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Gold by Isaac Asimov

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by Isaac Asimov

• Word count: 10,503
• Page count: 21

“Gold” is a 1991 science fiction novelette by Isaac Asimov. It is about a famous director who takes on the challenge of creating a science fiction compu-drama.

This award winning story follows Jonas Willard, an extremely talented and demanding director of compu-dramas, a type of 3-D computer animation. After creating a masterpiece of Shakespeare’s King Lear, Willard is approached by a moderately successful science fiction author about creating a compu-drama based on his novel Three in One. Willard is initially skeptical, but the author’s offer of real gold helps to convince him to give it a go. Along the way Jonas Willard discovers a whole new world worth exploring.

Written one year before his death in 1992, “Gold” could be considered Asimov’s response to the critical claims that he doesn’t include enough details in his novels and stories. I myself have heard people remark that his writing “is just to general.” Was it that he was incapable of describing things in detail? The answer, as this story clearly shows, is no. His lack of minute details is one of the things I like best about Asimov’s writings – it gives me great leeway in how I picture the people, events and technology being discussed. I have been drawn to his work because I enjoy the ideas, the dialog and the big picture more than the little details of what everything looks like.

The science fiction novel discussed in this story, Three in One, is actually the second part of Asimov’s own novel The Gods Themselves. You will probably enjoy “Gold” much more if you brush up on King Lear, learn about The Gods Themselves and are aware of the criticisms aimed at Isaac Asimov throughout his career.

All that is nice, but did I enjoy “Gold”? Absolutely! I am a huge fan of Isaac Asimov, so that may color my view some, but if you are an Asimov fan too then you will most likely enjoy this story. He does go into great detail describing how the aliens look and interact with each other. A direct response, I think, to the critical remarks levied at him. Be careful though, there is talk of alien sex and how to represent it in a human compu-drama!

“Gold” won the 1992 Hugo Award for Best Novelette. It also placed 4th in the 1992 Locus Poll and 5th in Analog’s Analytical Laboratory (AnLab) Poll.

Jonas Willard and Meg Cathcart sat together over lunch in Meg’s apartment. They were at their coffee when Willard said, with apparent reluctance as one who broaches a subject he would rather not, “Have you read the book?”

“Yes, I have.”

“And what did you think?”

“I don’t know,” said Cathcart peering at him from under the dark, reddish hair she wore clustered over her forehead. “At least not enough to judge.”

“You’re not a science fiction buff either, then?”

“Well, I’ve read science fiction, mostly sword and sorcery, but nothing like Three in One. I’ve heard of Laborian, though. He does what they call ‘hard science fiction.’ ”

“It’s hard enough. I don’t see how I can do it. That book, whatever its virtues, just isn’t me.”

Cathcart fixed him with a sharp glance. “How do you know it isn’t you?”

“Listen, it’s important to know what you can’t do.”

“And you were born knowing you can’t do science fiction?”

“I have an instinct in these things.”

Where you can find “Gold”:
• This story first appeared in the September 1991 edition of Analog.
“Gold” is included in Gregory Benford’s collection of Hugo winning stories: The New Hugo Winners IV.
• You can read a free HTML version of “Gold” online at Baen ebooks.

Isaac Asimov is one of the most famous science fiction authors to have ever lived. You can learn more about this literary giant by visiting the Wikipedia page about him.

If you liked this story you may enjoy The Feeling of Power, also by Isaac Asimov.

3 thoughts to “Gold by Isaac Asimov”

  1. I had the pleasure of reading this the other day in a near-mint condition copy of the original issue of Analog it appeared in, which I got for about £2 from a musty shop in Northern England. While I was there, I also got copies of the Poul Anderson special feature edition of F&SF from 1972, the original copies of F&SF in which appeared Stephen King’s “The Ballard of the Flexible Bullet”, Turtledove’s “The Last Article”, and an early story by Kim Stanley Robinson, the 25th, 30th and 40th aniversary editions of F&SF, a “Hugo Award Special Issue” of If from 1967, a copy of If containing an early story by Gene Wolfe from 1966, and a copy of Fantastic from 1967 containing an original by Jack Vance; all of them in the same good condition, all for around £2 to £5 each, and I got the total price knocked down in the end anyway.

    Why did I get such a good deal? Ignorance, plain and simple.

    The imbeciles who ran the store, a group of eighties-ravaged post-punk alcoholics who have lost the technology of the razor, have developed a plan of selling down their literature section in favour of expanding their unsellable library of Indie records from the early seventies.

    I just took what I got above and more without any fuss. Even when I came back the next time and found original printings of the later Elric novels, an original copy Philip K. Dick’s “The Crack in Space”(I checked copyright and it is the original Ace printing from their New York house), and even a hardback of Swanwick’s Faust that looked like it had just rolled off the press, and I told them about their worth, they just laughed at me and I went off with a red face.

    But I have had the last laugh.

    Where is this store you ask? Please tell me! you plee. It does not matter where now; there is nothing left.

    I cleared the shevles, aha!

  2. Scatterbrain,

    Ha! That is an amazing story – you are truly lucky to find such a score. I’m glad you milked it for all it was worth, now you can savor reading each of those.

    I am jealous. 🙂

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