Jeppson Asimov revealed that Isaac had contracted HIV during the blood transfusions he received while undergoing heart bypass surgery in 1983.

I had a lot of strong personal feelings about Asimov, and I knew him tangentially. I wrote an article about my experiences with him for the fanzine Mimosa back in 1997 (edited by rwl and nwl). You can find the article on my own webpage here; or you can read the article as it was originally published, with the original illustrations, here.

For more information on Asimov, there is a Wikipedia entry on Isaac Asimov at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Asimov

And finally, an excellent resource is the Asimov Online page at http://www.asimovonline.com

I still miss him.



I still remember finding out that he'd died. I was utterly crushed - I'd been determined to meet him. It was the first time I can ever remember being truly upset over someone's death who I didn't know. I was 12.
I was 22 when he died, and like I said, we knew him tangentially. He even wrote a recommendation for my Dad for the Journalist-in-Space program.

His memorial service took place in the middle of the week in late April. I was in graduate school in Boston at the time, but I cut classes to go to New York City and attend.
As a neighborhood guy I've just got to say, he may have been rich and famous, but I still saw him at Woolworth's.
Oh, I can so see that. He wasn't an extravagant man in the least.
Meeting & talking to Asimov briefly at N3 was one of the highlights of my fannish life.
I remember attending his last birthday party and being devastated at how he looked, hunched down in a wheelchair. His eyes still twinkled, but having known how vital he'd been, I was so upset by his appearance that I didn't stay very long at the affair. One of my coworkers (who went on to have a stellar publishing career but who is notoriously shallow) wondered why I was so upset; "Everyone dies," she said, and I wanted to hit her so badly that I had to remove myself from her presence immediately. Isaac himself, however, never failed to charm and was always a realist. He knew when his time had come, and in the last week or so before his passing, took to calling people to say goodbye.

I was unaware of the true cause of his death until I read this post. Part of me is disappointed that, scientist that he was, he didn't speak up about what had happened, but I also understand why he might not have. It always seemed to me that his decline was sudden and somehow unwarranted; this explains some of that.
Were you at his last birthday party because of your role as an editor?

I'm surprised you hadn't heard about the HIV news; it was announced back in 2002. Janet was advised by their doctors at the time to keep it quiet because of the stigma attached. I think she was relieved to finally tell the truth.

This does explain why Asimov hated Reagan so much, and why he spoke out in favor of more research for AIDS.
Bantam Spectra and Doubleday Foundation at that time shared staff so, yes, I was there as part of the team from BDD. I had had contact with Isaac mostly in a business capacity.
Your Mimosa piece is lovely, Michael. Thank you for linking to it.
I'm glad you enjoyed it.
My own weird Asimov story; back at Lunacon '83, I was chatting in the lobby with two people who were both active in the SCA. One, who was male, I'd known from previous cons. The other, a woman, I'd just met that evening. They'd gone to college together and knew each other.

The male was cloving an orange, an SCA thing I'd never encountered before. So they explained it to me; if you gave it to someone of the appropriate gender, if that person accepted the orange they were supposed to remove one of the cloves stuck in the orange with their teeth and return it to the giver via a kiss.

Right as they finished the explanation, Asimov entered the lobby. The male and I looked at each other, looked at the cloved orange, looked at the female, and said in unison "Sic 'im!".

She took the orange and went up to him. Couldn't hear what was said, but it appeared she briefly explained the clove thing and then offered him the orange. He accepted it and returned a clove in the correct fashion. Admittedly, it did seem a more perfunctory kiss than at least I would've expected given his rep, but he was with a small group and left the lobby almost immediately afterwards, so he probably was distracted by heading somewhere.

Later on, I and said female did our own kissing. And I was told that I kissed better than Isaac Asimov.
Cloving an orange. Wow. I remember doing that "ritual" at a friend's wedding years ago. I got some very nice kisses from some very attractive men but had not heard about it since.
Whoa, I didn't know Asimov died from AIDS.

He's my favourite author by a mile. I've read his autobiography so many times. Sucks I never got to meet him.
Lovely article, too. Now you've made me sad.
I'm glad you enjoyed it. It makes me sad too.
I miss him too. And the magazine's really gone downhill since he's been gone... I just keep up Analog these days.
I never had any contact with him, but my folks ran across him signing books at a street fair in NYC. I still have the copy of "Foundation and Earth" the bought so he could autograph.

matfein just pointed this out to me: I, Grad Student. (7 daily comic strips, keep hitting "next".)

December 2016

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