Categories
empathy deficit entitled babies misogyny sexual assault sexual harassment

Isaac Asimov: Prolific author, even more prolific sexual assaulter

By David Futrelle

The famously and rather ludicrously prolific science fiction and popular science writer Isaac Asimov — who claimed to have written or edited some 500 books — was born a century ago this month, and the occasion has inspired tributes in a variety of languages.

But there’s an uneasy tone to some of these tributes, because this longtime sci fi hero, who died in 1992, had a dark side hidden in plain sight — he was known not only as a tireless prose machine but also as a man who regularly, and enthusiastically groped women and sometimes tried to force them to kiss him.

Donald Trump bragged about grabbing women by the pussy; Asimov liked to grab and pinch women’s asses. Indeed, as Stephanie Zwan has documented, he was so well-known for this behavior that he was once asked to deliver a speech at a science fiction convention on “The Positive Power of Posterior Pinching.” While Asimov declined, partly because of the hassle of finding women who would consent to appear on stage with him so he could demonstrate his technique on them, he did suggest that he might change his mind “if the posteriors in question were of particularly compelling interest.”

Normally, of course, Asimov didn’t ask permission before pinching, or doing anything else; as he once joked to fellow science fiction luminary Frederick Pohl that, using his particular technique, “you get slapped a lot, but you get laid a lot, too.”

Within the science fiction community Asimov’s behavior was treated (at least by men) as little more than a sort of side effect of his affable personality — like a tendency to make bad puns, which might occasion both groans and laughs. Indeed, it was his reputation as a basically harmless lech that allowed him to get away with routine sexual harassment and assault for decades.

As biographer Alec Nevala-Lee has noted, Asimov’s

reputation as a groper became a running joke among science fiction fans. The writer and editor Judith Merril recalled that Asimov was known in the 1940s as “the man with a hundred hands,” and that he “apparently felt obliged to leer, ogle, pat, and proposition as an act of sociability.” …

It was all framed as nothing but good fun, as were his interactions with women once his success as an author allowed him to proceed with greater impunity. He writes in his memoirs of his custom of “hugging all the young ladies” at his publisher’s office, which was viewed indulgently by such editors as Timothy Seldes of Doubleday, who said, “All you want to do is kiss the girls and make collect calls. You’re welcome to that, Asimov.” In reality, his attentions were often unwanted, and women found excuses to be away from the building whenever he was scheduled to appear.

After his celebrity increased, his behavior at conventions became more egregious, as the editor Edward L. Ferman reminisced of a fan gathering in the late 1950s: “Asimov … instead of shaking my date’s hand, shook her left breast.”

Another Great Man who turns out to have been a massive shit.

Send tips to dfutrelle at gmail dot com.

We Hunted the Mammoth relies entirely on readers like you for its survival. If you appreciate our work, please send a few bucks our way! Thanks!

.

135 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Naglfar
Naglfar
2 years ago

@C.A. Collins
It’s fantastic that Chuck’s done that.
I’ve never actually read anything he’s written, so I’m not sure if his writing is any good. Since the whole point of his writing appears to be a self-referential satire, I’d imagine it’s deliberately not, but I don’t know.

C.A. Collins
C.A. Collins
2 years ago

@Naglfar: I have to admit, I think the self-referential humor is his brand at this point.
@Lunipuma: Asimov was a well known missing stair. I’ve never heard of Adams being a predator. I’m not saying he wasn’t, but the only Douglas Adams I get doing a google for Name+Sexual Assault is s different Douglas Adams. Do you have a link? Even if you don’t, he might have been a creep, just not talked about.

Naglfar
Naglfar
2 years ago

@C.A. Collins

I have to admit, I think the self-referential humor is his brand at this point.

That would make sense. There’s a limited number of reasons to write that many books about being pounded in the butt by one’s own butt.

Diego Duarte
Diego Duarte
2 years ago

@Katamount

Don’t mean to attack you, your viewpoint or further pry open that can of worms but I sort of dislike the term “cancelling”, and I’d like to take the opportunity to address this and similar expressions that pop up in these debates.

No one is cancelling anybody, these people are being held accountable for the actions and words they very openly espoused in public. Are there misses and dog-piling sometimes? Sure, one mistake can lead to another.

Just today we had to apologize to a law firm because someone in our facebook group decided we should hold a hired attorney accountable for their horrid racist views online. We found out a little too late that the guy hadn’t been working for that firm 6 months ago, but he was still listed as employed there. Obviously we apologized and deleted our comments, as well as updated the info to prevent further harm.

Then again, more often than not, when people moan about “cancelling” and “shutting down the conversation”, what they mean is that they would like to espouse and propagate bigoted views without being subject to any sort of scrutiny, contradiction or resistance whatsoever.

Preventing people from resorting to debunked arguments, stereotypes or sea-lioning isn’t shutting down a conversation, rather it is allowing it to move forward, past the very bigoted views that truly shut down conversations:

Black people behave this way because it is genetically inherent to their race“.

Women evolved biologically to desire the strongest alpha male they could find, that’s why they advocate for open borders!

So in essence, nothing is more harmful to a conversation than absolutist comments that perpetuate bigotry, and telling people to fuck off with these sort of views isn’t “cancelling” or “shutting down conversation”, rather it is preventing it from descending into a cess pit designed to impede any sort of progress, understanding or new discovery.

Crip Dyke
2 years ago

I do have to admit that Vox Day’s writing gave me one of the greatest laughs of all time:

I am the lead designer of First Sword, a combat management game. The game has orcs and men, elves and dwarves. It has goblins and trolls. But it has no women.

This is not because I am misogynistic. This is not because I do not women to play the game. This is because putting women in the game makes no sense, violates the principle of the suspension of disbelief, and will not make the game any better …

Because the game is a gladiator game. Women cannot credibly fight as gladiators. We don’t put women in the game for the same reason we don’t put bunny rabbits or children in the game.

and wait for it …

We could, of course, throw out historical verisimilitude. But we’re not going to. Because we value that verisimilitude far more than we value the opinion of a few whiny women who don’t play the sort of games we make anyhow.

Seriously, Vox can’t win a Hugo, but this has to win some professional historians’ conference “best use of the phrase “historical verisimilitude” in a comedy” award. (Of course, I learned about this epic joke right here on David’s blog, when he covered it at the time.

moregeekthan
moregeekthan
2 years ago

My avatar disagrees with the assertation that lapines make poor gladiators.

(Though, to be fair, Richard Adams could have given the does more to do.)

Naglfar
Naglfar
2 years ago

@Diego Duarte

Then again, more often than not, when people moan about “cancelling” and “shutting down the conversation”, what they mean is that they would like to espouse and propagate bigoted views without being subject to any sort of scrutiny, contradiction or resistance whatsoever.

I’ve seen the exact same thing. The people who seem to complain about being “cancelled” are people who expressed bigoted opinions in the first place and are annoyed people responded. I am opposed to attacking or dogpiling these people, but simply choosing not to consume their work, (i.e. a boycott) is not that. It is a choice as consumers not to support their views.

Re: ContraPoints
I haven’t seen her new video on cancelling, but I’d guess it has something to do with the fallout she experienced after the Buck Angel cameo in “Opulence”. We’ve already discussed that and I don’t want to start another argument, so I won’t venture further ideas since I haven’t seen it (it’s very long and I‘ve been busy lately).

@Crip Dyke
Because orcs are obviously very historically accurate, and only men could hunt them. Like the mammoths, those orcs. /s

Victorious Parasol
Victorious Parasol
2 years ago

@moregeekthan

My money will always be on the rabbit whose Chief Rabbit told him to defend this run.

Moggie
Moggie
2 years ago

I’m sorry, I can’t let mention of Vox Day pass without posting that photo of him, because it’s just so perfect:

comment image

Diego Duarte
Diego Duarte
2 years ago

@Naglfar

I’ve seen the exact same thing. The people who seem to complain about being “cancelled” are people who expressed bigoted opinions in the first place and are annoyed people responded. I am opposed to attacking or dogpiling these people, but simply choosing not to consume their work, (i.e. a boycott) is not that. It is a choice as consumers not to support their views.

It is also pretty telling that the Right has its own version of “cancelling”, which does not only involve boycott (although a very inefficient version which involves buying and then breaking the product), but more often than not escalates into bullying, threats of violence and actual violence.

They are unabashedly ashamed of “cancelling” even minors, such as Greta Thunberg, for telling world leaders to listen to scientists. But call them bigoted for saying racist/misogynist shit and they lose their fucking minds and behave like persecuted minorities.

Let’s not also forget fucking Gamer Gate and the harassment and violence Zoe Quinn experiences to this day.

Alan Robertshaw
Alan Robertshaw
2 years ago

Women cannot credibly fight as gladiators

https://www.forbes.com/sites/drsarahbond/2017/04/12/female-gladiators-were-a-part-of-the-lure-of-the-roman-arena-too/

Rather disturbingly, there were child gladiators too…

Nero admired him for this action and entertained him in many ways, especially by giving a gladiatorial exhibition at Puteoli. It was under the direction of Patrobius, one of his freedmen, who managed to make it a most brilliant and costly affair, as may be seen from the fact that on one of the days not a person but Ethiopians — men, women, and children — appeared in the theatre.

moregeekthan
moregeekthan
2 years ago

@Victorious Parasol

“Chief?”

Ohlmann
Ohlmann
2 years ago

Usagi Yojimbo for the win, as far as badass rabbits go.

Moggie
Moggie
2 years ago

None of those are a match for the killer rabbit of Caerbannog.

Naglfar
Naglfar
2 years ago

@Diego Duarte

although a very inefficient version which involves buying and then breaking the product

Honestly that’s not a boycott at all. They’re still giving money to the people they dislike and still spending their own money and energy on it. Doesn’t seem like a great way to put companies out of business.

rv97
rv97
2 years ago

@Knitting Cat Lady

I feel like it would be better if we can engineer society or humanity to not feel tempted by it.

I almost feel like male sexuality is problematic by its very nature – I just feel like that it’s fuelling such a trope and people don’t even see an issue with it. Unfortunately, me being the callous and increasingly cold-hearted and disturbed shit I am, I just feel like I’m succumbing to hate daily.

Why can’t humanity just have a more traditionally feminine-oriented means of being affected by and expressing desire?

Crip Dyke
2 years ago

So there’s a thing where people who are having a good time in a greek restaurant will buy earthenware plates or mugs just so that they can intentionally smash them to show how much delightful, drunken fun they’re having.

They buy the plates literally only so that the world can see them destroy those same plates.

The people who make those plates? Yeah, they’re still in business.

rv97
rv97
2 years ago

@Diego Duarte

I feel like we should just ban EVERYTHING that is even superficially linked to a system that supports violence against or the subjugation to men of women. I’d dare say this includes religion, evo psych and entire fucking political parties. I say religion because mainstream religion is very well and active in promoting repressive values.

I don’t know how one can stop large groups of religious individuals from accepting more repressive attitudes and forcing it to everyone else without it being an infringement on their right to religious freedom. Hell, America entertains this fucking notion by indirectly supporting Islamists and even ditching their previous national motto! Russia guaranteed repressive norms shall take place by reducing the penalties against domestic violence and giving LGBT people a harder time than in the previous decade or two as of writing, now that the pro-atheist Soviet Union is no more.

This world should be leftist as fast as possible or it shouldn’t deserve live to see the end of this decade, hopefully by a giant space rock.

QuantumInc
QuantumInc
2 years ago

“He didn’t know any better” isn’t an excuse, but it is certainly an explanation. Yes, Isaac Asimov’s behavior makes perfect sense in the context of rape culture. In “rape culture” men are encouraged to be sexually aggressive, sometimes to the point of rape, it also teaches them to expect certain kinds of pushback, even slaps to the face. There has been progress against rape culture but it is still a problem. “He was a product of his time,” we are still kinda in that time.

“Was it acceptable?” is a misleading question. A lot of people accepted it, a lot of people refused it. A better example would be Trump, this blog and others say “not my president” but clearly somebody voted for him. Personally I believe there is an objective moral truth, but human beings can’t know it with absolute perfect guranteed 100% certainty. It is incredibly frustrating to explain why pinching the butt of a random woman or locking migrant children in cages is a bad thing; but it has to be done. This blog is filled with examples of people you can never persuade, but there are still people out there that can be persuaded and yet don’t really understand or agree with basic feminist ideas.

@Kat, ambassador of the feminist government in exile: Your screen name implies you have read the same things about rape culture as I have, but your actual writing implies the opposite. Feminist blogs are filled with examples of men who commit rape but get away with it because everyone besides the victim, even the police, treat the event like it doesn’t count as a crime, about how the act definitely fits the definition but nobody wants to call it rape. There are even articles literally titled “I never called it rape”. Obviously the feminist writers want to end rape, which is why they write about it, but not everyone is a feminist. Regardless of what you intended to write, when I read your comments here it sounds like you have never met anyone who wasn’t also a feminist. Which seems improbable. I think you understand why rape culture is bad, but I don’t think you understand what epronovost is trying to say.

It is sometimes useless to blame people, even when they are clearly blameworthy. Blaming Isaac Asimov isn’t the same as helping his victims, and it is not the same as stopping sexual assault in the future. If you expect more from men, you do it as a call to action not a prediction. Reading about “rape culture” makes it clear what sort of behavior we should predict and why we should hope for something else. There is a balancing act between encouraging better behavior and not burning bridges with people who might change in the future.

Ohlmann
Ohlmann
2 years ago

@QuantumInc : it’s rarely useless to blame people. Blaming Isaac Asimov, for example, let us have a prime example of somewhat who isn’t a disney villain and yet did incredibly sleazy stuff. It help explaining why the reputation of someone isn’t proof he is a good person. It’s a good example of how someone can easily make things look acceptable by his own power.

Finally, and most importantly, it help the victims find closures. I hate people erasing the victims.

In short, dear QuantumInc, get lost. I have little to no patience for rape apologia wrapped in a weak and flimsy excuse.

gijoel
gijoel
2 years ago

Yet another inductee in the league of disappointing authors.

http://amultiverse.com/comic/2019/12/23/jk-rowling-and-the-league-of-disappointing-authors/

DaveTheResurrector
DaveTheResurrector
2 years ago

@Lunipuma

I hope you’re referring to Scott Adams, not Douglas Adams. I’m not ready to be sad about Hitchhiker.

Dave

TacticalProgressive
TacticalProgressive
2 years ago

It seems a not too uncommon, even a rather common thread; that their are authors who are good writers but crappy people. At times, like in the case of HP Lovecraft; such crappyness ends bleeding into and becoming the praxis, to whatever degree: of their own work.

It’s honestly a very difficult tightrope to walk when your faced with writers who have writing talent but have crap personalities and worse ideologies and biases. For me I find their are times I take the stance of “I can appreciate the work; but I can’t stand the author and will call them out as an asshole ceaselessly”, and their are times where an author is just so terrible that I won’t even touch or look at the books they make.

I always have a complicated relationship to a number of the works Tom Clancy has written; as to his (granted uneasy) credit: he was able to make well written and grounded military fiction. However his beliefs and a lot of the themes in most of his personally written works also tent to take environmental conversationalist minded folks, progressives and anyone left of center individuals (such as myself) as “stupid/cowards/evil” and that even Left leaning Military personnel are rather unflatteringly and nominally portrayed as, at best “bureaucratic, pencil pushing dinguses hung up on ‘procedure’ for arbitrary or selfish reasons”, or cowards, idiots and ‘irrational people’ who just suck, to at worse being portrayed as outright traitors who would stab their comrades in the back at the first opportunity and are no better than terrorists.”

And as a progressive with a long experience as an Air Cadet; I often wounder how progressive and left of center soldiers feel when one of the big names of military fiction tended to either strongly imply or even outright spell out that they are secretly “cowards, idiots and evil traitors” who are equated as being akin to terrorists because they believe that upholding proper protocol and supporting environmental conservation is important.

Victorious Parasol
Victorious Parasol
2 years ago

@moregeekthan

You know what Thlayli would say to that. 😉

weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee

“He didn’t know any better” isn’t an excuse, but it is certainly an explanation. Yes, Isaac Asimov’s behavior makes perfect sense in the context of rape culture. In “rape culture” men are encouraged to be sexually aggressive, sometimes to the point of rape, it also teaches them to expect certain kinds of pushback, even slaps to the face. There has been progress against rape culture but it is still a problem. “He was a product of his time,” we are still kinda in that time.

But his behavior grew worse with time, not better. And he died well after the 2nd wave of feminism started. So the notion that he just didn’t know better is bullshit. By the 1970s, it would’ve been general knowledge that sexual harassment is wrong.

Anyway, good news. My cat, Darrow does not seem to have cancer. His ultrasound and bloodwork do suggest he is about to get kidney disease, so he may not be one of those kitties that lives to age 20. But with a kidney diet, and maybe medication in the future, he hopefully has a couple more years.

%d bloggers like this: