Isaac Asimov remains one of my favorite writers. He wrote well enough, and his curiosity took him to topics I often find interesting. At one time having published more books than anyone else in history on a wide variety of topics from quantum mechanics to trivia in the books of the Bible (does he still hold that record?), it was a sure bet one could find at least one book in one’s area of interest penned by Asimov.
When I started the spasmodic feature, “Typewriter of the Moment,” years ago I did a search for Asimov with a typewriter. I didn’t find an image I thought suitable back when the internet was still operated by steam, and somehow I just never got back to that.
The other night this image popped up on one of my Facebook feeds, from “the Other 98%”:
I appreciate the sentiment in the quote. Asimov noted the Dunning-Kruger Effect, even if he didn’t have the advantage of Dunning and Kruger having named it yet, and he lamented the powerful undertone of anti-intellectualism that victims of the syndrome exhibit:
Anti- intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge. (Asimov in an essay for Newsweek: “A Cult of Ignorance,” January 21, 1980, p. 19)
It’s an arresting image, a heckuva a quote, and it would make a good poster. Plus, it’s an early IBM Selectric typewriter, marrying Asimov’s creativity with a great technological advancement in writing tools.
One boggles at the idea of Asimov with a great word processing program, a fast computer with great memory, and the internet at his disposal. If Asimov were alive and creating today, we’d think Moore’s Law a great hindrance to the advancement of knowledge.
The painting delights me. It’s almost photographic, and I like paintings that take great care to get small details right, photographically. No dig at more spare or even abstract art, but this sort of painting takes great skill and great creativity. Rising spirit-like from the typewriter’s platen we see a satellite (manned spacecraft, perhaps?), a flask of chemicals, and a leather-bound book, essential components in science fiction, and science.
So, who did the painting? Was it done solely for that Facebook poster?
I’ve searched on TinEye, and Bing and Google, without success to identify the painter.
One version of the painting, before text was added, showed up at IO9, a site dedicated to science fiction, in an article discussing the writing habits of famous writers.
This does not appear to me to be the original, simply because data on the artist is not contained in the information section of the image. The artist who did this illustration would be proud of it, and want to advertise her or his work.
This version has a slightly higher resolution; click on the image and note the reflections of lights in Asimov’s glasses, the reflections on the desk, and even the dings on the edge of the desk facing the viewer — this is great stuff!
But still I wonder: Who was the original artist?
Any ideas, Dear Reader?
Did Asimov write on a Selectric? Did he switch to the newer version, with a wider carriage, or stick with the old original? Is there a photo upon which this painting is based?
Almost immediate update: This site claims the artist is the same as the one at the bottom of the post, Rowena Morrill. That’s a start. Here’s more: At Rowenaart, both pictures appear credited to Rowena. Mystery solved? Go buy a poster from her; this is great stuff.
First Amendment Update, January 2015: You will want to read Asimov’s entire essay. He’s not just insulting ignorants and ignorance; he also urges that Americans, almost all Americans, do not read enough to keep freedom alive. For example, on the “right to know”:
There are 200 million Americans who have inhabited schoolrooms at some time in their lives and who will admit that they know how to read (provided you promise not to use their names and shame them before their neighbors), but most decent periodicals believe they are doing amazingly well if they have circulations of half a million. It may be that only 1 per cent–or less―of American make a stab at exercising their right to know. And if they try to do anything on that basis they are quite likely to be accused of being elitists.
I contend that the slogan “America’s right to know” is a meaningless one when we have an ignorant population, and that the function of a free press is virtually zero when hardly anyone can read.
- At Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub
- Isaac Asimov explains his three laws of robotics: First Law: A… (exp.lore.com)
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- Paul Krugman’s Favorite Fiction: Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy Dramatized for Radio (1973) (openculture.com)
- Isaac Asimov made me an economist (guardian.co.uk)
- Paul Krugman: Asimov’s Foundation novels grounded my economics (3quarksdaily.com)