In memory yet green, in joy still felt,
The scenes of life rise sharply into view.
We triumph; Life's disasters are undealt,
And while all else is old, the world is new.
- Isaac Asimov (1920-1992)
100 Pictures Challenge #80: Words. Because, if anyone or anything could represent 'words', it would be Asimov.
A tribute of sorts to my biggest literary hero, the biochemist and award-winning author Isaac Asimov, who wrote hundreds of books on anything and everything under the sun from SF to history to lecherous limericks and Shakespeare guides, and who was my portal to science fiction and, ultimately, hardcore science. I can't remember the last time I put so much into a painting; indeed, I'd been pretty much working it over to kingdom come, trying to fix everything, until I finally gave up and resigned myself to the fact that my skill level was only 'up to there', and there was only so much I could humanly do. Would that I could learn from Asimov's refusal to edit and polish!
Details may be viewed here: [link]
Anyway, a breakdown of the elements for anyone who's interested:No books!
- Given that Asimov was an insanely hypergraphic writer with over 300 titles to his name, I didn't see any reason for putting any books in the picture!Background (interior)
- The biggest pain was how to represent his Foundation series without resorting to drawing books of them. And then I decided that, if Asimov could base the Foundation books on Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
, then I could jolly well depict it in Roman architecture, and to heck with it being cheesy. The reliefs are: (left) the hologram of Hari Seldon in the Vault revealing the truth about the Encyclopaedia Foundation and warning of the collapse of the Galactic Empire, and the death of Emperor Cleon I, and (right) the sacking and collapse of Trantor, and the rise of the Mule.Background (exterior)
- While Asimov is perhaps best known for his science fiction stories taking place in near-to-very distant-futures, he himself wasn't particularly inclined towards technology, refused to fly in airplanes, was highly claustrophilic, and would've been the last person on earth to volunteer for a trip off the earth. It was originally plate glass that separated his 'room' from the futuristic outdoors, but my beta pointed out that the lighting glare and light-muting all but obliterated the 'scape outside, and suggested a force field instead.
The eclipse is a homage of sorts to Nightfall
, perhaps Asimov's most influential novella.(Yes, Asimov was also acutely acrophobic, and still I put him in a high-rise building. I'm very sorry, Isaac).Arch
- While atheist by belief, Asimov was Jewish by descent and, proud of the fact. The Hebrew letters spell out 'Asimov' (aleph-zayin-yod-mem-aleph-vav-vav) in Yiddish. It was either that, or 'Yitzhock' (which was what his Russian parents originally named him), which I can't even begin to write. I know it's bizarre, coupling Roman architecture with Hebrew letters. Screw it!And it's in Yiddish because that's what I got from Asimov's website, and it was the only resource I could find.Typewriter and stack of paper
- Asimov did all his writing on typewriters, at mindboggling speeds of >80wpm, and only very reluctantly started using a Radio Shack word processor in 1981 when it was all but forced on him (it took him a month to figure it out, too). Still, he kept his electric typewriter(s) for first drafts, and used the processor for minor editing for two reasons: (1) he wanted the 'comfort of a pile of yellow paper' that he could flip through to check for things instead of floppies, and (2) he didn't want to fall into the habit of editing and polishing his work.Letter
- You'd think that a man who wrote up a storm wouldn't have time for much else, but Asimov somehow found time for letters. Tons of them. ("I am a compulsive answerer of letters, even from the numerous fifth-grade students who write me [...]"). And to a whole host of people, from young fans to publishers to Gene Roddenberry (whose Star Trek
he enjoyed) and Kevin Kline. Yes, that's what his letterhead looked like (or as close to it as I could manage), and there's actual text and signature on the paper, too. The *pen* was actually based on one of his - or at least, one he's used at a book signing before, though I'm willing to bet the original didn't carry the name 'Darius Just' on the barrel. (Invisible at this size).Ball-and-stick molecules
- An aromatic hydrocarbon, a bunch of hydroxyl groups, and a sulfonic acid group hint at the structure of Asimov's notorious fictitious chemical compound, thiotimoline (which, when dissolved in water, breaks down *before* making contact with the water), on which he wrote a spoof scientific paper entitled "The Endochronic Properties of Resublimated Thiotimoline" during his doctoral research in biochemistry.Bolo tie
- Asimov apparently liked them a lot. This particular one depicts a black widow spider, and is a reference to his collections of stories about the Black Widowers, a gentlemen's dinner club whose members have an unwholesome appetite for mysteries. (The club, and its members, were based on a real-life literary dining club called the Trap Door Spiders, of which Asimov was a member).Hologram
- One of Asimov's greatest contributions to science fiction was his Three Laws of Robotics, now widely adopted in robot stories:
(a Zeroth Law, "A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm" was later added).
- A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
While the hologram may be taken to represent any and all of Asimov's robots, the letters on the projector's base, NDR-113, are in homage to Andrew Martin of Asimov's Hugo Award-winning novella, The Bicentennial Man
(which is my favourite Asimov story).Toppled chesspiece
- Asimov was generally ghastly at games, but this failure generally did not bother him (given his only real hobby was writing) - with the exception of chess. He taught himself to play the game at a young age - and, from then on, was solidly beaten by everybody
who played him ("I was simply the most appallingly bad chess player who ever lived"), a fact that distressed and frustrated him because it seemed at odds with his "smartness". Half-hidden leaflet?
- Reproduction of an 1920s Stafford & Co. poster of Iolanthe
, which was Asimov's favourite Gilbert & Sullivan operetta. Asimov was a big fan of G&S plays, certainly enough to have seen all of them, sing for the Gilbert & Sullivan Society *and* to write his own book of annotations.Azazel
- The pocket-sized demon/extraterrestrial who grants favours that invariably go hilariously, horribly awry in Asimov's fantasy short stories.
If all of this adds up to cheese and corniness, then I evoke my right as a fan to be cheesy and corny if I feel like it.
What I will be remembered for are the Foundation Trilogy and the Three Laws of Robotics. What I want to be remembered for is no one book, or no dozen books. Any single thing I have written can be paralleled or even surpassed by something someone else has done. However, my total corpus for quantity, quality and variety can be duplicated by no one else. That is what I want to be remembered for.
- Isaac Asimov (1920-1992)
Original painting size: 6065x9240 px, or 15.16"x23.1" at 400 dpi.
Time taken: Spread out over the course of a little over a week, although I can't tell you how many hours it actually took because I was in the Gizkatopia chatroom half the time.
Using: Corel PhotoPaint, from the initial sketch to the finished painting.
Submitted to *DigitalArtNetwork