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My question is at the bottom of the post.

While reading through another question on this site, I came across Neal Barrett Jr's Through Darkest America. Boldly at the top of the book it says "Isaac Asimov Presents." It even confused the user asking to identify the book, who though the author was Asimov.

I tried to find more information about the "Isaac Asimov Presents" series of books, but my research is clouded by the original anthology series. Here's a cover for the first book in the anthology series:

enter image description here

That series, which I didn't know about and need to invest in, is 25 volumes long. Unfortunately, it's also everywhere and it's getting in the way of my efforts to find information about what I'll call a sibling project, the "Isaac Asimov Presents" series of books. For example:

enter image description here

And...

enter image description here

I'm guessing, but it appears that the popularity of the anthology series led to the use of the "Isaac Asimov Presents" title for single-volume (non-anthology) stories. Almost like a publishing imprint or an investment. However, the three books shown above appear to have been published by different publishers (not even imprints of the same publisher). Which suggests Asimov was putting his stamp of approval on SciFi that deserved recognition. Or, for all I know, he was getting paid to slap one of the most valuable labels in SciFi on books.

It doesn't help that the bibliographies I could find for Asimov don't include stories like Through Darkest America and Pennterra. Why should they? He neither authored nor edited the stories. At best he provided an introduction to them. But, that further clouds my research into the history of this "project."

Question: Does anyone know the history of the "Isaac Asimov Presents" project (if it can be called that) outside the series of anthologies?

  • Extra points if someone can provide either a link to a bibliography or, better still, provide a bibliography of all the non-anthology books carrying the "Isaac Asimov Presents" label.

The extra points were won by @user14111, who discovered a biography: Books and Covers.

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    Does this help? isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pubseries.cgi?100
    – user14111
    Commented Feb 14, 2023 at 3:21
  • 1
    isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pubseries.cgi?100+3
    – user14111
    Commented Feb 14, 2023 at 3:23
  • 2
    @user14111 Well YEAH! What is this Internet Speculative Fiction Database and why hasn't anyone told me about it before! (And it goes a ways toward explaining the multiple publishers.) OK, nine titles, that gets the bibliography, now we just need the history. In a nutshell, what was Asimov thinking?
    – JBH
    Commented Feb 14, 2023 at 4:06
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    I don't know the answers to your questions; that's why I merely commented instead of posting an Answer. If I had to guess, I'd be inclined to guess that the ISFDB was created as a kind of hobby by some science fiction fans, and that Dr. Asimov supplemented his income by licensing the use of his name. But I'm just an innocent reader with no behind-the-scenes knowledge.
    – user14111
    Commented Feb 14, 2023 at 6:25
  • does this count? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Before_the_Golden_Age
    – shanu
    Commented Feb 14, 2023 at 6:41

1 Answer 1

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It all started in 1979 with the anthology series you already mentioned, Isaac Asimov Presents the Great SF Stories. Asimov was the co-editor of this series along with Martin H. Greenberg. Greenberg selected the stories, but Asimov had veto rights, and he provides headnotes to all stories, so these books rightfully bear his name.

In 1981, another anthology series was started, which was also co-edited by Asimov: "Isaac Asimov Presents the Best Science Fiction of the 19th Century", "... the Best Fantasy of the 19th Century", "... the Best Horror and Supernatural of the 19th Century", etc. These two series established the label "Isaac Asimov Presents."

In 1982, this label was used for the first time for a book Asimov was only marginally involved in: "Isaac Asimov Presents Superquiz". In "I. Asimov", he explains the background as follows:

Red [S. Arthur Dembner] came up with another project on June 11, 1981. A Canadian, Ken Fisher, had come up with a quiz book, and Red asked me to look it over. I did so, and ventured the opinion that the quizzes seemed both interesting and competent, so the book might be worth publishing. Red then asked me to select about half of it, correct any mistakes, write an introduction, and allow the book to come out as Isaac Asimov Presents Superquiz. In return, I would get a small share of the royalties.

I said at once that this would be unfair to Ken Fisher. Red explained that Fisher would be listed as the author and said that Fisher was eager because the book would have a better sale with my name on it. (Again the superstition of the magic power of my name.)

It is hard for me to say no to nice people and Red certainly fell into the classification of nice people. The book was published by Dembner Books in 1982, with Fisher’s name placed prominently on the cover.

Then, in 1987, the series "Isacc Asimov Presents" of stand-alone novels started, and there's also a non-fiction book from 1988 called "Isaac Asimov Presents: From Harding to Hiroshima". In "I. Asimov," he describes using his name for such projects as a win-win situation:

I should perhaps put up a better fight against blazoning these things as “Isaac Asimov Presents,” but the publishers usually insist and, truth to tell, such things do give me a bit of satisfaction. After all, my name may indeed help sell the book to some small extent. It also helps bring my name to the attention of the public and some people may then go out and buy books with my name on it that I have indeed written all of. Everyone is helped and no one is hurt.

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  • Now we're cooking with gas! I'm a fan of waiting 24 hours before rewarding the coveted green check mark, but I can't imagine a better answer that didn't include a scanned and signed personal letter from Asimov.
    – JBH
    Commented Feb 14, 2023 at 22:02

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