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I have been looking through “The Early Asimov Volume 1”. The first story that Asimov published was “Marooned off Vesta”, published in 1939 in Amazing Stories when Asimov was nineteen years old.

Although it is not actually included in the book, he gives a brief description of how it came to be published. He also includes the commentary that the magazine “contains a little autobiographical squib in the rear, written by my teen-age self. On rereading, years later, it turned out to be exquisitely embarrassing".

What was so embarrassing?

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I believe that the embarrassment is from the autobiographical snippets provided by the authors at the end of the magazine, rather than over the story itself. There are two sentences which might be thought of as “embarrassing.”

The first is when Asimov describes his personal appearance, and remarks “my mother thinks I’m handsome.” But I think the phrase in question is “As far as I know I have no vices - or, at least, no serious vices.” When he wrote this Asimov was only eighteen years old, and it contrasts rather heavily with the “Lecherous Old Man” stereotype he played up in later years.

ISAAC ASIMOV
Author of MAROONED OFF VESTA

BY the time these words see print I shall be an aged patriarch rapidly approaching the venerable age of nineteen. Of these nineteen the last ten have been spent mainly in, on and about science fiction.

As a matter of fact, my father introduced me to my first copy of AMAZING some time in 1929 and the first story I read was “Barton’s Island.” Since then, I have been a steady reader, my favorite story of all time being “Drums of Tapajos.”

I am of medium height, dark, and my mother thinks I’m handsome. The general consensus of opinion does not commit itself quite so far, but I do not complain. I am now serving the last year of my sentence at Columbia University and will graduate next June with flying colors.

My favorite pastime is reading; my favorite sciences, mathematics and astronomy (though I major in chemistry at Columbia and am taking a pre-medical course). Also, I like cats. As far as I know, I have no vices—or, at least, no serious vices. And, oh yes, I like to write.

My first attempt at writing came at twelve but the monstrosity that resulted has been burned long ago. Science fiction did not come until I had acquired my first typewriter four years ago, but it was not until the middle of 1938 that I took my life in my hands and bearded the mighty Editor in his den. The Providence that watches over the rash beamed kindly down upon me and “Marooned Off Vesta” is the result.

It may be unusual but I don’t know exactly how I got the idea for the story; like Topsy, it just growed.

There are more stories on the way, some in a state of partial completion now, and I hope and hope again, that this first story does not prove to be a flash in the pan. If it does, it won’t be because I didn't try.

Anyway, I hope you like the story. After all, it is the readers that are the powers behind the throne and they must be pleased.

Au revoir until we meet again; and I sincerely hope we will.
—Isaac Asimov, Brooklyn, N, Y.

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  • 8
    I've taken the liberty of transcribing the snippet.
    – Valorum
    Jan 24, 2021 at 11:47
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    I wouldn't choose those two sentences as the embarrassing ones :-). There is plenty in there for an actual adult to squirm over. Jan 24, 2021 at 12:52
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    Much of it seems very juvenile, but cute. I suspect that's what embarrassed him in his later years. He may also have been exaggerating the embarrassment -- he could hardly be surprised that a 19-year-old would have written like this.
    – Barmar
    Jan 24, 2021 at 19:34
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    @Barmar To be honest a lot of things done by teenagers are typically very embarrassing, but he had it recorded and became famous, so almost 100 years later, almost 30 years after his death, we're still reading about it... I can't think of something even more embarrassing than having your past being exposed like this.
    – Nelson
    Jan 25, 2021 at 3:32
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    If it weren't so well written it might be less funny. It is a nearly perfect imitation of the way a mature man in a 19-century adventure story talks when he is speaking as the narrator. He could almost be Dr. Watson or Allen Quatermain. It perfectly captures the awkwardness and self-consciousness of someone just putting childhood behind him and striving to assume the role of a mature man.
    – David42
    Jan 25, 2021 at 14:13

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