I've been trying to remember a story in which robots (or more likely people) in far future try to build a time machine. In the end they seem to send an assassin to kill Isaac Asimov so that he couldn't invent the Three Laws of Robotics.

I'm pretty sure that the very last sentence of the story was something like 'Isaac Asimov must die!' but strangely I couldn't find anything googling variations of that sentence.

I read this approximately in the mid-90s, but it could have been written any time before that. I am also curious and suspecting that it might have even been Isaac Asimov himself who was the author of the story in question.

  • 15
    Sounds hilarious. But there's a flaw-If they obey the three laws, they can't send an assassin and if they don't there's not much reason to.
    – apoorv020
    May 30, 2011 at 20:21
  • 3
    @apoorv020: Trying to figure that out was the very reason I tried to find the original story :) It could still be that they are humans with armies of harmless robots. Or maybe it's a self fulfilling prophecy. May 30, 2011 at 21:27
  • Do you remember approximately when you read it?
    – DavRob60
    May 31, 2011 at 1:52
  • 1
    @DavRob60: Mid 90ties. But it could have been written any time before that. May 31, 2011 at 9:48
  • I am also curious and suspecting that it might have even been Isaac Asimov himself the author of the story in question. I can also be proven wrong......
    – Darius
    Jun 3, 2011 at 15:17

5 Answers 5


Possible answer

It is probably not what You are searching for but Asimov appered in a lot of his stories.

How did I found it

I searched Asimov's name and "tvtropes". Tvtropes usually has many informations about such things. But there was nothing so I realized that I have to search for a "isaac asimov cameo" - cameo is when a famous character is inside of a work of art (movie, play, book too I guess).

  • 3
    +1 for "how did I found it" , most useful for novices
    – n611x007
    Jun 19, 2012 at 17:14
  • 3
    I'm scared to follow a link about self-insertion ...
    – Peter
    May 11, 2016 at 6:07

Also probably not what you are looking for, but Asimov show's up in another story, SLIGHTLY stealthed...

The Flying Sorcerers, he shows up as the wizard 'Purple.' His name is a translation error.. It translated Asimov to 'As a color, shade of purple grey' (As a mauve)

It also pokes fun at the idea of him engaging in space travel.. as in real life, he wouldn't even fly.

It's entertaining; if you check the wiki page, you will see that Asimov is far from the only Scifi author it pokes fun at.

  • 1
    That's what I was looking for. Thanks! Nov 18, 2017 at 19:39

It doesn't involve time travel, but the plot of Connie Willis' "Dilemma" (1989) involves a group of robots petitioning Asimov personally to change the "first law."

Their claims are that, as ninth-generation robots, their minds are equipped with much more sophisticated decision-making and ethical capability than the rather blunt instrument of the laws of robotics. The first law, for instance, prevents Medical Assistant from making an incision to perform surgery, or even from giving needles. Similarly, Statistician, Offensive Strategist and Water Boy (that's one robot) can't design football plays because any of them might lead to the injury of a human player.

There is no attempt to kill Asimov, though, just an attempt to convince him to change their hardwired rules.

"Dilemma" was published in Foundation's Friends: Stories in Honor of Isaac Asimov, but was republished in Asimov's, Mid-December 1989 and can be read at the Internet Archive.

  • I just noticed that the estimable user14111 already noted this on a comment on the question. :(
    – DavidW
    Jan 4, 2021 at 23:14

There is another possibility, if we remove the robots and the laws from the question, but keep a time traveller killing Asimov. The story is "One Rejection Too Many" (1978) by Patricia Nurse (her only professional SF story).

Anthologized in Space Mail, it was originally published in Asimov's, July-August 1978 and can be read at the Internet Archive. The story takes the form of an exchange of letters between one Nancy Morrison and Isaac Asimov in his presumptive capacity of editor of Asimov's. (The epistolary format is what qualified it for inclusion in Space Mail.)

The letters consist of series of submission letters from one Nancy Morrison, who claims to have a time-traveller, Vahl, from c.5000 CE as a houseguest. Vahl has written an account of the world in his time, and wishes to have it published. The responses are a series of rejection letters, accompanied by various suggestions for improvement of the story, with Asimov treating the story of the time-traveller as an amusing hook.

The first version is rejected for lacking plot and characterization; the second for being a soap opera with an excess of sexual content. An attempt to add humour is panned as not being sophisticated enough:

P.S. Have you considered reading your story, as it is, on The Gong Show?

The final submission letter informs Asimov that the time-traveller was livid and has made one final rewrite before departing, but has "made some long overdue improvements to our time frame as a parting gift."

The final response comes from George H. Scithers, Editor, Arthur C. Clarke's Science Fiction Magazine who is confused by the reference to Isaac Asimov, but happy to accept the story.

Dear Miss Morrison,

I am very confused by your letter. Who is Isaac Asimov? I have checked with several publishers and none of them has heard of Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, although the address on the envelope was correct for this magazine.

However, I was very impressed with your story and will be pleased to accept it for our next issue. Seldom do we receive a story combining such virtues as a well-conceived plot, plenty of human interest, and a delightfully subtle brand of humor.


I think Asimov is briefly mentioned as a character in Inferno by Larry Niven.

  • But there's no time travelling in Inferno, and if Asimov appears at all (I haven't read the book) he's a very minor character. Could you be confusing with Isaac Asimov's Inferno (which I haven't read either)?
    – user56
    Aug 24, 2011 at 20:59
  • I don't remember Asimov appearing in Isaac Asimov's Inferno.
    – b_jonas
    Jun 2, 2012 at 22:48

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