A Guide to Isaac Asimov's Essays

Copyright © 1995 by Edward Seiler and Richard Hatcher. All rights reserved.

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Though perhaps best known throughout the world for his science fiction, Isaac Asimov was also regarded as one of the great explainers of science. His essays exemplified his skill at making complex subjects understandable, and were written in an unformal style, liberally sprinkled with personal anecdotes that endeared him to a legion of faithful readers.

It was all a labor of love; in particular Asimov often remarked that of all his writing, his essays for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction were his favorite, despite the fact that he received the lowest word-rate payment for them. From November 1959 to February 1992, an essay of his appeared in the magazine every month, without fail.

Asimov didn't stop with his F&SF essays, however. With the advent of Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine in 1977, he began a series of editorials that appeared at the beginning of each issue. He also wrote a regular series of science articles for American Way (the magazine of American Airlines), SciQuest (the magazine of the American Chemical Society), and the Los Angeles Times Syndicate. In addition he wrote essays and introductions for literally hundreds of magazines, newspapers, books, and trade publications. All together he wrote over 1600 essays.

With such a huge collection of essays, it can pose a problem for the reader who remembers a piece that Asimov wrote, but can't recall the source. Those who haven't read a great many essays may want to know if Asimov ever wrote an essay on a particular subject. And then there are the Asimov completists who want to read everything that Asimov ever wrote, but lose sleep at night worrying that they might have missed something. Where do they turn?

To that end, we have compiled a list of every known essay by Asimov, together with a brief description of its subject, and listed the source in which the essay originally appeared, as well as any collections of Asimov's in which it appeared. Please note that the emphasis is on known, since there are undoubtedly some we have missed. We have included every essay that has appeared in Asimov's collections, as well as a good number of those that have never been collected. Also included are introductions Asimov wrote for other books, though in this department we probably have missed quite a few.

Notes on the listings

There are some essays that do not appear in any collection and are not readily available, so that the authors haven't read them yet. For those essays the subject field is left blank.

Asimov compiled a list of his F&SF essays on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of his first essay, in the November 1978 issue of F&SF, and reprinted (slightly updated) in the collection The Road to Infinity. That list is ordered alphabetically according to the title of the essay, and includes a designation of the collection in which each essay appears as well as a very brief subject description for each essay. We have used those descriptions, but have added to them in some places, as well as added our own descriptions for essays published since his list appeared. In order to distinguish between his descriptions and ours, we preceded all of our additions with a virgule (also known as a slash, "/"). Note that it is only the F&SF essay descriptions that are affected by this.

The Los Angeles Times essay titles are sometimes followed by a designation such as "(V4)". This indicates the section and page where the essay appeared in the newspaper. The L.A. Times essays for which the exact date of publication has not yet been determined are listed with a range of dates within which they appeared, either 1987-1989 or 1990-1992.


Here are five series in which Asimov's essays regularly appeared, with the remainder grouped together under "Various Sources". The essays are listed chronologically within groups.

Essay lists ordered by source:


What is truly remarkable about Asimov's body of nonfiction is not only its sheer volume, but its great breadth and diversity, and this is reflected in the essay subjects. Though he concentrated on the sciences, and especially loved astronomy, you will find that there aren't many areas of human knowledge that he ignored. The subject groupings here begin with the broad bibliographic categories, and end with some somewhat more specialized areas.

Sometimes Asimov wrote more than one essay on the same subject, in order to update an essay once new information became available, or simply revisit a topic that he had written about long ago. The essays within each subject area are arranged so that, to the extent possible, essays about the same or related topics are grouped together.

Essay lists ordered by subject:

Index of essays ordered by subjects:

economics and overpopulation
fine arts
issues in science
mathematics and computers
about himself
religion and creationism
television and film
science fiction
Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine
miscellaneous topics

Essays about psychology

Essays about society Essays about history Essays about geography Essays about anthropology Essays about economics and overpopulation Essays about fine arts Essays about literature Essays about writing Essays about issues in science Essays about mathematics and computers Essays about astronomy Essays about physics Essays about chemistry Essays about geology and dinosaurs Essays about biology Essays about zoology Essays about physiology Essays about microbiology Essays about technology and space Essays about robotics Essays about himself Essays about religion and creationism religion Essays about women Essays about rationality Essays about intelligence Essays about politics Essays about speech Essays about television and film Essays about science fiction Essays about Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine Essays about fantasy Essays about miscellaneous topics

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To the Isaac Asimov FAQ
To Jenkins' Spoiler-Laden Guide to Isaac Asimov


Edward Seiler

Richard Hatcher (hatch888@airmail.net)