“A Perfect Fit,” by Isaac Asimov

by on November 16, 2017 at 2:03 am in Books, Law, Web/Tech | Permalink

Gold said, “You underwent due process in great detail, and there was no reasonable doubt that you were guilty–”

“Even so!  Look!  We live in a computerized world.  I can’t do a thing anywhere — I can’t get information — I can’t be fed — I can’t amuse myself — I can’t pay for anything, or check on anything, or just plain do anything — without using a computer.  And I have been adjusted, as you surely know, so that I am incapable of looking at a computer without hurting my eyes, or touching one without blistering my fingers.  I can’t even handle my cash card or even think of using it without nausea.”

Gold said, “Yes, I know all that.  I also know you have been given ample funds for the duration of yoiur punishment, and that the general public has been asked to sympathize and be helpful.  I believe they do this.”

“I don’t want that.  I don’t want their help and their pity.  I don’t want to be a helpless child in a world of adults.  I don’t want to be an illiterate in a world of people who can read.  Help me end the punishment.  It’s been almost a month of hell.  I can’t go through eleven more.”

That is from the short story “A Perfect Fit,” from 1981, reproduced in the volume The Winds of Change and other stories.  I’ve been rereading some Asimov lately, in preparation for my chat with Andy Weir, and much of it has held up remarkably well.

1 Hugh November 16, 2017 at 2:42 am

Also re-reading the complete robot – so much that is relevant, not just on ethics (various takes on the runaway trolley problem) but also I’d completely forgotten that the economy was centrally planned by robots.

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2 I, Sheep November 16, 2017 at 2:53 am

“[7.] The crucial sentence in his [the Judge’s] decision was: “There is no right to deny freedom to any object with a mind advanced enough to grasp the concept and desire the state.” ”
-“The Bicentennial Man” by Isaac Asimov (1976)

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3 Arthur in the Garden! November 16, 2017 at 4:47 am

It’s like the move “The Matrix” was a great predictor!

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4 Tom T. November 16, 2017 at 7:07 am

Here’s your authoritarianism in America.

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5 Roy LC November 16, 2017 at 7:10 am

“The Winds of Change” was a great collection, I read it more than thirty years ago, yet I remember a remarkable number of stories in it vividly. Asimov was a brilliant hack, and an even greater idea man, a truly rare combination. And he long had an almost perfect sense of when to end a story, something so rare as to be hard to imagine with someone so prolific..

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6 Todd K November 16, 2017 at 9:31 am

By coincidence, I ordered Winds of Change a few days ago based on the reviews saying it was among Asimov’s best collection of short storries.. Unfortunately, after reading his I, Robot collection in high school, I bought “Buy Jupiter” which years later I read was his worst colllection.

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7 Yancey Ward November 16, 2017 at 10:05 am

I was going to pretty much write the same comment about Asimov, but almost surely in a less concise way. +1

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8 VD November 16, 2017 at 8:26 am

I’ve reread some Asimov as well…unfortunately I can barely make it through the beloved Foundation series that I read in high school…very much comes across as YA ‘lit.’ The robot novels and short stories remain intriguing.

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9 Thor November 16, 2017 at 11:09 am

Same.

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10 wiki November 16, 2017 at 11:36 am

I still think the Caves of Steel and the Naked Sun were his high points of his fiction career and of all the robot stories.

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11 Anonymous November 16, 2017 at 9:17 am

I remember that story. It is a good example of Sci-fi as custodian of public (or at least nerdy) expectations.

It isn’t so much that it held up imo, but that a generation set out to build it.

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12 C November 16, 2017 at 10:02 am

One of the reviews of Weir’s new book I read mentioned Asimov – to the effect that Weir should write more like Asimov, with an emphasis more on the ideas behind the stories then on the characters and that his new book (which I have not yet read) wasn’t doing this. Personally I think that as a “Novelist”, as someone who can create fully realized characters that speak with a voice, Weir is still learning his craft. That said I would hope he would avoid that advice, he’s clearly motivated and given experience there’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll get even better. Plus I get the fruits of that experience.

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13 Chip November 16, 2017 at 10:44 am

My one beef with The Martian was that all the characters were so simplistic and one dimensional.

The beauty of sci fi on the eve of the machine age is that people will start behaving and thinking less like people. It’s an empty frontier with an unlimited potential for unusual characters.

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14 JWatts November 16, 2017 at 12:44 pm

Sadly, this isn’t available on Kindle.

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15 education realist November 16, 2017 at 11:25 pm

I was just paging through my copy of Winds of Change a couple days ago. Absolutely his best collection.

I think his best novel is Robots of Dawn, the third Lije Baley mystery. The first two are pretty good, but he wrote them in the 50s, when he was married to a genuinely miserable shrew, uneducated and unhappy. They were always wives, usually nagging, or blushing adoring love interests. The first iteration of Gladia was probably one of his best,along with the more famous Susan Calvin. But many of his books and stories just don’t age well because of the stereotypical nagging. (Like the mother in Robbie). His best work from this era, including arguably his best short work ever, Nightfall (1941), had no women in it. He quit writing fiction for a good 15 years, from the late 50s to the early 70s, with a few exceptions.

In 1970, he divorced Gertrude and took up with Janet eventually Asimov, shrink and highly educated fan. Asimov became more comfortable among women, created a cheery mildly lecherous persona, and got much better at writing female characters. Characters aren’t his strong point, of course. I’m just pleased he got away from the stereotype.

His major science fiction stories and books in the 70s: The Gods Themselves, probably his second best book (mainly for the middle section). Bicentennial Man, Good Taste, Winds of Change, Belief. These stories are all better than all but a few of his best short stories from his earlier era.

In 1983 he came out with the Winds of Change anthology and Robots of Dawn, and people were really excited that the new, better Asimov would be coming out with new, better books.

Instead–and possibly because he contracted AIDS in 1983 while undergoing heart surgery–he had a major drop in productivity, and got fascinated with linking all of his worlds together. Plus all that work with Silverberg. The only enjoyable book or short story he wrote after that was his last memoir: I, Asimov.

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16 Rodriguz November 17, 2017 at 5:41 am

Hopefully it will available of Kindle soon.

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17 TallDave November 21, 2017 at 9:44 am

Aha, Winds of Change. I must have read all of those a half-dozen times… my tattered paperback is still fluttering around somewhere, one of his best collections.

Like Zelazny, a lot of Asimov’s best work is in short form. BTW, if you haven’t seen the annotated posthumous collections of the former, they are quite the tour de force, I had never realized just how many allusions I’d missed.

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