I always meant to write a letter to Isaac Asimov. I deeply regret that I never did while he was alive. Nevertheless, I wanted to write it anyway. It was the hardest letter I ever wrote. I've had it planned out in my head for years, but when I finally sat down to write it I realized how inadequate words were for what I wanted to convey to him. This is my humble attempt. I hope he would have liked it.

Dear Mr. Asimov,

I met you once. My parents had taken me to a Star Trek convention when I was seven years old--the only one I ever attended--and as luck would have it, you were giving an address at the convention. I didn't attend it. I doubt I even knew who you were at the time. My parents could have pointed you out to me and told me you were my long lost Uncle Frank and I would have probably believed them. But I met you nonetheless-and I remember it.

As my parents and I were leaving the convention, we took an elevator back down to the lobby of the hotel. You were the fourth person in the elevator. My parents knew who you were, and I remember my mother smiling at you with an amused expression on her face-which you returned in kind. And then you glanced down upon me, the giant that you were (both in stature, compared to me, and intellectually, as I would find out later), and you gave me the broadest grin I had ever seen. I believe I stared dumbly in return.

And in that brief moment, you blessed me. I'm sure you didn't mean to, and I certainly didn't ask you to. But I like to pretend that it was intentional, because sometimes it sure as hell seems like it was. In that moment, as you stared down into my eyes with your gigantic grin, your entire expression emanated one single emotion--hope. Hope that I might become interested in science fiction. Hope that someday your writings might influence me as your heroes no doubt influenced you in your youth. Hope that there was still hope for children like me, that we would embrace the ideas and beliefs that you had spent most of your adult life trying to instill in others.

If only you knew. In that brief moment in the elevator, while countless Trekkies with uniforms and plastic pointy ears were buying fake phasers upstairs at the vendor booths, you blessed me with the only thing you could offer a seven-year-old: Hope.

Whatever spark you had ignited within me, it laid on the backburner for a while. But not forever! During my eighth or ninth year, my local public library held a contest open to anyone living in the district, children and adults alike. Given a list of materials, you had to rank them in the order you would want to have them with you on a space shuttle mission. The person whose list most closely resembled NASA's list would receive a prize. I won. I went to the library to collect my prize, and would you believe it? The prize was a copy of Foundation. (This, incidentally, was the first time that my parents told me who I had met in that elevator, and that it was the very same person who wrote the very same book I was holding in my hands.)

I tried to read it. I really did-but I wasn't ready. I got through about fifteen pages before giving up on it as one of those "grownup" books. My mother stuck it on a high shelf in one of my closets, figuring that I'd be ready to read it when I was tall enough to reach it. And, as every good eight or nine-year-old would do, I promptly forgot about the book.

Well, I didn't quite wait until I was tall enough to reach it. I used a chair to prop me up. I wasn't actually looking for the book; rather, it fell out from between two shoeboxes as I was cleaning out my closet. I was eleven. This time, I got through the book.

It might be more precise to say that I was consumed by the book. I struggled mightily, but I didn't give up until I had finished it. When I did, I bolted downstairs and made my father take me to the library so I could get my hands on the rest of the series. I set them in a stack on my counter, and I started to read Foundation and Empire. After that, Second Foundation. And Foundation's Edge. And, finally, Foundation and Earth. I barely did anything else with my time except go to school and sleep. It took me over a month, but I finally finished. When I did finish, I did something rather incredible. I cried.

I had never been moved to tears by a book before. As I stared at the pile of finished books lying on the floor of my room, I cried for a good solid hour. I was so full of energyidealismcreativity…hope…that my eleven-year-old body didn't know what to do with itself but cry.

I read everything by you that I could get my hands on after that. The Robot series, your autobiography, even the Norby series. I didn't ever cry again, but I never failed to be utterly inspired by your words.

I'm twenty years old now, well into college and well-versed in the supposed "great" works of Shakespeare and many others. Through it all, Foundation has never lost its spot as the leftmost book on the first shelf of my first bookcase--reserved for…well, you figure it out.

Open that book and you will find the pages yellowed, dog-eared and even tattered in places. I've read it more times than I can remember. Each time I do, the pure hope I felt as a child returns to me…if only for a few hours.

Mr. Asimov, from the bottom of my heart--scratch that, from the seven-year-old that still resides deep in my heart--thank you.


With warmest regards,

Ian Serotkin

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