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Foundation and Letching
June 3, 2009 10:12 AM   Subscribe

Isaac Asimov on how to be a dirty old man.
posted by Artw (67 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
Possibly this invalidates my argument that Asimov is all just guys in lab coats smoking pipes and discussing Very Important Things.
posted by Artw at 10:14 AM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I know this may be a shock Artw, but despite the breadth and depth of accomplishments attributed to "Issac Asimov" he is thought by historians to have been one human being.
posted by phrontist at 10:17 AM on June 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sheesh, is there nothing Asimov couldn't do?
posted by Scoo at 10:19 AM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


i, dirty old man
posted by the aloha at 10:19 AM on June 3, 2009 [13 favorites]


This looks like a funny satire, and the sample text shows that Asimov's technique is laser-sharp here.

But it is probably funnier for people who didn't encounter Asimov when they were young women. Doing journalism in your twenties is a disillusioning thing if you have any allergies to being ogled and otherwise skeeved-out by the heroes of your childhood.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:22 AM on June 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


I found Prelude to Sensuous Dirty Old Man more relevant. Second Sensuous Dirty Old Man was a little weird.
posted by brain_drain at 10:22 AM on June 3, 2009 [14 favorites]


....this is really!
posted by Night_owl at 10:25 AM on June 3, 2009


Robots and Sensuous Dirty Old Man though, woah, let's not even talk about that one.
posted by GuyZero at 10:27 AM on June 3, 2009


Well, Hari Seldon couldn't have been working all the time, right?
posted by RakDaddy at 10:29 AM on June 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


I completely expected that last paragraph to end with:

A young lady entered and said, in a sharp, unfriendly manner, "That's my chair you're sitting on."

At which point the dirty old man replied, without rising, “Weeeeell, let me just clear off a place for you to sit!”, all while making a show of wiping his moustache in a most gallant manner.
posted by orme at 10:29 AM on June 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


Ok ..I know dirty but how old is old for this stuff? Short cuyt: lots of money.
posted by Postroad at 10:32 AM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Isaac Assimov.
posted by barrett caulk at 10:47 AM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


1. A dirty old man may not injure a lady or, through inaction, allow a lady to come to harm.
2. A dirty old man must obey any orders given to it by a lady, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A dirty old man must try to get laid as long as such attempts does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:50 AM on June 3, 2009 [65 favorites]


Dammit, Fearfulsummetry, I came to make the same joke.
posted by klangklangston at 10:52 AM on June 3, 2009


Hey you could have had the zeroth law: A dirty old man should not just act to please one lady but the whole of the fairer half of the sex (mainly because it increases the chances for the rest of us)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:59 AM on June 3, 2009


Foundation (Garment).
posted by maxwelton at 11:01 AM on June 3, 2009


Fuck off, that one is from some bullshit sequel.
posted by Artw at 11:01 AM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Met him once, and yes, oh my god what a letch. Seriously. The iconic dirty old man.
posted by madmethods at 11:20 AM on June 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Look, Asimov was an exceptional man in a great many ways. The breadth of his interests and knowledge was extraordinary.

He was also a guy one could fairly characterize as a sexual harasser, if not a sexual abuser. This is not something to celebrate.
posted by Justinian at 11:21 AM on June 3, 2009


In retrospect, scratch "abuser". I don't want to go there. But harasser, certainly. Which is quite bad enough in its way.
posted by Justinian at 11:22 AM on June 3, 2009


I actually know far more about this subject than I think you can imagine.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:29 AM on June 3, 2009 [11 favorites]


Is the site farked or slashdotted or digged or reddited or, dare i say, Metafiltered, for anyone but me?
posted by conifer at 11:30 AM on June 3, 2009


It's just you and your little wooden modem there, conifer.
posted by Mister_A at 11:31 AM on June 3, 2009 [4 favorites]


Every one of the links in this previously are dead, which is a bit of a shame. There is a slightly rude limerick about Ronald Reagan though.
posted by Artw at 11:35 AM on June 3, 2009


I want to write the story of Asimov meeting a young Elizabeth Wurtzel.
posted by benzenedream at 11:43 AM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Seems appropriate to mention this.
posted by Slothrup at 11:45 AM on June 3, 2009


My favorite Asimov anecdote, from his book "I, Asimov":

Back in 1979, the first volume of my autobiography had just appeared, and, as it happened, it was my 200th book. I was at a cocktail party or something of the sort and someone who didn't know of me and hadn't ever heard of me (there are billions of such people, unfortunately) said to me, "What do you do?"

"I write," I said, this being my standard answer.

I expected him to ask what I wrote, but he didn't. He said, "Who is your publisher?"

I said, "I have a number of publishers, but Doubleday is the most important of them. They have done three-eights of my books."

He chose to interpret that remark as a way of aggrandizing myself. Up went his eyebrows, sneer went his lips, and he said, "I suppose by that remark you mean that you have written eight books and that Doubleday has published three."

"No," I said quietly. "It means that I have written two hundred books and Doubleday has published seventy-five."

posted by EarBucket at 11:48 AM on June 3, 2009 [32 favorites]


To me, it is obvious that Asimov was a superstud. Why else would he grow those awful mutton chops sideburns if not to show that he still could score with women in spite of the biggest turn-off he could dream up short of a miniature monkey head growing next to his full sized one?
posted by digsrus at 11:51 AM on June 3, 2009 [4 favorites]


There's porn of that, digsrus.
posted by Mister_A at 11:58 AM on June 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Those weren't mutton-chops they were thigh-ticklers.
posted by fuq at 11:58 AM on June 3, 2009 [7 favorites]


I'm not sure what sort of world you live in where mutton chops are a turn-off. As a woman, I've had to actively repress my constant chop flattery and cajoling.
posted by redsparkler at 12:31 PM on June 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


Doing journalism in your twenties is a disillusioning thing if you have any allergies to being ogled and otherwise skeeved-out by the heroes of your childhood.

It's certainly a wake-up call, isn't it? A cousin once interviewed him for her local paper. He spent the entire time staring down her cleavage, and peppering his answers with dirty limericks. Apparently he was also somewhat free with his hands.

She was crushed. She loved his work and wasn't expecting him to behave that way.

At her request, he signed a couple of his "How did we find out about" books for her younger (six year old) cousin. I still have 'em. When she handed them off to my parents, she told them that "the nogoodnik" was a "gropey, perverted, filthy old man."
posted by zarq at 12:36 PM on June 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


Write what you know, eh?
posted by Mister_A at 12:48 PM on June 3, 2009


Still better than Heinlein's "How to be an Incestous Old Man"...
posted by 445supermag at 12:56 PM on June 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


Or Harlan Ellison's "How to Be Harlan Ellison". I don't think he sold many copies.
posted by GuyZero at 1:07 PM on June 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


Or Harlan Ellison's "How to Be Harlan Ellison". I don't think he sold many copies.
posted by GuyZero at 1:07 PM on June 3 [+] [!]


I did, but after reading "Danger Visions III" I bought everything he put out.
posted by 445supermag at 1:10 PM on June 3, 2009


Hah! Surely you mean "The Last Dangerous Visions".

I hear it's finally being published. TOR books has it on their schedule right after A DANCE WITH DRAGONS.
posted by Justinian at 1:23 PM on June 3, 2009


I think he is parodying "The Sensuous Woman" by J aka Joan Garrity. You might recognise that best from the track taken from the LP version which is used in the Hebaliser track "The Sensual Woman"
posted by rongorongo at 1:23 PM on June 3, 2009 [4 favorites]


Great, now I'm thinking of muttonchops in jello.
posted by Artw at 1:29 PM on June 3, 2009


Mint jello, I hope.
posted by InfidelZombie at 2:11 PM on June 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think he is parodying "The Sensuous Woman" by J aka Joan Garrity.

Yep, definitely, and it's a really good parody.

That said, he kind of did act like that IRL, so it seems like it's kidding on the square.*


* I don't know what Franken means by "popularizing it"--it was a very popular phrase in the US the 1920s-1940s. Maybe he meant "re-popularizing it" or "bringing it back into vogue?"
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:20 PM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hey Justinian, do you know when the next book in Gerrold's War Against the Chtorr series is coming out?
posted by Crabby Appleton at 2:30 PM on June 3, 2009


I want to continue the joke, Crabby, but instead I'll just say that Gerrold claims he is scheduled to turn in A METHOD FOR MADNESS in October.

The truth is enough of a joke.
posted by Justinian at 2:44 PM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Seems appropriate to mention this.

Does it? Really?
posted by Amanojaku at 3:01 PM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


heh - I think I have that book somewhere in a "give these away" pile. Anyone that wants it should memail me.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:41 PM on June 3, 2009


Oh man, I love lamb when it's cooked well and it's with mint sauce and...oh god what have you done!?!?! my mind!!!
posted by Artw at 4:08 PM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I remember reading his essay Sex in a Spaceship in the mid or late 1970's and perceiving it as quite scandalous. Coming as it did from Asimov and not Penthouse Forum, the concepts seemed quite reasonable.

I loved science as a child, and still do, and Asimov was my favorite non-fiction author at one time. It's sad to learn of the personal foibles of one's adolescent hero.
posted by Tube at 5:05 PM on June 3, 2009


The legendary meeting of Asimov and Ellison:

The first time Ellison met Asimov at a sci fi convention Ellison saw Asimov in a crowd of young female groupies. Asimov was in seventh heaven. He was known to be quite the dirty old man (although that itself might be a legend). Ellison marched up to Asimov. Ellison did not identify himself. "Are you THE Isaac Asimov?" "Yes, I am." "Hrmph. You don't look like much."

Later at the keynote Asimov was to give, someone pointed out Ellison to him. He realized that was the man who slighted him in front of his adoring female fans. Asimov introduced Ellison thusly:

"Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like you to meet a good friend of mine, Harlan Ellison. Stand up so they can see you Harlan."

Ellision proceeded to stand up.

"No, stand up, they can't see you. Oh, hmmm, perhaps you should stand on a chair or something."
posted by eye of newt at 8:53 PM on June 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


As far as 70s literary figures go, no one was as cool as Stan Lee.
posted by Artw at 11:18 PM on June 3, 2009


I'm certain Asimov is happy to surrender the 70s to Stan Lee, as his own career spans the 40s to the 80s.
posted by hippybear at 11:51 PM on June 3, 2009


as his own career spans the 40s to the 80s.

Yeah, Asimov did indeed have a career of almost moderate length. Nothing like a Jack Williamson, say, but not a flash in the pan.

(Williamson published professionally in nine consecutive decades.
posted by Justinian at 2:07 AM on June 4, 2009


Many years ago at a party, I saw an acquaintance get slapped by an attractive woman. I asked him why a stranger would slap his face. He said he had walked up and asked her to go to bed with him, and she refused. I said "Don't you get tired of getting turned down?" and he replied "Yeah, but 1 out of 3 says yes." I see this same principle at work with Asimov.

The other day, in the Elizabeth Wurtzel discussion, kid ichorous mentioned Yeats bemoaning that the body goes gray before the imagination does. I suspect that most of Asimov's lechery in his later years took place in his imagination, but then, doesn't it all?
posted by Enron Hubbard at 7:04 AM on June 4, 2009


I'm a little sad that I don't think I have what it takes to be a really proper Dirty Old Man. I have always felt connected to Asimov's works, but I doubt I have what it takes to earn a title like this.

Which is too bad, really. Absent any other kind of life goals, it would have been kind of fun to shoot for the "creepy old guy who ogles the college girls and mutters inappropriate things to himself".

But who knows? Maybe as I get older, I'll discover that I've had these latent abilities all along, they were just dormant, waiting till I had the necessary crotchety quotient to manifest.
posted by quin at 8:43 AM on June 4, 2009


I said "Don't you get tired of getting turned down?" and he replied "Yeah, but 1 out of 3 says yes." I see this same principle at work with Asimov.

No, Asimov was married and apparently completely monogamously married. He just liked to act like an inappropriate jackass with women because he could.

This is one of the things that is really gross about lechers--they're not actually offering anything, like a sexual relationship that might potentially be fun for the woman, too. They're just ogling and pawing because what you (female subject) want or are interested in doesn't matter to them--you're just something for them to have fun with.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:04 AM on June 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


as his own career spans the 40s to the 80s.

Ahem. Stan Lee's career spans the from the 40s until the present decade.

And his favourite author is Harlan Edison.
posted by Artw at 10:43 AM on June 4, 2009


Sidhedevil writes: [Asimov] just liked to act like an inappropriate jackass with women because he could.

Thanks for the benefit of your intimate knowledge of Asimov's private motives. How did you acquire it? Are you a telepath, perchance? Or did he confide in you for, shall we say, reasons of his own?

I'd really like to know what Asimov did that warrants the bitter, scornful tone of your remarks.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 10:58 AM on June 4, 2009


Thanks for the benefit of your intimate knowledge of Asimov's private motives. How did you acquire it? Are you a telepath, perchance? Or did he confide in you for, shall we say, reasons of his own?

If you know anything about Asimov actually having affairs in his old age, that would be quite astonishing news to me. His reputation was as very uxorious, at least during his marriage to Janet, even though he also had a reputation for being inappropriately lecherous.

I'd really like to know what Asimov did that warrants the bitter, scornful tone of your remarks.

That would be leering and pawing at me and every other young woman I knew who encountered him during the last ten years of his life (note comments from other people in this thread sharing similar experiences). Of course, he was not alone in this: a lot of other writers of his generation acted equally inappropriately.

I love the implication that it's somehow ridiculous to take this shit personally when it happened to you personally, or to point out that it is inappropriate when it's inappropriate as fuck.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:42 PM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, ALMOST as inappropriate as fuck.
posted by Night_owl at 1:47 PM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Crabby: Serious question, are you familiar with Asimov's behavior at cons or only with his writing?
posted by Justinian at 1:48 PM on June 4, 2009


I also think "bitter" is exactly the wrong word here. In a discussion of Isaac Asimov's writing a humorous book about "how to be a dirty old man," it seems quite reasonable to point out that his behavior, at least in the last few years of his life, could be (and has been) described by that very rubric.

My impatience with knee-jerk lechery as a way of behaving in society, especially from men who have a lot of prestige and power, doesn't affect my respect for Asimov's work. But since we were talking about it, yeah, it was a shitty way for him to behave. Of course, he lived in a time and in a social milieu and a culture where that kind of behavior was taken for granted; the thing is that his humorous book was part of said culture, and I think that's worth examining.

I don't think that Asimov was an especially Bad Man because he acted like this, because that kind of behavior is, as I've said, so often reinforced. I also don't think that he was indicating any interest in actually having a relationship with me or any of the other young women who experienced those behaviors, which is what I was responding to in the comment you took issue with. I think that he thought (and, again, I see where he got this) that that kind of behavior was complimentary, not creepy.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:50 PM on June 4, 2009


I think that he thought (and, again, I see where he got this) that that kind of behavior was complimentary, not creepy.

And this I get not from telepathy, but from stuff he wrote, especially dialogue between the him-surrogate and the Harlan Ellison-surrogate in the Black Widow Spiders stories.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:51 PM on June 4, 2009


Sidhedevil writes: If you know anything about Asimov actually having affairs in his old age, that would be quite astonishing news to me. His reputation was as very uxorious, at least during his marriage to Janet, even though he also had a reputation for being inappropriately lecherous.

I was careful to quote the part of your comment to which I was responding. I'll reproduce that quotation here:

Sidhedevil writes: [Asimov] just liked to act like an inappropriate jackass with women because he could.

I wasn't questioning Asimov's marital fidelity, and I resent the implication that I was. So I'm still wondering how you know that "Asimov just liked to act like an inappropriate jackass with women because he could". Or was it your intent to effectively retract that remark in the last sentence of this comment?
posted by Crabby Appleton at 2:26 PM on June 4, 2009


Crabby: Serious question, are you familiar with Asimov's behavior at cons or only with his writing?

Justinian: Serious answer, I never met Asimov or attended any con that he was at. I've read his last autobiography, and a biography by someone else (whose name escapes me). I'm not disputing the fact that he probably patted a few bottoms in his time. (I say "probably" because I don't recall any of the anecdotes being very specific about what he actually did.) Apparently some women didn't mind it, and some did.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 2:36 PM on June 4, 2009


Sidhedevil, on reflection I think it was appropriate for you to discuss Asimov's behavior in the context of this thread (about the Dirty Old Man book). When I read your first comment in this thread, I didn't catch the implication that you were referring to yourself. I shouldn't have snapped at you. Maybe we'll have a thread sometime in which it's more on-topic to talk about how many young people Asimov turned on to science with his science fiction and science fact books, articles, essays and stories. That's what I'd prefer to discuss.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 2:50 PM on June 4, 2009


Crabby Appleton: So I'm still wondering how you know that "Asimov just liked to act like an inappropriate jackass with women because he could". Or was it your intent to effectively retract that remark in the last sentence of this comment?

The "because he could" comment meant that, unlike the person Enron Hubbard was describing, Asimov was not meaning to initiate any kind of sexual relationship. By "because he could" I meant "because he was a high-prestige person in a milieu where this sort of behavior {acting like a jackass to women} was condoned, or at least winked at."

I'm not disputing the fact that he probably patted a few bottoms in his time.

And this was inappropriate behavior, especially since it was done at professional events to women who were there doing their jobs.

Which is the point I was making, and I don't see why you're being such a jerk about it. Lechery in a professional context is harmful to women who are trying to do their jobs, in addition to being creepy and upsetting.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:03 PM on June 4, 2009


Thanks for the apology, Crabby Appleton, and sorry I didn't see it before I made my last post. Yes, it's a touchy subject for me because, as I said, this kind of crap happened to me (and all my other women friends) a lot.

Also, I have failed as an Asimovian by writing this: the Black Widow Spiders stories when obviously I meant the Black Widowers Club, which were childhood favorites of mine.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:06 PM on June 4, 2009


Anyone know the name of the Asimov essay in which he discusses the various perils that threaten the human race, determines that overpopulation is the most urgent, determines that of all possible forms of birth control, oral sex is the only truly viable one, and that therefore, the fate of the world hangs upon the widespread adoption of oral sex?
posted by straight at 11:23 AM on June 9, 2009


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