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In the short story "Gold" by Isaac Asimov, which can be freely and legally read online, the main character is Jonas Willard, a creator of "compu-drama" versions of stories - what we might call CGI films nowadays. After making a highly successful compu-drama version of Shakespeare's King Lear, a sci-fi author named Gregory Laborian convinces him (with gold) to do the same for a sci-fi story featuring an alien species with three sexes.

There's no real sci-fi author called Gregory Laborian, but of course Asimov himself is a sci-fi author, and even wrote himself about an alien species with three sexes. I wonder if Laborian, and his story Three in One, are actually meant to represent Asimov and one of his own stories.

Is Gregory Laborian a fictionalised version of Isaac Asimov?

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  • It seems to be commonly accepted to be true, and most likely to be, but I can't find any concrete proof. – TheLethalCarrot Jan 4 at 12:08
  • Asimov never said so, but he did say that he wrote the story (and named it Gold) to honor the 50th anniversary of the publication of Nightfall, so it was certainly a personal story to him. – Ubik Jan 4 at 12:16
  • "Three in one" is clearly he same story as "The Gods Themselves", and Laborian describes his stories as heavily conversation-based rather than descriptive, which is a common "criticism" of Asimov's work. Laborian's physical description - dark in complexion, crisp curly black hair, looked as though he needed a shave, probably looked that way all the time, prominent Adam's apple, small scar on the right cheek, dark brown eyes rather large, and his only good feature - doesn't seem to fit Asimov very well though. – Clara Diaz Sanchez Jan 4 at 12:30
  • @ClaraDiazSanchez Looks like you've got good material for an answer there! :-) I've read "Gold" but haven't read "The Gods Themselves", so I couldn't be sure how similar they are beyond the basic trope of an alien species with three sexes. – Rand al'Thor Jan 4 at 12:36
  • It's a bit of a meh answer ("probably yes, but maybe no"), but I've posted it anyway ;) – Clara Diaz Sanchez Jan 4 at 13:17
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In summary my answer would be I'm 99.9% certain that Laborian is intended to be a fictionalised version of Asimov, but it's not possible to be completely sure. This would change if I could find a statement by Asimov that this was actually his intention, but failing that, the 0.1% of doubt remains. Wikipedia is less hesitant, stating:

In the Hugo Award-winning novelette "Gold", Asimov describes an author, clearly based on himself, who has one of his books (The Gods Themselves) adapted into a "compu-drama", essentially photo-realistic computer animation.

although this assertion is provided without a citation.

Firstly, the sci-fi story "Three in One" discussed in "Gold" is clearly the same as the second section of "The Gods Themselves", Asimov's novel of 1972 - the characters of a Parental, a Rational, and an Emotional, together with their behaviors and appearances put this beyond doubt.

Laborian also describes his books as "I never have any sex in my novels beyond that which is absolutely necessary and then I manage to refrain from describing it... I think that readers find its absence in my novels refreshing; at least, my readers do", which is commonly remarked about Asimov's works. Another common point with Asimov is that Laborian says his work is mainly conversation-based, rather than descriptive.

These points make a convincing case for Laborian being a version of Asimov. However, he is described as:

dark in complexion, crisp curly black hair, looked as though he needed a shave, probably looked that way all the time, prominent Adam's apple, small scar on the right cheek, dark brown eyes rather large, and his only good feature.

which (to me anyway) doesn't seem to match the physical description of Asimov.

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    Jenkins’ Spoiler-Laden Guide to Isaac Asimov agrees with this in his review of “Gold” the short story asimovreviews.net/Stories/Story098.html . What I'd like to know is who inspired the film producer Jonas Willard in “Gold” literature.stackexchange.com/q/5360/139 – b_jonas Jan 4 at 14:30
  • I don’t think I have read “Gold” but I’m fairly certain that Asimov wrote that same comment (about sex in his own writings) while talking about himself. I saw that comment in either a preface to “The Gods Themselves”, or perhaps in a note for an anthology that included “What Is This Thing Called Love?” – Euro Micelli Jan 5 at 0:29

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